About Our Films

Little One Productions: Media with Meaning

Our Mission: Little One Productions Inc. strives to create documentary films rich in compassion and a healthy dose of humor – films that look at what joins us together rather than what divides us. We look for the poetry and meaning tucked into challenging circumstances, and helps our subjects discover their own sense of meaning.

Light Years (2019)

Three people who show us that we’re always writing our story. And they all happen to be over 75.

Light Years Homepage

light years

A Chance to Grow (2000: Discovery Channel, National Geographic Television, CINE Golden Eagle)

Stories of grace and courage in a newborn intensive care unit.

Scroll down to watch clips & read about the film
a chance to grow

Liberty Street (2001; not in distribution)

Documentary short about a family whose front yard would come to be known as Ground Zero

liberty street

A Chance to Grow

Within the unique world of a neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, premature and critically-ill newborns receive high-tech care that allows medical professionals to work miracles on these new, fragile lives.

A Chance to Grow, a one-hour documentary directed by neonatal nurse Claire Marie Panke, follows three families though their experiences in the NICU. This award-winning film is a powerful tool to help professionals, parents, and family/friends understand the world of the NICU, and gain meaning from their experiences there.

Scroll down to read the family stories, see clips, and hear from the NICU staff.

Contact us for purchase/screening information. As seen on:


a chance to grow

About the Film

Documentary, video (2000) 52:32

A Chance to Grow follows three families on an intimate journey as they navigate the unpredictable terrain of a neonatal intensive care unit. The inevitable shifts in each baby's condition provide dramatic twists that challenge family stability and redefine parental love.

The NICU environment has a profound effect on professionals as well as parents. Throughout the film, staff members reveal the challenges and rewards of working in the NICU, as well as complex ethical issues such as multiple births and the borders of survival outside the womb.

As the stories in A Chance to Grow unfold, they reveal not only the impact of newborn intensive care on families, but the capacity of ordinary individuals to adapt to crises with extraordinary grace and courage.


Director's Notes

There’s a steady current of life-affirming energy that runs through a neonatal intensive care unit. As a neonatal nurse, I have felt this energy transcending the beeps and buzzes and fluorescent lights, its source found among the families we encounter, and the little ones themselves, who respond with a primal sense, an instinctual clinging to life.

Having a medically fragile newborn is a life-altering event, one which profoundly affects parents’ lives long after the hospital sta. I wanted to make a film that allows families’ voices to be heard, to focus on the human side of health care rather than the rising tide of technology.

The NICU is truly an equal opportunity employer, an unexpected detour for a host of families: black, white, Asian, and Latino, straight and gay, wealthy and welfare-dependent. Here up to 12% of all newborns spend their first days, weeks, or months. Advances in neonatal medicine have dramatically improved survival rates, with babies born as early as five and a half months gestation able to survive outside the womb.
(continued below)

In addition to the difficult ethical issues inherent to the NICU, I wanted to emphasize the positive aspects: the close relationships that form there, the profound impact this environment can have on professionals, the healing power of touch, and how the NICU experience can transform parental love into its purest, most elemental form.

The film was shot at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. I not only had unique access to these stories, but the parents knew me as a partner in their children’s care, establishing a foundation of trust that allowed for intimate, candid responses. Throughout the process, I tried to help each parent unravel their own sense of meaning as they shared their experiences via the camera.
Read about the families' stories below...

fran with baby wide

Zachary’s Story

When we first met Keesha she had been placed on strict bed rest after her water broke 25 weeks into her pregnancy, just under six months gestation. When we interviewed her a few days later, she expressed many fears and concerns, knowing her baby would be premature and that she would be handling this as a single mother.

At 4:30 the next morning, a mere six hours after we left her room, Keesha called me - in labor. I ran to the hospital, just in time to catch the birth of Zachary, weighing in at just over 2 pounds.

The film follows a transformation in both Keesha and Zachary.  Keesha and Zachary appeared with me on the Montel Williams Show in May 2003. Zachary is now a college graduate pursuing his interest in law.

SEE CLIP: Keesha on having a premature baby

Play Video

Jake's Story

Finding yourself in the NICU can be especially shocking following a full-term pregnancy. John & Kathy’s son Jake was supposed to be born at a low-tech maternity center. But after 24 hours there, they opted to go to a hospital. Forty-five minutes later, Jake was born with a previously undetected birth defect, and was in the operating room two hours later.

I was among several of Jake’s nurses in the NICU, and had the privilege of placing him in his parents’ arms for the first time. John & Kathy documented Jake’s two and a half month NICU stay on home video, and A Chance to Grow incorporates some of this footage.

When he reached school age, Jake faced learning difficulties and sensory-integration problems, issues for which his parents struggled to gain recognition in the educational system. Jake is now a young adult, and I'm a big fan of his pitch-perfect singing voice.

SEE CLIP: Kathy on how the NICU changed her life

Play Video

Rami's Story

Rami was born nine weeks early, and his tiny, fragile appearance at birth resulted not only from prematurity but a condition that hindered his growth in the womb.  Born by emergency C-section, Rami continued his development within the high-tech NICU, and his parents Ellery and Michelle remained at his bedside most of the time.

One day, Rami’s nurse noticed that he had grown listless and was breathing rapidly.  Rami had developed a serious, life-threatening intestinal infection.

The film includes follow up footage of the other two children, but Rami was just turning one year old as the film was being completed, so any residual effects were just beginning to emerge. Rami received physical therapy as well as great parenting from Ellery and Michelle, and is thriving today (and is very, very smart and a talented pianist).

SEE CLIP: Ellery on being a father in the NICU

Play Video

The NICU Staff

SEE CLIP: Nurse Fran on diverse families in the NICU

Play Video

SEE CLIP: Nurse Marianne on forming bonds with the babies

Play Video

Purchase & Rental Info

A Chance to Grow is well-suited for both professional and private viewing, including parent support groups, individuals, hospitals, medical & nursing education, and other educators.

To facilitate discussion of the issues explored in the film, the director can possibly attend screenings, as available. See below for individual sales & screenings.


For Educational / Institutional screenings, A Chance to Grow is available for purchase/rental through our educational distributor, Icarus Films.

Icarus Films
(718) 488-8900

link for A Chance to Grow at Icarus


Screenings & Press Coverage


Discovery Channel (2000)
Other broadcasts: National Geographic International, Prime TV New Zealand, Kanal 5 Sweden, ATV Asia Television Hong Kong, Satellite Studios Middle East

DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival, DocSide Film Festival, Ojai Film Festival

Radio: Featured on Satellite Sisters NPR Radio Program(shows #124, #209)
Television: Featured on The Montel Williams Show, 5/12/03

Selected Screenings:
St. Vincent’s Hospital, NY, NY, Pediatric Grand Rounds April 2000
Ethics and Nursing Conference, New York University April 2000
George Washington University, Washington, DC Feb.2001
NYC Department of Health, Maternal-Child Health April2001
Preemie-L Parent Support Conference August 2001
Drew University, Caspersen School of Graduate Studies Nov. 2002


The New York Times Magazine (9/14/97) Sunday Section: “Movies: Choose Me,” p. 39.
The New York Times (3/25/98) Scott, Janny. Arts: “Filmmakers’ Off-Screen Drama.” p. E1.
Nursing Spectrum (8/10/98) Bingham, Ray. “A Chance to Film.” p. 12.
IndieWire (3/15/99) “A Chance to Grow Nabs Dean Grant.” (on-line resource for filmmakers).
Catholic New York (4/8/99) Caulfield, Brian. Catholic New Yorkers: “A Chance to Grow: Nurse of babies born sick captures heartbreak and joy in documentary film.” p. 40.
Nursing Spectrum (1/24/00)Edwards, Marjorie.“Nursing on the Set in the Entertainment Industry.”p.14.
Real Screen (3/00) Non-fiction to go: “Little Miracles.” p. 18.
The Herald-Sun (3/31/00) Cusic, Claire. “The DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival.” p. D12.
Markee (7/00) Halpern, Leslie. Indies: “A Chance to Grow.” p. 66.
Recess (3/31/00) Millington, Rim. “Passage.” p. 6.
Winston-Salem Journal (4/2/00) Burger, Mark. Arts: “Reel to Reel.” p. E1.
WebRN National News Center (7/27/00) Barrett, Liz. Top Story: “Nurse Makes the Case for Budget Cut Repeal in Hospital Coalition Ad. (national on-line resource for nurses).
The Los Angeles Times (9/22/00) Mehren, Elizabeth. Southern California Living: “From Tragedy
Comes a Special Friendship.” (cover story) p. E1.
The Scarsdale Inquirer (9/22/00) Nechamkin, Ilene. “SHS Grad’s Documentary to Air on
Discovery Channel.” p. 3.
The New York Post (9/27/00) Konig, Susan. “They Gave Children a Chance to Grow.” p. 52.
Catholic New York (9/28/00) Caulfield, Brian. “Little Ones: Nurse-filmmaker’s documentary on
pre-term babies to air nationally.” p. 24.
IndieLink (9-10/00) Members on the Screen. p. 4.
The New York Times (10/5/00) Bohlen, Celestine. Arts: “A Film About Saving Life Is Suddenly
Shadowed By Death.” p. E1.
The Catholic Standard (10/5/00) Boyle, Maureen. “Documentary to be aired tells of infants’
struggles for life.” p. 120.
Entertainment Weekly (10/6/00) What to Watch, p. 74.
TV Guide (10/7/00) Susan Stewart’s Hits & Misses (notable programs), score (0-10): 7, p. 49.
The San Antonio Current (10/19/00) Burns, Nick. Artspace: “Truth at 24 FPS.” #545, p. 18.
The San Antonio Current (10/26/00) Burns, Nick. Artspace: “Any Which Way They Can.” # 546,
The New York Post (10/29/00) Greene, Leonard. “TV-ad nurse pleads against cuts.” p. 4.
AWHONN Lifelines (11/00) Bingham, Ray. Letters to the Editor: “A NICU Documentary.” Vol.4,
Washington Metro Assoc. of Nurses Newsletter (11/00) Bingham, Ray. “A Chance to Film.” p. 4.
Central Lines (10-11/00) Bingham, Ray. “A Chance to Grow: An NICU Documentary.” 16(4),
The Villager (11/00) Asseraf, Muriel. “St. Vincent’s nurse documents premature baby
Modern Healthcare (11/20/00) “Double Duty.” p. 40.
Satellite Sisters (12/2/00) Featured guest on NPR Radio program broadcast nationally, #124/209.
American Journal of Nursing (1/01) Santandrea, Lisa. Nurses Making a Difference: “Nursing
Comes to Light: A Tragedy and a film, both astonishing, illuminate our everyday heroes.”
101(1), p. 87.
Georgetown Magazine (Spring 2001) Gibbs, Hope. “Documenting Life.” p. 6-7.
Women’s Day Magazine (8/7/01) Kleinman, Susan. “How to Finance Your Dreams.” p.63.
NurseZone.com (8/01) Feature segment.
Horizons Magazine (Fall/Winter 2001) “Nurse Turns Filmmaker for Documentary on NICU.” p.9.
National Perinatal Association Bulletin (Summer 2001) “A Chance to Grow.” 2(3), p. 11.
The Montel Williams Show Guest, clips of A Chance to Grow, May 2003.
Sirius Satellite Radio Guest on “Speak Now” October 2007.