American Red Cross PSA

Fall 2005  

ArtCenter College of Design film student Cody Heller, challenged with the idea of creating a public service announcement as a part of her studies, thought first of the American Red Cross.

“I knew I wanted to focus on blood donation, a true form of charity,” said Heller, who was a student the ArtCenter workshop taught by Earl Rath, ASC, a cinematographer with many television film credits. “With blood, you’re actually giving something directly to someone else that could save a life. Blood can’t go anywhere else except directly into someone else’s veins.”

Heller and ArtCenter student Jennava Laska, who produced the PSA for Heller, talked with Marc Jackson of  the American Red Cross Blood Services West Division, who immediately offered technical help. Seed money for the one-minute spot came from ArtCenter’s Designmatters, which engages students, faculty and staff in an ongoing exploration of the links between design and issues of social and humanitarian importance.

Heller, a 21-year-old native of Santa Monica, Calif., concluded that to convey what it was actually like to donate blood, she had to overcome her fear of needles and give blood herself.

“It was a shocking, visceral experience,” she said. She became slightly faint, and found that “everything slowed down.” She focused on her immediate surroundings – someone’s shoes, a nurse’s hands.

Afterwards, as she sat with other donors and drank juice to bring her blood sugar back to normal, Heller gradually came back into real time and her world again expanded. A television set was on, and she watched as news of Hurricane Katrina unfolded in Louisiana and Mississippi. The thought occurred to her that the blood that she had just given could actually go to a victim of Katrina. I was compelled to make a piece that could truly illustrate what that experience was like,” Heller said. “A lot of people are afraid of donate blood. But the reward is so much more than going through the minor suffering of the experience.”

For the two-day shoot, which took place at ArtCenter, the Red Cross provided cots, blood bags and other equipment. A Red Cross nurse oversaw procedures to make sure they were authentic, including pricking a few fingers to draw blood for samples.

The Red Cross licensed the public service announcement and plans to use it for various educational and media purposes. The organization also put the PSA up for awards, and it won several honors that are shared by Heller, the Red Cross and ArtCenter, including the top Summit Award for video production and a finalist’s spot in the video category of the prestigious Telly Awards.

They totally rejuvenated us with their creativity and enthusiasm,” the Red Cross’ Jackson said of the ArtCenter team. “It does all of our hearts a tremendous amount of good because they’re so fresh and vibrant.”

Besides Laska, also assisting Heller in making the PSA were Art Center students James Mann, director of photography, and Page Buckner, production designer.
Since she made the PSA, Heller has made it a point to donate blood every time she is eligible.

I’m a student, I don’t have money now, but I do have blood, I can donate blood,” said Heller, who will graduate in December. “It gets easier.”