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Special Project

Special Project
From the 2nd Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

True Life: We Are Orlando

Finalist in Television


This episode of the popular docuseries "True Life" was aimed to give the public an individual and human perspective on the Orlando nightclub tragedy, as well as to show solidarity for Orlando's LGBTQ community and all affected by the shooting. It follows four survivors from June 2016's Pulse nightclub shooting, and documents their path to healing and recovery.

Strategy and Execution

MTV knew that by focusing on four Pulse survivors and the immense toll this tragedy took on their lives, it would be able to bring even greater awareness and empathy for the survivors and the issues surrounding the shooting. While other outlets zeroed in on the shooting's effects more broadly—such as implications for nationwide gun control and anti-terrorism efforts—this episode brings to viewers a deeper level of empathy and solidarity, as it reveals the true levels of pain that people affected by the tragedy had to overcome. For example, one woman tearfully recounts having to come to terms with the possibility of her death while hiding from the gunman on the night of the shooting, and afterwards having to mourn the death of her cousin, who was fatally shot next to her at the nightclub. Cameras follow another man undergoing rehabilitation for gunshot-inflicted wounds, who notes that the pain caused from physical wounds only account for a fraction of his trauma.

Though the episode tackles painful themes of loss and suffering, it ends on an uplifting note as the survivors begin to open up and share their stories with others. The woman coping with the loss of her cousin begins to let go of feelings of guilt that she caused another person's death. The man recovering from gunshot wounds finds a meaningful friendship with other survivors who share the burden of trauma. By the episode's end, all four protagonists feel empowered to open up, help others, and continue their journeys of recovery.

Even though the focus was on personal stories, MTV did not want to miss discussing the broader implications around gun violence so the end of the episode featured a link to a petition calling for gun control legislation from Orlando's local government.


The episode, and its updated version aired in June 2017, were covered by many mainstream news outlets, including the New York Times, Huffington Post, Us Weekly, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Orlando Sentinel. It was praised for bringing awareness to the tragedy, heroism of its dozens of survivors, and larger gun control efforts happening in Orlando and across the United States. The gun control petition shared at the end of the episode has received more than 40,000 signatures since August 2016, and a GoFundMe campaign launched to help fund one protagonist's medical expenses raised roughly $35,000 with the help of the episode.


Video for True Life: We Are Orlando

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