Advance Human Ability Campaign

In early 2013, The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) unveiled their plans to raise $550 million for construction of a new research hospital as part of the “Advance Human Ability” Campaign. I had the privilege of working on production (dialogue recording and editing) of the three short films that screened at June’s groundbreaking ceremony. Above is my favorite of the three, titled, “Will”.

I was joined by Rob Bywater of Generation — a northeast-spanning branding agency that focuses on non-profits — and Brooklyn-based filmmaker/cinematographer Joe Tomcho. My friend Chris Ungco held down B-camera, media management and the millions of other details needed to keep this very dense production running smoothly. He also edited the films with Joe.

We conducted a series of interviews with patients, rehabilitation therapists, doctors, and the CEO herself. As the interviews rolled on, it felt like we were shooting a full-scale documentary piece and not merely a video for potential donors.

Not surprisingly, the stories told by some of the patients and doctors had the intensity and honesty to thrust you out of your bubble of everyday complaints and trifles, and force you back to ground level. I took it as an opportunity to absorb a new perspective, the way traveling does; only rather than expanding my worldview, I was brought back to the very basics I take for granted.

I won’t lie, there was one particular moment when the realness became almost too much to handle. At the end of the second day, Joe and Chris were grabbing B-roll of physical therapy before our final interview. I followed Chris into an active gym room in the percolating moments prior to a group work-out. There were a dozen or so small bicycles adapted for upper body aerobics. Most of the patients no longer had use of their legs. Above us the speakers blasted “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits. And I mean, blasted. That inimitable, cheery organ melody was a soundtrack to the positivity buzzing all around me, its sound bouncing off the glass and wood of that grand room. A lot of the patients were athletic-looking, active men, engaging each other, many smiling and upbeat, while others stretched and got loose and amped up. The whole thing was ten times more powerful than hearing all the stories combined of every patient here recounting how they became paralyzed. Because this was pure evidence of the resilience of the human spirit that everyone was talking so much about; and that I couldn’t say I had really ever witnessed so profoundly. And that completely knocked me out.

Thanks for reading and watching.

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