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Campaign to Stop War on Children breaks the mould with haunting video

24 July 2019, Action for Change

Chilling video perfectly distils campaign to mark Save the Children’s Centenary year

A military tank rolls through the crumbling debris of a bombed-out classroom, crushing desks, school books, toys and shelves, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. It comes to a stop in front of a boy of no more than middle primary school-age – its gun trained threateningly forward.

This scene occurs in South Yarra – in archetypal leafy, inner-suburban Melbourne.
But no, it’s not an unprecedented local uprising, rather a video of a scene staged for a specific campaign launch.
The video supports Save the Children’s Centenary Year campaign, Stop the War on Children (SWOC), to raise awareness of the awful impact of conflict on millions of children around the world and to bring about positive change.
In a crowded, highly competitive media space, finding ways to cut through and reach new audiences can be difficult – made even more so when you’re not a corporate or political organization with the luxury of a multi-million-dollar campaign budget. 
The video and its creation are an object lesson in finding ways around such obstacles – and reflect the charity’s innovative approach to campaigning more broadly, says Save the Children Head of Media Evan Schuurman. 
“The video is part of a broader strategy aimed at a younger audience with an online focus. It also deploys street posters, postcards and other organic devices to achieve its authentic, grassroots effect and reach,” he says. 
“Save the Children engaged the services of up-and-coming creatives – a local filmmaker and group of aspiring set designers – who are passionate about helping affect social change. They provided their services pro bono and along with our own staff, pulled this initiative together. “
The result powerfully encapsulates the SWOC campaign message. Edited into 30 and 60 second cuts, it shows yet again the effectiveness with which powerful images can be used to succinctly deliver an important message.
Creating this scene involved constructing a bombed-out classroom, with an actual military tank as its centrepiece.
Sheds, op-shops and even building sites were sources for the books, desks, toys and concrete rubble used to create an eerily authentic scene.
In the early hours of an autumn Sunday these were then used to transform the Fawkner Park basketball court in South Yarra into a classroom that had been obliterated in a bombing.
The setting presented filmmaker Michael Lutman with some challenges.
“Filming in a public space while trying to capture frames that isolated the tank and the children, to create that look of a real war zone, was a challenge,” he says.
But he managed to work around these by arriving on set very early to capture the tank in motion, filming the children featured, in isolation, as well as through some creative work in post-production.
In making this video he drew on the famous images he’d seen growing up of civilians caught in military conflict - the infamous images from Tiananmen Square 30 years ago prominent among them.
Having worked in the advertising industry as a television commercial editor, this project presented the perfect opportunity for the aspiring documentary maker looking to focus on projects that were a personal passion.
“Film as an artform can be utilized to inspire people to take action. With this project, hopefully we can bring about some change. This is something I really believed in, so I jumped at the opportunity to be involved,” he said.
Mr Schuurman says the video reflects the organisation’s innovative approach to campaigning and delivers a stark and memorable message about the extent to which children are the innocent victims of war.
“This video aims to bring this confronting reality – which is sadly an all-too regular occurrence for some – to an audience to whom it is completely foreign, in every sense.”
The filming itself attracted some high profile support on the day. Save the Children Ambassador and actor Luke Arnold attended the event along with media personality Meshel Laurie and prominent Syrian-Australian advocate Omar Al-Kassab, while celebrities including Rachel Griffiths and Lisa Wilkinson supported the launch, including by using the hashtag #StoptheWaronChildren.
Save the Children analysis reveals that a child is killed every three minutes from the indirect impacts of war, including starvation, destruction of livelihoods and loss of access to basic medical facilities. This analysis also shows that more than 420 million (1 in 5) children are currently living in conflict zones.
Throughout 2019, it’s Centenary year, Save the Children is calling on the Australian Government to do more to Stop the War on Children, including by ending the export of Australian made military assets to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which the UN has accused of committing war crimes in Yemen.

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