The Story of Common Effort

Common Effort Signing Ceremony
Common Effort culminating in the signing of a community statement

One of the great things about freelancing for Crown Media is the variety of work you get involved in. Whilst much of it is rapid turn-round news simulation or media training for the MOD and NATO purely for internal use, every once in a while you get to create something for a wider audience. Whilst the media simulation stuff is great, and exceptionally valuable to the client, creating content which has to inform and motivate an audience in a specific direction is rewarding on a completely different level.

Dominic Valitis (TV reporter) and I (Camera/Edit) were picked to work on the 1GNC (1st German Netherlands Corps) ‘Common Effort’ exercise by Crown Media earlier this year. Organised by 1GNC, the purpose of these exercises is to bring together military, humanitarian and civilian organisations (referred to as ‘actors’), outside of a crisis situation, so they are better connected and informed to deal with a real life scenario. These organisations will often be working alongside each other in conflict or natural disaster situations, so Common Effort’s goal is to help develop personal links and a framework that will make their individual efforts more effective.

Held over four days in Berlin, Common Effort consisted of a range of workshops and academic sessions where the actors collectively developed plans in dealing with a recent period in history based on the South-Sudan crisis. Using this real-life scenario brought an additional level of realism and historic fact and known outcomes to the exercise – and, to some extent, the benefit of knowing how things could have been played out differently. The event culminated in the signing of the first ‘Common Effort community’ statement – a high-level ceremony involving the German Minister of Defense.

Common Effort Press Conference
Dr. Ursula von der Leyen press conference at Common Effort

Background Pieces and News Packages

Our Crown Media assignment was split into two parts, the first being back in March this year with the production of a “start of exercise” film with David Bennett (one of Crown Media’s proprietors) presenting a background story piece on South Sudan up until a specific date in history. This was carried out at 1GNC’s headquarters in Muenster, Germany and was to be shown to all delegates at the start of Common Effort in May to give them an overview and starting position of the scenario they would be working on.

The Story of Common Effort

The second part of our assignment was carried out at the event in Berlin and consisted of creating three daily news packages which told the unfolding story as the delegates worked their way through the scenario. These were to be screened each day of the main exercise and consisted of a studio link to a report from the field by Dominic with interviews and archive news footage. We were also commissioned to create a story of the exercise film for 1GNC to use post event.

It was this “story” film that was somewhat different from anything else I’ve worked on for Crown Media so far as it was for public consumption. The aim was to give viewers an insight into the event and its purpose but, more specifically, to try and attract a wider participation from civil and humanitarian organisations at future events. Though it was never intended to be used at the event itself, as we managed to complete the edit in time it was also screened on the final day to all attendees as part of the close of exercise session. The reception it received was extremely positive.

This was my first Crown Media job that required NATO security clearance and I hope it’s not the last. Whilst you see stories in the press all the time about civil unrest, natural disaster and humanitarian crisis in which NATO and international organisations are involved, it is extremely difficult to get an understanding of the amount of planning, resources and logistics which are needed to effectively deal with them. I’m not pretending that, from my view behind the camera lens, I understand even a fraction of it – but I’m certainly more aware of the complexity of these situations and the range of actors that are involved.


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