The other night, Lisa and I caught a story on WCBS2, the local CBS affilaite here in New York.
Watching it, we could not help but think what a great story this could have been - could have being the operative term here.
It was a great story.
Renata Freyden and her fiance David Caldwell gave birth to baby Zayn, a premature birth at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Jersey. Tne neonatal nurse who cared for baby Zayn was Lissa McGowan.
David, who had also been born prematurely, and who was also in the neo natal care unit at St. Peter's 33 years ago, thought he might have recognized the nurse. He got a photo from his mother of himsel and his nurse at birth.
It was the very SAME nurse! 33 years later.
I mean, this is the kind of story that you can make a movie about, or at least a short movie.
All the elements are there - great characters, an amazing arc of story and a fantastic and almost impossible resolution at the end.
But what did WCBS2 do with it? They shot and produced a bog standard local TV news story. They pretty much did everything they could to kill the potenial drama and storytelling inherent in it.
It was mostly sit down interview, which is, let's face it, living death
Then, as if this was not boring enough, they stuck the reporter, Ali Baumann, who I am sure is a nice person, to do a stand up, outside the hospital, in the dark no less. What in the world was the point of that.
So, looking at this story, how could you have taken exactly the same story and made it into a very compelling little 'movie' that would really grab and carry an audience?
Let's start with your main character here who is, by the way, Lissa McGowan, the nurse.
We start with her at home, on her way to work in the NIC unit. We get to know her and like her as a character, we form a bond with her. She is a very dedicated nurse and a very caring person. She drives into work. We go with her and into the NIC unit.
Then we meet David and Renata, the parents of Zayn, who was, of course, cared for in the NICU by LIssa.
So far, good, but no twist yet.
From what I can tell form the story, it looks like WCBS2 interviewd David and Renata in the NICU, unless they have decorated their house to look like a hospital waiting area. So all the main characters are in place.
THEN- we have the reunion - first with the nurse who cared for and saved their child. But then, we have the larger reveal, the back story.
Now you have a movie with some real emotional pay off.
It's exactly the same content. But architected as a story, not as a 'report'.
You see how much more powerful this can be?
And by the way, lose the stand up.