In five years, we’ve checked off a lot of boxes on the producer wish list. Patrick and I have traveled the world, worked to promote countless causes and people, but until very recently, every video we’ve ever produced has been for an English speaking audience.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has given us some of the more unique producing opportunities we’ve had, and our most recent project for CHOP was perhaps our most challenging to date. For the past year, we’ve worked with their International Patient Services team to create a series of videos introducing their program to families around the world.
Anytime a parent is caring for a sick child, there’s a great deal of uneasiness and understandable fear. Now imagine having to uproot your family from everything you’re familiar with. That’s the unenviable reality for many families around the world whose best chance at quality treatment for their children is to venture to America for the first time in their lives. What awaits them is a language and culture barrier that’s tough to quantify. But for the families, what’s important is getting their kids healthy. So off they travel to Philadelphia, to one of the most well respected children’s hospitals in the world.
CHOP’s team acknowledges the difficulties all of the families they treat face, and their international patients are no exception. Since the majority of their international families come from Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, CHOP’s objective was to create informational pieces to help ease at least a little bit of the worry the families experience before coming to America.
The videos were to serve as an introduction to the people, the places and the experiences that kids and their families will have upon their arrival. It highlighted some of the fundamental things we take for granted as Philadelphians – our weather and the four seasons (remember many of these people, especially those coming from the Middle East, don’t have a winter season, so if they’re coming here for treatment during the winter months, many of them are experiencing snow for the first time in their lives), our food, our hotel and travel accommodations, and more.
It also served as an introduction to the team members at CHOP, from the doctors and nurses who will be caring for their kids, to the support staff, which includes in-person interpreters, to medical directors, patient care navigators, clinical care coordinators, and anyone else involved with making a difficult experience a little easier.
And so we began production – a yearlong project covering nearly every inch of one of the largest healthcare facilities in America. It was a 15-minute video shot three ways – one in English, one in Spanish, and one in Arabic. It was our first attempt at anything in another language, but with the hard work of many people in CHOP’s international and marketing teams, we were off and running.
We had the great fortune of working with an awesome pair of CHOP team members, Ivelisse and Saif, two of the actual medical interpreters who serve CHOP patients every day. Ivelisse and Saif served as our on-camera hosts and tour guides taking us step-by-step along our journey to Philadelphia.
On this production, the shoot was the easy part. We worked very closely with Ivelisse and Saif to ensure that every part of the script was delivered with the proper inflection and that each line was clearly communicated. They were beyond low maintenance. The difficult part was the edit. We could handle the English version of the video just fine, but when it came to the Spanish and Arabic versions, we again had to lean on Ivelisse and Saif to ensure that we were communicating properly with the viewer. (As an aside, it made the world a lot easier that I come from a Spanish speaking family because, while I may not be very good at speaking Spanish myself, I do understand the language almost fluently. When there were questions during the editing process, I could address at least 80% of them. When I couldn’t there was Ivelisse. And my Mom. Thanks, Mom.) Unfortunately, we did not have the same luxury with Arabic. So we relied heavily on Saif’s ability to command his language in both verbal and written forms. All of the graphics we designed needed to be translated as well, and Saif spent many hours helping us position and translate our English text into Arabic so that each title card aligned with the proper script line.
We knew that it would be very difficult to edit a video in which we would have no idea what’s being said. So we decided to save the Arabic version for last. We would familiarize ourselves with the English version of the script so much during the editing process that we picked up just enough on the rhythms and cadence of each line to assist us with the other versions. We made it a point to separate each line into its own series of shots (a tedious task in a 15-minute video). Those shots would be a constant across all three videos, so as long as we could figure out what time codes a line would be read in, we could figure out which shots went where. But what we quickly found out was that translations from language to language were rarely if ever second for second. For example, a line read in English that took 15 seconds might’ve taken 40 seconds in Spanish. That extra 25 seconds doesn’t seem like much, but for those of you who work in our field, you know that 25 seconds is an eternity, and a lot of times, 25 seconds can be the difference of 5-7 shots. That meant when we were shooting, we had to ensure we had enough quality relevant b-roll to supplement each language, no matter how long it took to read.
And so after a several month editing process was complete, we finished a most challenging project with three unique versions of a video that will go along way towards providing comfort and information to people who will need it most. Our hope as a company is that as we’ve grown with CHOP, we can use this example as an opportunity to show every department that we work very hard to accommodate unique needs. This is definitely a project we’re proud of. We love creating videos in new and different ways, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.