One of the most rewarding parts of my job is having the chance to learn about different industries. I enjoy diving deep into what makes our clients tick so I can work to produce content that accurately and effectively tells their story.
For the past year, One Floor Up has partnered with Air Methods Corporation (AMC) to design and execute animated and live action content. I’ve had the privilege of producing most of this work with the fine folks on AMC’s communications team. For those who don’t know them, Air Methods is an emergency air medical transport service. With 300+ bases across the country, and over 400 aircraft, they provide services like inter-hospital transfers or scene visits for remote accidents. And they’re headquartered right here in Denver, CO.
At the start of the year, we were gearing up to film a brand campaign consisting of multiple shoot days at various AMC bases across the country. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. AMC shut down their bases to most outside personnel, which included the media, putting our campaign on hold. As sad as we were to see the campaign grind to a halt, it gave me the chance to learn more about the incredible work this organization does and offered alternative content deliverables.
Traditionally, Air Methods’ crews are accustomed to responding to heart attack and stroke victims, injured hikers, car crashes, and transferring patients between hospitals (just to name a few). But now, with the pandemic, they’re also adding COVID-19-positive patient transports to their list. If you’re like me, you live close enough to an area hospital or major city with ample medical services. But that isn’t the case for many parts of the country. In certain areas, a small, regional hospital or urgent care is all that exists within a multi-hour drive. That’s where Air Methods comes in, with the ability to transport patients to higher levels of care, and quickly. During this pandemic, crews have flown the sickest of sick COVID-19 patients to larger medical facilities or transferred patients from one hospital to another when a hospital runs out of room.
With these understandable, new restrictions for Air Methods, we began to conceptualize how we might document what was happening on the ground and use that to promote AMC’s mission and brand. It was apparent that AMC’s bases were playing a critical role in the COVID-19 pandemic, but without being able to fly to these locations and film, we had to get creative with our storytelling. At first we rolled out a lot of animated content, like a PSA on the importance of going to the ER for heart attack and stroke symptoms, despite the pandemic. Because the ER was still the safest place for an emergency. Then, as the AMC communications team began sharing what they were hearing from their ground crews, we began designing docu-style content that would capture and shed light on these stories – leaning on virtual interviewing and user-generated content.
Much of what I started doing for Air Methods felt like journalism. I was scheduling recorded Zoom interviews with pilots, medics and area managers to piece together what was happening on the ground in New York, California, Texas, South Dakota, etc. We relied on the interviewees to supply us with photos and videos, anything that would help paint an accurate picture for viewers. What I started hearing was a very different side of this pandemic than the one I was experiencing from my home office. In one interview, I learned about the sudden influx of extremely sick patients at Flushing and Jamaica Hospitals in New York City. The amount of intubated patients caused the hospital’s oxygen system to freeze up from overuse. Air Methods had to send in helicopters to get the patients out of the hospital and on proper oxygen supply. On the other side of the country, I listened to a pilot at a San Diego base describe the 2, 3, 4+ hour flights he was doing daily to fly rural patients to higher levels of care. As the hospitals filled up, he’d have to fly farther and farther, oftentimes flying long into the night and refueling the aircraft en route while the intubated patient stayed on board. To top it off, a medic in Texas explained the dangers of heat exhaustion for the crews as they donned full PPE and worked long hours in the summer heat to transport and save as many patients as they could. In every virtual encounter I had with an Air Methods crew member, I learned more about how this pandemic was affecting different communities and how, everywhere, without hesitation, Air Methods was stepping up to help.
Our capstone project we created for Air Methods during the last 4 months was an 11-minute animated/documentary hybrid highlighting 5 different Air Methods teams who stepped up during COVID-19 surges in their respective regions. Though our production was limited to 360p Zoom records and iPhone photos and videos, I leaned on the talented in-house animators at One Floor Up to create an engaging animated walkthrough featuring each state’s video. We used an animated map to move the viewer around the country to truly show the breadth and impact of this virus. Though it wasn’t the traditional cinematic, in-person filmmaking I was used to, what mattered most was capturing the life-saving stories from each of these bases and creating an engaging way to showcase them. The result was a video that Air Methods can use to market their capabilities and a behind the scenes documentation of the work of air medical transport personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though this pandemic has certainly thrown a wrench in many plans for 2020 and beyond, I am humbled that it gave me the opportunity to go on this journey with AMC and dive deep into the heart and soul of the organization. Every individual working for Air Methods is a hero and I’m simply grateful that I get to play a very small role in sharing what they do with the world.