NFF: What inspired you to create this film? Have you or anyone close to you struggled with health issues and/or health care?
MATTHEW: After an initial conversation with Donna Karan and Doug Scott, our Executive Producer, on the subject of our broken healthcare system, we spent six months researching the topic to try to figure out whether it was possible to take on such a huge topic. In our research we kept hearing from a wide range of sources that we had a disease-care system, not a healthcare system. How did this perverse system come to be? How could we find our way out of this mess? These questions were at the root of why we made the film and we began finding characters/storylines that helped illustrate these ideas.
Healthcare is an issue that affects all of us, but it’s so misunderstood. Everyone knows what it’s like to get sick and put your trust in your healthcare provider’s hands. But most of us don’t think about our health unless we’re in the hospital or visiting the doctor. We wanted to show that we can empower ourselves to be healthier, as individuals and as a country, even before we get sick. We all have a stake in the health of our nation because we all pay for it. We felt like this was a subject that would hit home for every American, so we made it our goal to reach as wide an audience as possible.
NFF: What can the average American do to influence policy or help change the system?
MATTHEW: Our goal with Escape Fire is to provoke a paradigm shift in how our country views health and healing. We hope audiences will come away with a clearer understanding of how and why our system is broken, the barriers to change, and potential solutions, or “escape fires,” that could help fix our system. We hope people – upset by the perverse nature of American medicine – will be empowered to help push for societal change and recognize the “escape fires” around us. We also hope people will walk away inspired to take better control of their personal health, realizing that in many cases they have the power to heal.
NFF: What did you learn after making the film that you didn't know previously?
MATTHEW: In finding subjects for the film, we tried to identify a disparate cast of experts who would look at the healthcare issue through their own unique lenses. So it surprised us, once we started asking our questions, that they all seemed to agree with each other. We’ve screened the film for all these experts, and they’re surprised that they agree with each other, too, no matter which side of the political aisle they’re on or what their job title is. It’s promising that everyone we talked to sees many of the same flaws in the system and believes that there are attainable solutions. But of course it’s also frustrating that with so many important leaders on the same side of the fence, we’re still struggling to reform the system.
NFF: Did your opinion of our health care system change after making the film?
MATTHEW: Yes, of course it changed. Going into the film, Susan and I didn’t know much more than the average person about healthcare. After spending 6-8 months researching the topic and then another 2 years in production/post-production, we definitely changed and evolved in our thinking and had a much greater understanding of how and why our broken system came to be. We have a chapter in our film titled, “Good People, Bad System.” It became quite clear to us that—whether you were a hospital exec or a primary care physician—you don’t go into medicine to hurt people. But we’ve set up a system that profits off of sick people, that profits off disease. Essentially, good people operating in a perverse system that rewards quantity, not quality.
NFF: Do you feel your own behaviors or patterns have changed or shifted after making the film?
MATTHEW: I have always tried to live a healthy lifestyle and this film further inspired me to keep up these habits. But it also made me acutely aware of the amount of overtreatment that occurs in the US. Almost 1/3 of healthcare costs actually don’t improve health. A lot of this is waste or inefficiency, but a lot of it is unnecessary treatments, procedures, or tests. So now I definitely look at every interaction with a doctor through this lens.
NFF: Are you working on another project that you'd like to share?
MATTHEW: At this point, I have a few projects that I’m interested in pursuing. But with our upcoming theatrical release in the fall, I’m dedicating myself to Escape Fire through the end of 2012. Besides the traditional routes of distribution, we are hoping to get the film into medical schools, hospitals, community health centers, and on Capitol Hill while also creating an extensive outreach campaign to provoke audiences to take action.
To learn more about Escape Fire, visit the official website and catch the film at NFF17 at 11:00am on Saturday, June 23rd!