A REASON TO CHANGE provided quite a few creative challenges. The project really combines two elements – one part music video and one part documentary. The biggest obstacle was to tell a touching story in a way that would grab a viewer’s heart and allow that viewer to understand the idea of comparative oncology, which is quite scientific. “Comparative oncology is the study of cancer that naturally occurs in animals, and the comparison to its human counterpart in order to identify treatments and cures that can benefit both humans and animals.”
In our story, a boy and a dog have a chance to encounter then go their separate ways. We follow them as their lives are hit by cancer and focus on the similarities shared by both families. As those connections in emotion are brought to life, we see the connection at a scientific level and convey that the pair help save one another. We decided to use the baseball as a symbol of their connection; the gift of life. We chose to continue with the ball even as the young boy becomes a man. Their contributions toward one another will live on in his work.
We never wanted to beat anyone over the head with the cancer element. We decided to show the despair and the devastation of the disease in a number of very subtle ways. We used color, both in wardrobe and effects in color to indicate the presence of the disease or lack of it; darkness of the disease transforming to the vibrancy of life.
To show the connection between the families, we used similar shots to crossfade in editing… for example, the father clutching the boy’s glove to the owner holding the dog’s ball. Our goal was to blend them together rather than the stories looking like a ping-pong game.
Of course, all of this was to be done quickly and efficiently within the beautiful lyrics and instrumentals of the song. It was certainly a good lesson in getting to the heart of the matter. I do have to give an enormous amount of praise to the actors, very few of which had any acting experience at all. Terry Simons brought out so much emotion as the Dad. Not only did he write the beautiful lyrics of the song, but he delivered a fabulous performance. Caroline van der Wyk who played the dog’s owner was extraordinary. Caroline was a featured dog owner in our documentary on canine lymphoma but had no acting experience. Her reaction was so genuine when she learns her dog is sick that it set the perfect tone for what was to follow. The boy is one of those kids that is a natural, except when it comes to catching a ball, but that is a story best saved for outtakes. Jay Patriarca was a dream…he followed direction like a seasoned pro and as his confidence grew, his instincts took over leading to some of the more touching parts of the video. The bond between the boy (Jay) and the Dad (Terry) was beautiful. Jay also kept us all in stitches as we filmed, which was a welcome break from the heavy subject matter. I can’t leave out our dog! Ripper probably had the most on-camera experience of all the actors. He was a champ and did all I could have wanted and more. Any dog that can lie completely still while the arm of a linear accelerator moved around him is an incredible animal. My hat goes off to Ripper and his trainer, Terry Simons.
I am forever thankful to CLEAR for trusting me with its vision. It was a wonderful experience for me and I cannot begin to sing the praises loudly enough of all involved. Together we can change the world!
-Stacey M Zipfel