A woman in a green T-shirt stands behind the camera, focusing the lens on a group of inner-city kids doing face-painting.
Members of a board of directors, staff and her equipment—camera bag, tripod, microphones and a lighting kit—surround her.
“Action!” she calls, and begins filming.
This one-woman force of nature is single-handedly changing the way that Chicago-area nonprofits market themselves to potential donors, clients and employees. Clara Tomaz of Wilmette, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Media 4 Community, offers her services free of charge to qualifying nonprofit organizations to enable them to showcase their stories—who they are, why they exist and the services they offer.
“In an aspirational way, the mini-documentaries are tools to promote social awareness, empathy and integration,” says Tomaz, a cancer survivor who holds an MFA in Electronic Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “In a practical way, nonprofits, which usually have low budgets for marketing, have access to a video that might otherwise cost them tens of thousands of dollars to produce.”
Tomaz first created Media 4 Community in the fall of 2012 as a project, then in April 2013 incorporated as a nonprofit, complete with a board of directors. Since its inception, Media 4 Community has produced 18 videos for area nonprofits, which use them on their websites, in presentations and can even sell them for fundraising. The mini-documentaries of less then five minutes are shot, edited and produced by Tomaz for free.
Grandma’s Soup, a nonprofit organization that provides meals to families in Evanston, Wilmette and Skokie who are affected by life-threatening illness, benefitted from one of Media 4 Community’s mini-documentaries. CEO Kaquana King had nothing but praise for the experience.
“Media 4 Community is a great organization that has really brought Grandma’s Soup front-of-the-line exposure,” King says. “It’s people like Clara and organizations like Media 4 Community that make what Grandma’s Soup does all the more rewarding.”
David Victorson, Executive Director of True North Treks, an Evanston-based nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting young-adult cancer survivors by connecting them with nature, says, “As a starting nonprofit, it’s very important to have a visual story to show your audience what it is you do and what you hope to accomplish, and Media 4 Community is that.”
Tomaz is taking her work a step further by running “make your own movie” classes for clients of some of the nonprofits she serves. Recently, she helped people with cerebral palsy create a video about what it’s like to live with that condition.
“It’s liberating,” Tomaz says. “I am an artist, and I have an experience with a life-threatening disease, and I know how liberating it can be to create an emotional connection with an audience. Through video, we can reach people in a way we couldn’t by just talking.”
Original video profiling nonprofit Silent Stars Foundation generously provided by Media 4 Community
Editor’s note: Laura Tiebert is currently serving as a member of the Board of Directors for Media 4 Community.