As OCF grew as an organization, building more national visibility and financial stability, we were able to get the support of famous people to help us deliver core messages to the public. Via nationally distributed TV Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) that have reached tens of millions of viewers each on literally hundreds of regional TV stations, the foundation reached out to the public at large. While an expensive endeavor, we believe that it is essential to engage the general public; delivering awareness of a disease they have heard little about, and offering them a call to get an opportunistic screening annually. Each PSA has a spokesperson that has public recognition through their celebrity which helps aid viewership, and each has a direct connection to the disease.
The back stories
Three time Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning actor Jack Klugman worked on OCF’s first effort. A survivor of the disease who for years after treatments was unable to speak or work, he was an enthusiastic collaborator; helping fine tune our script, and being willing to film in a pretty unglamorous location, an industrial garage. (Our budget was pretty limited.) With good humor on the day of the shoot he helped us move rented lights and cameras into position to simulate a backstage feel, and patiently retook shots when industrial trucks drove down the street we were on, ruining the take. OCF founder Brian Hill, wrote and directed Jack in this effort, and has candidly said that directing a Hollywood legend in his first effort was “intimidating in spades.” However Jack was generous and gracious and subsequently developed a friendship with Brian Hill. They shared many lunch’s together in Jack’s Malibu home for years until Mr. Klugman’s passing. He is dearly missed.
Tony and Emmy Award winning actress Blythe Danner has a painful connection to the disease; the loss of her beloved husband of many years writer/director/producer Bruce Paltrow. With a history of activism in environmental issues, Ms. Danner was no stranger to taking on challenging causes. Knowing how expensive it is to produce quality TV pieces such as these, Ms. Danner arranged to have the PSA shot on the set of her TV drama “Huff” in which she co-starred. The PSA, again written and directed by Brian Hill, was shot in part of the multimillion dollar “Huff” set located at Sony Studios in Los Angeles, inside a large concrete sound stage. Most who view the PSA think perhaps this is in Danner’s home, considering that you can see the outdoors in the background, but that is all Hollywood illusion. With the full crew of the TV series donating their lunch hour to provide their services as cameramen, sound mixers, grips etc., OCF was left to only pay for editing post-production work on the captured footage, and of course the expensive duplication and distribution costs. Ms. Danner has continued her activism for the cause, appearing for OCF on numerous TV talk shows such as Katie Couric and Rachel Ray as a passionate advocate for the disease. Her children, Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, and producer/director Jake Paltrow have joined her in helping the oral cancer cause, and as a family have started the Bruce Paltrow Oral Cancer Fund inside the OCF organization. This fund helps raise the capital necessary to further research, and pay for public outreach and screening. Ms. Danner’s personal friendship with Brian Hill has facilitated introductions to others inside the film industry who have subsequently assisted the foundation and the oral cancer cause in a variety of ways.
One of those connections was to Academy Award winning actor Michael Douglas who was an early and generous financial donor to the Paltrow Fund/OCF when it was first established. Several years later Mr. Douglas was diagnosed with a late stage oral/oropharyngeal cancer. His very public battle against the disease was documented in the media as he fought his way back to health. Once recovered from his treatments and back at work, Mr. Douglas graciously agreed to film a PSA for the foundation. Again OCF benefited from many personal connections and the piece was filmed in NYC while he was on camera for a documentary being produced by writer/producer/actor Mike Myers. Through the generosity of both, Mr. Douglas picked up the piece at the end of a long day in a hot shooting environment, working with a script that was completely new to him. Being the consummate professional, in a few very short takes the message was captured, and on its release to the TV media enjoyed the highest viewership of any OCF PSA; 44 million viewer impressions in 30 days. Mr. Douglas has talked about his disease experience on numerous talk shows and has been instrumental in raising American’s awareness of oral cancer. He continues to be engaged in the oral cancer issue, serving on the OCF Advisory Board.