Donate Life, a short film produced by the Legacy Donor Foundation (LDF) in collaboration with NOCCA, is the story of a high school student named Claire, who needs a heart transplant. Viewers follow Claire’s journey toward receiving a heart, while her friends learn first-hand about the value of becoming an organ donor.
In Louisiana, all drivers’ education courses must provide 30 minutes of instruction about organ donation, but most courses simply show a dry informational video and then field questions from students. The Legacy Donor Foundation decided to produce a short video that would educate young people about organ donation in a way that was interesting and exciting. Executive producers Jeanette Slakey, executive director of LDF, and Pamela Senatore, board member, decided to ask NOCCA students and faculty to create and produce the message.
“We wanted a video that would prepare young adults to make a decision about organ donation,” said Slakey. “Who better than young people to deliver the message to other young people?” concluded Senatore.
Before beginning work on the video, LDF presented a tutorial about organ donation for NOCCA students, educating them about the facts about organ donation and the myths that needed to be dispelled. LDF then stepped back and allowed NOCCA students to take the reins.
The Legacy Donor Foundation hired seasoned filmmaker Oley Sassone to direct the film. Mr. Sassone, who has directed over 100 music videos and several television series and feature films, brought in a professional film crew for the five days of filming during NOCCA’s spring break. NOCCA students and faculty did the rest of the work. Mr. Sassone repeatedly expressed how impressed he was with NOCCA students’ tenacity and professionalism.
“The kids were so bright, astute, and very mature. They took a serious subject and wrote a script that was both insightful and emotional. I can’t say enough about the students and their level of talent and dedication,” said Mr. Sassone.
Musical Theater students acted in the film and were able to experience the differences between film and stage acting for the first time. Again, Mr. Sassone praised the students’ work ethic: “They were always on time, they always knew their lines, and they had a great attitude,” he said. Kelly Barberito, the Dance student who played Claire’s best friend, Emma, said, “I had a blast! Filming was very time-consuming. We had to get there at seven or eight in the morning and we stayed 12 hours. Sometimes we had to film a scene ten different ways!”
“It was great for our students,” said Paul Werner, the chair of Media Arts at NOCCA. “The Musical Theatre students got to experience being on camera, two Music students wrote the closing song, and the Media Arts students got to work with a professional film crew.” The crew allowed the students to shadow them throughout the filming process, often permitting them to man the equipment.
In the 15-minute video, emotions ride high and low, but the facts about organ donation stick in the mind of the viewer. The Donate Life video was truly a win-win arrangement. It allowed the Legacy Donor Foundation to make a professional quality video with a fresh story, and it allowed NOCCA students to experience working with the film industry first hand. Most importantly, the Donate Life video allowed students to use their artistic training to convey an important message and to impact other young people around Louisiana.
Check out the full Donate Life video below, or — if you’re pressed for time – -the closing musical number, embedded beneath it.