NEWS | May 21, 2019

Filmmakers help pediatric patients express themselves through film


Picture it: A child leaves the hospital (and the pain of needle procedures) and rides away on a unicorn into a meadow of wildflowers. It sounds like a fantasy for a child who is hospitalized.

One patient makes a movie with help from a BayKids filmmaker. One patient makes a movie with help from a BayKids filmmaker.

This dream became a reality for pediatric cancer patient Taylor Hurst, thanks to UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s partnership with BayKids Studios. This nonprofit organization brings professional filmmakers to hospitals and allows kids to become the directors, actors and heroes of their own stories.

Taylor created her video with BayKids filmmaker Mimi Rauschendorf, who films at UC Davis Children’s Hospital two days a month. Rauschendorf brought to life Taylor’s “happy place,” the spot  Taylor imagines she is when she gets “poked” or has procedures involving needles.

“We had so much fun!” said Michelle Hurst, Taylor’s mom. “We designed the doll’s clothes, made Uni the Unicorn and let Taylor's imagination run. It was a great distraction for her since she wasn't allowed to eat. At the end of the process Taylor told Mimi she wanted to use it for kids when they're getting their pokes to distract them.”

Patients choose how they’d like to participate -- from scriptwriting to directing to acting. BayKids Studios finishes the video in post-production and the final films are posted on YouTube. The films are also screened for patients and their families at an annual Creatives Arts Festival at the hospital.  

The BayKids Studios program launched at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in 2016.

“I think it’s empowering for kids to tell their stories and experiences,” said Katie Lorain, an art therapist at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “It gives them a sense of mastery. It normalizes the hospital environment and provides an opportunity to have fun.”