Special guest post by Jennifer Lebeau on making Cookies for Kids’ Cancer’s new video, “ONE Thing”
Producing a campaign video to help raise awareness for a foundation is not new to me. Whether a documentary, a television show or a branding campaign, I tell stories for a living. That’s what I do.
Theoretically, it’s my job to make people relate to and understand the specific situation that I present to them. The thing is, it’s always surreal and somewhat of a mind warp to use the same skills I apply towards branding a company, an entertainer or a TV show… to a disease.
I got involved with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer when my friend and colleague Ken Druckerman, Executive Producer and the Co-President of Left/Right, a New York based production company, called me about an upcoming project he was going to be doing for a not-for-profit childhood cancer organization.
Pediatric Cancer is not exactly a light topic. It’s such a horrible thing to think about, we quite frankly don’t.
Who of you knew it was the #1 disease killer of children in the country? Who knew all the research focused on cancers adults contract have little to NO bearing on kids’ cancers? Pediatric cancers aren’t “little versions” of adult brain cancer, stomach cancer, lung cancer, etc.? WHAT?!?!
If we don’t raise funds to get completely unique research and treatments going for kids’ cancer – there won’t be progress made on saving children’s lives or helping them battle the disease.
I knew none of this before I started this project. And I certainly had no idea how small government funding for the disease was. It seemed impossible in today’s world.
OK. The task at hand was becoming clear. And I can only give this credit to the tenacious and inspiring cast of characters I got to meet, and thus feature in the video.
After losing their 6-½ year old son to cancer, instead of allowing pain and grief to take over their lives, Gretchen and Larry Witt have harnessed that energy into a multi-million dollar advocacy network in the fight against pediatric cancer. Their generosity has inspired this grassroots network around the globe. Astonishing, amazing, and powerful.
I had presumptions and expectations as I entered into my interviews with two of the country’s most high profile doctors in pediatric cancer. As researchers, surgeons, and oncologists – they surely have a way to keep themselves from being personally affected by the disease. They would have to in order to get through day-by-day, right? I expected somewhat aloof, stoic, clinicians.
As I sat with Dr. LaQuaglia of Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Dr. Maris at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I witnessed the opposite of my expectations. I met two brilliant scientists, whose empathy was palpable and whose emotion flowed freely. Their passion for their work was deep, and the affection for their patients and their families was equally strong. Their strength of character is nothing short of heroic.
The tragedy is nearly unthinkable, the pain mind-bending, there is no way to get used to any of this. Ask Dr. LaQuaglia or Dr. Maris. See and hear them in this video.
I had a unique experience on this project. Despite the weight of the topic, despite the sad stories, as my investment grew deeper, my spirit became lighter. It was that feeling of inspiration and hope that were the important sentiments with which we wanted to leave the viewer.
When one accepts that the current reality doesn’t have to be this way, that by acting, you can change the outcome of a pediatric cancer diagnosis…that’s when the dynamic changes. Fear, turns into power. That is the gift of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.
While I know I can’t bring back Liam Witt or any other child who has passed away from cancer, knowing I did what I could do with whatever it is I have to offer has been meaningful and important work.
I think Ken explained it best when describing how the production team was coping a midst the editing process which included repeated viewings for weeks in order to create the most effective piece possible. “We have been watching the same sequence over and over again – and we all still feel that same mix of raw emotion and a desire to do more.”
The science is there. It is possible to stop children from dying. You can make a difference.
Be a good cookie.™
The “ONE Thing” video was produced by Left/Right, an award-winning documentary production company. The team has been behind such hit series as The Rachel Zoe Project, United STATS of America, True Life and many more. Click here to learn more about the amazing team who generously gave their time, passion and talent to create this video for Cookies.