When ACEP Now last spoke with emergency physician and documentary filmmaker Ryan McGarry, MD, his film, Code Black, which chronicled life in the emergency department at University of Southern California Los Angeles County General Hospital, was receiving high praise on the documentary film circuit. Now, a year later, Code Black has made the jump from silver screen to television screens worldwide. CBS is currently airing a fictional drama series based on Dr. McGarry’s documentary Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 34 – No 11 – November 2015
Dr. McGarry recently spoke with ACEP Now Medical Editor-in-Chief Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, about the process of bringing Code Black to TV and the show’s commitment to an honest and accurate portrayal of emergency medicine. Here are some highlights from their conversation.
KK: You’ve had some great developments, and it sounds like all that you wanted to happen really is beginning to happen.
RM: Code Black the documentary has now been made into a fictional drama series in primetime on CBS television and will be broadcast in about 60 countries worldwide. Early on, I had shot the documentary using some techniques that are usually reserved for fiction projects, and I hoped that we could turn this into something that could reach many more people, just as ER did some 20 years ago.
KK: It is amazing. I’m so excited for you. This has to go far beyond your expectations.
RM: It’s not a stretch to say that lightning has struck twice. The documentary in its own right was truly a series of miracles. Doing a film during residency comes with challenges. To have the film be viewable, let alone award-winning, is one miracle. The second deals with this incredibly rare conversion from a documentary to network television. Veteran writers and veteran producers go to bat and pitch ideas every year. Each network hears about 1,000 pitches. From the 1,000, they buy about 100 to make into scripts, and from that short list, they green-light about 10 of those to actual pilot production. The script gets made into an episode. We came in as a 1 in 1,000 pitch and with odds of 2 to 3 per 1,000 are actually going to make it on the air. I really think it is fairly accurate to say that lightning has struck twice here.