Shanna Tyndall Nussbaum
Q: What did you like about 14 HOURS?
A: The idea of 14 HOURS started for us when a colleague brought me an article that was written about this disaster, and I suggested we talk to some of the nurses and doctors and see what happened. What we discovered from the very beginning, and what appealed to me even then, was that these real nurses and doctors really were unified by this experience. They all told the same story, they all really touted each other and it was a story about teamwork and community. They don't look at themselves as heroes. Here are these quiet, unsung heroes who popped up and took initiative and saved these patients. That's what sparked me from the very beginning. As we got into it, it really was about loss of technology and what happens in a situation when you lose those everyday things that we so depend on, such as, in this case, the tiny machine that dispenses medication or the ventilators. These nurses and doctors, especially the nurses, had to go back to their basic training. It became a story about human compassion and human sacrifice and the kindness of other people.
Q: What do you think is most appealing about this movie?
A: What appealed to me as we got into the story further and further was not only the sense of the hospital and what they were doing, but also the community. Here are these Boy Scouts lighting the stairwells by pushing the lights. And here are these volunteers carrying patients who are critically ill down these stairs. That sense of community that came about during this disaster was amazing. And there were subtleties, such as, the wheelchair woman who wanted to be the last person out of the hospital. That's a true story. Other people's amazing stories started to come out of this.
Q: Some people might characterize this movie as a disaster movie. What is 14 HOURS about?
A: I hope people don't look at this just as a disaster movie, because it's more of a movie about character, devotion to your work and feeling compassion. The disaster is the backdrop, but these human stories and these human interests are much more powerful than the disaster.
Q: Do you think that because this is based on a true story, it heightens the drama?
A: I think so. Whenever people talk about this movie and say, "Oh, it's a true story," it really heightens the interest. I also became attached to the nurses, doctors, technicians and the administration that were there that day. I feel a special loyalty to all of those people because I want to make sure that the essence of this story and the things that they've told us really stay true.
Q: Tell me about the casting for the movie.
A: We have great actors, and each of them was chosen because they brought something unique to this. Jeanette, our JoBeth Williams character, was this woman who was a veteran at her job, who really was compassionate and who really had heart. JoBeth Williams is that person. She has such compassion and such energy and such heart.
Rick Schroder is a little bit of an "unsung" hero who ultimately learns how to have empathy and how to rely on the team around him. He's young and he's handsome and he's had everything, but at the core, he's this really nice, gentle soul.
Kris Kristofferson is a rough-Texan, take-charge, kind of guy. He's a commanding, energetic man. We looked for people who had those innate traits within them. Kris Kristofferson's character, Whortle, never meets Jeanette in our script, so it was a puzzle that we were placing together. Here was the hospital, here were the patients, here were the patients and doctors, here was the community and here were the people who worked for the city of Houston. It was all putting a puzzle together. I think we have a great tapestry.
Q: Complete this sentence: "The drama of 14 HOURS comes from. . ."
A: The drama of 14 HOURS comes from these ordinary people who are put in extraordinary situations. After those 14 hours of our movie, they accomplished exactly what they set out to do. And, in the process of doing it, they saved 575 lives.
Q: What would you like audiences to take away from watching this movie?
A: I want them to think about two things: Think about our technology and what happens when it does go down, because some day maybe it will and you need to be prepared. Think about what you would do in this situation. Remember human compassion and kindness and that we need to show it a little more often, especially, in today's world.
Q: Would you like people to come out of this with a new appreciation of doctors and nurses?
A: I want people to realize we're all people, all singular individuals. We all have a life and a story. These nurses and doctors have heart and compassion.
Q: What were the dimensions of this disaster?
A: The storm really did devastate Houston. All of the underground tunnels and downtown had flooded, and a lot of places lost power. There was a lot of devastation in the communities, all of which you'll see in the movie. There were huge amounts of rainfall. And don't forget: This wasn't one storm, Tropical Storm Allison left and then came back to hit a second time.
Q: Tell me about shooting the water scenes. How did that work?
A: We re-created the Memorial Hermann basement where all the generators were that failed after they had lost power. The hospital had to make a decision to shut down the power because the generators were going to fail. They were hoping, if they shut down, they would be able to get it back online in a few hours, which never happened. Once these generators were shut down and the water had come in, there was no saving them. So we will be re-creating all of that, along with the blood lab that was also located in the basement that was flooded.
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