Muhammad is Syrian, and left for the UK just before the Civil War escalated in 2010. He was volunteering on a scheme to help Syrian refugees settle in, and soon realised that many had a desire to start their own businesses, but lacked the skillset to do so.
Using his experience in accounting, Mo started working with refugees to design their business plans and help them set up their own businesses. The film’s aim was to raise awareness of the project to refugees who may benefit from Mo’s support. The film features Muhammad and one of the entrepreneurs he’s helped, Osama.
Before filming commenced we had extensive phone conversations with both Muhammad and Osama, so as to fully understand their transformational story. This meant we could outline the most effective key messages and develop a detailed scene-by-scene storyboard for the video. We then planned our filming days accordingly.
Whilst we normally film talking heads using tripods, these interviews were filmed handheld – a technique that provides a more authentic, raw feel to the broadcast quality 1080p footage. We also filmed the overlay footage at 50 frames per second so that we had the option of slowing it down in post-production, giving the visuals a more cinematic feel and heightening the emotion throughout.
Early on in the production process we advised the client that it was important to provide some context about the ongoing Syrian Civil War, allowing viewers to better understand the film’s social, political and economic backdrop and, as a result, the importance of Muhammad’s work. We felt a great responsibility to portray the events in an accurate manner in a film so intimately tied to the conflict.
We needed to convey the key points without disrupting the accessible style of the rest of the film, and, as we did not have the means to travel to Syria and film footage ourselves, we had to find a different way to broach therein. To this end, we designed a short animated sequence which tactfully yet powerfully tells the heartbreaking story of Syria’s recent history.
Since the release of the film, this animation sequence has also been used as a standalone film by Refugee Action, a charity which helps refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.
While the film was originally due to launch in May, our research during pre-production revealed that 20th June 2019 was #WorldRefugeeDay, and we accordingly suggested delaying the release date until then so as to maximise press interest.
The coverage was phenomenal – with the story featuring on BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5live, BBC News Online, BBC News Afternoon Live, Midlands Business News and GBCC. This coverage means the story and film have reached more than 5 million people across the UK and beyond. As a result of the coverage, Osama was also invited to talk about the RWAD Project live on BBC News.