Monday, April 25, 2011

My First Mayo Video Project

I just finished a very fun, yet exhausting, project for work. I wrote and helped to produce a video about one of our patients. Spending time with patients and learning about their experiences is the best part of my job.

I've spent the last three and half months working on the 2010 Mayo Clinic Annual Report - both the print and an interactive website. It typically features five patient stories; We had four that had been told in 2010, but we needed a fifth story that would be compelling enough to match the other four.

At a brain storming meeting, I said that I had a possible story. It was a story of gentleman (Ron) who lived through a horrific tornado. The more I shared, the more the group thought it might have potential. (I knew of the story because it happened to a high school classmate's dad.)

There's a sad part to the story. His wife died as a result of her injuries from the storm. That news made a couple of people push back; that we shouldn't include the story because of that fact. But death is a part of life and we shouldn't exclude the story for that reason alone. I got buy-in and they gave me the thumbs up to move forward.

I contacted his son Tom, who I went to school with, via Facebook, to see if his dad would be willing to share his story.  Tom sent me a message back that "Yes. Dad would be willing..." He also said that they were very grateful to have a place like St Marys Hospital/Mayo Clinic so close to Albert Lea.

As I thought about that comment, I realized the irony in it. Ron had been treated at St. Marys and Mayo Clinic because he was injured by a tornado, yet it's possible that neither St. Marys nor Mayo Clinic would be here if it weren't for a tornado that nearly destroyed Rochester in 1883.

I planned to meet Ron and set up a photo session with him when he was visiting Mayo Clinic the following week. I made the assumption that Tom would be accompanying his dad for this appointment (I have no idea why I assumed that). Ron was only told that I would meet him during his visit. We had never met, so without Tom there, I wasn't sure if I would find him.

I caught up with Ron and his brother Jack after his first appointment. Both were surprised that I could pick them out of the crowd, but since I know their sons, I just looked for family resemblance. And it didn't hurt that Ron's picture was on his CaringBridge site.

I spend most of the day with these two brothers and it was like spending the day with my dad. What a gift!

I hired a freelance writer to tell Ron's story and everything was chugging along smoothly. About 6 weeks into the project, we realized that his was the only story that didn't have a video for the website. While I love video production, this would be my first one for Mayo.

We scheduled video shoots with Ron's doctor and with Ron, but we lacked b-roll for the video (b-roll is that filler stuff that makes a video interesting and not just a talking head). I found out that Ron was also being featured in an annual report video for the rehabilitation center that he stayed at after his discharge from St. Marys. Aha! B-roll. So I contacted them and one week later I had the footage. 

I wanted news footage and since there is a TV station here in Rochester, we contacted them, but they were not interested in sharing. We contacted KAAL-TV in Austin and they were willing to give us some footage from the night of the storm. After going through the legal rigmarole, we got the footage at the last minute.
I got permission to use a photo of the storm taken by Arian Schuessler of the Globe Gazette that sends chills down your spine. The Albert Lea Tribune sent photos of the damage after the storm as well as photos of Ron when he was at the rehabilitation center. Score!

I started working on the script, but with so many video clips and other media, I was having a difficult time visualizing what I wanted. To get me through this blockage, I used a very large white board with large and colorful post-it notes to pull the script together. 

I used a different color post-it note for each of the video reel and for the still photography. The text for the graphics were written on a different type of post-it note. I had each segment (with time-code) written on the post-its and then I simply moved them around until the story flowed. I've learned that thinking with tactile objects helps me understand things better.

But there was still something missing. I wanted people to understand what a monster this storm was, so they would understand what a miracle it is that Ron survived it.

Then I saw some amazing YouTube footage of the storm and I had to have it. It happened to be footage of the funnel that hit the area of Ron's house.  It was quality video, so I paid the stormchaser and added it to the Mayo video.

The media support services staff at Mayo are outstanding and they took my script (I had written it out after the post-it note exercise) and they added the perfect music and pulled everything together.

I hope I did the story justice. Check it out below.

Here's the video

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