Watch Team CMMD’s lip dub of “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten here
What started out as a fun activity for Team CMMD team members took on a life of its own in the spring of 2015, inspiring Broad Street Run participants, our survivors, and those who continue to fight.
In the spirit of “there are no coincidences,” it’s all connected to Taylor Swift and a creative Downingtown STEM Academy then-senior Shannon McWilliams, whose mom is a survivor. Shannon produced a Lip Dub of Taylor’s “Shake It Off” featuring the entire student body. This caught Christine Meyer, M.D.’s eye.
An open call to Team CMMD on Facebook put Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” front and center. From a humble idea to a perfect production to Team CMMD member spottings on Rachel’s appearance on Good Morning America, the Lip Dub project has been nothing short of transformative for so many. According to Ann Jones (storyboard development, production coordinator) and Laura Mikowychok (storyboard development, editor/videographer), this is the first year for Team CMMD making a Lip Dub video, but hopefully not the last. They credit Christine’s vision (executive producer), Shannon’s outstanding choreography skills and Kat Homnack’s (creative consultant) brainstorming for marshalling more than 100 volunteers for 12 days of filming over the course of two months.
“Shannon teaches dance to kids; that skill came in handy choreographing for self-proclaimed uncoordinated adults,” Ann joked. “She, Laura and I came up with the steps at a creative meeting. Shannon made a tutorial video we posted online to teach everyone the steps. Before each filming we’d do a quick refresher. So many people were nervous about looking foolish, but everyone picked up the steps really quickly. And Laura’s eye for filming and editing pulled it all together; really made it something wonderful. ”
Laura was impressed with the talent that team members brought to the project. “I was amazed at how good they were when they got in a group and started moving together. Especially our Survivor Chorus, the group of women who are seen in the first refrain, wearing I FIGHT shirts. To me, their dancing is so in sync, and they move with a lot of passion. I suspect that’s because they believe the message of the song more than most. They’ve lived it.”
Laura was also impressed that so many runners and volunteers stepped outside of their comfort zone for this. “They let me get up in their faces with a camera. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable and exposed; directed and posed; portrayed in moments of weakness and strength. I’m grateful for that openness. They trusted me, a then-stranger. When I saw one of our cancer survivors crying at the video premier, I knew I had done my job. I had done her justice. That’s all I could have asked for.”
Like all things Team CMMD, this project was a labor of love. People stepped up and came out of the woodwork. One woman, Sandy A., rescued a scene by showing up on set because a friend listed in the casting call was on vacation. She didn’t think twice about filling in. Then, on the largest filming day at Kerr Park, Laura’s father saved the shoot with a huge amplifier and cables to get the song projected out onto the open field. “We would have been sunk without that, and he didn’t think twice before loading up all of his gear at 6a.m. to help,” Laura noted. “That’s the effect this team has on people.”
Some of the footage seen in the film is from unofficial “takes” that Laura captured when team members weren’t acting or staging a scene, but just running or spending time together. “Often,” Laura says, “that’s when you catch the best stuff.” One of those unplanned moments happened at a dedication run, one of Team CMMD’s signature community events and a cornerstone of their mission. At these events, families of survivors and victims see a showing of dozens of runners who pound the pavement in honor of their loved one. It is an emotional effort that Laura wanted to capture and include – but this particular morning was unique.
“That morning was a shock to the heart and the soul,” Laura remembers. “The news of [honoree] Tanya B.’s passing reached her friend Angela just moments before you see Angela breaking down in the film. My camera was on her as she gave a speech, and what you see of her crying is all I captured before I knew I had to stop filming. There are some moments too raw, too sacred, to worry about the shot. I am so grateful that Angela let us show her anguish. It is hard to watch, but it’s the only way to show how ruthless cancer is.”
In just one week, the clip garnered over 35,000 YouTube views and several hundred dollars in donations from across the nation. It grabbed the attention of ABC Studios, and on May 15 a group of 65 Team CMMD members travelled to New York City together for the taping of Good Morning America when Rachel Platten performed her national television debut of “Fight Song”. Several clips from the lip dub were shown on national TV and on the Times Square jumbo-tron as Rachel sang. The team was invited into the studio, met Rachel and several hosts of GMA (including Robin Roberts, a cancer survivor icon for many), and had a chance to give both Rachel and Robin a signature lime-green Team CMMD T-Shirt.
Rachel’s team pride also showed up a month later on her Instagram feed (@rachelplatten), when she sported her Team CMMD logo shirt for her video message announcing that “Fight Song” had reached #1 on iTunes. In June, the project seemed to come full circle back to Taylor Swift: at Taylor’s Philadelphia concert, she brought—you guessed it—Rachel Platten up on stage, and they sang—you guessed it—“Fight Song.” Several Team CMMD team members were in the audience for this performance, and felt like Rachel was singing just for them.
“The Lip Dub has gotten a lot of attention: from the open calls for filming through to our appearance on Good Morning America,” Ann Jones reflects. “And it has been fabulous to be a part of a project that’s gotten so much praise. But the best part—what gives me chills every time—is knowing that all that attention is helping to spotlight all the awesome, generous, heart-stopping, tear-jerking feats of philanthropy—big and small—our Team members accomplish every day. Helping loved ones through chemo, making care packages to help strangers, donating their money, their time, the coats on their backs, laughing, running, biking and running some more. And doing it all to honor the too many moms, dads, brothers and sisters lost to cancer, and to do whatever we can to keep that number from growing. There are more than 1,000 people on this team, each affected by cancer in a different way. And when I read a Team CMMD post, I never know if I’m going to sob like a baby or laugh ‘till I cry, but I am always moved. And inspired to fight.”
Two months from concept to completion, 12 days of filming, untold lives touched. Sounds like the start of an annual project! Although that’s not been confirmed, right now, Ann would vote for Daft Punk’s “Better, Harder, Faster, Stronger.” After all, isn’t that’s what Christine and this Team aspire to be?
Content posted by blogger Nina Malone, Laura Mikowychok (edits)
Brielle Barber, age 4 and Team CMMD member, sports Rachel Platten’s Fight Song tee. She continues the fight this Tuesday, July 14th, with an important surgery to remove part of her brain tumor. “Fight Song” and Team CMMD spirit behind you Brielle!
Team CMMD “Fight Song” Lip Dub
Christine Meyer, MD
Team CMMD Foundation
Ann R. Jones
Laura A. Mikowychok
Laura A. Mikowychok
Ann R. Jones
Christine Meyer, MD
Cancer Survivors “I FIGHT” Chorus
Team CMMD Chorus & Extras
Margaret Elaine Goss
Heidi Reese Yarnall
Team CMMD Team-in-Training
performed and written by
Columbia Records (2015)
Sony Music Entertainment
Team CMMD Foundation would like to thank the Borough of Downingtown, Kerr Park, Kardon Park, Friends of Struble Trail, Fred Madonna & Family, The Benetatos Family, Angela Myrtetus, The Meyer Family and the members of Team CMMD.