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Objectives

Nutmeg was tasked with the creation of a short-form digital documentary to raise awareness about NTM—the debilitating, difficult-to-diagnose chronic lung disease of nontuberculous mycobacteria that mostly affects women—through the experiences of patients.

Results

  • Video distributed to over 400 medical professionals across two continents.
  • Universally praised as contributing to stronger awareness of NTM by neutral consultants.

Awards

  • The Creative Floor Award

Partners with a Purpose

Area 23, a full-service healthcare communications agency backed by the FCB Health network, provided storyboards outlining the “Thousand Words” concept: as an NTM patient is interviewed about her long difficult journey to diagnosis, her words are transcribed, printed and sent to an artist who uses the words as inspiration for art depicting the patient’s journey. The final reveal captures the patient’s reaction to the art.

Nutmeg provided both the director’s treatment and production strategy. The production was unscripted, so the strategy was absolutely critical. Shooting on-location in New York and Madrid—with a Spanish crew—and coordinating all aspects of the shoot in a very short amount of time were just a few of the challenges.

We worked closely with Area 23 and our production team to supervise and execute the production and then perform all post-production components: editorial, audio, color, delivery.

The Director

The “Thousand Words” concept allowed us to tell the story of a patient’s journey as it transitions from complexity to simplicity, from frustration to beauty. When our “words” device cinematically transformed to an artist’s singular interpretation of a successful diagnosis, the “picture” became worth much more than the original thousand words—the painting and patient reaction joined to become our butterfly finally emerging from a cocoon of confusion. Finally, our patient had a real resolution, and the emotional journey had a happy, and beautiful, ending.

To bring the “Thousand Words” concept to life, Nutmeg chose Director Brian O’Carroll. As a director, O’Carroll brought a well-informed sense of story, and what it takes to tell one correctly, and powerfully. He also happens to be one of the most technically gifted DPs in New York City, with the kind of technical skills and sense of craft that turn each project into something that is truly visually compelling. His images leap from the screen when they have to—and they stay put when they should, which is often times just as important. He uses multiple cameras, and tends to keep the cameras in motion, again, adding a refined and tasteful “filmic” feel.

Telling the NTM Story

This was a three-part story, communicated in three cinematic stages:

Part 1: Introduction We introduced our protagonist, a real patient rather than an actor. Hers was not a “Hollywood” performance. Instead, the emotion was conveyed with subtlety and intimacy that succeeded in communicating total authenticity. Viewers don’t just listen to the patient’s story, they join her in her struggle, and root for her.

Part 2: The Journey As the thousand words are interpreted by an artist, it’s both mysterious and transformational. Viewers can sense something wonderful is happening, but they’re not quite sure what. Even with the title cards guiding the narrative, there was a purposeful ambiguity that created a sense of expectation and hope as the artist worked.

Part 3: Resolution Like a marathoner finally breaking the tape at the finish line, there is a sense of sublime resolution when the final art is revealed. When our patient sees her arduous journey to diagnosis turned into a thing of beauty, it is a wonder to behold. As a viewer, we shared in her final triumph.

A Cinematic Look

The beginning was mean to be soft and intimate. Lighting was forgiving to the features of an older patient, but dramatic enough to establish the importance of the story’s true scale. As she told her story in her own words, we visually established those “thousand words” much in the same way we’d introduce a character. The words were not quite the “villain,” but they were weighty and imposing. Something to be overcome.

Much of Brian O’Carroll’s work features this subtlety, where a simple look honestly conveys the weight of a thousand words. An economy of performance expectation helped the patients feel at ease in the interview settings, with no pressure to be “on” or to generate a contrived element of drama in their story. They could be themselves.

Many “pharma” productions tend toward a homogenized and sterile look, frequently taking a visual cue from the medication or treatment itself. We wanted the exact opposite here, a story told with rich texture and subtle drama. While the pharma look is often derived from pristine and overfilled lighting, particularly on actors’ faces, “A Thousand Words” was meant to feel more like a short movie, with rich highlights, organic texturing and a real depth in the shadowing. We wanted characters to feel real, and the artist’s space to crackle with a sense of light, air and energy.

As with the production, the post, particularly editorial, played a key role in infusing our patient’s story with drama and vibrancy, which included critical handling of the building tension and ultimate reveal. We didn’t want to give away anything too early, and we wanted to maintain a very strong relationship to the original patient, even when she wasn’t on screen. Everything was woven into a rich narrative that culminated with our reveal.

"Our patient had a real resolution, and the emotional journey had a happy, and beautiful, ending."

Dave Rogan, Creative Director, Producer

Credits

Director, DP: Brian O’Carroll
Creative Director, Producer: Dave Rogan
Producer Supervisor, Account Executive: Caroline Nixon
Second Director, Editor: Rich Jack
Graphics: Stephen C. Walsh
Sound Designer/Mixer: JD McMillin
Sound Engineer: Andrew Guastella
Colorist: Gary Scarpulla

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