Stuart Granger, Yes& Director of Creative Strategy, posted details of one of the agency’s latest exciting projects, travelling to work alongside the great minds of our client, The ALS Association. The production team touched down at DTW for a two-day PSA shoot in Detroit that from a technical standpoint was straightforward. But as Granger writes, in practice, things happen differently. His narrative follows:
When you are invited into someone’s home, you are walking on hallowed ground. This is their set. Their safe space. And when the person you are filming has ALS, that bond of trust is even more sacred. Empathy, respect, and understanding take precedence over any creative vision.
Our original creative concept was to have Ken Paves read a poem to his mother Helen, who had been living with ALS for years and was at the end of her journey. It was a beautifully crafted script that we’d written in collaboration with Ken and our clients at the ALS Association. But after shooting some b-roll with Helen and Ken in the morning on the first day, Helen was exhausted. She was too tired to even open her eyes and remained that way for the rest of the shoot. We had no intention of pushing her further than Ken felt comfortable, so the only footage we had was what we caught in those first few hours on set.
Instead, we had Ken record the poem as a voiceover that we could drop over the b-roll we captured and some shots we took of Ken reading it to camera. But when we got to the edit, we realized that without that connection, the story didn’t feel as personal or emotional as we had hoped.
Anticipating this on set, we captured over an hour of Ken sitting down and talking about his mom as a contingency plan. He opened his heart, telling us about Helen’s story, their life together, and their unbreakable bond. The love and admiration Ken showed for his mother poured out of every sentence, and when he spoke about her there wasn’t a dry eye on set. So, with their blessing, and the client’s support, we used this footage to drive the narrative instead.
Through looking at the problem in a different way, we were able to deliver a powerful PSA that met our vision while honoring Helen’s dream to share her story told before she passed away. Ken wrote a lovely note after seeing the first cut that says it all:
“Thank you beyond words for showing my mom’s fight with ALS through such a beautiful lens. Of course, my initial reaction was tears, tears that I realized were tears of gratitude because I could finally get a look at how ironically beautiful her life truly is.” – Ken Paves