Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher don’t see filmmaking as a choice as much as it is an incurable addiction; fitting for two directors who made a film about pharmaceutical drugs.
“Choose to make movies?” they said. “We think of filmmaking as an accident from which no amount of physical therapy or prescription drugs can help us recover from.”
Palmieri has worked at everything from cinematography and editing to directing music videos, narratives and documentaries. Mosher’s writing and photo work has primarily been conceptual documentary realm, so he two found the move into film to be pretty natural.
What it’s about: “Off Label” is a road trip through medicalized America, examining the pervasiveness of pharmaceutical drugs through the lives of eight very unique characters.
Directors Palmieri and Mosher say: “While any number of expose style films could have and should be made on this issue, our personal interest is in lives on the margin of society and the way what seems to be a social issue, such as the prescription drug industry, becomes enmeshed in the other issues of our lives such as political beliefs, personal relationships, even religious faith.”
On the challenges: “The scope of the issue was probably the biggest challenge—finding the direction of the film amidst so much compelling material really took some time. Since beginning the film, we haven’t talked to anyone who isn’t in some way touched for better and often for worse by this issue. Stories that should be heard are still coming to us on an almost daily basis.”
What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with? “The film includes a mother and son victimized by a medical scandal, a young medic who served at Abu Ghraib prison and now suffers from severe PTSD, a drug rep turned anthropologist, a woman living in a Bigfoot museum and a host of human guinea pigs. If audiences come away personally moved and disturbed by these stories, our goals as storytellers will be met. Beyond that, if the film provokes some consideration to the connections between prescription drug use, other current social issues and the personal aspects of our lives, then we have really succeeded. Because almost no one today is untouched by pharmaceutical issues, we’re also very interested in what an audience will be bringing to the film and what dialogue it will generate.”
Inspirations: “One great inspiration was not a film at all, but the work of Carl Elliot. His medical and philosophical writing swings from serious journalism to tangential pop-cultural critique in a way that was very exciting to us. Our favorite non-fiction cinema works in the same manner, so we tried to fashion a film that moved along similar lines of inquiry as Carl’s work.”
What do you hope to get out of your Tribeca experience? “Fame, money, sex and power? Oh right, we make documentaries. In that case, since Tribeca has such a large and varied audience, we are looking forward to seeing and engaging viewer reactions. You can work for years on a film, but you’ll never know exactly what kind of film you’ve made til it hits the public.”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.