HISCOX FILMMAKER Q&A: 5 DOCTORS
What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Why did you want to tell this story?
The idea came from my own life experience, when I suddenly found myself in my mid-20s and still traveling an hour or so back to to the town where I grew up to visit my childhood dentist Dr. Golden, when New York City has plenty of perfectly capable dentists readily available. I had the realization that I was using this doctor relationship as an excuse to “go home” without actually going there. It also felt like there was something relatively universal there — wanting to grow up but still be cared for, wanting to be independent but still be supported. It began as a short film script, a character sneaking around his hometown and avoiding his family and friends in order to attend a series of doctor’s appointments, and then soon after I worked with my co-writers Max Azulay and Phil Primason to develop it into a feature.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
We wrote the two lead roles for the two of us to play, intentionally making each of them reflect some truths about both of us. My character, Jay, definitely exists as an aspect of my personality. Max embodies aspects of Spencer. I think the two of them represent a sort of duality that we both can relate to — on the one side, passivity and selflessness, and on the other, ambition and anxiety.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
Throughout writing and production, I think we learned more and more about how little we needed to explain to the audience. Huge revelatory lines of dialogue got cut, and replaced with silent looks and context clues. Overall, we learned how to peel away anything that wasn’t contributing and make the central storyline and relationships as strong as we could.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
One day, our cinematographer had to climb to the top of a ladder that was on top of a truck with the camera on his shoulder. That was extremely courageous.
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
Like every production, there were lots of little risks taken on our set by everyone involved. We didn’t have a lot of cushion in our budget, so every shoot day was a risk because we knew we would not be able to try it again if anything went horribly wrong. We were extremely lucky throughout that most things came together without a hitch.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
We wanted the town itself to feel warm, welcoming, and nostalgic, to highlight that Spencer was the odd one out, and all he needed to do was slow down and appreciate where he was. Our production designer Gabriella Moses did a beautiful job bringing color and personality to the interiors and exteriors of the town. We also shot most of the film handheld in an attempt to keep things feeling energized and anxious as Spencer hustles through his day.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
We tried our best to tell a non-traditionally structured story, a “road comedy” in a sense that doesn’t necessarily fall into the predicable rhythms of that kind of film. It is not for us to say whether we succeeded in this, but we hope that the film feels fresh, while still accessible.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screenwriting or film producing?
I would say that my biggest piece of advice to anyone looking to make their first feature film is that they shouldn’t wait for everything to be “perfect.” Like most things in life, there will never be a sign from up high that signifies a project is going to be a success or is worth putting years of your life into. What I’ve found is that as long as you are sincerely excited by the idea, it truly resonates with you in this moment in your life, and you have an avenue of some sort to push forward with it, just go. Making the choice to do it is half the battle, and once you do, the quality of the work and your own confidence in it will rise to meet and validate that choice.