Post updated at 5:02 p.m. Friday, March 3:
A short film telling the transformative stories of five Van Go alumni has earned honors from the advertising industry.
“The Beauty Within” won two Gold ADDY awards from the Kansas City Ad Club, including in the category of “Elements of Advertising: Video Editing” and the entire category of “Film, Video & Sound Branded Content & Entertainment — Single Spot.” The short film also won the judges’ choice 2023 Mosaic Award for “Celebrating Creativity with a Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
“What’s inspiring is just to think that the ad world does recognize work that isn’t just selling hamburgers or watches or Apple (products),” director Marc Havener said. “It really is, I think, a feather in the ad world’s cap to recognize more heartfelt type messages.”
The film follows the lives of Gabby, Jude, Maya, Jafiya and Jordan, all graduates of Van Go, a nonprofit youth arts program in East Lawrence. Each graduate describes their childhoods and their self-evolution while a member of Van Go, where they could hone in on their art skills while being employed through the program.
Havener is founder of Resonate Pictures, which also created the COVID-19 PSA “Dear Larry: A Letter to Home” in September 2020.
For “The Beauty Within,” he worked creatively alongside Van Go Co-Executive Directors Kristen Malloy and Eliza Darmon, who served as executive producer and producer/art director, respectively. Ryan Lovell was the director of photography, and both Havener and his wife Jenea Havener contributed to the writing.
Havener said though “The Beauty Within” was the first project he’d worked on with Van Go, he was in awe of the program’s impact soon into the process.
“I think that the biggest realization and ‘aha’ moment is on the surface, it might seem like it’s a small organization, and maybe compared to other organizations their numbers aren’t that big, but the deep change and transformation that happens in the lives of the students and young adults that go through the program is real, and it’s mind-blowing,” Havener said.
During the film, graduates discussed some of their lowest moments, such as navigating depression and loneliness in adolescence. Now adults, they shared how Van Go guided them toward healing through art, self-expression and friendships.
Havener said filming them holding photos of their younger selves as well as filming them where they are in life now crafted the storyline perfectly.
“The shoots where we went to their current locations — to where they are sort of either working or in school — and filmed them in those environments, really made a connection with the viewer,” Havener said. “The (childhood) portraits then acted as the bookends to their experience with Van Go and how they changed. You could visually kind of see the beginning of who they were when they started.”
“The Beauty Within” will proceed to judging for the 9th District of the American Advertising Federation — which covers Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas — in the categories where it won Gold ADDYs. District-level winners then proceed to the national stage.
Watch “The Beauty Within” in full on Resonate Pictures’ YouTube channel. Learn more about the work at Van Go at van-go.org.
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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.