What is a mini documentary?
A mini documentary is a way to tell a story without the time or the budget required for a full feature documentary. They can be anything from a few minutes in length to 25 minutes or so, and may also be called a short film.
Why are they useful?
There are occasions, with certain organisations, where the message that needs to be delivered has to be delivered in a much more nuanced way than a more traditional production. A regular corporate video or explainer video is ultimately focussed around a sales pitch in some way, whereas a mini documentary seeks to tap into the emotions of the viewer on a human level. The mini documentary has a deeper meaning than informing viewers on the business, product or service, it aims to educate and inspire viewers on an emotional level.
Sometimes a 'straight up sales pitch' just doesn't resonate with viewers or the people you are trying to engage. Sometimes you have to remember why you started doing what you do, what problem you're trying to solve and how you're trying to make the lives of your customers better. Focus on that - it's powerful - Jovan Maric, Founder and CEO, Element Twenty
How can a business practically use a mini documentary?
This is a great question and the answer often lies with the reason that business was established or why the organisation exists. We are firm believers that every organisation could create a compelling piece, but it isn’t necessarily right for everyone.
There are some practical examples to give a sense of the type of subject matter that works for this kind of production:
- A new supplier of sanitary products for women creates a mini documentary on the very real issue of period poverty and the stigma that is associated with the menstrual cycle in some developing countries. The company wants to announce itself in the market and sell more products, but a key reason for getting into this market was because of the inequality and injustices associated with the female menstrual cycle.
- A new software start-up that provides guidance and tuition for individuals looking to start a micro or small businesses creates a short documentary that features the stories of people who have started a business and failed. The software company wants to sell more subscriptions, but knows that if people are not aware of the reality of starting a company and don’t make the right decisions, the results could be catastrophic. By running real-life stories of people who have made bad decisions, they create an awareness to get more and better information, and instil a desire to be successful.
- A social housing provider finds that there is an increasing problem with hoarding from some tenants. Rather than rely on eviction, it should be seen as an absolute last resort. Understanding that hoarding is a psychological issue, it is possible to help tenants before they reach a situation where eviction is necessary. By telling the story of hope to other tenants suffering from this issue, it can give them the confidence to reach out for assistance.
A real example
We worked with Raven Housing Trust to create just such a mini documentary, aimed at their customers – the tenants of their social housing – to tell a story of someone suffering from hoarding, who had reached out for help from experts in the field, and had made significant progress. The production will be shown to others who are suffering in the same way, with the hope that by delivering the message on a deeper, emotional, human level, more people will seek help before the option of eviction has to be administered – which benefits no-one. The video is below.
We approached Square Daisy with a brief to produce a video that would help us get our messages across to our customers in a simple, yet engaging way. They absolutely nailed it. The animation video they produced for us is professional, quality, and it gets our messages across really well. It's been a pleasure working with Jovan and Amy, and we look forward to working with them on future projects. - James Groves, Raven Housing Trust
Should I think about a mini documentary?
Maybe. There is a realisation that you may be wanting to sell more, get more sign ups, subscribers or whatever your ambition for the business is, but you may be able to angle your message in a different, more nuanced way that will ultimately resonate with your viewers more than any sales pitch ever would. Think about why you set up your business, how your product or service is trying to improve the lives of your customers, and maybe there is the answer to your question and the subject of your mini documentary.