Stepping Up: Steer PVD helps community groups put out PSAs free of charge

DOUGLAS CUDDEBACK, director of photography for Steer PVD, shoots video for a free public service announcement to a local community group. / COURTESY STEER PVD

PROVIDENCE – “Community-driven” is how Carlos Toro describes his video production company, Steer PVD.

Whether it’s a collaboration with Mystic Aquarium on a digital exhibit or an AIDS-awareness video for a research team at Brown University, the company has made supporting local companies, nonprofits, schools and government a focus of its six years in business.

But amid the coronavirus crisis, Toro has redefined what it means to serve his community, offering his company’s services free of charge to local community groups looking to publish public service announcements about the crisis. As of Tuesday, Steer had produced six free videos, including those for the mayor of Central Falls, an Olneyville community development nonprofit and former R.I. Health Director Dr. Michael Fine.

Simple PSA-style videos aren’t typically in Steer’s wheelhouse – their video and digital services projects are more complex, costing clients $10,000 at minimum – but Toro described the offering as a basic way to connect his company’s skill set to a need.

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“The idea was to have the community groups … be able to communicate to their constituents in a very professional manner and assuage any fears they might have,” Toro said. 

It also gives his 8 employees a way to channel their fear and anxiety into something productive, especially at a time when other business has dropped off.

“I think it’s worse to sit back and feel all these things, than to just get to work,” Toro said.

Toro named the pressure facing his employees as the hardest part of this crisis for him.

“The rest of it is entrepreneurship, so this is what I signed up for” he said. “I never thought getting into this business that stability was part of the game, but I didn’t think I’d be trying to decide if it was safe to send someone up to Boston to shoot.”

Acknowledging that the in-person nature of video shoots might mean ending the free PSA service, Toro stressed that safety for his employees was his “number 1, 2, 3 priority.” The recently filmed PSAs were set up by a single worker, rather than the usual 5, with personal protective equipment and a teleprompter with larger type to enable the subject to abide by social distancing guidelines. 

As a company with existing remote capabilities, Toro was optimistic his business would survive the crisis, though it may require some changes to his long-term business model. He had not let go of any workers yet, though he couldn’t rule out the possibility depending on what comes next, he said.

“We’re banking on this being, at minimum, three months,” Toro said of the economic impact of the new coronavirus for his business. “It is putting a pressure, which might be a good thing, on us figure out how we create a completely remote version of our business and think critically about the digital services we can offer to stand out.”

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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