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NHLBI Films Two New PSAs

By Ann Taubenheim

"Lights, camera, and action!" Throughout a hot, steamy summer night, the director called these commands dozens of times as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's new television public service announcement (PSA), "Jackie," was being filmed at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. "Jackie" tells the story of a 48-year-old woman, a heart attack survivor whose life has changed as a result of heart disease. The PSA is one of two being produced for The Heart Truth, a national awareness campaign for women about heart disease sponsored by NHLBI.

Produced and directed by ThinkFilm, Inc., the award-winning production company that shoots the Washington, D.C., scenes for the TV show The West Wing, the filming of "Jackie" required some creative camera techniques. For example, the first scene simulates Jackie's arrival by ambulance to the ER for the viewer. To capture those terrifying moments as they were happening to Jackie, the camera man had to be Jackie by holding a heavy camera and filming flat on his back on a stretcher while being moved out of the ambulance.

The filming required the talent of eight actors and a 25-member production crew. Throughout the all-night shoot, crew members unloaded and set up a truckload of equipment and props, including an ambulance, uniforms donated by D.C. paramedics, medical equipment and special signs to turn Holy Cross Hospital's main entrance into an emergency room. After an entire night of filming and many days of post-production work, the final "Jackie" spot was ready to deliver 30 seconds of critical messages about heart disease in women to television audiences.

Dr. George Sopko of NHLBI visits the set at Stargate Digital in Los Angeles, where a new PSA was prepared.

"If You Could," NHLBI's second television PSA for The Heart Truth, was also produced this past summer. This spot, through the use of somewhat shocking special effects — a plaque-clogged artery, a cramped heart muscle and a blood clot — urges women to talk to their doctors about heart disease. The concept for the PSA was developed after focus group participants strongly recommended that NHLBI show women the hard truth about heart disease, "whether they want to see it or not."

Special effects for "If You Could" were produced by Stargate Digital, the Los Angeles-based visual effects company for the hit CBS series CSI — Crime Scene Investigation. The show's Emmy-nominated makeup artist and sound editors were key contributors to the production of the PSA. The realistic heart and plaque-clogged artery seen in the spot were created through a combination of original prosthetics, character-generated computer animation and special cinematography. NHLBI's Dr. George Sopko was on the set as a medical consultant to make sure the heart and artery were medically accurate as well as artistically exciting.

The Heart Truth campaign was launched nationally in September. See if you can spot "Jackie" and "If You Could" on TV this fall.

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