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How to Create a Great Short Video

Tips for producing a Public Service Annoucement (PSA):

Here are some examples of effective PSAs

  • "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?"
  •  "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."
  •  "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."
  •  "You could learn a lot from a dummy."

How many of these phrases ring a bell? These widely recognized slogans have become a part of our culture. While these were all big-budget campaigns, your own PSA can be a great and inexpensive way to get your message out to the public and to change people’s behaviour.


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What is a public service announcement?

  • PSAs are short messages produced on video and given to radio and television stations. Your PSA should be a ready-to-air, 30 to 60 second DVD or video.
  • PSAs tend to be very effective at encouraging the audience to do something -- for example, call a phone number for more information, use condoms or change your attitude toward homosexuality .


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How do you write a PSA?

Decide upon and clarify the purpose of your PSA.

  • What are your goals?
  • What do you want to accomplish by putting a PSA on the air?
  • Who is your audience? (High school students, teachers, parents…)


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Key points to remember about the writing:

  • Because you've only got a few seconds to reach your audience (30 to 60 seconds or less), the language should be simple and vivid. Take your time and make every word count. Make your message crystal clear.
  • The writing needs a "hook" -- words or phrases that grab attention -- to attract your audience. Creating a clever "slogan" works very well. People will remember it.
  • Remember, you usually want your audience to do something as a result of having heard the PSA. (change their behaviour, start a GSA…)
  • Target your audience. What type of people are you hoping to reach through your PSA? This will help you focus on the content of your PSA.
  • You may want to explore: queer history, rights, culture, personalities, language, sense of community, multi-layered differences…. ethnicity, religion, disability, gender for gay kids, for straight kids, for kids with queer parents …the consequences of homophobia/transphobia health, hope, happiness, humour, our differences, similarities, stereotypes, myths, the power of truth


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Getting ready to write your PSA:

  • Choose points to focus on. Don't overload the viewer or listener with too many different messages. List all the possible messages you'd like to get into the public mind and then decide on the one or two most vital points. For example, if your group educates people about asthma, you might narrow it down to a simple focus point like "If you have asthma, you shouldn't smoke."
  • Brainstorm. This is also a good time to look at the PSAs that others have done for ideas. Get together with your friends to toss around ideas about ways you can illustrate the main point(s) you've chosen. If possible, include members of your target group in this process.
  • Check your facts. It's extremely important for your PSA to be accurate. Any facts should be checked and verified before sending the PSA in. Is the information up-to-date?
  • Identify a "hook". A hook is whatever you use to grab the listener or viewer's attention. How are you going to keep them from changing the channel, leaving the room or letting their attention drift when your PSA comes on? A hook could be something funny, catchy music, a shocking statistic or an emotional appeal.


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What themes (or "hook") should I have?

There are many "hooks" or themes your PSA could focus on. Remember, to compete in this contest, your video should have an anti-homophobia message and promote safer schools, free from bullying and homophobia.

Here are some themes we encourage you to focus on. You can pick one or choose to explore something else altogether: 

  1. Proud to be me 
  2. Exploring gender stereotypes 
  3. You Can Play: Supporting LGBTQ athletes 
  4. Building diverse communities 
  5. Language that hurts: Real time or online (cyber-bullying)
  6. Or any ideas that speak out against homophobia, transphobia and bullying!


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Using music, text and other copyright stuff in your PSA

A great PSA will not only have a striking message, but it might also have a great soundtrack that stays with it's viewers. Kind of like a song on a TV commercial. If the song is catchy, you might start to think about that product more everytime you hear the song from the TV ad.

Having music in your video is a great option, and if you decide to have some in your PSA, it's important to the writers & owners of the music that they know where their music is being used. For the Rise Against Homophobia Youth Video Contest, we recommend making your own awesome music, or looking for "free" music, on places like Creative Commons. Sometimes it's important to ask for permission, and recognise the music on your PSA's credits too.

Here are some great places to find music (and even fonts!) for your PSA:

If you're still interested in copyright, here are some important websites to learn more about copyright, intellectual property and free content on the internet:


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Most importantly:


If you have further questions, contact us at contest@outinschools.com or (604) 844-1615!


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