Sarah McLachlan donates funds for World on Fire

Canadian artist Sarah McLachlan worked with director Sophie Muller from Oil Factory to launch her song, “World on Fire” as a music video that would change the world. Muller and her production crew donated their labour to the project, arranging for all the production costs ($150,000) to go to eleven charity projects around the world. The only production expense was $15, the cost of a Sony miniDV tape.

Sarah McLachlan World on Fire

The video begins with Sarah McLachlan, sitting on a chair wearing jeans and playing accoustic guitar. What follows is mostly photographic footage from projects around the world along with a message in animated text and imagery.

Click on the image below to play the World on Fire video.

Text from World on Fire Video

Sarah McLachlan and guitarWhat’s wrong with this video?
Well, it only cost $15
$150,000 could make a difference to over 1,000,000 people.

On set in LA $200 = a production assistant for 1 day
or in Ethiopia 100 childrens school fees for 1 term.

Office Phones = $480
$480 Equips 10 classrooms in Afghanistan.

$5000 = Cost of make-up and hair for one day
or one years schooling for 145 girls in Afghanistan

On set $500 = sound playback
In Bangladesh $500 = all the nuts and bolts to hold 50 houses together

Don’t worry, we are not asking for money.

On set $1150 = filming equipment
In Nepal $1150 = bicycle ambulances X 5

$9,500 would have paid for meetings, tax and union fees
Instead, in West Africa $9500 paid for film screenings in refugee camps for 180,000 refugees.

Single Mother in GhanaThis is a single mother in Ghana, Africa. She works 2 jobs 16 hours a day 7 days a week
To earn the $200 a year it costs to send her son to school. At night she sells her oranges. Each orange = 2 cents. She might sell 50. 50 oranges = $1

Kenya, Cambodia, Niger, Angola
$10,200 = 2 hours of film stock or = 6 wells built in 6 different countries.
$3,500 = a production supervisor or = schooling and support for 70 children of war in Sierra Leone.

World on Fire graphicIn LA, catering for a one day shoot = $3,000
but this time $3,000 has bought 10950 meals for street children in Calcutta.

Studio Costs $5,400 = independence for 100 widows in Afghanistan

$15,000 Camera and Art Department Cost = a machine to generate power for an entire rural community – energy, irrigation, business

Cost of electricians on set for one day = $2625 = livestock as a source of food and income for villages across the world.

India $15,000 = 1 Mobile Medical Unit = styling costs. In its lifetime it will treat 150,000 people
Scholarships12 million are blind due to cataracts which can easily be treated
40 % live below the poverty line
80 % live in rural areas with little access to health care

$2,500 = 1 editor or schooling for 100 street children in Tanzania for a year.

$11,000 = all editing and post. $11,000 will run a street childrens hospital for a whole year.

$1,500 will give 7 former child soldiers training in skills that will help them rebuild their lives.

$3,500 = 10 grannies adopted


$16,500 = Director’s fee (+1st and 2nd AD – art directors) $16,500 = total running cost of a South African Orphanage for one year.

Kibera, Kenya – East Africa’s largest slum. 800,000 people living in 1 square mile. 1 square mile = Central Park, New York City.

A producer would earn $7,500. This could buy 6 months of medicine for 5000 patients.

Hungry boyHe is hungry but his body can’t absorb the food.

The production company = $22,500. Instead Kibera will get a 12 room clinic.

So that is where all the money went.


Muller and crew accepted payment in karma points for their work with stock footage donated by the agencies receiving donations. The US$150,000 not spent on the video was dispersed to 11 charities around the world. Working with director/producer and editor Sophie MUller were Arista/BMG producer Adam Lowenberg, designers Kate Rogers, Cassiano Prado, Alex Carvalho and Dan Sollis.

The World on Fire site includes a list of all the charities and projects supported by the music video: Carolina for Kibera, Comic Relief, CARE USA, DORCAS, Engineers Without Borders – Canada, Help the Aged, Film Aid, War Child, Heifer International, ITDG, and Action Aid.

World On Fire – Closer – The Best of Sarah McLachlan (Deluxe Version) on iTunes

The ‘World on Fire’ video is one of the finalists in the Media That Matters Festival. In the background to the entry Sarah McLachlan explains that the song is about trying not to feel paralyzed when we see all that is wrong with the world. Even the small gesture can make a difference. When talking with Sophie Muller she had said that she felt as though she as an affluent musician was part of the problem of worldwide poverty. Muller suggested to McLachlan an idea she’d been developing for some time – a music video that did made a difference.

Lyrics for World on Fire

Hearts are worn in these dark ages
You’re not alone in this story’s pages
The light has fallen amongst the living and the dying
And I’ll try to hold it in, yeah I’ll try to hold it in

The world’s on fire and
It’s more than I can handle
I’ll tap into the water
(Try and bring my share)
I try to bring more
More than I can handle
(Bring it to the table)
Bring what I am able

I watch the heavens but I find no calling
Something I can do to change what’s coming
Stay close to me while the sky is falling
Don’t wanna be left alone, don’t wanna be alone


Hearts break, hearts mend
Love still hurts
Visions clash, planes crash
Still there’s talk of Saving souls,
still the cold
Is closing in on us

We part the veil on Archille’s Sun
Stray from the straight line on this short run
The more we take, the less we become
A fortune of one that means less for some

Chorus x2

Filed under: ActionAid, Music Videos

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