In the 10+ years I spent as a full-time freelance director and cinematographer, I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects for a fairly diverse clientele. Now that I work at St. Jude, each video project is similar to the next. The challenge, therefore, is to find new and creative ways to tell patient stories.
This process begins with the hard work of our Patient Team, who conduct initial interviews with our patient families and then write up an overview of the patient's story. From that foundation, the video production team will find some kind of "hook" on which to base the story. That "hook" might be a particular hobby, talent, or interest the patient has. It might be a comment Mom or Dad makes during the interview. From that initial "hook" we can start to build the framework of the video.
Take Lanie for example. Her story is one I shot over the summer and then completed in the early fall. In conceptualizing the look and feel of Lanie's story, the Producer and I kept coming back to this one comment her Mom made during the interview. When Lanie was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, the doctor told Lanie's parents that Lanie would die. He was that certain. Lanie's parents were about to make hospice arrangements before St. Jude stepped in.
Some of our patient stories begin with an overview of the child: his/her personality, interests, etc. We then give the viewer back story into the family and what life was like for them before the diagnosis. Then we move the story forward by introducing the symptoms and the realization that something is wrong.
However, with Lanie's story we wanted to do something different. Rather than give viewers a lot of back story and build up, we wanted to hit them in the face right at the start. We wanted to try and put the audience in that consultation room with Lanie's parents when they heard the doctor say that Lanie would die. So, it was decided that the opening would feel cold. It would have minimal scoring and sound design. The main audio element would be the repetitive ticking of a clock hanging on the wall.
We wanted to create suspense. We wanted the viewer to question whether Lanie survived. Watch the video to learn more about her, her family, and her battle with cancer.