A pioneer in the development of cultural change education, Catharsis Productions uses research in education, psychology and cognition to lower the barriers to discussion, introspection and positive action. While taking on the toughest social topics—including sexual assault, harassment, intersectional bias and substance abuse, Catharsis Productions employs humor strategically to make challenging subjects accessible, and those essential, tough conversations possible. Since its founding in 2000, Catharsis Productions has been recognized by Ending Violence Against Women International, the Illinois Coalition for Sexual Assault, and Rape Victim Advocates for its innovative and impactful work with the U.S. military, higher education and social justice organizations.


Hybrid Approach for a Hybrid World 


Great organizations and brands begin by understanding the needs of their audience and delivering experiences that meet—and exceed—those needs in ways that are true to their organization’s purpose and mission. Those brand experiences come to life through relatable and compelling storytelling and through accessible and convenient channels, platforms and media. Today, brand experiences need to be hybrid—combining the best of our physical and virtual worlds—and omni-channel, reaching us in the right moment through the right channel. 


Although Catharsis Productions has already begun digitizing what had previously been solely on-location programming, the pandemic brought further challenges to in-person instruction, accelerating the need for the organization to increase its focus on online efforts. Dr. Gail Stern, Catharsis Productions cofounder who has received awards for her decades of work changing the cultural dialogue around sexual violence, harassment and gender stereotypes, adds “Our challenge was to find ways of replicating that same positive, catalytic energy we feel with our live programs into an online format. So much of good teaching requires active learner engagement, not just pressing a button on a screen. We needed to make sure we were still teaching, not just talking at our online students”.


Taking In-Person Learning Online


From the company’s start, Catharsis Productions found success through the dynamic and adaptable medium of live performance, which then led to client requests to scale their training through digital courses. Through the company’s continued growth, their team realized the potential in growing and committing to a robust digital coursework offering. While Catharsis Productions had a well-received first digital course in sexual harassment, the team needed a partner to consolidate and refine the online curriculum’s creative approach and technical foundation to set a new strategic direction for growth. To take on the creation of its next online course focused on substance abuse awareness for university students, Catharsis Productions worked with 50,000feet to develop the course that ultimately became “Binge Thinking”.


Educate and Inspire, Surprise and Delight


The 45-minute Binge Thinking course, like its entire repertoire, embodies the company’s unique mantra, “Fight Fire with Funny,” to create a constructive dialogue about the effects of alcohol use and abuse and keep the delivery conversational. Led by fictional narrator Veronica and a cast of on-screen illustrated characters, students follow at their own pace through real-world scenarios and interactive games, creating a multi-path safe space that adapts to the student as they examine their own behaviors and beliefs. Each answer to the questions posed in the exercises determines the response students see, tailored to their personal situation. When students game the course, Veronica steers them back on path with a bit of sass and humor. 


Bringing Passion to the Performance


The visual expression to accompany the script came to life through a combination of photographic cutouts and whimsical hand-drawn doodles. The program debuts four feature characters, illustrated by Monique Wray, and a family of gestural symbols and background scenes created by 50,000feet. In addition to the creative direction, 50,000feet developed all final scene animations and the audio recording with Articulate 360, an e-learning authoring platform, for implementation into the company’s existing learning management system. “It is both moving and exciting to find a partner who is willing to be an inspiring, creative collaborator—we look forward to creating more online initiatives that engage, enlighten, and ultimately, change the world for the better.”


To learn more about the Catharsis Productions mission and services, visit catharsisproductions.com.