MEC and Origin partner on branded content and visible minorities

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Despite ethnic diversity in the outdoors bubbling up in industry conversations everywhere, few brands are tackling the issue with their marketing. This fall, however, MEC, Canada’s leading outdoor sports retailer, approached Origin to concept and produce one of a three-part, cross-Canada video documentary series designed to shine a light on the face of visible minorities in the outdoors. It was a first for MEC, not just discussing ethnic diversity, but becoming also becoming documentary storytellers. Origin was proud to be a part of it. 

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Documentary Synopsis

In moments of rawness and realness, we find our true selves. While dealing with one of the darkest times of her life, processing family trauma and recovering from injury, Azzah becomes captivated by the question, “what do you want to do before you die?” Although she has never seen herself as much of an adventurer, she realizes she’s capable of more than she ever imagined.


Project Goals


The goals for the project were the sort that Origin was used to dealing with in branded content. The desire to do it with the utmost sensitivity and authenticity was unique. "There is clearly a strong business case for this, but as a values-based organization, MEC is compelled to do this work. We still have a lot of work to do, and this work needs to be done,” says Yves Ma, MEC project lead for the documentary series.  

  1. To emotionally connect with viewers of all cultures, ages, budget or geography and inspire all to get outside in as many ways possible.
  2. Create content and marketing that represents the diversity of the MEC membership.
  3. Amplify conversations about the lack of representation of people of colour in the outdoor industry.





The vision for these films dovetailed into the impact we wanted to achieve. What was important to us was that the stories needed to be authentic; we wanted to tell personal and interesting stories and because we were wanting to showcase an alternative perspective from the white (mostly male) story, we also needed a storyteller who identified as non-white. But also, by telling an authentic story, we hoped to reach a broader audience, since above-all, a good story cuts through barriers.

Yves Ma MEC Producer

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The Deliverable

An 8-minute documentary film, featuring a visible minority and outdoor adventure.

Strategic Approach

As part of the creative process, Origin’s creative team took on researching dozens of potential stories and subjects, but landed on an inspiring character in Azzah Ahmad. The story is that of a young Muslim woman's tentative steps into the outdoors with Vancouver-based hiking group Chasing Sunrise and her subsequent journey of healing. While the story was created to recount the experiences of a young, non-white woman for whom experiencing the outdoors was not a cultural priority, Origin’s intent was to produce a film that would be powerfully resonant to anyone introduced to the outdoors in their adult life. In meeting MEC’s priority for engaging non-White creative teams for the project, Origin’s cinematographers and producers joined director Julia Kwan on the production.


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The Results 

The film will continue to be screened at various film festivals around the world throughout 2018 and has already won Best Short Mountain Film at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. In regards to its tour, MEC’s project lead had this to say, "In the promotional trailers from festivals that our films have recently participated in, I counted only two people whose ethnicity was visible as belonging to a minority group from over 50 featured subjects—one of those subjects was from our film. In essence, we have contributed to doubling the representation of visible minorities in that outdoor campaign that reached over 10K attendees. Clearly though, this is only the beginning."



The film is far more authentic than the number of films boasting superheroes with enormous muscles. Azzah has a genuine interest in experiencing the world and through doing that she delivers an important message – everyone has the right to connect with nature.
Pawel wysoczanski  Jury Member, banff mountain film festival