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Institute for Learning, Education and Development (ILEAD)

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ILEAD video production

An interview for the video is filmed and recorded. (VA courtesy photo)

An interview for the video is filmed and recorded. (VA courtesy photo)

By Gerald Sonnenberg, ILEAD senior marketing and communication specialist, USAF retired.
Tuesday, September 26, 2023

One year ago, the VHA Institute for Learning Education and Development, or ILEAD, was created. With nine specific service lines, ILEAD is focused on providing VHA staff with virtual and in-person training, products, services and development opportunities that impact employees in all phases of their career.

ILEAD’s Production and Delivery Service Line is unique in that it has the expertise and state-of-the-art resources and staff to support a variety of products and initiatives through its video production team.

Flagship products include film and documentary style studio productions, on-location and live remote video productions, animated video productions, interactive webcasts, podcasts, live streaming and video hosting services. We recently produced public service announcements broadcast during the December 2022 Army/Navy football game.

A new project

A recent project was a special installment of an ongoing series for the VA Office of Nursing Services (ONS) called, “VA Nurses Making a Difference.” This special production resulted in showcasing a unique and moving event celebrating VA nurses.

The video was called The Way Back: Songs of Healing by VA Veteran Nurses and took about two months from concept and planning, through filming and post production, to a finished product. It featured VA nurses working with Freedom Sings USA; a non-profit organization based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Freedom Sings USA pairs professional songwriters with Veterans, military personnel and their families to help them tell their stories through song.

Chris Bodily, a Marine Corps Veteran and executive producer and director on the video says VA partnered with Freedom Sings USA to bring together award winning, songwriters with 11 VA nurses who are also Veterans. The crew was on location in Murphysboro, Tennessee, filming five songs being written and performed at an in-person songwriting retreat.

“In a typical session, the songwriter listens and encourages the participant to lay out the ‘puzzle pieces’ of his or her experience,” explained Bodily. “Together, they arrange those pieces into verses and choruses. The result is a complete song that they can call their own.”

He added that the exceptional quality of this project, as well as others, could not be accomplished without such an amazing crew.

Post production

In addition to directing Freedom Sings for the look he wanted to achieve, Bodily handled all the logistics and came up with a plan of attack for the shoot and post-production. Ron Johnson was editor and digital image technician. He made sure all the cameras were set properly and backed up the footage during filming. He then edited the videos. Correy Mathews, along with Chris Sabo, drove the equipment more than 300 miles from St. Louis and set up lighting and camera gear. Mathews then operated a camera and piloted the drone for the drone shots.

Bodily described the experience as eye opening as songs were created “out of thin air” during filming. The songs dealt with PTSD, military sexual trauma, Veteran suicide, nursing burnout, as well as the honor that comes from serving our country in the military and as a VA nurse.

“Obviously, a HUGE part of the success of this event was having each Veteran writing with such amazing song writers,” added Bodily.

As a Veteran, this project was special for Bodily.

“Each project we do is unique, but this one absolutely stands out,” he said. “It is my hope that every project we work on eventually contributes to helping Veterans or improving patient care. While working on this video, I saw Veterans being helped directly. I hope that other Veterans can see it and can relate to the songs and Veterans we featured. I would also recommend others to check out the video.”


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