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The power of a personal story

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The power of a personal story

** Trigger warning: This blog post contains an animation that touches upon themes of suicide, suicidal ideation, bullying and bereavement. **

 

Our Words Matter animation is pretty special. Why?

Because real lived experiences and personal stories have an unparalleled power to move people. 

Words Matter shares the poignant narrative of a young girl, Evie, as she grapples with the profound loss of her father to suicide. Navigating life without him, Evie encounters unimaginably challenging moments at school—marred by unkind words, faced with jokes about suicide and depression. 

This animation is her story, in her own words. Here’s the unique journey we went on to make it sing loudly for those who need to hear it most… 

 

Close to home

The protagonist is not a character we invented; Evie is one of ours. She’s the daughter of Caroline Roodhouse who, following the experience of losing her husband Steve, has become a strong Suicide Awareness Advocate. 

When we kicked off the project, the Alive crew always referred to it as the ‘VIP’ animation because that’s who Evie is to us – a very important person.  

 

The circle of trust

Building the team for this project was approached more sensitively than usual. Aware that some people may find the topic triggering, having themselves been impacted by suicide and ill mental health amongst family and friends, we were very grateful to the volunteers who came forward and were very supportive of one another throughout the creative process.

Caroline and Evie trusted their fellow Alivers to harness Evie’s words and write a short poem to open and close the video and to come up with creative ideas to help shape its visual and stylistic execution.

“I think all of us felt some pressure working on this as we know how important it is. I try my best with every project, but this was different – there was more of a duty to get things right than to make things ‘the best” – Em

 

Crafting the creative direction

Taking inspiration from contemporary music videos, the art direction embraces a hand-drawn aesthetic, reflecting how the narrator has personally written these words. This stylistic choice was executed through a combination of hand-drawn frame-by-frame elements, overlays, and filters. These techniques collectively infuse a handmade quality, adding authenticity to the storytelling of a really difficult subject.

“Someone very important to me died by suicide seven years ago, and drawing, honestly, helped me process my feelings at the time, so I felt it was important for me to use the skills I have, and lean on my personal experiences to get this project right. It was so important for me to define a look and feel for this animation which gave an authentic visual voice to Evie. She astounded me from start to finish in her input and direction, and the maturity with which she talks about subjects that, as adults, we often struggle to. I am grateful that, thanks to her, some difficult but vitally important conversations will be started.” Kat

 

Striking the right tone

The selection of the voiceover artist was key, aiming for a tone that is both gentle and warm, while still being strong in the stance against bullying. The chosen artist Verity played a crucial role in navigating the delicate subject matter with finesse, bringing bravery and skill to the challenge of connecting with the audience.

From tone and timings to music and movement, we’re proud to have created an animation that helps to educate and inspire thoughtful reflection and kindness amongst young viewers, emphasising the undeniable need to think before you speak. 

 “It has been a total honour to work on this project. I really appreciate Evie’s raw honesty, thoughtful way with words and willingness to trust our input and ideas. Caroline and both of her girls inspire me every day.” – Lauren 

“I just wanted to say the biggest of thank yous for making that dream a reality and helping to bring my story to life. I wrote about my experience to show people how it feels to be affected by suicide and I think the animation portrays that in such beautiful style. I really hope that everyone who sees this has the chance to sit with it and truly understand the message behind it, as it is such an important one.”  – Evie

And what’s next?

The animation was created as a resource for anyone who wishes to use it, but particularly for schools. From assemblies to anti-bullying and mental health awareness days, this video will help open up important conversations for young people. 

We’ve also used our comms experience to craft supporting resources and practical tools, all of which are now available via this dedicated webpage. [the website is under construction and will follow soon]

“As we continue to develop the resources for this project we are learning other people’s stories and we are humbled to be able to use the skills we have collectively to make a small difference to others. As a Mum I hope that some of the resources will teach others to be more empathic and kind.” – Ally 

Think before you speak, please make kindness a promise that you keep.

By Team Alive

 

A note about this project:

Verity Uma, our child voice talent who worked on the animation, recently won an award for ‘Best Child Performance of the Year 2024′ at the One Voice Awards for her voice over on our Words Matter project. We are absolutely delighted for her.

Verity told us ‘‘Being the voice for Evie on this project, was an honour. Portraying someone other than a character who is actually real, my own age, someone who had gone through some truly sorrowful and hurtful experiences by ignorant bullies was not taken lightly. The script was honest, open and yet measured about Evie’s experience which I knew had to be submitted for a ‘One Voice Award’. So powerful was the piece shown in part, on the evening it won the ‘Best Under 18 performance category’. Those in the room gasped at its humanity and applauded its brave creation so as to save others from the cruelty so often served.’

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist — StephTranter.com

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

“Boom!
Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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