Alternative Media: Centocor Documentary Turns Camera on Patients

Roll out the red carpet—pharma is going Hollywood
May 01, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Michael Parks, centocor
The lights were hot, the cameras were flashing, and the B-list celebrities were out in full force for the New York premiere of InnerState, an hour-long documentary following the lives of three individuals who are using biologic drugs to combat different diseases.

Sounds like your typical movie launch, but check out the credits and you'll discover one glaring difference—Centocor, the biologic arm of Johnson & Johnson, produced the film. Pharma, it seems, has entered the movie biz.

Pharm Exec attended the screening and caught up with Michael Parks, vice president of corporate communications for Centocor, to learn how pharma can harness movies for health education.

What did you set out to accomplish when you made this documentary?

We thought about the complexity of the diseases that we're treating and realized we needed a vehicle that would allow us enough real estate to explore [the diseases and the treatments] in a lot of depth. We get feedback from patients all the time about their experiences with their disease, the decision process they went through with their physician to find the right treatment, concerns about starting a new treatment as it relates to benefit and risk, and how the treatment worked for them.

InnerState premiered in New York City in late February and is being submitted to film festivals. Centocor hopes to have the film in theaters soon.
Hearing those stories gave us the idea that if you could, in the format of a documentary, communicate all of these messages through the voice of the patient in an unscripted way, you might have something very powerful.

How did you find the patients who are in the film?

It was a very long and difficult process. I think we honed in on about 40 different patients and went through a series of interviews with them to get their bio and their life experiences. And we narrowed that list down to about 12 patients that we captured on camera. What we were really looking for was a patient who represented the other patients who suffer from that condition.

We chose the final three candidates based on their overall willingness to allow us to come into their homes and into their families and their workplaces and engrain ourselves in their lives to get down to the root of their story.

Were the patients paid to be in the film?

We were not willing to pay the patients to be involved in this documentary. That was one criterion that we felt very strongly about. And what was really interesting was that out of all the patients that we interviewed, nobody wanted payment. They were very passionate about speaking about their condition and thought the idea was novel and something that they wanted to be a part of.

What was the biggest challenge of making InnerState?

I think the biggest challenge was trying to explain the idea to stakeholders inside and outside the company, because nobody had ever done this before. When you talk about a documentary, everybody has his or her own preconceived notion of what a documentary is and what it should look like. It wasn't until we actually had a rough cut of the film that people realized what we were trying to accomplish.

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