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VIDEO STORYTELLING FOR THE TENET HEROES HALL OF FAME
Tenet Health is one of the nation’s largest private hospital organizations, with over 130,000 employees across 79 hospital facilities nationwide. The Tenet Heroes program is a beautiful initiative that shines a spotlight on employees that most embody Tenet’s core values of quality, integrity, service, innovation, and transparency. Every year, over one thousand employees are nominated by patients, family members, and colleagues. The winners are dedicated, compassionate, and serve their patients above all else.
INITIAL CALL & CHALLENGES
We received an email from Tenet after having been recommended by a previous client. (This is very typical for our business. Happy clients lead to more projects.)
On the initial phone call, we learned about the Tenet Heroes program. For 2016, there were just 136 honorees – representing 1/10th of 1% in the company. And only 8 honorees were given the highest honor – to be inducted into the Tenet Heroes Hall of Fame. Tenet wanted to honor each of those eight heroes with a short, impactful video that told their story. The videos would be shown at the awards dinner in front of 1000 colleagues and fellow heroes – and would go on to be shown throughout the year at special events and on social media.
Byline Films & Advertising was asked to research, plan, and produce two of these Hall of Fame video stories.
ESTIMATE & SCOPE OF WORK
In order to write a good estimate and scope of work, we needed to envision the whole process beginning to end before executing it. We drew heavily on previous experience with documentary-style storytelling but it also required some imagination – as this was a new client and a new project.
Our “two” heroes were Darci in San Antonio, TX and also the entire Neurocritical Care team (NCCU) in Modesto, CA (the first time an entire group was recognized together). It would involve interviews with each of the honorees as well as hospital staff, family, and friends.
Pre-production planning is always complex, but this shoot also included multiple travel destinations, multiple shoot days, and almost 50 pieces of equipment. In addition, we needed to flex our insurance policies – as we hoped to shoot at Yosemite National Park, requiring significant liability coverage.
There was limited time scheduled with each of our heroes and the timeline was quick so there was little room for error.
We left for San Antonio late on Sunday night. This was going to be a fast paced trip – we only had one full day in San Antonio before we’d be flying to California – San Francisco, Modesto, and Yosemite, all in one week.
After arriving in San Antonio, we discussed our game plan over a plate of Mexican food at Casa Rio on the riverwalk. Our first interview was with Darci, our first Hero. We had limited time with her and needed to make her feel as comfortable as possible right away. The success of the project depended on these heroes opening up on-camera and sharing their stories.
The next morning, we met Darci for the first time. She was very sweet, unassuming, and obviously kind hearted. As an ER nurse, she not only took initiative in job related tasks, but also exhibited true compassion for everyone around her. One example was when a gentlemen came into the ER, distraught. Darci took the time to listen and discovered that he had lost his faith in humanity. She knew he needed help beyond her normal duties, so she and a colleague gave him a shave and a haircut, made sure he had enough to eat, and found him new clothes to wear. When he looked in the mirror, he smiled – his demeanor completely changed. A few weeks later, he returned to tell her “thank you” and that he was determined to turn his life around.
After Darci’s interview, we sat down with her colleagues and, finally, the president of St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital. It was clear to us, that Darci had made a big impact on those around her – above and beyond what was mentioned in the nomination letter. Later that night – though it wasn’t originally scheduled – Darci’s parents welcomed us into their home. You really got the sense of how proud they were of her and her accomplishments.
Darci graciously agreed to talk about the filming experience for this article. “Honestly, I felt nervous and anxious going into it, but after meeting the crew I felt more at ease. It’s intimidating with the lights and cameras there, but being able to just focus on the producer interviewing me helped out a lot. He told me ‘forget about the cameras…let’s just have a conversation.’”
We were excited about how smoothly the San Antonio portion of the trip went and – after backing up our footage – hopped on a flight to San Francisco. We sat on the tarmac for a long time – before the pilot informed us that our flight was delayed. It would be a sprint through the terminal to reach our connecting flight in Las Vegas. That’s frustrating for anyone, but it posed a special challenge for us – none of our gear would arrive in San Francisco until the next day. Fortunately, we had built in an extra day between locations for this very reason. It would have been a real problem otherwise. Film/Video shoots are complicated – and it takes experienced producers to pull them off. Especially, when it needs to look and feel effortless. Providing an effortless experience to our clients (and our clients’ clients) is part of our mission statement and something we pride ourselves in.
We arrived in San Francisco relatively late but were feeling adventurous. We decided to walk to find food – no Yelp allowed. Unsurprisingly, we ended up with a pretty bad meal in Chinatown.
The next day we had some free time while we waited for our baggage to arrive. We decided to do some quick sightseeing and photography. First up, Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the sea lions. Next, we strolled around the Palace of Fine Arts and took some great pictures of swans. (They were very comfortable with us!) Finally, we stopped by City Lights bookstore (Beatnik Mecca) to pick up a copy of “Howl” before, finally, retrieving our baggage and hitting the road for Modesto.
Modesto is the hometown of George Lucas – you might have heard of him. It’s also the town that American Graffiti is based on. Also, sidebar, their town slogan – enshrined over main street – is “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health.” Catchy.
The next morning we met our contact at Doctor’s Medical Center and she introduced us to the Neurocritical Care Unit (NCCU). Their story was heartbreaking. A young mother was camping in Yosemite National Park with her family when she suffered a spontaneous brain hemorrhage. She was evacuated by helicopter to DMC Modesto where the NCCU team leapt into action. It soon became evident there wasn’t much they could do for her. Their attention shifted to taking care of this devastated, distraught young family. One staff member arranged for accommodations on a personal credit card, another drove to Yosemite (3 hours) to retrieve their belongings, and another brought in a lactation consultant to console the infant. They spent countless hours walking the family through the immediate grieving process and, ultimately, helped them say goodbye to their wife and mother. We learned that, although a hospital visit doesn’t always end well, it’s the duty of care to care holistically for families in their moments of greatest need.
The next day, we travelled to Yosemite National Park for our final interview shoot with NCCU Director, Mr. Tony Linn. Tenet didn’t require that we make the trip, but we really wanted to tell this story the way it deserved to be told. It was the hardest, but most rewarding, day of our trip. The scenery was breathtaking, full of rain, fog, and mist. A perfect visual to introduce a very sad story. It was, however, freezing cold outside. Our light travel jackets would not be enough. We stopped by one of the park stores to buy more layers of clothing, ponchos, and thick socks. In the end, we were able to get majestic shots of Yosemite and, ultimately, a great backdrop for our interview with Tony, who was also our guide to the park.
Tony was a local expert and good conversationalist. By the time we were ready to shoot his interview, we were all very comfortable with each other. He was committed to telling a great story for both the family and his NCCU team, and agreed to be interviewed out in the cold drizzle near the bank of the Merced River. Hey, you know what they say – pain is temporary…film is forever. Tony’s interview was informative, authentic, and heartfelt. Great guy.
On the way out of the park – heading back up the mountain – it started snowing pretty hard and we didn’t have four wheel drive or snow chains. We might have risked it had Tony not told us to stop and wait halfway up the mountain. We were about to try it anyway, when a park ranger happened to be coming down the mountain and said it was getting bad up there and we’d never make it with two wheel drive. We needed to head back down the mountain as quickly and safely as possible. Then, we needed to either go the long way around or stay the night and wait it out. We couldn’t risk missing our flight the next day, so we went the long way around.
We got back into San Francisco that night, exhausted. The next morning, we got up and treated ourselves to brunch in the Mission district to celebrate a successful trip. It was premature. Right before the food came out, our producer, Grady Moore got a call from a local phone number. He silenced it. It rang again. And again. When he finally answered, a panicked voice on the other line asked if we were driving a Black Chevy Suburban. Yes. We were parked in the Mission? Yes. Our car windows had been bashed out. Grady and Scott, our production engineer, rushed out to see what happened. Glass was everywhere. And a laptop bag was missing. Fortunately, we had insurance and they had only taken the one laptop. None of our gear was harmed and no Pelican cases were missing. You’d think parking on a busy street in the middle of the day would be safe, but no. Not in the Mission. We took our meals to-go and ate them in the car – bummer.
We came back to Dallas with 6 terabytes of data. 10 hours of footage. It was now the assistant editor’s job to load footage onto our network server and create an assembly edit that synchronized picture and audio, while removing unusable footage. Next, they narrowed it down further into the most usable clips across multiple timelines. This pyramid approach would later prevent the Lead Editor from having to go back through the full 3 hour timeline to look for a new clip. The assistant editor’s job required time, organization, and creative judgement. Ultimately, he took the two 3 hour timelines and edited them down to 20 minutes each. It was now the Lead Editor’s job to use our best footage and sound bites to tell these stories in an emotionally satisfying way.
“Editorial was interesting for the Tenet Heroes pieces. They were similar to a 60 Minutes piece – but more inspirational,” producer Grady Moore said. “We had to tell the story, get the information out there, let the audience know what made these people heroes – at the same time, the tone needed to ultimately be optimistic and congratulatory…not a news story, but not too sappy either. It’s a wonderful thing what that Tenet does for their awards program and the videos really mean a lot to both the heroes and their families. We were honored to be part of the project and hope to have the opportunity to continue to raise the bar on Tenet Heroes Hall of Fame storytelling next year.”
POST-PRODUCTION: MUSIC & VOICEOVER
Regarding music, Byline has a longstanding relationship and blanket license agreement with Firstcom music, who is a leading provider in production music for TV and film:
Firstcom is an industry leader for TV and motion pictures – recently being featured in shows like Ray Donovan, Breaking Bad, and How I Met Your Mother. Unlike many of it’s small, online competitors, Firstcom is diverse and robust and Byline considers its blanket license pricing to be an amazing resource for their projects as well as a competitive advantage over smaller production companies.
We combed through FirstCom to find the perfect music to set the tone. This involves searching through thousands of songs to find that perfect track. Some videos call for dramatic scores while some just need a light piano, but tone is everything. Searching for keywords like “light piano” and “uplifting” can generate thousands of tracks, and sifting through all of them to find the winner is the real challenge. It’s about finding those few tracks that feel inevitable and then sharing them with your client.
The voiceover audition process is similar. We needed someone to sound professional, empathetic, caring, but not too sappy. We held online auditions and listened to over 100 submissions before making our recommendations to Tenet, who ultimately chose the voiceover artist featured in both videos. We were very happy with their performance.
POST-PRODUCTION: COLOR GRADING
The first step in color grading is to make primary corrections. Whites should be white – blacks should be black. Color needs to match each other in multi-camera scenes. Any issues with exposure need to be addressed.
The second step is color grading. How do we improve our footage? How do we tell these stories through color? For example, with the DMC Modesto piece, it was about starting in a sad place, but ultimately transitioning to a positive, optimistic tone. Color grading helped us achieve that. We utilize a robust color grading suite to enhance our storytelling and consider it to be a very important part of what we do in the post-production process.
FINAL DELIVERY & DISTRIBUTION
We went through the revision process with Tenet and successfully achieved our original project timeline and budget. We know how important that is to our clients and so it’s a top priority for us – and a point of pride in the company.
Shortly after delivery, the two videos were shown at the awards dinner in Miami. “The awards dinner was a smashing success thanks in no small part Byline Films & Advertising’s incredible storytelling,” one employee later told us. “The Byline Films team captured the true essence of these Tenet Heroes. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
Darci said “I definitely feel that my story was told very well. There wasn’t a dry eye in sight when my video played for the first time. I still hear people talk about how they have watched my video many times. I truly can never thank the Byline Films for the care they put into making my video truly reflect my story, but also for the compassion and professionalism they showed me during the process.”
THINGS WE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY
Truly, the act of creation is hard – no matter what the art form. With film and video specifically, there are a number of things that can go wrong on a shoot. Whether it’s a human factor, bad weather, or unforeseen situations. As a producer – that old trope rings true – you have to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Good insurance, redundant backups of footage (keeping footage in separate locations, even mailing a copy to the office at regular intervals), an emergency plan for when camera equipment breaks down or is stolen, scheduling to take into account extra time needed when baggage is late or goes missing. The list is long and always changing – so the producer needs to adopt a constant mindset that asks “What if X happens? What if Y happens? Am I prepared for it?” You need to have a contingency plan for just about everything.
A few takeaways from the trip:
- Always have good insurance
- Our team and all of our gear travels well
- Backup footage early and often, because your shoot won’t matter if footage is corrupted or lost
- You’ll have to work hard and be uncomfortable to create what we call inspired advertising – you’ll need to get dirty, and cold, and, yes, even go out in the rain and snow. But it will be worth it.
- Never park in the mission district of San Francisco with a truck full of gear – no matter how tempting the brunch menu is
We want to thank Teneth Health for the opportunity to be part of this interesting, impactful project that utilizes video storytelling to make a big impact. This program is a great way to thank the best of the best Tenet employees, while also inspiring a culture of compassion, company-wide.
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Scope of Work
Director of Photography