Quick Decisions and a Collaborative Effort Go Into Healthcare Documentary 'Remote Area Medical'

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Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman's documentary Remote Area Medical was a carefully choreographed effort shot within a week during the three days of a free health clinic in Bristol, Tennessee. Though the filmmakers initially thought the film would focus on the volunteers, they quickly realized that the real story was about the patients who lined up for days to receive much-needed free healthcare.

"It was a debate that we would have, and particularly now, when people are mostly shooting and editing on digital, a good solution to unsolvable debates is, 'Okay, well, let’s just try it,'" Zaman tells The Moveable Fest about focusing on the patients versus volunteers. "We have these seven different crews. We can ask [them] to focus on patients as well as volunteers. A lot of times we would focus on volunteers before the patients came in, because there’s this sort of lag. Then once the patients were in, it became a logistical thing where the doctors were constantly working, so the patients would have a lot of time where we could actually get to know them before they were going in and having a procedure done. But it was more when we started hearing [the patients’] stories and getting a grasp on the fact that the people who are volunteering could go and talk to a camera — they have a platform to discuss their lives, but these people [who are patients] absolutely don’t and commented on it all the time. When we conversed with them, they would say, 'I can’t believe you’re asking me about my life or that I’ll get to talk about this.' Some people said, 'I have a lot of pride. It’s hard for me to talk, but I just keep thinking how else is anybody going to hear this kind of story?'"

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