KTA’s tagline singles out three elements that distinguish their educational mission: “Learning. Growing. Connecting.” For this year’s video, we decided to zero in on number three, which encompasses the strong bonds that students develop with their peers, teachers and ideals during the time they spend at KTA. These relationships, daily encounters and personal experiences are as defining of students’ high school careers as anything they learn in the classroom. They’re an essential part of how students pursue meaning, inspiration, support, and direction.
To convey these intangibles to the audience, we needed to come up with an approach that transcended neat rows of desks and scheduled lessons. We weren’t interested in footage of students facing forward, listening to a teacher at the front of the room, no matter how involved they were in the subject matter. We set out in search of images that would tell the story of friendships, mentorships and personal growth.
Our biggest innovation was the choice to feature students only. For many films, it’s appropriate to incorporate clips in which staff or parents share their own impressions and objectives relative to the students’. In this case, however, we were dedicated to letting the girls tell their own story. We understood that outside perspectives, however thoughtful or candid, would only cheapen the film’s intimacy and authenticity. Who could possibly capture the private reality we sought to describe better than the students themselves?
Viewers have a nose for believability. That’s why we do our best work when we let the narrative unfold naturally in front of us and speak for itself. If you’re heavy-handed and interfering, you end up losing points instead of building trust with the audience.
As planned, we took viewers beyond the classroom. We captured students in the hallways, on class trips, on the commute to and from school – all the places where true interactions happen and relationships grow over time.
It was a bit of a risk to rely on teens alone to articulate the message, but we spent a lot of time with each student, asking the right questions until we got beautifully formed answers. The end result was worth it.
KTA was thrilled with the film we produced for them. It was incredibly gratifying for them to see their students speak so eloquently about what they stood for as an institution.
When the video was aired at the dinner, the whole room was moved by the genuine emotion on display. It was clear that KTA was the right place for these girls; the girls themselves were the ones saying so!
“This is who we are,” said Rabbi Yaakov Deutscher, Executive Director of KTA. “Josh took the time to understand our values, our identity, and then he didn’t just figure out the right words for us to say — he created something organic, a video whose message is palpably true.”
That authenticity is a tremendous factor among the various strategies that nonprofits employ to achieve their goals. In the four years KTA has been a client of Serio Films, they’ve seen a remarkable 52% increase in donations, 5% in the last year. During this span, enrollment has doubled. KTA received forty-five applications for the coming year — an incoming class that, if accepted, would be more than half the size of the entire current student body! In the end, KTA selected 33 top students for acceptance, expanding their freshman class size by 37.5%. That’s some unbelievable growth.