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YI Exclusive: Interview with Matthew Heineman, Director of Escape Fire

By Adrianne Burke

Got prime time plans this Sunday? Be sure to pencil in the movie Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, which will air on CNN this Sunday, March 10th at 8:00PM EST. Escape Fire brings light to the most pertinent issues with our current healthcare system, such as overmedication, the power of companies that profit from our care, and the need for prevention. We got a chance to chat with Escape Fire Director Matthew Heineman on Thursday, and here’s what he had to say.

Young Invincibles: I understand that fashion designer Donna Karan inspired you to make this movie. Tell me more about how that came to be.

Micheal Heineman: I had just spent two and half years working with HBO on The Alzheimer’s Project, and soon after finishing this I received a call from New York to meet with Donna Karan, whose husband had recently passed away due to cancer. Donna’s experience dealing with her husband’s cancer fueled her interest in health care policy, and inspired me to research the health care system. I really wanted to try to understand whether or not we could make a film on such a complex issue. After about 7 or 8 months of research, we decided to move forward and make the film.

YI: This movie was just released last fall, but has gained a lot of popularity in such a short period of time. What’s happened after Escape Fire’s debut, leading up to the broadcast on CNN this Sunday?

MH: It’s been an amazing journey. After three and half years in the trenches, we screened the movie at the SunDance Film Festival, but we didn’t stop there. We wanted to create a movement around the film, so we reached out to key stakeholders who we thought would benefit most from the film. In just one night we screened the movie at 60 medical schools and across the country. Medical students and doctors saw that not only do they need to be great at their practice, but they need to fight for a just and humane system. We also screened the movie at 152 Veterans hospitals across the nation, which has sparked new patient care incentives across the board. At our Pentagon screening, the US Army Surgeon General even expressed his support for tackling the issues discussed in the film. Those changes on the ground level are really what inspire me, and soon that will become the norm and not the exception.

YI: You made a great movie about our generation with your first project Our Time, what do you want our generation to take away from Escape Fire?

MH: There are a lot of different takeaways. We ultimately argue about why we have this “disease care system” and not a health care system. Right now 75% of healthcare costs go to treating diseases, and as a society we need to figure out how to become healthier. The movie seems to incite two types of responses from the audience: half walk away angry and upset at the system, and the other half walk away inspired to take better care of their health. I’m 29 myself, and I think most people don’t really think about health care until they get sick. Through the film we really tried to bring clarity to the system, by showing that it’s really important as young Americans to understand that the choices that we make will effect us down the line. Looking through history, things happen through youth activism, and there are a number of factors that go into that. Not many of us understand all the forces at play. We can’t wait for change to come from Washington, it’s important for us to fight for a more just and humane system now.

The movie will be broadcasted on CNN this Sunday, March 10th at 8:00PM EST. Look out for our tweets during the broadcast, and feel free to share your reaction to the film by tweeting at us using the hashtag #RescueHealthCare.

Happy viewing!