At the 2022 Canadian Cancer Society Gala, the CCS focused on raising money to support the Canadian Cancer Society’s Young Adult Cancer Fund. It was determined that a signature short film was vital to the fundraising so that the proper support, programming, and care needs of young adults with cancer can be met. Currently, they are not.
Almost every hour in Canada, a young adult is diagnosed with cancer. This group lives in the gap between well-established pediatric and older adult cancer services. They have unique and varied needs – practical, physical and psychosocial – that are unmet by today’s cancer system. They experience challenges accessing relevant and timely information and supportive care tailored to their needs. While most will survive their diagnoses, living decades beyond treatment, a person’s experience with cancer doesn’t end when treatment ends. More than 70% of cancer survivors experience significant physical and emotional challenges after treatment. Through the Canadian Cancer Society’s Centre for Cancer Prevention and Support, we are discovering and implementing cancer information and support solutions to address the unmet needs of young adults living with and beyond cancer.
To convey these needs, the Canadian Cancer Society felt that a powerful, emotional story was the best way to connect an audience to the cause and increase awareness. While filming with cancer patients and survivors isn't new for the CCS, unlike previous years, they decided to forego the usual fact-based storyline and decided to get very personal with their storytelling. Tina's Story is the result.
Imagine being diagnosed with cancer at the cusp of your adulthood. No longer a child, not yet an adult. You’re shocked, scared and overwhelmed. Your plans for an education, a career, a relationship, a family, a future hang in the balance. The specialized care you need is hard to access. The volume of complex information is staggering and doesn’t address your evolving concerns. You receive your treatment feeling unprepared and isolated, surrounded by people who you can’t relate to. You survive cancer only to struggle to find or maintain employment. You discover your treatment has left you infertile. You worry about your health every day and you lack support for your physical or emotional needs after treatment. You feel abandoned. The life you had, or planned to have, doesn’t exist anymore and you have to find a new way forward. This is the picture that needed to be painted on screen.
Through an extensive casting process in which we talked to multiple young adults either currently facing, or on their recovery journey, Tina Schomburg was chosen as the subject of this short film. Her willingness to be vulnerable, unflinchingly honest, and to bare her soul on camera was undeniable. She trusted the care that would be taken by the director and gave her full self over on camera. This resulted in an incrediblly emotional and elegant story.
Tina's personal experience during and after cancer as a young adult naturally hit all of the key messaging for the CCS about young adults and adolescents facing cancer:
Feelings of isolation and shame
Impact on career and general life direction
A lack of tailored formal support
Depression post treatment
Most importantly, Tina’s story is highly relatable for those with or without knowledge of a life with cancer. Her mindfulness and introspective nature allowed the film to explore some of the core tenets of the human condition that affect everyone - fragility of life, the need for compassion, and self-love - while also exploring how cancer specifically changed her whole life.
Our visual approach to this film was to make it highly imagery driven, avoiding the conventional talking head interview, in favour of an intimate audio-only interview with Tina. This was recorded separately which enabled us to stretch our production time with crew to capture more diverse imagery. We incorporated photos/video from Tina's life to add a personal element of authenticity/realness and to break-up the highly crafted cinematic imagery that we shot. Tina is also an artist, so we included some of her work in order to see the world through her eyes during a challenging time for her. The tone of the film is poignant, intimate, empowering, and hopeful. We used an interplay of silence, minimalist sound design, and music to set pacing and mood. Specific messaging and calls-to-action were included via title cards at the end, allowing the video to be evergreen and have multiple uses as titles can be easily replaced/updated as needed.
This film was used to raise over $1m at the Canadian Cancer Society's largest fundraising event. It continues to help raise money for the CCS as it's used in presentations and on the organization's wesbite and social channels.
The film was also accepted into the 2022 World Cancer Congress Cinema program in Geneva. The program will integrate a selection of the most powerful productions from all over the world and be showcased to delegates, UICC members and conference participants.
Perhaps most importantly, the film resulted in something very meaningful to Tina. In her own words:
"It is understood in older cultures that after every initiatory experience, people need a place to talk about what they’ve lived through, what they’ve endured, and what they’ve learned. Being witnessed by others is a crucial last step, as a way for us to integrate the experience and to bring back medicine to the community. One’s journey, and often healing, is not complete until this happens. With the film release, I was able to end a chapter of my life that felt unfinished for ten long years, and hence, finally, begin a new one. The film granted me an opportunity to tell my story to others, and to hear how it has impacted them, what it inspired and how it moved them. In other words, what medicine it brought to them. It’s given the pain I’ve lived through a new depth of meaning, and I’m deeply grateful for it."