The Documentalist

Book Review: Video For Change

Posted in Reviews, technology by Sarah on September 18, 2009
Book image courtesy of

Book image courtesy of

Title: Video for Change: A Guide for Advocacy and Activism

Editors: Sam Gregory, Gillian Caldwell, Ronit Avni, and Thomas Harding (with a forward by Peter Gabriel)

Publication information: Ann Arbor, Michigan: Pluto Press. © 2005.

To Purchase: See The WITNESS Store


Video for Change is produced by the human rights organization WITNESS (their motto is “See it. Film it. Change it.”), and consists of 7 practical papers for how everyday people can easily and professionally incorporate video cameras into activism.  The basic message?  You don’t have to go be a professional film maker to make effective films with professional polish.  The book’s goal is to get cameras into the hands of advocates and get them recording as quickly as possible so that important human rights material gets recorded, disseminated, and saved.

Topics covered include:

  • The power of video in advocacy and how to plan for its most effective use
  • Safety issues ranging from protecting your own safety as an advocate to protecting the safety of those you record, as well as issues related to informed consent and the legal use of videos once they are created.
  • Strategies for using video as a storytelling medium, including advice on planning the structure of a final video to make the most impact within a well-planned narrative.
  • Straightforward technical advice on equipment and video techniques that will allow everyday people with no formal training in film-making  to quickly begin using video in their field work.
  • Editing advice aimed at helping advocates to keep their target audiences in mind as they compile their final documentary product.
  • video as legal evidence–advice on how to ensure that the videos that advocates produce can be admitted to a court of law, including guidelines for collecting appropriate metadata and provenance.

Each chapter draws on case studies to illustrate the efficacy of video in human rights work and provides diagrams, photographs, charts, and other visual aids to present straightforward steps for moving through the entire process of video advocacy: from recording the raw footage to producing and disseminating the final edited product.  At the end of the book, there are a number of appendices providing model recording and production plans, templates for consent and release forms, and production checklists.

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