The Webby for Good, produced in partnership with WP Engine, is a showcase of Webby-honored projects and campaigns that are promoting social good in the world.
Describe your project. What is it, what was the elevator pitch?
Here’s to Firsts, a cross-platform social campaign, celebrates firsts of all kinds. One way we did that was through documentary-style videos, including Ira’s inspiring story. Because he was born with muscular dystrophy and wheelchair-bound, he couldn’t drive when he turned 16, but he never let anyone write the script of his own life. After a lot of waiting and training, he was finally given the freedom to explore the city he loves with his custom-made car.
What key challenges did you face with this project? And how did you overcome them?
Logistically, we came up against several challenges during the shoot. We wanted to film Ira at home, but the lighting in his basement wasn’t ideal, and an unseasonable cold front came through the night before (cold weather is particularly challenging for someone with muscular dystrophy). So we took care of our lighting issues in post production, and made sure to shoot the outdoor scenes quickly.
What was the most rewarding aspect of working on your project?
Everyone who worked on this project was deeply touched by Ira’s determination and positivity. One of the first things he said in the interview was, “Having muscular dystrophy has been a gift in my life.” The crew was floored, and we were also touched by Ira’s close friendship with Kyle, who he met many years ago at a muscular dystrophy camp. They hold a deep respect for each other, and introducing Kyle into the story allowed someone else to brag about Ira, which was heartwarming to see.
Why this particular cause as the subject of your project/campaign?
We wanted to highlight an extraordinary first car experience from someone whose story might not otherwise be told. With Ira, we were able to share both his unique situation (learning to drive with MD) and his relatable experience (the freedom that comes with a first car). We celebrate differences, similarities and firsts—all at the same time.
When working on this project, what were some of the most important conversations you had with your team?
We first of all wanted to make sure we did Ira's story justice by staying authentic and creating something he would be proud of. We also discussed making sure we weren’t exploitative of Ira or the viewers. Ira has faced many more challenges than most people, but he’s not feeling sorry for himself, and we shouldn’t make our viewers feel that way either. Instead we focused on Ira’s positivity and his triumphs.
What did you learn from working on this project that you didn't know going into it? Did anything come out of it that surprised you, or that you weren't expecting?
We knew Ira was a cheerful guy, but didn’t know quite how much so until we spent hours with him in person. He is a light whose outlook on life can change the way you think about your own. His incredible hospitality and gracious attitude during our time together is something we won’t soon forget.
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