An IVF Story – The Lineage of the Collaborative Production Process

I admit it…I was extremely close to this story. So close. I wonder if I could have been an effective journalist trying to tell this story for broadcast news. My path, our paths were somewhat similar…Sarah and I struggled to have Rose. Jeff and Amory struggled to have Payton.

When I wrote the original script, I planned for it to be approximately a 15-minute story in video format. I wrote this story and knew that it would have to be edited and condensed. I also knew that we were going to have to find the right voice-over artist.

The first script had many holes, yet sounded great on paper… but I was so close to the story that I’m glad I worked with a great writer at GHS. As we worked through the revisions, we knew we were going to have it voiced numerous times. Mainly, to listen to the story translated on the screen.

Many times, we producers get so caught up in the copy, we forget how the written word will translate into the spoken word. We forget that the words, when transcribed from the interviews, look and read differently than they actually originally sounded. Often, we even write ourselves into a hole visually. What do I mean? I’m referring to when what we write doesn’t translate visually to the screen. There is no visually compelling way to completely represent the spoken word.

There is an ethical implication behind telling stories that we have become very close to…we sometimes lose sight how it will truly impact the audience. What we see through the clouded, predisposed producer lens may not translate to the intended audience. Often times critical distance is necessary during the revision cycle.

Why did I want to share this experience? Well, I was very close the the first script…even a bit defensive when the idea of editing the words was suggested. This is an example of why collaborative writing and editing has become a crucial part of my business model. It’s crucial to work with the client and other experts to find the right path to tell the story.

We creative people sometimes think that it’s “our way or the highway”…but often, that outlook can be detrimental in the business world. I wanted to share the first script with you, to allow you to see the evolution of this video. I think it’s fascinating how these types of stories come to be…and the collaborative process that facilitates the end result.

——- SCRIPT 5/31/18 ———–

Video Nats: Open with video from the birthday celebration

Voice Over – There is something special about birthday’s

Amory – I know Payton will not remember any of it. As they say, the first birthday is for the mom

Voice Over –Especially that first birthday…

Jeff – It was a huge amount of prep from the food to the party theme, party favors, to the to bottom.

Video Nats – People singing Happy Birthday

Amory – As soon as we put that little cake down in front of her…she dug right in. She mutilated that thing.

Voice Over – We want to create a time to always remember…

Jeff  – It is still like a dream…I ask myself a lot…maybe it is not even real.

—- transition —-

Voice Over – Jeff and Amory met each other in college…

Amory – I knew he was the one because there was something about him. He was so different from me. But he had such a tender heart. You know…he was kind of a rough and tough guy. He drove the big truck.

Voice Over – Feel in love and started a life together…

Jeff – My wife and I both have gotten married a little bit later. Both kind of career oriented…delayed the ideas of family…having a family too late. Then we started trying, things did not work like a storybook.

Voice Over – But what they really wanted…was a family…

Jeff – Its such a commitment to start a family in today’s world.

Voice Over – They did not realize…how hard it was going to be to just to start the process…

Amory – You know, we just had a lot of difficulty getting pregnant. I found out I had endometriosis, which I didn’t know that it was a pretty severe case of it.

Jeff – There is always some fear…reluctance to bite the bullet. And then you think of going through fertility processing some of the costs you hear. It can really be…you want to try every avenue to make things happened naturally rather than medically.

Voice Over – Reluctance, Fear, and the reality of a long road ahead…

Amory – Yeah, I had a lot of breaking points. You always think…why me? Why is this happening to me? I think everybody that goes through this goes through their mind at some point. You just don’t think it’s fair. Here you have…I have a great husband, we have a good house, we are inviting to a child, we want one so bad. And to think…why is this happening? We are here, we are ready, we are financially stable, we are open arms and loving.

Voice – And then there was some hope…

Jeff – Dr. Lessey helped us…he was our initial contact. He had done a lot of research with endometriosis…he was really carried the ball as far as carrying us through the process.

Amory – I don’t know, I just prayed with it every night. I felt really good about things. And I felt I had more of a positive attitude. Dr. Lessey was the one who did the procedure and he was really adamant about being the one to do the procedure this time around. I just know that day when I went in there…I just knew it that it happened?

Voice Over – And then…it did happen…that one moment in time…

Amory – The day we found out we were pregnant, I was at work of course.

Amory – I went to do the blood test and drove into work. I knew it would take a couple of hours, so I figured I would get the phone call at 11am. I told them I was not going to answer the call at work. I said just leave me a message and I will check my voice mail. That is what they did, they left me a message…it was about 11am.

Amory – I went out to the car and I told myself it was not going to be the end of the world if I have bad news. I remember hearing the voice mail…I have good news for you

Amory – I just could not even believe it. I just remember crying and it was awesome.

Amory – I remember calling Jeff and I couldn’t wait. I had to call him right away. I think he was just stunned. he was almost speechless. he was like….you are kidding me.

—- transition —-

Voice Over – Birthday’s are special, especially first birthday’s…they help you remember. It was just one year earlier before little Payton blew out these candles that Jeff’s remembers when his dream became a reality.

Jeff – I guess i knew it was real about 2 o’clock in the morning on November 29th last year when my wife came to me and woke me up to tell me it was time to go to the hospital. Then it became real.

Voice Over – And for Amory, reality was before even way before Payton even arrived.

Amory – I would say we knew it was real when we went to have our first ultrasound and hear the heart beat. That was only seven weeks…but yet you could still see on the ultrasound. You heard the ba bump ba bump ba bump and it was just amazing.

Voice Over – Now this little reality is everyday life.


Voice Over – Famly time at the end of a day brings the normalcy of a routine.

Amory – Usually we come home and feed her…then we have a little bit of play time. Then we try to spend as much time as we can with her during that small amount of time we have with her. We then usually bring her upstairs, try to start winding her down. Give her a bath, she loves her bath…

Voice Over – There is something about bath time and winding up the day. For working parents, those hours in the evening are ever more important.

Amory – Well…when we come home, it is hectic. Both parents working…trying to keep Payton on a schedule of eating but yet we want to spend as much time as we can with her because our time is limited during the week.

Voice Over – This reality, this everyday life, brings lots of reflection…

Jeff – It is still like a dream…I ask myself a lot…maybe it is not even real. It seems to good to be true to have a beautiful little girl, crawling soon to be walking, one year old…it just seems unbelievable.

Voice Over – Reflection that has empowered Jeff and Amory to share their story…

Jeff – Initially there is stigma until you get out and meet people and find out the condition of infertility…it is out there…it is spread around. When you are able to talk about it…you find out other people’s stories. And in my opinion, there is no reason to hang your head low…it is just a problem you need to work through.

Amory – It is ok to have issues like this…you are not weird or different…or to be shunned on because you have fertility issues. And if you continue to get the right help and get people involved…you can take something that is the hardest thing in your life and make it the best thing in your life!

Voice Over – That this picture perfect story, even with the long road, has become their everyday dream come true…

Jeff – I can remember leading up…it was a long road…it is probably good not to forget it because it makes it that much more valuable how hard you had to work to get the family you have now.

Amory – I understand what people say now…how awesome it is to be a mom. I did not really understand that before. But she has made us whole. She has just completed our lives.

Stories of Infertility: Many times – having a child is just hard.

Last year, I began working on a series of special stories for Greenville Health System…stories that shared the human element for the tagline “Advancing Health Care for Generations.” Each one of these stories has impacted me on some level. But I didn’t imagine that this story would have such an impact on my personal life.

When I met Amory and Jeff, I knew their story was going to be tough — tough to tell as well as investigate. From the first time I met Jeff, he presented himself as a husband who was willing to do just about anything to put a smile on Amory’s face. Jeff felt that “their” IVF story was all about Amory, specifically telling me that he felt she would tell “their story” best. From that moment, I knew this reserved gentleman had something to share. I just think he wasn’t ready to be in the forefront of his (their) story.

Amory and Jeff are just regular people. They look just like you and me. Both have successful careers, are hardworking, and love life. When it was time to start a family, they experienced what many face today…the long, difficult path of having a child. The word “infertility” is such a touchy subject for many couples; this untold story is normally not shared at the dinner table. It is just hard to bring words to this path many are traveling.

I know this path all too well. Sarah and I struggled to have Rose. It took us nearly three years for Rose to become a reality. If you take a walk through our backyard, you will see three small memorials to the three miscarriages we experienced. We even have ultrasounds from those three little ones. This past experience was that major reason we never named Rose until we knew she was going to be real, living, healthy baby. Her name for the first two trimesters was Z4.

Z4 stood for Zygote Number 4. Yes, it sounds harsh, removed, distant, and even somewhat pessimistic…but it was our reality. Zygote is a term used when signifying the first stage of the development of an organism. Sounds kind of like being in high school biology again. That distance brought comfort and provided the ability to find humor during a tense time.

It was January 2, 2011 and Z4 abruptly became a reality when Sarah just happened to pee on a stick in an Atlanta McDonalds bathroom. We were on the way back from our Christmas vacation and stopped at McD’s for a bathroom break. I was sitting in the car waiting for Sarah. I was wondering what the heck was taking so long. She hopped back in the car and the flood gates opened. She cried, “I’m pregnant…what are we going to do?”

Before Christmas, we had already scheduled a visit with a fertility specialist during the first week of January to chart our next plan of attack. The day we discovered that we were pregnant (again), it was a Sunday. We immediately called and left a message on the office answering service. We quickly received a call back from the nurse and they wanted us to come into the office Monday to chat. After numerous ultrasounds, multiple blood tests, and many medications, we began realizing that maybe this time was for real. Maybe it was time to start thinking of Z4 as an actual person instead of a project. Yet to me, Z4 was still Z4 until Z4 was born…and that day, our project became Rose.

Now Rose is turning two years old, and it’s a distant memory that she was once known as Z4.

We are surrounded by people whose stories are so different, yet similar. What have I learned? It ‘s ok to talk about it, to share, to offer support, and sometimes to offer advice. The only way to tackle these issues is to share our stories so that others can learn and find their path to a family. asks… “What is craft?” <-- I think they have an answer!

I love this video…I love the email they just sent. I agree with the video above…and I agree with their thought process.

Here is the quote from the email:

Your seeds of creativity
Craft is the root of our artistic passion and surgical attention to detail. It’s the beat of our creative drum. Watch and rediscover how our love of craft got us all into this creative racket to begin with.

Well…once again, I agree!

And one last time…I agree with this image in the email:

I am getting back to my roots. More to come!

Thanks for confirming my direction and intuition!

Taking Ownership of the Message & Crisis Communication – The Thank You Video from the Cleveland Kidnappings

It just came across this morning. I first noticed it on CNN’s Facebook page, then a local television stations Facebook page (WYFF-TV)….then people started sharing.

CNN recorded the YouTube video from the computer screen, then wrote and produced their own story to fit their news commentary. Many other news outlets just shared links to the YouTube video. But what really happened here…the three girls and their families took control of their message and how they delivered it to the world.

News outlets, journalists, bloggers, and many others have been trying to capture an interview with these three girls after being found in a home, victims of a kidnapping. From the very beginning…the families have contended that they wanted their privacy and have stuck with that strategy.

If you look at the description below the YouTube video released, you will gain more context:

Published on Jul 8, 2013
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight would like to say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world who have offered support to them. They are extremely grateful for the tremendous outpouring of kindness they have received and wished to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages with this video.

The women still maintain a strong desire for privacy and ask that everyone continue to respect their wishes in that regard going forward. Thank you.

The video was filmed on July 2, 2013 at the law offices of Jones Day in Cleveland, Ohio. Visible in the background of the video is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The male off-camera voice heard in the video is that of Howard Fencl (pronounced FEHN-sill), vice president of Hennes Paynter Communications. The attorneys, public relations firm, social media strategist and videographer involved in the production of this video are all working pro bono on behalf of the three women.

This was not a price gauging event to leverage this story for the immediate monetary benefit of a law practice, pr firm, and video production company. This was done all pro bono. Now I am sure people will be contacting these businesses and even hire them since they effectively executed a strategy to share this story. But…I want to quickly look at the heart of this matter.

These three girls and their families chose not to be subjected to a press conference, which would lead to a feeding frenzy of who would get the next on-camera interview. They chose not to hold a press conference so they would be subjected to some of the most ridiculous questioning from both seasoned journalists and bloggers. They chose to control the message and share it in a way that made since for their lives and fulfill their desire to maintain their privacy.

Now I am sure the feeding frenzy has escalated since this release. But…the video was shot on July 2, 2013…7 days ago.

  • They were able to share the statement they wanted to share.
  • They were able to edit the video to meet the expectations of not only the legal team, pr firm, but ultimately the family.

We have the ability to control our message. Admittedly, there is a need to involve the main stream media for many awareness campaigns; but sometimes it is just best to bypass this process.

As a former journalist…I know first hand how the process happens, especially when we interview people that have experience this type of event. We have time constraints. Whether it is an immediate deadline or the length of the story…time creates a lens by which journalists create and distribute content. Sometimes that lens can minimize the context of a story. Sometimes, the competitive nature of being “the first” to report do alter the message even more.

I have worked with SO MANY large organizations that are consistently challenged by many mainstream media outlets…tired of their story/comments taken out of context. They/We know it best…news outlets chopping interviews into soundbites that meet the needs of their business model and/or deadline constraints. Yes…if you just chop two more words out of that interview…we won’t make the executive producer mad for going 2 seconds over the time limit of their newscast. A 2 second cut can mean the world to these three ladies.

Kudos to Hennes Paynter Communications, law offices of Jones Day, and the video production staff…they put the best interests of these three girls and their families first.