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Behind the Scenes at Studio IJ

Hearing IJ clients tell the stories of their battles to protect their freedom and individual liberty against the government gives me chills every time.  These individuals fight with passion for economic freedom, to keep their property, for the right to choose their kid’s school or for their right to freely speak.  It is the reason everyone here at IJ comes to work every day, and it is the reason everyone who works here at the Institute for Justice gives it our all to get a victory for each and every client.  A client telling his or her story in their own words is something that everyone should experience.

Four years ago we decided to put together four modestly produced videos featuring one client from each of our four core areas of litigation.  These videos would be shown to our donors at IJ’s 2008 Partners Retreat.  The results were amazing.  Everyone who watched the videos loved them.  We posted them online and people liked meeting our clients virtually face-to-face and hearing their stories—and they wanted more.

It was clear we needed a plan to make more videos.  We needed to step up our game, expand our video presence and get the message of our clients out to the masses.  We quickly learned that the competition for viewers’ eyes is fiercer than ever before, so we didn’t just need to do videos, we needed to produce videos The IJ Way if we were going to capture and inspire an audience.

The growth of IJ’s in-house video production capabilities didn’t happen overnight.  There were growing pains at every turn.  IJ President Chip Mellor encouraged us to be positive and entrepreneurial with the new project.  We built an in-office studio, and researched and purchased video gear, lighting and editing stations—we made the most out of our budget while remaining responsible with our donors’ contributions.

We started creating videos with each case filed, some filmed in the studio and some on-location in Maine, Arizona, Texas and Minnesota.  Wherever we needed to go, we went, and we were learning on-the-fly.  Assistant Director of Production & Design Isaac Reese proved to be the backbone of this new project.  Graphic designer turned editor and motion graphics guru, Isaac was and is responsible for the editing of many IJ videos.

We learned that storytelling is essential to keeping the videos crisp and concise.  That’s where IJ VP for Communications John Kramer stepped in.  Screenwriting, like everything in video production, was new and challenging.  No one knows better how to keep legal principles straightforward and uncomplicated than Kramer, and we needed to do this in our videos to be successful.  And our attorneys have taken these lessons to heart scripting so many of the compelling videos we’ve created over the recent years.

And the videos have been thriving.  In the three years since we amped up our production, our YouTube channel has earned more than 1 million views with two individual videos passing the 100,000 mark.  Many of these views come from Social Media Manager Mark Meranta and Director of Communications Bob Ewing pitching and getting videos posted on blogs like Instapundit and Reason.com.

As long as tyranny tramples on the rights of individual freedom, IJ will be there in court; and IJ’s Communications team will be there to be sure these stories are seen and heard.

We hope you will keep watching.

Don Wilson is IJ’s director of production and design.

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