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The American Institutes for Research (A.I.R.), established in 1946, conducts behavioral and social science research in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. With projects going on both domestically and internationally, A.I.R. wanted to visually document the impact their projects have on people around the world. With new research programs beginning in both Zambia and Liberia, A.I.R. sought out MediaStorm to document the situation and produce a story about the real impact their programs are having in participating communities.

Client: American Institutes for Research
Published: March 12, 2012
The Challenge
The main challenge for this piece was trying to find a way to make an ongoing research program both visual and engaging through video. International research programs are difficult to represent in a way that a large and diverse audience can connect with.

Additionally, there were many logistical challenges involved in planning a shoot in Liberia. The communities involved in the research program were often hours away from good roads and city centers, requiring preparation and planning on the part of both MediaStorm and A.I.R. to ensure that everything needed for the documentary was available.

She Looks Back

She Looks Back

She Looks Back

The Solution
MediaStorm, in conjunction with A.I.R. staff, determined that the research program in Liberia, which centered around the education of women and girls, held the most visual potential for a documentary.

Once the broader subject was established, MediaStorm producers worked with A.I.R. staff on the ground in Liberia to scout for subjects and communities that would be willing to participate in the film. MediaStorm helped A.I.R. staff identify subjects that could carry the narrative of the film, and allow viewers to connect with their stories on a personal level.

Based on extensive documentation of the program given to MediaStorm by A.I.R., MediaStorm producers developed a rough outline of what the story could look like before leaving for Liberia. It was determined that in order for the audience to more intimately connect with the purpose of A.I.R.'s research program, the audience needed to care about and identify with the beneficiaries of the program. For this reason it was decided that the project would need to be seen through the eyes of at least one girl.

Once on the ground in Liberia, MediaStorm staff conducted dozens of interviews to find subjects that could eloquently describe their role in A.I.R.'s research program, and who were willing to allow MediaStorm to document their everyday lives. In order to offset the chance of a subject falling through, MediaStorm chose two girls to interview and document.

MediaStorm also determined that there was a need for expert voices, to precisely explain the motivation and impact of A.I.R.'s research program in Liberia.

The Results
Based on the footage collected in Liberia, MediaStorm produced two versions of She Looks Back; a feature and a short version. This allows the project to be used in varied situations, at the discretion of the client.

On March 13th, 2012, A.I.R held a panel discussion in Washington D.C. on recognizing and remedying issues with girls' education in post-conflict nations. The panel included Jane Benbow, Vice President and Director of AIR’s International Development Program, Yolande Miller-Grandvaux, Senior Education Advisor, Office of Education USAID, and Rebecca Winthrop, Senior Fellow & Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.

She Looks Back was used to open the discussion, and to give some context around the Liberian civil war's impact on women and girls.

Additionally, A.I.R. licensed MediaStorm's player to host the project on their own website.

About the Client
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is an independent, nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit www.air.org.

She Looks Back

She Looks Back

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