Business talk with Michelle Carter
Michelle Carter was creating commercials for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) when she fell in love with filmmaking. Her eyes light up when she shares stories about trips to shoot footage of endangered animals. “I love being in the field,” says Carter. Carter eventually left the WWF to work for the agency producing its commercials. While working agency-side she learned the ropes of editing, shooting, and producing. Then she had an idea: What if other charities leveraged filmmaking techniques to create empowering stories? Carter saw an opportunity to help charities through filmmaking, so 3 years ago, she started her own production house called Mission Productions and Media, Inc. “We go to a lot of places other people maybe wouldn’t want to go to tell the stories of places, people, and animals in need,” says Carter. Sometimes Mission’s projects are quite straight forward, like shooting footage at a hospital in Ontario. Other projects may take her team across the world. A few years ago, the team traveled to Tanzania for a project with Hope and Healing International to raise funds for a new hospital. The East African country is home to stunning wildlife-rich national parks like Serengeti National Park, where you’ll see lions, elephants, and giraffes. Though beautiful, Tanzania’s vast wilderness can make access to healthcare challenging for some people living there. Carter’s team was tasked with spotlighting the need for a new hospital in Tanzania. A young boy named Shadili — who was visually impaired and undergoing cataract surgery — was profiled for their film. Shadhili was a bright four-year-old who had spent his life living with blindness. To get to the hospital, he and his mother traveled for 4 days. It was a tough physical and emotional journey, but if the surgery went well, it would be life-changing for him and his family. “The next day after the surgery, they took off his eye patch, and he could see for the first time,” says Carter. “It took my breath away to see Shadili see his mother’s face for the first time. Their smiles could light up a city.”Stories like Shadili’s show the life-changing work that charities can do. To date, Mission Productions has worked with a variety of organizations, including Operation Smile, St. Michael’s Hospital, World Wildlife Fund, and Plan International. Watch Michelle Carter’s story, here.
What was the inspiration behind the founding of Mission Productions and Media Inc.? What are you hoping to accomplish through it?
The Internet and technology have changed our world – changed the way that we do many things, including how we donate to charity. Donors are now online and the online world is becoming a video-driven medium. This is a huge opportunity for charities because video is the single most powerful story-telling medium and charities have incredible stories to tell. Mission was therefore founded for three reasons; one, to create cinematic-quality videos (and TV spots/PSAs) for charities, two – to create today’s mandatory digital assets and three, to seamlessly integrate and place both mediums to create today’s most effective fundraising campaigns. We do all this in the hopes of ultimately hoping to relieve suffering in the world.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The team at Mission is well-known for going places that other’s won’t to capture stories of our world in need. The most challenging part of our work is witnessing the suffering – human suffering, animal suffering, our planet in peril – on a daily basis. We never let it get to us while we are on the job, but there is no mistaking that it effects us. We are motivated by it and we are extremely grateful people.
Do you believe that your documentaries have had a positive impact on the subjects you film about and if so, how has it impacted them?
Yes, we hear time and again from those who we film with that they are grateful to be able to tell their stories – that it helps them in one way or another. It’s responsibility and an honour to bring a voice to those who may not otherwise have that opportunity. We take this part of what we do very seriously.
Do you believe that documentaries can be considered as a form of the marketing strategy for certain organizations?
We believe strongly in the power of documentaries – documentaries tell a story and bring important issues to light — authentic, unaltered story telling for the propose of relieving suffering in the world is at the very core of why we do what we do.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite projects that you filmed?
We filmed the story of a young boy in Tanzania. He was suffering from double cataracts and essentially blind. He and his mother travelled for days to reach a disability hospital. The day following the surgery they removed his eye patches and we witnessed his first clear glimpse of his mother’s face. Their reaction is one of my most favourite moments in life and a testament to the essential power of charity.
On a final note, what can you tell us about any upcoming projects for Mission Productions and Media Inc.? What does the future of the company look like?
Mission is growing rapidly and we don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. It’s a very exciting time to be at Mission – it’s still early days for us. We have so many upcoming projects that it seems silly to list them all. What I can say is that we look forward to each and everyone of them and thank goodness we have QuickBooks to help keep everything organized so that we can focus on what matters most! We look forward to continuing to learn every single day and we look forward to unlocking the future of philanthropy for the world!