The entertainment and film industry of today is a colossal cultural machine, churning out rich narratives that encapsulate our diverse experiences and catalyze social change. It has evolved beyond its role as a mere amusement source, emerging as an influential platform with far-reaching relevance. Within this vibrant and dynamic landscape stands a creative powerhouse, Sonia Sayani, whose innovative storytelling prowess is reshaping the industry.
Sonia Sayani is a masterful storyteller whose career chronicles a remarkable journey through the realms of writing, acting, and advertising. Her expertise shines through in an array of projects, each testifying to her unique capacity to infuse narratives with empathy, humor, and realism, all while striking a chord with audiences worldwide.
Sayani’s role as the lead copywriter for the groundbreaking “Nike Altius” Integrated Campaign saw her skillfully capture the essence of Japan’s vibrant, yet overlooked skateboarding culture. This inventive approach won the campaign the prestigious Red Dot Junior Award in the “Integrated Campaign – Brands & Communication Design” category in 2019, an accolade recognized worldwide as a seal of excellence in design.
Beyond the world of advertising, Sayani demonstrated her versatility in the entertainment industry with her 30-minute comedy TV pilot, “How To America.” Her poignant exploration of an immigrant’s journey in America resonated deeply with audiences and critics alike. This work of authenticity was recognized as a Semi-Finalist in the Miami Screenplay Awards and the prestigious 2021 Big Apple Film Festival Screenplay Competition. These recognitions underscore her exceptional writing talent and creativity in a highly competitive landscape.
Adding another feather to her cap, Sayani served as a key member of the strategy and writing team for the “Uninterrupted Stories” social media campaign. The initiative skillfully raised awareness about domestic abuse victims on Instagram, reaching around 4.5 million users and generating a remarkable $435k in social media donations, showing the true power of her storytelling in action.
As the principal writer and voice actor for the “You Miss It” radio script, Sayani applied her creative talent toward a global cause, encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations. This project was recognized with the prestigious Creative Floor award in 2022, one of the toughest global healthcare awards competitions. The spot connected with an estimated audience of around 80,000 listeners on Radio Woodstock 100.1 WDST, a testament to the potency of her voice and message.
In an exclusive interview with Sonia Sayani, we delve deeper into her impressive career, achievements, and the palpable impacts she has created. Sayani’s use of her creative skills for beneficial causes, including creating content to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations and voice acting for charitable projects, is a shining example of her commitment to effecting positive change.
Sonia Sayani is more than a talented storyteller. She is a change agent, leveraging her creativity and influence in the film and entertainment industry to inspire, challenge, and provoke thoughtful discourse. Through her captivating narratives, she not only entertains audiences but also catalyzes social transformation, embodying the true power and potential of the industry.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Sonia. Can you share your experience working on the vaccination charity project “You Miss It” and its eventual impact? What inspired the idea behind it?
“You Miss It” was a radio spot that used comedy and the power of audio to encourage listeners to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Creating this project was so enjoyable; it hardly felt like work. The concept emerged from the significant changes in our everyday social lives brought on by the pandemic. One day, we were enjoying life in the sunshine, and the next, we found ourselves having to maintain a 6-foot distance from others. Activities we previously took for granted, such as handshaking, attending packed concerts, or taking crowded buses, suddenly became sources of intense anxiety. There’s good reason for that anxiety, of course, but there’s also a certain nostalgia for the closeness we once had with other people. My team found humor in this yearning, recognizing the paradoxical reality of wishing to be within spitting distance of a stranger – a notion that is both bizarre and slightly disgusting, yet many of us couldn’t help but miss.
The radio spot’s script deftly leveraged this vein of dark humor, painting vivid and somewhat cringe-inducing scenes of close social proximity once considered normal before the pandemic. The story was driven by the script, but the audio format, with its use of ASMR, amplified the message in the best possible way. It nudged the narrative from merely uncomfortable to comedically, shockingly grotesque. I even performed the voice acting for it, so this project was truly mine from conception to completion.
It felt rewarding to use our ability to be honest and poke fun at ourselves for a noble cause – to steer the world in a healthier direction. The project was indeed a success! After airing, it won a Creative Floor Award, renowned as one of the most challenging healthcare award competitions globally.
As a creative individual, how important is it for you to use your skills to effect positive change in society?
I firmly believe that the creative world has the dual responsibility of reflecting and influencing society. These functions occur concurrently and evolve as the world changes. This is a subtle power that all creatives possess, and it often goes unnoticed due to the difficulty in tracing the real sources of social change, as well as the emotional nature of our work. As a society, we sometimes underestimate, disregard, or even mock emotions, viewing them as signs of weakness. Yet, in reality, they are what impact people the most.
Consider your most cherished movie or book or perhaps one that has forever imprinted itself on your memory. It may well be the one that shattered your heart the most. As creatives, we are equipped with a heightened sensitivity that allows us to connect deeply with the world around us, and this ability can catalyze positive change. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to use this power at every opportunity we get.
Can you tell us more about your role in the Uninterrupted Stories social campaign? How did you and your team approach this project to ensure its success?
Uninterrupted Stories was a project that afforded me the opportunity to employ my writing skills for one of the most crucial causes – aiding women whose lives are cut short by domestic violence. The execution required careful consideration to maximize impact. The initial idea sprung from the common “story no longer available” screens we encounter on Instagram when a user deletes a story. It presented us with a chance to creatively hijack a familiar social media feature, substituting it with content starkly different from the typical Instagram fare. The startling shift, and the fact that it made perfect sense, was intended to grab users’ attention. We aimed for users to care about “interrupted stories” – a metaphor for disrupted human lives. The project was a success, generating over $435K in social media donations and driving significant traffic to all relevant websites.
To ensure the project directed users to the right resources and to maintain an informed and respectful approach rooted in real stories of domestic violence, we collaborated with Safe In Harm’s Way. This charity organization assists victims of domestic violence and abuse by providing resources and information. Therefore, one of the project’s primary goals was to steer social media users to their page where concrete actions could be taken. As a creative, one can only hope to have the opportunity to contribute their skills to a project effecting such significant change in people’s lives.
Furthermore, the project’s success was recognized with both a Creative Floor Award and a Manny Award, rewarding the efforts of my team and I on this impactful social media takeover.
In what ways do you believe the creative arts, such as theater and writing, can contribute to societal change?
As I’ve previously noted, art serves a dual role – it reflects society while also shaping it. It provides a mirror to our collective realities and advocates for change. It alerts us to the dangers we face and echoes our shared fears. Its power is immense. Therefore, when creatives apply their skills toward particular causes, and excel at their craft, they can effectively drive people toward transformation.
What challenges did you face when creating content for beneficial causes like encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations? How did you overcome these challenges?
The biggest challenge associated with the “You Miss It” COVID-19 vaccination project was likely achieving the perfect blend of humor, nostalgia, and mild disgust in the script. While writing the script was a joy, it was also the most demanding aspect of the project. We needed to avoid excessive offensiveness in the language and scenarios we crafted about close proximity. It was crucial to remember that we were dealing with a globally devastating disease and our ultimate goal was to encourage people to get vaccinated.
In this project, social awareness was paramount – we needed to understand exactly where society stood in relation to the pandemic. We had to ensure the script was not dismissive, but at the same time, it needed to humorously highlight our eagerness to socialize again. The script’s playful aspect focused on how much we missed each other and social engagement, not on the unpleasant aspects of germ-sharing.
Navigating these challenges required iterative revisions with my team and maintaining an awareness of our tone and message throughout the entire process, even extending to the final voiceover and its presentation to the audience. Creating content for a beneficial cause, much like any content creation, demands a balance between audience awareness and precise fact-checking. It’s a critical equilibrium to achieve.
How did your multicultural background and diverse educational experiences inform your approach to these projects?
Both my educational and personal backgrounds have had a profound impact on my work. I received my first Master’s degree in Theater from the Gaiety School of Ireland, which instilled in me a deep appreciation for theatre’s potential to address societal issues. Theater, a social art form since its inception, continues to thrive amidst evolving storytelling methods, demonstrating its enduring influence on people’s hearts. Whether the subject is gender, sexuality, race, religion, historical events, or countless other topics, theater is a powerful medium for connecting people personally and emotionally to unfamiliar stories and lives vastly different from their own. The ability to present an issue or unique narrative while also entertaining the audience is a truly valuable skill.
Years later, I utilized my experience in creating intersectional theatre and my personal stories from my multicultural family, applying them to a different medium. I wrote a television pilot titled “How To America,” which has garnered several recent successes in film festivals, such as a semi-finalist placement in both the Big Apple Film Festival and Miami Screenplay Competition, a quarter-finalist spot in the Shore Scripts contest, and a second-rounder placement in the Austin Film Festival competition. I hope the accolades won’t stop there. It’s an incredible feeling to be recognized by such prestigious festivals, attended by many talented writers and judged by high-caliber industry professionals.
Sharing this pilot script was personally fulfilling. My family is indeed unique and has had numerous encounters with the American immigration system, experiences largely unknown to most audiences. Having the opportunity to share these stories with a broader audience, while entertaining and inciting laughter, and potentially stirring awareness or even change – this prospect truly inspires me.
Looking back at your body of work, can you discuss a project where you feel your creative contribution had the most significant social impact?
Undoubtedly, the project with the most significant social impact to date has been the Uninterrupted Stories campaign against domestic violence. The campaign’s reach has been immense, and rightly so. I can’t think of a more deserving cause to be disseminated widely across the internet than a call to action against the daily toll of lives lost to domestic violence. The response to this project surpassed all expectations, yet this was precisely what we aspired to achieve. The campaign’s resonance with women’s rights leaders and organizations fueled its momentum, earning it widespread attention.
Not only did it generate over $435K in social media donations and massively increase traffic to domestic abuse sites, but it also gained recognition from major media outlets. iHeartRadio lauded the project as “Digital activism at its best,” and Fox News proclaimed it gave Instagram stories a whole new purpose. This media coverage, combined with the two major awards the project received, amplified its reach globally, enabling people worldwide to take action for this cause.
What advice would you give to other creatives who want to use their skills to make a positive impact on society? What are some effective ways they can channel their talents for beneficial causes?
I would suggest first determining the cause you are most passionate about supporting and then conducting some research on what could benefit that cause the most. What are its needs? Where are the gaps in the public’s understanding of it? Once you’ve established these factors, consider how you can leverage your skills to meet these needs.
There’s a pragmatic component to utilizing art for societal good – it’s rooted in reality, not solely in your own imagination. This kind of work is intended to serve others as well as yourself. Ultimately, the hope is that your efforts will facilitate tangible change or at least provoke a shift in mindset.