September 14, 2018 \ Rachel Jellinek
Case study: American Academy of Pediatrics

Recently, we had the opportunity to collaborate for a second time with CommunicateHealth on a childhood obesity prevention project for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  AAP wanted a series of videos that teach families how to establish healthy eating habits when their children are at a very young age.

The Challenge

When we were originally approached to do filming for the project, AAP wanted a variety of parents and babies featured in the videos to reflect the diversity of its online audience. So they proposed:

  • Finding ethnically diverse, straight and gay, single and coupled parents who also had babies
  • Filming the babies engaging in various behaviors (refusing food, enjoying food, scattering food, etc.)
  • Filming the parents and babies in different, domestic settings

We understood AAP’s desire to show a variety of families and children, as well as babies engaged in different behaviors, but we also understood that approaching the project in this way would present some challenges. We explained that finding actual parents who fit all of these categories and who had babies wasn’t really realistic. Going to family homes added a layer of complexity, not to mention that many babies don’t take direction well, especially from strangers!

AAP wondered if we could recruit actors who fit the categories, rather than actual parents. But…

  • Actors being paired with other people’s babies was not going to work for the actors, the babies, or the parents!
  • Although some actors may also be parents, actors tend to deliver their lines in a polished, professional way that would likely sound too scripted and wouldn’t necessarily fit with the feel AAP was seeking.

Our Proposed Solution

Keep it simple. Sure, it would be great to have a gay couple feeding their adopted baby in their kitchen, but it wasn’t critical to capture that. Instead, we suggested that the basic message that AAP wanted to communicate could still be accomplished if we found a variety of adults (regardless of parental status) who could enthusiastically deliver a few scripted lines to camera. CommunicateHealth and AAP also wanted to have the video be a combination of live video and animation. With this approach, the animation could make up for the sacrifices we were making with the live video.

In other words, want a single mom with her baby who isn’t interested in eating? Just create that scene in animation rather than struggling to do it with live video.

Ultimately our recommendation was to identify a local nonprofit that hosts parenting groups for families with young children, not necessarily just babies.  We eventually recruited group participants from Parenting Journey, which ended up being an excellent partner – not only did we recruit from their parent clients but their staff participated as well, and they had a childcare center to film in.  Thanks to Ty Bellitti featured in the video excerpt above!!

Key Production Takeaways

It’s often easy to get caught up in imagining what a video project could be, but the logistics of achieving that vision aren’t always viable. The sacrifices that have to be made, though, don’t mean a project is doomed; it’s just a matter of adjusting here and there and then finding alternate ways to communicate the message without the production headaches.

Key Takeaways for Reflection Films

Working with our “actors” was a total delight. Not surprisingly, none of them had ever participated in a video project before, much less one like this. So they came into the experience with a sense of curiosity and playfulness. And, since all of them were parents or worked with parents, the subject matter had importance to them. So all of us had a fabulous time in our collaboration together!