By Dan O’Reilly-Rowe, 2009.

Participants run through an entire production process from concept development to screening. By using the Public Service Announcement (PSA) form, participants are encouraged to think about the message, audience, and potential impact of their product.


  • Experience a simplified production process from beginning to end.
  • Practice working together as a production crew.
  • Practice production skills (camera, sound, scripting, acting…).
  • Craft a short production with a defined message.


  • Video Cameras
  • Microphones
  • Cables
  • TV monitor (or projector)
  • Batteries
  • Tripods
  • Headphones
  • Recording media (eg tape, chip, drive)
  • Butcher’s paper
  • Markers

Media Resources

  • A selection of Public Service Announcements


4-6 hours


Intro to PSA

  • What’s a PSA? A Public Service Announcement is a type of advertisement (in any media – television, print, billboard, radio… etc) that is designed to communicate a message that the producers consider to be in the public interest. Unlike commercial advertisements, they do not promote the sale of goods and services for a company’s profit. Instead, they promote an idea, an attitude, or a service that its producers intend to benefit the community.
  • What are some examples of Public Service Announcements that you’ve seen?
  • Screen some examples of PSA.
  • Discuss the group’s observations of the attributes of PSAs:
    1. Duration:Television PSAs conform to the 30 second television spot, some have extended versions for web or cinema distribution.
    2. Themes:Often deal with issues of public health & safety (eg domestic violence, drug abuse, counter-terrorism, nutrition, STIs).
    3. Techniques: Sometimes use “shock value” (eg anti-drink driving, anti-smoking PSAs), often have a slogan (eg “If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot”, “Slip Slop Slap”), might have a jingle (eg “Slip Slop Slap”)
    4. Impact: Generally have a clearly intended impact (eg reduce teenage pregnancy, encourage recycling)
    5. Resources: Often direct audiences to further information, such as a website or a telephone hotline
  • Choose one (or several if breaking into small groups) PSA to look at in detail. Break it down into a shot-by-shot description or storyboard. Note how economical producers must be when constrained by the 30 second television spot format.

PSA Production

  • Generate a list of potential themes for PSAs that are relevant to the group. This could be done by having each participant contribute one, or by using the responses from an activity like Community Circles.
  • Divide into production teams. The number of crews working simultaneously will depend on the amount of equipment available to you.
  • Assign or have each group choose a PSA theme from the list generated by the big group. It’s not a problem if more than one team chooses the same theme, in fact it can be illuminating to see different approaches emerge from different crews.
  • Discuss the suggested production process that the crews should use, and list the process as a series of steps for all to see:
    1. Discuss your message.What are you saying to the audience? Can you simplify your message into a catchy slogan?
    2. Discuss techniques.How are you going to convey the message? Is there a story? What happens?
    3. Assign crew roles.Who’s in the roles in front of and behind the camera?
    4. Use a storyboard or a shot list to plan out your PSA. Try and be as accurate as possible in terms of timing. See if you can bring in your PSA at exactly 30 seconds.
    5. This will most likely be shot using the in-camera edit method (ie shot in sequence, no edits, screened exactly as shot), so thought should be put in on how the action will occur and be captured by camera and microphones.
    6. Record your PSA.
    7. (Optional) Edit. If you have the time, equipment, and skills, you might want to do post-production on your shoot. Edit, title, add music.

Screening & Processing

  • Screen each PSA.
  • Discuss with a focus on:
    • the clarity and effectiveness of delivery of the message.
    • identifying the intended audience of the piece.
    • constructive critique of the technical and aesthetic aspects of the PSA.
  • Consider the relevance of these PSAs to the communities that participants belong to. Do participants feel that the struggles that they have identified in their communities are tackled effectively by PSAs that they see?

Storytelling Prompts | Finding Topics to Explore

Morgan Sully, 2010.  Coming up with a worthy topic for a story can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here’s a few prompts to get you started. Participants Can work for small or large groups.  Not much technology is needed for this activity. Skills/Technique This...