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Harbers Studios commissioned MediaStorm to tell the story of Shine On Sierra Leone, an innovative education based cultural partnership. The film would be used to rally financial support for the organization through their partner Cash & Rockets, on a fundraising tour that ends at the Cannes Film Festival.

Client: Harbers Studios, Shine on Sierra Leone, Cash & Rocket
Published: May 31, 2015
Case Study
Shine On tells the story of Shine On Sierra Leone (SOSL) and its amazing trajectory to becoming one of the top primary education providers in rural Sierra Leone. The film premiered as part of Cash & Rocket’s 2015 Tour, a fundraising tool culminating at the Cannes Film Festival, in which women philanthropists drive across Europe in luxury cars to raise awareness and funds in a show of female solidarity for charities in Africa.

Though the film was conceived as a tool to rally financial support for the Cash & Rocket Tour, it evolved into an awareness raising tool with much farther reach. At the time of filming, Sierra Leone was recovering from the Ebola epidemic. To respond, SOSL provided emergency healthcare and other services. While that response was critical, it diverted resources from one of SOSL’s primary goals--to build a secondary school that would provide growth and development opportunities to graduates of its successful primary school.

The narrative of the film reflects this incredible organization’s journey, as told by its founder Tiffany Persons. Viewers learn about the challenges and unique pedagogy that has enabled SOSL to become an anchor in a rural community and an opportunity for growth for its many residents.

The film premiered at an exclusive Cash & Rocket event at the culmination of its 2015 tour, at the Chateau di Pizay near Lyon, France to a community of over 70 women. The film was a key element of the fundraising drive for Shine On Sierra Leone and this year, it raised more funds than in previous years during the tour.

Our first challenge was navigating shooting and producing in Sierra Leone due to the high risk of Ebola in the country. Ascertaining reliable information that pertained to Kono district of Sierra Leone proved to be more difficult than we expected. After weeks of deliberation and time lost, we ultimately decided to take the risk and travel with a small team to the country. Each of the members of the team returned home safely.

The film was originally conceived to focus on one student at Muddy Lotus Primary School (SOSL’s signature program). However, the date for the reopening of schools kept shifting and the team kept waiting on travel until a date could be ascertained. We ultimately had to leave before schools reopened, thereby constructing a new narrative for the film.

We were left with less than a month to shoot and deliver the project.

After lengthy discussions with the Tiffany Persons, Shine On Sierra Leone’s founder and director, we decided to center the documentary on her personal narrative, from the inception of the organization to the current struggle with Ebola. We were limited in what we could represent visually because the school was shut down, but hearing the stories of the students desperately wanting to return to school, with visuals of a big, empty school provided an uncanny tension to the end of Tiffany’s narrative.

A cultural tableaux that tells Tiffany’s personal story which lead her to Shine On Sierra Leone, starting with her investigation of the diamond mining industry to the present day where the students are waiting to go back to school. The film offers a unique reflection on the limitations of a charity, and an inspiring message that social change must start within one’s self.

About the Client
This film was a collaboration with Harbers Studio, Cash & Rocket, and Shine On Sierra Leone.

Harbers Studio brings human and environmental issues into focus through the power of visual media. This film was made possible by Harbers Studio with its CEO Renee Harbers serving as Executive Producer.

Cash & Rocket brings inspiring women together for the ultimate adventure of a lifetime. Through female solidarity, its aim is to raise money for charities around the world. Each year, Cash & Rocket hosts a tour through Europe, in which its members drive sports cars to raise awareness and funds about the charities its supports. In 2015, Shine On Sierra Leone was one of the featured charities.

Shine On Sierra Leone strives to shine a light on Sierra Leone’s needs and create sustainable programs to promote thriving self-sufficient communities.

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