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Goal

Ron Israeli, MD is a plastic surgeon who specializes in post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. As a founding partner at Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC, Dr. Israeli has helped to develop a breast reconstruction practice with a uniquely holistic approach. In his practice, patients are offered programs in a Patient Empowerment Program, led by a counselor with more than forty years of experience.

Dr. Israeli recently started creating life cast sculptures of some of his mastectomy and breast reconstruction patients. He began this project with the hope that these completed sculptures will promote awareness of breast reconstruction as a vital part of the recovery process after mastectomy.

MediaStorm was commissioned by Dr. Israeli to create a short film highlighting the psychological impact of the life cast project on a group of women who survived mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

MediaStorm's approach was to focus on a first-person narrative of one of these women, Lucienne Colombo, and to provide context to her experience by interweaving the perspectives of Dr. Israeli and Patient Empowerment Program Director Mollie Sugarman.

The goal was to provide an understanding of Lucienne's experience with cancer — from the shock of diagnosis to the depths of treatment to the relief of being cancer-free — in order to understand the real significance of the sculpture project for her.



Client: Ron Israeli, MD
Published: October 10, 2011
The Challenge
The greatest challenge we faced was that the bulk of our main character's story had already happened. The main character, Lucienne, was a year out of all her surgeries and had already gone through the life cast process with Dr. Israeli. In addition, she had no documentation of her life during cancer. Trying to communicate the emotional spectrum she traveled was much more difficult without being able to document any of her emotions as she was experiencing them. The responsibility to include that emotion meant we had to rely much more heavily on her interview and try to get her back into the memory space of her experience.

Secondly, the time frame was really tight. With only five weeks to film and produce the piece, there were significant limits on what we could document and how we could tell the story. The time frame not only limited the number of scenes we could shoot, but also the amount of time we had to spend with people in the story, consequently limiting intimacy. Finding a way to include elements of intimacy in the piece was really important for us as the story was such a dire time for Lucienne and touches on similar experiences for so many other women.



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The Solution
Since we couldn't film the events of Lucienne's story as they were happening, we found scenes in her daily life that matched the mood of her back story that allowed for character development. We used those scenes over her interview in which she told of the emotions she experienced during cancer.

We filmed a breast reconstruction surgery not only to communicate part of Lucienne's experience with cancer, but also to parallel Dr. Israeli's work in the operating room with his artistic endeavors in the sculpting project. The comparison between the two speaks both to Dr. Israeli's work as a surgeon and sculptor and to the effectiveness of the sculpting project in providing a reflective space for his patients.

Because of the tight time frame, we structured our production schedule to accommodate editing as soon as we had footage, while also continuing to shoot. That approach allowed us to take the time needed to capture important situations while staying on top of production in order to meet our deadline.
The Results
The final product is an 8-minute film comprised of an intimate, first-person narrative of one patient's experience with cancer and the life cast project, as well as the perspective's of Dr. Israeli and Mollie Sugarman. It surrounds Dr. Israeli's interview with context of his work, which includes scenes of a breast reconstruction and of Dr. Israeli working on the sculptures after doing the original cast.

The film was screened on October 27, 2011 at an event honoring Dr. William Osler, a physician during the turn of the century who is considered the "father of modern medicine," and was known for offering a humanistic approach in his treatment of patients. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive and stirred up a variety of emotions in the audience of breast cancer survivors, their doctors and loved ones. After seeing the film, one woman who had finished her journey and completed reconstruction shared with us that it was the first time she had cried since being diagnosed.

On December 6, 2011, Dr. Israeli and MediaStorm staffer Pam Huling spoke at the LifeCell Corporation headquarters in Branchburg, NJ and screened the film to 200 employees. LifeCell is the creator of AlloDerm, a revolutionary product that enables plastic surgeons to achieve natural-looking breast reconstruction results using processed human skin. The presentation led to a standing ovation and comments that this was the best corporate Town Hall meeting they had ever had.


About the Client
Ron Israeli, MD, is a plastic surgeon practicing in Great Neck, New York since 1997. He is regarded as a leading specialist in post-mastectomy breast reconstruction and also studies classical European sculpture techniques under the guidance of master sculptor Kiril Tzotchev.

Dr. Israeli is one of three surgeons of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC, which provides a range of cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeries and houses a Patient Empowerment Program to address the emotional aspect of handling a mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
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