Should Forgiving America’s Unpaid Medical Debt be in Black and White, or Living Color?

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Everyone knows the power of film and images. When written and verbal messages fail to deliver, it is up to the cameraman, the videographer, the genius behind a lens to deliver.

Along the way since RIP Medical Debt was incorporated as a 501(C)(3) charity on July 25, 2014, we have attracted – and often employed – two such talents to fill our need to chronicle and make public our mission to raise funds to go to. Each saw us “their” way.

I am speaking of Patrick de Warren of the Collective Dreams Project and Bob Parks, video producer and blogger at Black and Blonde Media (B&B). Few external contractors to non-profits receive recognition; they just do the job they are paid to do and expect little more. Value given for value received. Fair enough.

Sometimes, it’s important to publicly acknowledge those who quietly make that big difference. This blog is written in tribute to them and through them to all the visual masters and mistresses in this world who step in with images when words cannot do the job.

Talent: sometimes we find them

In the case of the B&B team (Bob Parks and wife Laura Erickson), there was a particular need.

In late 2015, I wanted to search out photographers who might be available and interested in RIP’s mission. At that time we were becoming aware of the tremendous personal medical debt owed by veterans (hard to believe? Please read my blog on that subject), and being a former Navy Journalist myself, I wanted to record our charity’s efforts from a service member point of view.

In October of that year, I went to the RallyPoint website (in the FB vein, but for Military) and reached out to a number of military journalists and photographers, finally connecting with Bob. He liked what he heard, and by the end of that month he had already seen to it that RIP’s CEO, Craig Antico, and I were on talk shows where he had connections.

By the end of November 2015, he and Laura produced a YouTube piece on RIP which referenced the need to abolish veteran medical debt and added B&B’s assessment of RIP in his blog…”A Nonprofit That Actually Completes the Mission.” Not a man to mince words.

In June 2016, Bob produced a video-centric YouTube teaser “Thank You For Your Service” tying John Oliver’s use of RIP to forgive almost $15M in medical debt to a reminder that veterans could use that same help. It was/is powerful.

Bob’s most recent contribution was in covering RIP’s second mini-summit in NYC this past June featuring the university team of MIT, University of Chicago, UCLA and UC/Berkeley. These four schools will be performing an economic impact study to determine the effects of forgiving personal medical debt.

Here is Bob’s video capture of the gathering, along with a special interview with veterans attending to get their take on the importance of RIP’s role for service members and veterans.

Talent: sometimes they find us

The RIP story could only be told in black and white to get across its true impact, if we are to believe the lens of cinematographer/artist Patrick de Warren. And he is intent on proving that. Just how did he land in RIP’s and my world?

Once again, Social Media – in this case LinkedIn – proves its importance.

Noticing a remark of mine at that site in June 2014, Patrick sent me a polite thank you and we exchanged notes. Almost two years later we connected in person in April 2016 at a Bernie Sanders rally which I was covering for my LinkedIn Pulse blog. (He actually recognized me in a crowd from my LinkedIn photograph – make sure to keep yours up to date!).

Wherever Patrick aims his camera – even beginning in his early professional industry when he was making a name for himself as a respected NYC/Paris fashion photographer – he commits to exploring his subject in depth. In his more recent iteration as a producer of documentaries, he applies a style of photography that is somehow both compassionate and unforgiving.

In providing this genius to RIP Medical Debt in its debt forgiveness campaign, he uniquely addresses the subject of America’s tragedy of medical debt, a problem almost nonexistent in his native France. We can only benefit.

Here are Patrick’s very first rendition of RIP’s approach to medical debt. The palette was the same - an RIP mini-summit on medical debt (this one took place in NYC on January 16-18 this year). The three short cinematic essays which resulted can be viewed when you visit this site. They are being considered for use in our fall campaign.

Now, getting back to that headline question: Color, or Black-and-White?

I’m speechless. Can you picture that? Someone?