Dialog Box

Aged | Community | Disability | Health & Wellbeing


$86,475 Raised of

PUMPHEAD is a case study exploring the gulf that can exist between advances in medical science on one hand, and the patient experience on the other.

Our primary production budget is $480,000 (AUD).  This budget includes an allocation for a social impact program which will have an international scope, wherever open-heart surgery is performed.

Here is a link to a 2 minute introduction by Andrew Pike, talking about the project: vimeo.com/159161894 

5 years ago Andrew Pike, had open-heart surgery: “I discovered that a high proportion of open-heart surgery patients suffer distressing after-effects including panic attacks, depression, loss of confidence and, sometimes, cognitive change. This syndrome is often colloquially known as ‘pumphead’, referring to the Heart-Lung Pump".

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

We also want to reassure patients wherever they may be, that they are not alone.

Through the film, we will create an integrated web of personal stories and recurring themes:  

(a) the diverse experiences of a range of patients.

(b) self-help stories and "post-traumatic growth": we have been impressed by the drive of many patients to “do something about it”, guided only by their instincts, e.g., the merchant banker who “retired” post-surgery to become bursar at a local school, and the sports coach who re-trained to work in the delivery of mental health services. 

(c) Professional support: in terms of emotional recovery, most patients have little access to structured support, but that is starting to change. In Melbourne, pioneering work is being done by the Cardiac Well-being Clinic: as far as we know, it is the first of its kind in the world.

(d) the bigger picture: PUMPHEAD Is one example of a broad problem facing medical science. We will include the work of philosophers and policy-makers who are looking at the emotional life of patients in a range of medical fields.


How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?

We see this film as being a potential contributor to societal change. We want to achieve a broader recognition of the psychological dimension of cardiac disease and invasive cardiac surgery, and a broader range of options provided to help deal with it.

We believe that our film will help to create awareness of contingent psychological problems that need wider recognition and attention from the medical mainstream, especially among many practitioners on the front-line.

Our film will be fully independent, and will not promote specific treatments.

My experience as an observational documentary filmmaker will enable me to bring a strong “observational” aesthetic to the film that differentiates it from many films in the medical field – where “open” observational cinema is not common-place.

Aims & Objectives

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

Common as problems may be, the psychological aspect of the surgery is not often publicly discussed outside of academic research domains. Partly this may be the broad social stigma that is attached to any discussion of mental illness. However it is more: in my experience, and in the experience of others I’ve spoken with, the “Pumphead” syndrome is hard to define, hard to put into words. We know something is wrong but we don’t know what it is. At a certain level we can function “normally” but it is a strain. As one doctor said, our behaviour seems normal, but “our hearts are not in it”. People who have forms of PTSD have a similar problem, but there is more public acceptance of PTSD as a broad category of mental disturbance.

So the first goal of this film is to put the subject on the table, to help make it easier for sufferers to talk about it, and for their family members to see it in perspective. Awareness and understanding are the primary goals of the film.

Secondly, we are keen to explore the gulf that exists between current research findings and the front-line delivery of health services. We hope that our film will promote communication across this academic-practitioner divide.

Our success will be measured by the number of screenings in cinemas and through community groups, audience statistics, DVD sales, and streaming and download figures.


What is your education and outreach strategy?

The film will be distributed by the filmmaker’s own company, Ronin Films – a specialist for 43 years in documentary distribution in the education market internationally. We can be confident that the film will reach universities, public libraries and community associations in Australia and New Zealand, and in universities in North America.

As a distributor, we are also experienced in taking films out into the field and promoting community and “event” screenings with associated speakers and panel discussions. We will be aiming to facilitate dialogue at every opportunity.

For the film, we will be working with our Impact manager, Tracey Mair, on the marketing and outreach campaign. Tracey has substantial experience in distribution and in building grass roots/outreach campaigns around both features and documentaries. 

We have also developed a strong working relationship with the Australian Centre for Heart Health, a research and advocacy organisation based in Melbourne, and will be able to draw on their support for our campaign. 

We will also work to place the film for review in professional journals, and to encourage support from professional health organisations internationally.

Promoting and marketing the film world-wide will require intensive effort over a long period of time. We see this work extending indefinitely, as we learn more about the audiences for whom the film is intended.

Andrew Pike
Andrew Pike
Total budget
80 Minutes