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MED-EL: An anniversary film from 15 Countries.
Tom (Consulting): One of the coolest jobs last year for sure was, to create the anniversary film for MED-EL, a manufacturer of special hearing aids. The inquiry seemed unimposing at first. They wanted an honest film about their patients, which showed their international presence without being a commercial filled with easily interchangeable standard-pictures. After discarding several ideas, we decided that real patients from all over to world, whose life had been impacted positively because of the hearing aid, would be the best cast for the film. 20 years, 20 patients from 15 countries. An awesome Idea, which would need a hefty budget – Oops. Inwardly hesitating I presented it to our client.
Andreas (Concept): People talk about their life before and how hearing loss impaired them. Afterwards they talk about their favorite sound. Now a symphony of those diverse sounds is created (a coffee maker, a car motor, musical instruments, etc). Every person has a
different favorite sound and often these are connected to their home and personal interests.
And then: Boom!
Tom: Our client fell instantly in love with the idea and pitched it in-house. Only a few weeks later, the budget was approved and already time was running short. But otherwise it would be boring, wouldn’t it? Our network connected us with camera crews in 15 countries (from Saudi Arabia, to Japan, Australia and Europe). We spent weeks looking up trains and hotels and had an excel sheet with travel expenses that was big as the annual statements of a smaller company. Local offices by MED-El referred us to their patients. Often, we had to reorganize. Phone calls were mostly done in English and often during the night. Sometimes an interpreter by MED-EL was with us in calls. Patients rescheduled the dates or withdrew, others wanted to join the film. Some crews didn’t want to film without an upfront payment and fees sometimes weren’t discussed in Euros but YEN, Dollars or Dirham. During a project like this, you learn a lot and we organized until our keyboards were running hot, while the clock was ticking away without mercy Sometimes our courage flagged, but then another problem got solved and onward we went!
Cream of the Crop: Briefing
Andreas: Now we had to debrief 20 crews. So we created an elaborate creative brief. However, images can be difficult to put into words, so we shot the first patient in Zurich ourselves and delivered a guideline for the worldwide camera crews with our clips. The debrief stated alignments, interview questions, directions for filming the cast natural-looking and the key scene in which the patient demonstrates their favorite sound. We gave three advance review copies to cameramen and asked them to review them and send us their questions. With their input we created the final debrief including the login for WeTransfer so the crews could send in their data.
Lights, Camera, Action!
Maxi (Camera Assistant): The interviews in Germany, Austria and Switzerland we could shoot ourselves. Our second shooting took us to Hopfgarten, a cozy little village in the middle of Austria. There we met a family with three kids and they greeted us kindly and politely. It was interesting to talk with the patient. When we asked him which sound he had missed the most, he answered with: the murmur of the creek, because along his house a little stream flows. It got me thinking about which sound I would miss the most – it’s the simple things that give you happiness in live.
During the interviews, we gained deep insights into the lives of patients suffering from hearing-loss and how the product of our client changed each patients life – a little implant, located behind their ear.
One of the most important parts of the film was the mixing of the different favorite sounds of the patients. Creating a little symphony of everyday sounds like motors, coffee makers or the before mentioned murmur of a creek – accompanied by the fitting shot. Thus the family showed us the little stream along their house, so we could record b-roll and sound.
Editing is like solving a puzzle.
Nico (Cutter): Every day new material arrived – from Tokio or Warzaw, from Switzerland, England or Saudia Arabia. All interviews were about an hour long; they filled two big hard disks to the brim over the weeks. To put it another way, they were filled to the brim with the life stories of the interviewed patients. They told us how they lost their hearing: Fast, caused by an accident or slowly, due to health problems. Sometimes in their youth, sometimes with rising age. These stories all had something in common: They were personal and intimate.
The data arrived in different ways; via WeTransfer, personal ftp-servers or even ‘snail-mail’.
5,051 files, which contain 1,841 separate clips.
The challenge was to create a short video out of over 20 hours footage, while also doing justice to the many people who took part in making this big project real. Be it the 20 patients who lost their hearing or the camera crews from the different countries.
The clips were as different as you can imagine. A woman in Poland was taking a walk along the seaside, an older man was listening to the chimes of his clock and a German girl was playing the violin. In the end, editing is like solving a puzzle – many different parts create a picture.
The biggest challenge: I only speak a small number of languages spoken in the films and I needed translations. However a simple translated transcript didn’t work, because, I don’t understand some of these languages at all and I was not able to connect the spoken word with the written text. In languages like Japanese, Arabic or Chinese I’m not even able to differentiate between “er” or “and”. Luckily interpreters were calculated during the quotation phase of the project. So, for 10 of the interviews interpreters came into our offices. I showed them the interviews and we analyzed them reply for reply. Again and again I had to ask what was said on-screen, if it was a sound, a harrumph, an “er” or even a word, which was important for the understanding of the whole sentence.
During the following days I gained a greater understanding of the different languages as well as for the specific life stories, their characteristics and interpretation in pictures. To really immerse myself in the editing, I always started late in the afternoon and worked deep into the night. Without the activity and background noise of the company surrounding me, I assembled the puzzle. The work fully paid off. After many weeks of preparation and planning, nightlong telephone calls with people from different countries and time-zones, days of sighting and cutting the material, and we presented the first version of the film. First only in-house in a small circle. The colleagues were excited.
A few days later, after some final changes, we personally presented it to the client. Their employees were blown away and some tears were shed. But the clip was a bit too long. With a heavy heart, we shortened it. That’s never easy, but it nothing new. The finished film also got an audio description, as it is addressed to people with hearing issues.
Andreas: The film was exported in three lengths (a teaser for social media, a short version and the full-length version). It did premier on a congress in Toronto and is now traveling the world to educate doctors and patients about a new life aided by the Vibrant Soundbridge. Its target group is mostly made up of participants of congresses and not the daily internet user.
A big thank you to all the crews over the world. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to realize this project and we are really proud of what we did accomplish together. We also want to thank MED-EL and Sarah with our whole heart. Thank you for your confidence in us and this wonderful project. We will remember it and show it always with a proud smile.
Producer: PAGES Media
Project Lead: Tom Papadhimas
Concept: Andreas Bauerfeld
Organization: Monika De Giorgi
PostProduction: Nico Michel
Germany, Austria, Switzerland: Nico Michel, Nikolai Knoblauch, Maximilian Krause
Netherlands: Atlynn Vrolijk
Saudi Arabia: Illusion Media Production
Hong Kong: James Goldman Photography and Films
Japan: MED-EL Branch Office Japan
Spain: Nacho Penche
Canada: Journeyman Film Company
Australia: On Set Solutions
Belgium: Woodland Pictures
Poland: Simple Frame
Turkey: Hande Zerkin
If you don’t know the film, yet. You can watch the full-lenght version here. 6 Minutes are long #these days, but it’s worth it.