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It’s hard making good video content. Take it from us. We spend months at a time developing and perfecting 15–30 minutes of solid documentary footage, then spend even more time cutting down those videos into social-friendly trailers. When we do them right, they might just get someone to stop scrolling through yet another Facebook ad for shorts with built-in underwear.

But here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t understand just yet: Simply having a video on your social media handles or website doesn’t mean anyone will watch it. That engagement takes a powerful story, beautiful visuals, and a consistent style. Those videos are rare. But when you see them, you know it.

We launched the pledgeTV Film Festival at the beginning of the summer, and it got a great response. We received 36 videos from organizations across America. These eight stood out from the crowd.

pledgeTV Film Festival Winners (Amateur Category)

First Place: Washington Environmental Council — “Polluted Puddles”

“Polluted Puddles” follows Arlo, a child growing up in the Pacific Northwest, who knows a lot about rain. Arlo is one of the many young students who learns about how storm water pollutes the Puget Sound, and we learn a lot along the way, too. Cute, hand-drawn visuals are placed over real-life shots to make the video feel more fun. There’s even a cool science experiment at the end that helps even the least science-y of us.

Washington Environmental Council gets the blue ribbon nod because the video’s setup allows the message to unfold. It starts with a story to engage its viewers — not statistics — so by the end of the video, you barely notice that you learned something new. Plus, it’s hard not to get the warm fuzzies watching this.

Honorable Mentions

Capital Area Food Bank — “Community Marketplace”

Fresh produce isn’t always easy to come by, yet it’s a critical component of a healthy balanced diet. It’s especially difficult in high-density areas, where access to affordable and nutritious food is less common. As a Feeding America member, Capital Area Food Bank helps to alleviate the problem with its community marketplaces.

The “Community Marketplace” video does a great job informing the public about this cause, but it’s the multiple shots of fresh produce that really drive the point home. It’s even more impactful when you see how many people are lining up in the rain just so they can get the chance to shop at a farmers’ market, an opportunity that so many of us take for granted.

KEEN New York — “The Magic of KEEN”

To a lot of children, KEEN is truly magic. The nationwide nonprofit helps disabled youth get involved with fun, free exercise programs.

What make’s the video from KEEN New York stand out are two things: for one, nearly the entire video comprises action shots. Children swimming, playing basketball, and running under that really cool big parachute thing from elementary school. Second, driven mostly by inspirational narrative, the video’s only interviews are with the children themselves.

pledgeTV Film Festival Winners (Professional Category)

First Place: Capital Area Food Bank — “General Info”

Capital Area Food Bank appears twice on our list because they were the only organization to submit two videos that both make the finals and in two separate categories. What starts seemingly as a longer commercial slot by People’s Television, ends up connecting high-quality emotional b-roll with an informative narrative.

Every shot is carefully framed to present the contrast between life at home with and without food in the pantry. When it exists, families live more comfortably and children develop adequately. Without it, they can neither focus nor achieve academic success. That’s where Capital Area Food Bank steps into the picture.

Second Place: Metrocrest Services — “Sack Summer Hunger”

About halfway through the “Sack Summer Hunger” video, you see literally hundreds upon hundreds of black reusable bags in neat rows piled onto the floor. Those bags are filled with food for children who usually receive free or reduced meals from school every year. But when the summer starts, those school’s out and those programs stop.

So, what’s a family to do? Metrocrest Services provides a solution. Just last year, the North Texas-based organization provided over 143,000 meals to nearly 2,000 children with the Sack Summer Hunger program.

Honorable Mentions

Silver Lining Mentoring

“Well, they don’t know me. I had to tell my story all over again to someone new. It’s hard starting over.”

That’s a quote from CeCe, a Silver Lining mentee. And for those in foster care, that’s not an exaggeration. And Silver Lining Mentoring’s video doesn’t just talk about its mentoring program, or the relationships they garner. They show that in dual interviews with both the mentor and mentee together. The overall tone implies a sense of hope, even when hope doesn’t feel something that comes easy.

Larkin Street Youth Services

The “talking head” technique is a staple for documentaries and commercials. It’s simple, and it’s about as honest a camera shot as you can get. Sometimes, talking heads can be tiring one after the other. But with the Larkin Street Youth Services video, that’s not the case.

Although homelessness might be an unspoken issue by those living through it, these interviews are very candid. Larkin Street Youth Services provides an earnest wake-up call for a cause that often goes unnoticed.

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