How to Change a Life: Give to United Way of the Columbia-Willamette

For the third year in a row, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette reached out to Studio Kate to write, produce, shoot and edit their annual campaign video. Every year we do something special, and this year the kids made it rock. If you've ever wondered about the impact of your donation, this video will make it very clear: your generosity changes lives. Enjoy!

I could not produce this top quality video without my rock star crew and local Portland companies:
Director/Producer/Writer: Kate Raphael
Director of Photography: Kenny Allen
Sound: Alison Grayson
Grip/Gaffer: Travis Stanton
Production Assistant: Josh Winsor
Editor: Josh Williams/Fourpoint Media
Motion Graphics/Illustrator: Jotham Porzio/Fourpoint Media
Studio: Picture This
Soundtracks: Licensed through Marmoset Music, "Graham Oaks" by Marmoset Music & "Drivers" by Belvedear

What I Did This Summer

  Four Peaks Music Festival, Tumalo, Oregon, June 2015

I took advantage of my summer or, rather, Summer had its way with me. After the thrilling launch of the video we produced for the OHSU Foundation and the Knight Cancer Challenge, our production schedule loosened its white-knuckled grip on Studio Kate’s calendar. My home schedule also lightened up; for the first time in 21 years, this momma found herself alone. By mid-June, my husband and three kids had scattered to the winds on various adventures in Montana, Los Angeles, and Africa. Me and the dog? We stayed home. You never know what kind of trouble you'll get into -- and what kind of blessings will come your way -- when gifted three weeks alone.

Trouble came in the form of a music festival here (photo above), a camping trip there, and wanting to go see Magic Mike XXL with my sister-in-law (she said no). Another kind of trouble played out daily on the front page. One photo is permanently imprinted: two men standing knee deep in the water, backs pressed against the hull of a wooden boat, fellow migrants overflowing above their heads. Each man’s dark brown eyes looked straight at me. They looked terrified. This was the summer of the migrant crisis, and there is no end in sight. And so I seek out blessings.

My clients are a blessing. I partnered for the third year in a row with the effervescent Marcie Willms and our refreshingly progressive local United Way chapter to produce their annual fundraising campaign video. Every year, we celebrate the power of your investments in our community. We found and filmed high school graduates who are exceeding their parents’ — and their own — expectations. I’ll never forget sitting in the Picture This Productions studio listening to Petrona’s story; it was a blessing. Each child and young adult we interviewed were blessings. (The video follows this post; I hope you'll watch it and hear their voices firsthand.) 

Screenshot 2015-09-10 08.57.01.png

On July 2, facing the prospect of spending July 4th alone -- family still gone -- with a quivering, diarrhea-prone dog, I signed up for a yoga retreat at Breitenbush, led by Sarahjoy Marsh and her husband Jay Gregory. I dropped the dog off at the home of my long-suffering in-laws, and drove toward another blessing. 

On the drive out, I realized I had wanted to meet Sarahjoy for seven years, since I first heard about her work in the prisons. Sarahjoy founded a program teaching yoga to inmates. Supporting marginalized communities has always called to me, quietly and persistently. What a lovely coincidence.

By the end of the weekend, Sarahjoy and I had birthed a plan to film the DAYA Foundation’s new yoga and meditation program starting August, 2015, at an Oregon prison.  

It did not take long for me to convince Sarahjoy of my passion. As a filmmaker, I tell stories about individuals who find hope and light in the midst of darkness. Inmates are as deserving of this as each of us. If there is anything I have learned from my yoga and meditation practice, it is that we are all the same: we all seek joy, love, health, acceptance and peace. These are elusive, so thank goodness we have others to help us get there. Sarahjoy's yoga instruction for inmates is one example of such a program. I realize some believe inmates either (a) don't deserve it, or (b) are incapable of change. This may be true for some, but not all. I make films because stories about real humans -- with all of our frailties and our strengths -- is the best way I have found so far to break up the icebergs of sweeping generalizations and vaguely informed preconceptions we carry about each other. I tell stories that ask us to feel emotion and a common humanity. Finally, my work broadcasts the nonnegotiable role of the organizations and people who bring light to us when we need it the most. 

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everybody else.
— Margaret Mead

I don't know exactly when we will get to tell this particular story. We don’t yet have permission to film. I will volunteer in the meantime, supporting the yoga teachers and the students. I completed my training for new prison volunteers last Thursday. I am putting my crew together; each of us have experience filming in challenging, sensitive settings, and each of us understand the power of personal change firsthand. Members of my crew are also blessings to me, and further proof that life is much more fun when you have great partners along the way.

Perhaps you are blessed by a story that offers light? If you are engaged in an organization that offers meaningful change, I would love to hear about it. I’d be honored if you’d pass my name along. My crew and I have found and told these stories for foundations and organizations here and around the world. Each story is a blessing to us. Thank you! 

Send me your thoughts here.

Learn more about the DAYA Foundation here.

Learn more about volunteering in Oregon's prisons here.

Learn more about Breitenbush Retreat & Conference Center here.

Learn more about Mindfulness Meditation here.

History in the Making

Today, Oregon made history. Here at Studio Kate, we're doing a little dance, because we kind of love being a part of history (and we've had to keep this project a secret for so long!). Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) raised $500 million in less than two years to trigger a $500 million match by Phil and Penny Knight; that's $1 billion for research dedicated to early detection of lethal cancers, right here in Oregon. The OHSU Foundation selected Studio Kate to produce the video story celebrating the occasion, and we share their joy in the result. We are thrilled to finally be able to share the celebration with you! Take a deep breath, turn up the volume, and bask in a story that will make your day, just as it has made ours.

We dedicate this story to the members of our crew and our partners at the OHSU Foundation who have beaten cancer, and to our family and friends fighting it today. We are also forever grateful for our time working with the incredible, unstoppable, undaunted Bryce Olson and his lovely daughter (who joyfully consumed a whole lot of cereal during the shoot!); you'll soon meet them in this video. He is a role model for us all, as are all of the people fighting cancer who participated in this video. 


More than 10,000 donors joined together to meet the match. Meeting the Knights’ $500 million fundraising challenge marks the largest documented challenge pledge to succeed, according to researchers with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Executive Producer/Director Kate Raphael
Director of Photography Randy Sellars
Assistant Director Matt O'Connor
Production Coordinator Natalie Walker
Sound Brian Mazzola
Editor Slater Dixon
Composer Jessy Ribordy
Sound Design DigitalOne
Camera Operators Kenny Allen | Tom Hanson | Will Walle
Camera Utility Scott Uyeda | Gary Sadler | Steven Rogers
Stylist Melanie Clark
Production Assistants Lane Clark | Jeff Hammond | Magda Serpa | Beth Sherlock
Props/Graphic Design Sean Roney
Props/Printing Stevens Integrated Solutions
Talent Extras Only
Equipment Rental Picture This Productions




I considered giving pears as client gifts again this year. I settled on pears a few years ago because I love giving local — I order pears from Harry & David’s, based in Medford, Oregon — and pears are so, well, holidayish. But for some reason, pears feel too mundane right now. Pears won’t change the world, and it seems like, right about now, the world needs some changing.

Then I read Nicholas Kristof’s column, Gifts That Inspire (New York Times, 12/6/14). Kristof writes about ‘presents with meaning.’ He lists seven nonprofits in the United States and around the world making a positive impact. This got me thinking about an alternative to pears, but I found myself hesitating. Studio Kate is a growing business, so our gifts to clients and partners are heartfelt but modest. What can my donation really do?

Kristof read my mind: 

We want to help out, but the problems today, from gang violence in America’s inner cities to disease in India, seem so overwhelming and unrelenting that we often turn away. What possible good could one measly donation do?

The truth is that in recent years it has become clear that modest sums can help overcome disease and ease malnutrition and that innovations allow organizations to become more effective in saving lives and attacking the cycle of poverty.

Don’t…scorn a ‘drop in the bucket.’ That’s how buckets get filled, that’s how lives are changed, and that’s how opportunity is created.

There was something uncanny about his list this year: each organization listed is tackling the same, big issues our clients are tackling. Often, our clients feel alone in the fight -- the fight to bring health care to remote parts of Africa, the fight to provide quality preschool free of charge to children who have never held a book, the fight to provide innovative loans to entrepreneurs who have been shut out of the system for generations. This list, culled from Kristof's firsthand knowledge of national and international organizations, is proof you are not alone. With this gift, I want you to know we are all connected. I like to think there's a movement afoot. 

To my clients and partners: look for a card in the mail from Studio Kate. In it, I’ll explain which of the seven organizations from Kristof's list I made a donation to on your behalf, and why.

Photo by Sol Neelman

Photo by Sol Neelman

Kristof's list:

We will continue to fundraise for each of our clients through film production and distribution and through bragging about their amazing work on this site. However, right now -- in this moment in time -- I am going to redirect money spent on our gifts of appreciation from pears to people: organizations working on our same issues both nationally and internationally. I want to lift my view above the horizon, connecting -- for a moment -- all of our incredible efforts into a movement. I don't know about you, but I think it's high time for a good movement; it will take our support to get there, one drop at a time.

Watch our short video of Nicholas Kristof here.

There are so many organizations doing great work. Whose bucket are you working to fill? Why is this organization close to your heart?

NIcholas Kristof Visits Portland

Nicholas Kristof visited Portland recently to promote his book, A Path Appears, co-authored with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. He was invited to appear as the "visiting sage" for a local nonprofit that encourages people over the age of 50 to give back in support of the next generation. The nonprofit, Senior Advocates for Generational Equity (SAGE) hosted Kristof, filling the venue to capacity and providing an opportunity for him to sign and sell the book. Studio Kate partnered with SAGE on promotions, including producing this short video to celebrate the event. Kristof's message? It's incredibly simple. Watch the video by clicking on Kristof's photo above.