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Year: 2020

Classification: G

Produced In: Australia

Directed By: Andrew Pike

Produced By: Andrew Pike

Language: English

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CURRENTLY IN POST-PRODUCTION (completion early 2020)

THE PUMPHEAD PROJECT is a body of original work encompassing the production of a feature-length documentary for festivals, cinemas and community screenings world-wide, plus a collection of 4 or 5 short films intended to be discussion-starters in a range of professional and community seminars and workshops and other contexts.



Tax-deductible donations may be made via the website of the Documentary Australia Foundation:


THE PUMPHEAD PROJECT explores the gulf that can exist between advances in medical science on one hand, and patient experiences on the other. The case study examined in the film is the post-operative adjustment of patients who undergo cardiac surgery: emotional and psychological support are not yet widely manifest in the front-line delivery of medical services in the cardiac field, but our film, we intend, will be a stimulus for change.

The project is currently seeking support and donations.

Tax-deductible donations of any size are welcome and will help in practical ways to take the Project forward.

Donations may be made via the website of the Documentary Australia Foundation:


Here is a link to a 2 minute trailer about the project:


Outline of the project:

PUMPHEAD explores the diversity of patient experiences on following major cardiac surgery, and focusses especially on the psychological phenomenon of post-traumatic growth.

PUMPHEAD is a film about experiences and ideas. Our aim is to promote empathetic understanding and awareness, and to stimulate action on the part of patients, academic researchers and medical professionals. Emotional and psychological support are not yet widely manifest in the front-line delivery of medical services in the cardiac field, but our film, we intend, will be a stimulus for change.

We also want to reassure patients wherever they may be, and their families and friends, that they are not alone. Psychological problems that they may be facing are not the result of their own failings, and we want to recount patient experiences that will encourage hope for future adjustment.

The structure:

Through the film, we will create a complex web of personal stories and recurring themes:

(a) the patient experience: we will enter into the world of the patient to evoke their experience and to encourage empathy in the audience.

(b) self-help stories and the phenomenon of "post-traumatic growth": we have been consistently surprised by the drive of many patients to "do something about it" themselves, guided only by their own instincts. We will capture stories like the merchant banker who "retired" post-surgery to become bursar at a local school, or the sports coach who re-trained to work in the delivery of mental health services. Andrew Pike's own story, undertaking this film, will be part of this theme.

(c) professional support: in terms of emotional recovery, most cardiac patients have access to little structured support from the medical profession, but that is starting to change, and this process of change will parallel the personal stories. In Melbourne, pioneering work is being done by the Australian Centre for Heart Health which is campaigning to open a clinic to specialise in the psychological dimension of cardiac health: astonishingly, it will be the first such clinic in the world to offer one-on-one counselling on this specific issue, and when it comes into being, we will be documenting its launch.

(d) the "translation gap": academic research is extensive but there is little translation of that study into the front-line delivery of medical services. Again we will observe the Melbourne clinic in its delivery of "professional development" services to help medical professionals understand the emotional experiences of their patients.

(e) the bigger picture: we see PUMPHEAD as a case study of a broad problem facing medical science. Scientists are at their best dealing with the physical, and more training is required to help them deal with the intangible ... like emotions. We will therefore include the work of science philosophers and medical policy-makers who are engaged in debate about the emotional life of patients in a broad range of medical fields.

  • 'Postperfusion syndrome, also known as "pumphead", is a constellation of neurocognitive impairments attributed to cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) during cardiac surgery ...' - Wikipedia


The Impact Campaign

THE PUMPHEAD PROJECT will be at the centre of a major social impact campaign to create awareness and to change attitudes around the gap between modern "medical miracles" and psychological side-effects. The impact campaign has three distinct goals:

1. to create awareness, both within the professional health services sector and in the wider community, of the psychological dimension of cardiac disease and cardiac surgery. The impact campaign will encourage professionals in the medical mainstream to acknowledge and engage with the emotional experiences of their patients in this field. The campaign will promote the need for higher levels of appropriate psychological counselling services as a routine component of cardiac rehabilitation programs.

2. to support and energise public debate about the disconnect between "medical miracles" generally and patient experiences: The goal is to create awareness about the fact that radical surgeries and radical chemotherapies can have a significant traumatising effect, including ongoing negative impact on the psychological health of some patients.

3. to support and energise debate about the disconnect between academic research and the front-line delivery of health services in the cardiac field: The goal is to promote the effective 'translation' of the large body of research into the psychological side-effects of "medical miracles", such as cardiac surgery, and apply it practically in front-line clinical services.

In all three goals, we will focus initially on outcomes within Australia, but the longer term strategy of THE PUMPHEAD PROJECT is to extend the social impact campaign internationally.

The goals will be achieved through a range of strategies:

1. Film screenings, followed by discussion panels will be organised across metropolitan and regional Australia. Targeted audiences will be medical professionals at all levels, including practice managers, medical students and those involved in medical training, as well as patients and the general public. In addition to public screenings, the film will be made available via DVD and streaming files to a wide range of health professionals and health websites managed by government departments and agencies, and also health associations, both professional and community-based.

2. Television: our public screening schedule will be followed by television broadcast on free to air and/or pay television, both within Australia and internationally.

3. Intensive media coverage, both in mainstream media and in social media, will accompany screening of the film in cinemas and on television. We will secure feature articles and in-depth live discussions on radio, television and on-line. Ronin Films and Tracey Mair Publicity are long experienced in this work and have a wealth of connections with national media. THE PUMPHEAD PROJECT will benefit from the existing high levels of good-will and personal support for the filmmakers.

4. Educational outreach in Australia and New Zealand: Ronin has over 40 years of experience in the education market in Australia and New Zealand and will actively promote the film to educational institutions (with a focus on medical faculties) and to community associations through its wide network of contacts, using DVD (with a wealth of "extras" to enhance the value of the main film), and a variety of streaming and download platforms. Ronin's relationship with tertiary-level educational institutions is particular strong.

5. Educational outreach in North America: through a colleague distributor, Kanopy, we will gain optimum reach into North American universities, especially medical schools and community health and well-being studies, using DVDs, streaming and download platforms, and a campaign to promote on-campus screenings with panel discussions.

6. Other voices: in all of the above media coverage and panel discussions we will encourage a diverse range of voices to be heard, not limited to the filmmakers, but extending across a range of academics engaged in relevant work, and, most importantly, of patients.

7. Networking/lobbying: we will develop links with organisations and individuals as widely as possible to support our goals. Our film will not promote particular analyses or treatments, and will carefully nurture its independence. In this way, we intend that we can maximise the circulation of our ideas. We will, however, seek to establish and develop working relationships with a wide range of professional agencies to achieve our impact outcomes.

8. Training: THE PUMPHEAD PROJECT will work with expert providers in the field, such as the Australian Centre for Heart Health, to develop training materials for professional development courses and university medical faculties, targeting cardiac professionals, practice managers, psychologists and counsellors. We will help to develop and deliver appropriate literature/pamphlets to be placed in surgeries and hospitals providing relevant information for patients.


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