Following the stories of millennials throughout the coronavirus crisis with self-filmed video

Over recent weeks we have edited and released weekly videos curated from footage filmed by six millennials through the COVID-19 lockdown. The video diary series has seen an encouraging response, possibly the result of a strong sense of connection between our viewers and our diarists. By melding their stories into a weekly narrative-led edit we’ve conveyed gripping insights, parallels and contrasts through this life-changing epoch.

Each participant began recording aspects of their lives which is an ethnographic approach to vox pops video diaries. We started just one week before the UK went into lockdown. The “data” (the diarists’ footage) is qualitative and anecdotal. We have a small target group. It’s a centralised target group. But nonetheless, our edits of their content tell important real-time stories of how the lockdown and outbreak are affecting them.

The footage we gather from the diarists alone shows clear trends and disparities across their experiences week to week. Capturing insights on video gives you an abundance of information. After the lockdown we plan to delve further and create themed edits. However, our main goal for now has been to formulate their videos into a topical piece of storytelling to release each week. Stories portray culture, time, place and experiences in a way that data just can’t. It’s in this way that our series has been a success. A huge challenge for us has been whittling down footage for our weekly edit since the content has been so captivating.

Running and editing video diaries is a service we provide for many clients and it’s a great way to capture insights into people’s lives. Watch this 50 sec video to get a feel for our experience in this sector.

Our process?

Just before the UK lockdown, we gave our participants a simple task list for their video diaries. Introduce yourselves; who are you? Where are you? Has your life changed yet? Has your work been affected yet? Your social life? Your living situation? How do you feel about everything that’s happening and how do you think the outbreak will develop? Don’t just tell, please show, too!

It just so happened to be the time when everything radically changed. Partway through the week, the government announced a nationwide quarantine. The diaries show participants reacting to the news that their jobs have been put “on-hold” while others make the migration from the office to home. The video shows us hard decisions being made, like who to spend lockdown with and where? We feel for a nurse in quarantine after getting sick and bemoaning the near non-existence of PPE. We see a household of young renters take in the BBC News at Six and the lockdown measures as they are announced.

For the first and second weeks we loosely “directed” our diarists by suggesting general themes on which to give their opinions and aspects of their lives for them to show. However, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t the best way to move forward. While some aspects of life were ubiquitous for the sample group (everyone is experiencing a lockdown) others, of course, varied. Maintaining close contact and communication with our diarists became an essential part of the process to ensure we could be reactive in adapting to a participant’s changing situation and gently guiding their content for individual relevance each week.

Another example of running specific video diaries around a theme can be seen in this video produced by us for Pepsico.

The raw footage

Though we weren’t actively searching for patterns among the participants, it was fun to notice some similarities arise in video files that we received each week. For example, three of our participants were nominated by friends via Instagram to run 5k and donate 5 pounds to the NHS all in the same week. The power of social media and spreading trends and synchronizing events in this demographic is strong. Two of our participants purchased home plants from the same trendy online plant retailer, again in the very same week as each other.

From a glance it’s easy to draw the following conclusions: this small sample group takes the lockdown rules seriously. They are worried about work, they might not be hit as hard as others groups, lots of them have been exercising more than usual (even professing they’d never been fitter). Many people picked up old hobbies. And then there were disparities. Some jobs made an easy transition in moving to a working from home set up. Others’ jobs had dried up, while our NHS worker had to swap wards and experienced extra hours.

Outcome and potential

However, our objective was not to compile statistics but to utilise all this information to simply tell real people’s stories in the face of this outbreak and lockdown. To chart a group undergoing a huge change in lifestyle at a globally significant time. And the series does just that, in what we hope is an enlightening, touching and engaging way. Some of the stories may resonate with viewers, others may not. Either way, they represent and compellingly portray true consequences of the time.

We see a huge potential for this format or similar to be used for conveying so much; times of transition, personal journeys, experiences, opinions and inner lives from the likes of consumers, clients, employees, etc. Video diaries can be a powerful tool for learning about other perspectives. When managed and curated carefully, we believe that video diary footage has the power to explore important issues through connecting with viewers, captivating their attention and leaving a lasting impact.

For more information please read the case study for the Co-op Insurance which goes into more detail.

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