Pablove One Another is a documentary short film produced by Riverstreet and directed by the company’s co-founders Tracy Pion and Michael Blum. The film explores Pablove’s Shutterbug program for children undergoing cancer treatment and its connection to the cancer research work that Pablove funds.
Blum and Pion spoke with us about the project, including the release of its title track “Spark” and the importance of giving back.
How did you become involved in the project?
Pion: We have known Pablove’s founders Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz, for almost 11 years. Our sons were dear friends and classmates in preschool. When Jeff and Jo Ann lost their son Pablo to cancer eight years ago they set out to start a foundation named Pablove in his honor. We’ve been committed to helping Pablove whenever we can along the way by doing PSAs and other short films and TV spots in order to help raise awareness for the organization’s mission, including the Shutterbugs program and research funding.
What was the initial goal of the documentary?
Blum: The goal was always about awareness and fundraising. It first debuted at the annual Pablove Foundation gala fundraiser and helped raise over $500,000 in an hour. It continues to live online and hopefully it inspires people to connect with Pablove and support its amazing programs.
Beyond the amazing cause, why was this project a good fit for Riverstreet?
Pion: At the core of what we do — campaigns, commercials, interstitials, network specials — is emotionally-driven storytelling. We do development, scripting, design, animation, live-action production, editorial and completion for a variety of brands and networks and when possible we try to apply this advertising and production expertise to philanthropic causes. Our collaboration with Pablove came out of a deeply personal connection, but above and beyond that, we think that our industry has an obligation to use our resources to help raise awareness. Why not use our power of persuasion for the betterment of others?
How did you decide on the approach and the interweaving of stories?
Blum: The film tells the Pablove story from three experiences: a young girl who is being treated for cancer who is part of Pablove’s Shutterbug photography program; an instructor with Shutterbugs who is a cancer survivor; and a researcher whose innovation is supported in part by Pablove’s grants. We thought it was important to tell the human impact of the work of the Pablove Foundation through different vantage points to reflect the scope of what they do. We worked with a fundraising expert (Benevon) who advised Pablove and Riverstreet on how to design the film from a high-impact standpoint.
What were some unexpected or unique moments in the production of the film?
Pion: Well, for us it was a couple of things. Firstly, the power of the kids’ photos really caught us, especially those by Mady, who we were featuring. When she pulled out her “Light the End of the Tunnel” image we were doubly struck by the simple power of the image and its obvious meaning for her, and, as filmmakers, we knew we had our ending. We were also grateful of how sensitive our crew was with the Mady and Miles. Everyone was working for hardly any money and yet they didn’t want to be anywhere else. It was a moment of gratitude for the amazing crews that we have gathered together over the years.
What were some of the editing challenges to the above?
Pion: We had several hours of footage, and some very emotional interviews with our subjects, so it was a real but familiar challenge: how to pick the most salient footage and how to weave the threads together and how to capture the emotion.
What was the documentary edited on?
Pion: We use Avid Media Composer on an ISIS server.
How did the song come to be?
Blum: While working on the film, we were looking for a music track that would effectively unite these interweaving stories. We heard a girl singing on our daughter’s phone — a classmate — and thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a young teenager’s voice on a spot that is a for and about children. The Bird & The Bee’s “Spark,” paired with the luminous voice of Gracie Abrams, perfectly carries through the message of the Foundation’s impact on the lives of children through creativity and research funding. Written by Inara George and Greg Kurstin, the music production was handled by composer/producer Rob Cairns, who has worked with Riverstreet on numerous projects.
Pion: At the fundraiser, people were buzzing about the song, trying to Shazam it. We loved the song, and thought it was amazing for the film, but this reaction made us stop and consider, “Is there something more we can do with it to help Pablove?” Fortunately, everyone who worked on it felt the same way, and agreed to release the track with proceeds going to Pablove Foundation.