Video Production: Extreme Poverty

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

Even though Extreme Poverty is the number one issue on the

United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, we are projected to fall short.



Title: Extreme Poverty

Tool: iMovie

Time in Development: 20 hours

Developed for: MSTU 5002 Culture, Media, and Education

Collaborators: Kennan McClung and Professor Lalitha Vasudevan

Audience: Columbia University students

As a final project of MSTU 5002 Culture, Media, and Education, we are tasked to choose a social issue of our interest and make a 3-minute video to both educate and encourage our audience to act on these issues. I chose to make a video about Extreme Poverty using iMovie. The video presents evidences of why extreme poverty worths my audience, Columbia students', attention and offer an easy way for them to help solve this problem to build a strong call-to-action. The development process and toolset used challenged the assumption that big and detailed problem cannot be presented effectively through a short video.


Although "Ending Poverty" is the first of all 17 United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDG), vast majority of general public has never heard of this issue. I address this problem by choosing to educate audience that I am most familiar with, Columbia University students. I chose them as my target audience not only because I can use my experience to resonate with them, but also because Columbia students have very high potential to make changes for this problem through donating their future income.


To communicate with this target audience, the video has to be short to fit into their busy lives. I set this video to be 3 minutes or shorter. Second, this audience comes from academic background, so they are very familiar and comfortable with data. Using data will make a stronger case for them to understand the magnitude of this problem. However, we cannot neglect emotional aspect of this issue. I have to show the audience that extreme poverty is not merely numbers but it affects people's lives in a very real way everyday. This is when I choose to add storytelling to the video. Lastly, I believe that raising an issue without suggesting a way to help is unfair to my audience, so I choose to present One For The World Columbia as an actionable solution for my audience at the end of the video.

My first draft of Extreme Poverty storyboard

With these criteria, I began by storyboarding and scripting a brief facts essential to understanding of this issue, in keeping with the short video format. These facts are drawn from the United Nations, World Bank, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's reports as they are trusted sources that the target audience resonate with. I then set up a narrative for storytelling. These stories are gathered through news stories of real people living under extreme poverty in different parts of the world. They will humanize to the problem and illustrate what extreme poverty looks like in real life for my audience, who are unlikely to have experienced this in their lives. After the stories end, I return to using data. This time, data is used to present how much we have already made progress on this problem. This is to show that there is hope and a sense that, even though the problem seems humongous, it is solvable. Finally, I offered One For The World Columbia as a way for my audience to participate in solving this problem. This part acts as a call-to-action after the audience have learned and invested in the issue.


Creating this narrative was a breeze. However, it was quite challenging finding readily available content on extreme poverty, especially in motion picture footages to use in my video. I had to rely on secondary sources as I did not have enough time nor resource to interview or film the subjects suffering from extreme poverty by myself. This problem, however, was anticipated, and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to make my social issue media about this particular issue. The lack of media attention on the issue was astonishing to me, especially when extreme poverty was regarded as the number one goal in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).


Another issue I ran into while working on this video production is that, although my storyboard and script is just two pages long, it ran much longer than 3 minutes when I test-recorded as a voiceover. I had to rewrite the script several times to shorten the script. Even then, when Kennan, the voice actor and friend of mine, recorded (what I thought was) the final script, we still had to shorten many phrases to make the content fit into my 3-minute timeframe.


I submitted this video to the class and it was well-received in the class. So, I thought of all the ways this video can make impact further than just my class. I contacted Evan McVail, Chief Operating Officer of One For The World, to see if there is potential to use this video to promote One For The World. This turns out to be one of the most valuable lessons I learnt from this video production. Reaching out to people we know can result in a win-win situation for everyone.

After developing this production, I’m more confident with my video producing capability. Even with quite an aggressive timeframe for issue of this size, I could make it happen. I believe I can do more of these projects and make it better every time.