Consider the Conversation
Motivated by personal experiences with the loss of loved ones, Mike Bernhagen - a curative healthcare business development professional turned hospice advocate - and Terry Kaldhusdal - an award winning documentary filmmaker and former State Teacher of the Year - decided to join forces on Consider the Conversation-A Documentary on a Taboo Subject. This award winning project sheds light on the 21st century American struggle with communication and preparation at life's end. Consider the Conversation examines multiple perspectives on end-of-life care and includes information and experiences gathered from interviews with patients, family members, doctors, nurses, clergy, social workers, and national experts from around the country.
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When Hollywood director Frank Capra saw poverty and war causing despair among millions of Americans in the 1930s and 40s, he attempted to restore hope by making films that celebrated the common man triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds. Three pictures in particular - Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - all told stories about simple men whose patriotism, idealism and small town values made a big difference in the lives of others. Today, we call these kinds of individuals "social entrepreneurs" - people who notice a problem in their community and create a way to remedy that issue with the simple goal of producing positive change. Terry Kaldhusdal and Michael Bernhagen are two such men.
Motivated by personal experiences with the loss of loved ones, Bernhagen - a curative healthcare business development professional turned hospice advocate - and Kaldhusdal - a documentary filmmaker and former State Teacher of the Year - decided to join forces in 2009 to begin production of Consider the Conversation, a project that intimately explores the American struggle with communication and preparation at life's end. At the time, all of the producers' grant applications were rejected because they were complete unknowns and the nation was in the midst of a fierce debate over healthcare reform. Sadly, it was an environment in which a conversation between a doctor and patient about end-of-life wishes became toxic. This natural, human issue suddenly became a political, taboo issue.
Recognizing the immense social value of Kaldhusdal and Bernhagen's work, the Board of Directors at Rainbow Hospice Care - one of Wisconsin's few independent and non-profit hospices - voted to establish a restricted fund that enabled individuals and organizations from 15 states to contribute $43,000 to the cause. That, combined with the donation of more than 3,500 hours of personal time from the producers, meant that a beautiful film capturing the perspective of patients, families, doctors, nurses, social workers, clergy and national experts could be completed.
Since its premiere in early 2011, Consider the Conversation has aired over 300 times on 140 PBS stations; won nine awards including four for social change and viewer impact; and been purchased on DVD by individuals and organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Tasmania. Most impressive, however, is the fact that Bernhagen and Kaldhusdal's work has inspired the Wisconsin Medical Society to launch Honoring Choices Wisconsin - a statewide, collaborative advance care planning initiative which is based on the premise that talking with patients about end-of-life wishes at a time when they're not dying is good preventive medicine.
In addition, the producers have been the featured guests on numerous NPR affiliate programs including Wisconsin Public Radio's At Issue with Ben Merens; WOSU's All Sides with Ann Fisher; Capital Public Radio's Insight with Jeffrey Callison; and Milwaukee Public Radio's Lake Effect with Bonnie North.
Nine Awards And Counting
Best Shorts Competition
Award of Excellence: Use of Film/Video for Social Change
Award of Merit: Short Documentary
Award of Merit: Direction
Award of Merit: Viewer Impact: Content/Message
Award of Merit: Use of Film/Video for Social Change
Award of Excellence: Short Documentary
Award of Merit: Concept
Award of Merit: Viewer Impact: Content/Message Delivery
82nd Annual Milwaukee Press Club Awards for Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism
Silver Award of Excellence for Best Documentary or News Special
In their moving presentations, Kaldhusdal and Bernhagen inspire medical, faith, business and lay audiences alike to think, talk and act upon a subject that has been historically taboo in our culture.
For more information on Mike Bernhagen, click here.
For more information on Terry Kaldhusdal, click here.
For more information on Consider the Conversation, click here.