Intended for healthcare professionals


Making medical movies

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 23 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1158
  1. Garry Summers, year 2 core trainee, anaesthesia, Weston Area Health NHS Trust, Weston-super-Mare, UK
  1. garryinrome{at}


Garry Summers looks at bulking out your CV with something more fun

As a junior doctor it’s not unusual to believe that you should constantly have some project on the go. Perhaps applications are looming, and you realise that you have done little to score points in the “presentations” box. Maybe it’s a consultant asking how that audit you never actually started is going. It may even be an irritatingly efficient colleague who’s scored their fourth case report of the year. Sickening. Whatever the reason, the truth is that to progress through the foundation years, core training, and specialty training we all have to produce something at some point. Audit, research, presentations, and publications are the general order of the day. But what if there was something else that, dare I say, was a little more fun?

Late last year a consultant of mine who sits on the European Resuscitation Society Council (clearly a man who completed a few audit cycles during training) approached me with a request. He was due to attend a meeting in Portugal two weeks later and had been asked to speak about the future of resuscitation—“Resuscitation in 2020” to be precise. Having decided to present some sort of film on this topic, he had the problem of finding someone to actually make the film. Why he asked me, I’m not sure. Maybe I had been overly boastful of my theatrical accomplishments and skill as a screen actor during applications (one must never forget the dreaded “accomplishments outside medicine” box); but thespian tendencies aside, I firmly denied any production or directorial talent.

But he was persuasive and eager: “How many international presentations have you got on your CV?” Hmm, good point. Since I didn’t want to let my boss down and could probably do with the CV boost, I reluctantly agreed to attempt to make something vaguely suitable.

There were specifications. It would have to be simple (the audience would be mainly non-native English speakers); it should look futuristic (it is 2020 after all); it should incorporate some genuine concepts about current resuscitation; it should be amusing; and, finally, he was keen that it should look slightly amateur. Aha! At last, something I knew I could definitely deliver. But he was taking a chance with this rookie director, because with minimal input he would present whatever I had produced regardless of content, and given the timeframe he would probably receive it only the night before his flight.

I set off worried about embarrassing my consultant in front of his peers as he presented whatever tripe I had turned out. What would I film it on? How could I edit it? And just how much tinfoil would I need to make 2020 look realistic?

But I needn’t have worried, because the whole thing was straightforward. Firstly I assembled a cast. Being a quick learner, I met resistance from peers with an eager and persuasive, “Just how many international presentations do you have on your CV?” And then, “Oh, right, that’s pretty good . . . Um, well one more won’t do any harm, will it?” A loose storyline was cobbled together and a camcorder borrowed from a friend—most useful until it ran out of battery and died mid-shoot. The talent, not impressed, started ringing their agents, but the ubiquitous iPhone rescued us and provided us with high quality footage, probably better than that from the camcorder.

The editing was the next big hurdle and perhaps the most daunting. I had no previous experience but knew that hidden in the depths of my bruised and battered MacBook there was some editing software, which turned out to be both ample and remarkably easy to use (don’t you love Apple products?). After cutting and pasting this and that, stealing some futuristic clips from Metropolis, and throwing in some not so special effects, Resuscitation 2020 was born. I was rather pleased.

Luckily my boss was happy too, as was everyone with shares in a tinfoil business. He took the film to Portugal, where it apparently went down well, and thereafter it was shown at meetings in Germany and Ireland. Back at home I presented it at a regional intensive care meeting and took home the judges’ prize. A prize? Me?

I know others have tapped into the medical movie market with success. A trust I previously worked in has an amusing deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis video, which it shows at inductions for new medical staff, while another has a film teaching staff how to take blood cultures correctly. Junior trainees who wanted to get involved in a project made both these videos. They now have a little extra meat on their CVs, and it’s something a little different.

If the thought of trudging through notes for yet another project in which you’ve feigned interest is too much to take, why not come up with an idea and grab your camera? Given its simplicity and inherent fun factor, I’m surprised that more of us haven’t done it.


  • Competing interests: None declared.

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