by Kory Waschick
It's not very often that you meet a person or group with whom you form an immediate bond. But that’s exactly what happened between Enrich and Once Films in the fall of 2011. The stories they bring to life through film simply excite us, and the people and organizations they meet along the way are inspiring.
Every few months, our two groups get together to share successes and brainstorm ideas that can help elevate the other’s business. It’s a great relationship – and when we watched the latest project from Once, all we could say is, “How can we help share this amazing story? The project is a short film about The Farm at St. Joe's. Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it's an actual working farm that's part of the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital campus. The food grown here serves the hospital, its patients and also the local community.
Chris Ryan at Once Films agreed to talk about his experience shooting The Farm at St. Joe's. While filming, he kept thinking, “The team at Enrich would love this.” Oh, we certainly do!
Watch ‘The Farm’ and then read the interview.
Tell us why Mercy invested in a short film. In other words, what was the big idea behind making ‘The Farm’?
Chris: St. Joseph Mercy in Ann Arbor, MI has an important story to tell. It’s something close to their heart, and a passion they clearly wear on their sleeve. They believe in the importance of improving their own food system, and encouraging their peers to do the same. It’s the belief that broad-reaching change can be realized through healthy, organic, locally-grown food.
Why was this project important to Once?
Chris: We serve a small niche; purpose-driven companies as well as non-profits, with an eye towards ROI. St. Joseph Mercy qualifies as a bit of both. Their groundbreaking project is real healthcare; helping people in need, creating a stronger community and promoting proactive wellness — very exciting. We all wanted the film to speak directly to other healthcare organizations, on how they can also improve the landscape of healthcare in their own communities.
As a visual storyteller, what were your goals to make this a compelling piece? What was your inspiration?
Chris: Our hope was to have people view the film and think, “Hey, we could do that too.” It’s aspirational and aimed at making a positive change in how we feed and care for each other.
Visually, we thought it was important to show the hospital in a new light. It’s not all about a big building and high technology — St. Joe’s has both — but by truly showing what’s different about their system. They don’t have a 20-foot garden plot out back. It’s a full blown farming operation that you see as soon as you pull onto the campus. We looked to keep the intimate feel that we wanted, but to also be clear about the setting, the scale and the pride that the hospital staff has in ‘The Farm.’
Growing food on campus is unique, but showing the process all the way to the patient’s plate was important too. Just as important as growing, the implementation has been a transformation. They bring the food inside, have great chefs, and show how much better ‘hospital food’ can be! It’s a real commitment, and it took a big leap of faith to provide patients, staff and visitors access to great food.
Did you face any challenges in telling the St. Joseph Mercy story?
Chris: The biggest challenge was time frame. Like many out-of-town projects, we were only in Ann Arbor for a few days. We had to keep an eye on the weather and time of day to get a lot of the shots that we wanted. With lots of interviews, we came home pretty whipped, but in the end it’s very fulfilling work.
Have you seen similar stories in healthcare, or for that matter, in any other business?
Chris: Believe it or not, yes, we do see these stories often. They are out there and we view it as our mission to go out and find them. Smart companies doing smart things — that’s our mantra at Once. And contrary to what you see on the evening news, the world is full of good people, programs and companies out there doing wonderful things everyday.
How are short films an important tool for businesses?
Chris: It’s about creating a strong connection between people and a company’s brand. It’s about casting them in a well-deserved, heroic light. Consumers want to know who is on the other end of the transaction, and a short film is an opportunity to make that connection. People are overseeing copy, written text or commercials with paid actors. With documentary-style short films, the authenticity is there for all to see. People talking about something they really believe in and are passionate about — now that is what resonates with viewers.
What was your biggest take away after completing this project?
Chris: I eat a lot more salads! Seriously, I was bit concerned about eating at a hospital cafeteria when I ran through the production schedule, but it was the best food I ate all week. We even ate there on our travel-home day. I left St. Joe’s as a true believer in that path, how every hospital should consider this model, and I hope that shows through in the film. It’s also a confirmation of the clients we love to work with. They all want to better the world in at least some small way, just like us.
What have the results been so far?
Chris: We’ve had great feedback from the team at St. Joe’s. Hospital executives around the country saw ‘The Farm’ when the film won an award for innovation in healthcare, which included a nice grant. St. Joe’s has been able to use the film to introduce the project and to start developing more partnerships in Michigan and across the US.
We know that approximately 20,000 people saw it on the Once website within the first 60 days. That’s without any promotion on our end, so I’m sure the client is getting an even better response. I’ve found the film embedded and linked to sites all around the world — blogs and magazines discussing how it sets a great example for other health organizations and even people at home. We’ve been proud to see the film spread.
The film has seen great client success in a short time, both from a financial aspect and from a standpoint of spreading the message. And I know there are more plans for its use in the future. There’s no better feeling than working on projects that make you feel proud.