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Plan and MTV Canada team up on social awareness doc

Getting young jaded viewers motivated to open their eyes and think about worldly issues is a hefty task, but with the right partners, Girls of Latitude could just make that happen.
November 13, 2008

Getting young jaded viewers motivated to open their eyes and think about worldly issues is a hefty task, but with the right partners, Girls of Latitude could just make that happen.

Steve Theobald of Plan Canada, a branch of the global development organization that focuses on children’s rights, wanted to promote Plan’s campaign, Because I Am a Girl. Theobald realized that the best way to get out the campaign’s message, which highlights the challenges girls face when it comes to their rights, was to approach MTV Canada.

Mark McInnis, VP of production for MTV Canada, said the channel is constantly approached by socially responsible organizations, but Theobald and Plan not only had a good idea, but were also a bit different than the others. ‘They were really open to our input and tried to do something that would cut through and reach the audience. We’re always looking for ways of affecting social change and involving our hosts and it seemed like a perfect fit,’ says McInnis.

The end result of the collaboration, Girls of Latitude, puts three of MTV Canada’s female personalities, Nicole Holness, Diane Salema and Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, in Haiti, Colombia and Sudan and brings them together with remarkable girls linked through Plan chapters in those countries.

‘Nicole, Diane and AJ have such diverse and large followings that by sending them out to these regions and having them experiencing these stories and meeting those girls, we thought our audience would be excited to travel with them, and learn what they learn, and see what they see,’ says McInnis.

The half-hour special was challenging, in that the filmmakers had to condense the stories into three segments of about seven minutes each. Thankfully, there is plenty of online support to enhance the 30-minute special, with additional footage, photos, blogs by the MTV girls, and in-depth stories about the country’s different situations on both www.mtv.ca/girls and www.plancanada.ca.

McInnis credits this ‘robust’ online presence as part of the decision to make a half hour show, in hopes that the viewer wants a little more and heads to the Web. The other reason is, he says, ‘We noticed that 30-minute programs seem to rate better with our audience in general so we wanted to get as many people to see the program and be exposed to these people and ideas as we could.’

Theobald says that there currently are talks with MTV International to air the film in overseas markets, including Africa and South America. ‘I’d love to do another chapter in this,’ he says, adding that the Because I Am a Girl campaign has eight more years to go.

Girls of Latitude premieres on MTV Canada tonight.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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