How enthusiastic is Jeff Hays, executive producer of the much-anticipated documentary originally titled "Medical, Inc." (recently retitled "Doctored") about his soon-to-be-released documentary? According to Hays, he's more proud of this film than any other film he's done. Exciting words from the man with "On Native Soil" and "Farenhype 9/11," among other works, to his credit. With his latest documentary now in its final cuts and the curtains about to be lifted – first at the Florida Chiropractic Association's annual convention / expo a few weeks ago, then to New York and Los Angeles audiences beginning Sept. 21 – what better time to catch up with Hays in this exclusive interview with DC.
Hays shares what he learned in making the film, what he hopes the audience will learn, and his thoughts on a medically dominated health care system where "drugs and surgery first, chiropractic last" is in desperate need of a priority reversal. The goal of the film, according to Hays: "get chiropractors a seat at the table" by prompting the public to take charge of their health and consider alternatives to the traditional medical model – starting with chiropractic care.
Now that you've completed the documentary, what can you tell us about the final product, both in terms of what you've learned during the process and what you hope the viewer will learn? To start with, the final title that we're going to be releasing under is "Doctored," as in "perverted or messed with." Medical, Inc." was a great shooting title, because it's very descriptive, but the problem is that it was derivative of "Food, Inc." It's very important that this film is not considered derivative of any other film, and it's not. In fact, I think we've set a new standard in health care films.
On a personal level, what I didn't know (and what I hope we can communicate to viewers) is that chiropractors have a philosophy of health that is uniquely needed today. We have just completely given ourselves over to the drug model, to the point that it's not even questioned; it's what you do.
I always assumed chiropractors didn't prescribe drugs because they couldn't. I had no idea there might be something philosophically of value as to why they shouldn't. I was put on blood pressure medication 20 years ago and never skipped a day. It wasn't until I started this project that someone said to me, "Have you ever looked at why your body has high blood pressure?" Literally the thought had never occurred to me in 20 years. I just want to get chiropractors a seat at the table … and I think we've really done that.
What is the primary focus / theme of the documentary at this point – exposing the medical "monopoly," highlighting the dangers of drugs, emphasizing the value of chiropractic and drug-free health care, or something else? The fundamental theme is that you have to be in charge of your own health – even if you don't want to. We followed several patients, one of whom has MS. He's 54 years old, he's the healthiest-looking guy you'll ever meet, and what you learn is that if you have a chronic disease, you can have a healthy body or an unhealthy body. Just because he has MS doesn't mean he isn't going to die of a heart attack, disease, stroke or cancer. You still have to take care of yourself, and in his case, even more so.
So, once you decide you have to take care of yourself, the question becomes, OK, how do I do that? One of the players on the field [chiropractic] has been cheated, and one [allopathic medicine] has propelled itself to the top of the pile by cheating. And that's the drug-centered model of health that doesn't make anybody healthier.
That's where the story comes in – Is there a way of being healthier? Why isn't it more popular? Why don't we know more about it? It's because the deck has been stacked and people have cheated. And that's the Wilk case and everything traditional medicine has done to extinguish this branch of medicine, of health, called chiropractic.
The way it's presented in the film is to consider chiropractic first, drugs second, surgery third. What happens with most people is drugs first, surgery second and if everything fails, then I might go to the chiropractor. [We need to get] chiropractic as a consideration that, as you examine the potential damage drugs and surgery do, it's a rational thought from a conservative standpoint. Why not try chiropractic first? There's so little to lose.
Surgery in particular seems out of control. It's an invasive procedure with inherent risks, and yet surgery rates – back surgery, for example – are increasing exponentially. It's just tragic. That's one thing we're adding a little more about in the film that we didn't have enough of in the early cuts – back surgery. I'm struck by the amount of horrendous damage [that is done].
This isn't in the film, but I have a granddaughter who, at 16 months old, had never walked. She would take a few steps and then collapse. I looked at her and her feet were all turned sideways. I talked to my daughter and said she should take her to [Dr. Craig] Buhler [Hays' chiropractor and longtime DC of the NBA's Utah Jazz].
She took her to see Buhler and she started walking the next day. Her pelvis, Buhler said, "clunked" into place; it was way out of alignment. This is just one family, just one event, but do you realize if she had entered the medical model, what the next steps would have been for her? A brace, physical therapy – gosh, maybe surgery – and instead, we're talking about a $55 appointment to a doctor of chiropractic!
It's great that she got to the doctor she needed; I guess that's the bottom line: getting more people to the doctors they need, regardless of the condition. This is where I really think this film can make an impact. It's one thing for a bunch of chiropractors to congratulate one another and talk to each other about their successes, but after it's all said and done, we've got to get this country to understand that they have options, and I think that now is the first time that everybody is mentally ready to look at alternatives – not only are patients questioning medical care, but every doctor in the country is questioning medical care and the way they're being forced to practice medicine. Patients are crammed into 12-minute appointments, and you've got really good doctors that know they're not practicing medicine anymore.
Is your hope that this film can spur a change in the health care system, particularly since it seems to be on the cusp of change already? It's amazing that in this health care debate, the whole debate seems to be over who pays. That's a great debate if you're the one getting paid; imagine having this great debate over whether I'm going to be paid by insurance, the government or some combination.
But nobody's ever stopped to ask: Should we be paying these guys? And what are we buying with this money we're paying? These are the questions the public is starting to ask.
I've talked to several chiropractors who say the largest growing part of their practice is people who are retiring and losing their insurance, or losing their jobs and thus their insurance, and no longer can afford all the drugs they've been taking. They're forced to find an alternative for their prescription drugs. So, things are going to change and I think now, we can at least be a part of the conversation.
The part that's been frustrating to me as I look at chiropractic is that if you have CNN covering a health care debate, the producers walk into their office, pull out their electronic Rolodexes, and look for people to come to the studio to be interviewed or be part of the debate. And when that happens, a chiropractor will not be part of the debate. (I've been in studios where this has happened.) I don't think that's because CNN is against chiropractors; it's because chiropractors have let themselves become irrelevant in these ongoing debates. It's time for a larger number of the profession to step up, step out of the shadows and let people know they have some intelligent comments and a role to play.
So, I'm hoping that we have an impact in making the public more receptive, but also in getting the profession to say, "OK, it is now our time to step up."
What are your plans for distribution of "Doctored" within the chiropractic profession and to the consumer public? Showing it at the Florida Chiropractic Association Convention [Aug. 23-26] was to start the buzz within the profession. We premiere the film Sept. 21 in New York at the Village East theater and then our L.A. premiere is a week later in Santa Monica, on the Promenade. Also on the 28th we will open in Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin [Texas] and Detroit.
Every waking moment, everything I do, is about filling up that New York theater every showing for the first week. Every theater in the country will be watching to see if it's successful in New York; if it's successful there, we may have the film open at 100 theaters across the country the next week, from distributors who take it in at their cost and then pay us a revenue split. [For the first seven theater openings, Hays and team are renting the theaters, paying for the ads and keeping the box-office takes.]
We'll have articles in The New York Times, we'll [hopefully] have a review in the Times and the Los Angeles Times; but if we can then have a successful box office in New York and then follow it with strong box offices in those other seven cities, then we'll be a nationwide release. That's the number-one thing we can do to cross this chasm and get the film out to the public.
I've set up a Web page (linked to www.supportchiromovie.com) so people can go and pre-buy tickets for any of these early showings. Literally, that's our call to action; it's why I went to Florida; it's why I spoke at Life West; it's why the following weekend I spoke at Palmer homecoming – every conversation I have is about what do we have to do to blow the doors off the New York theater and these other theaters.
Once we've done that, then our goal is to work with chiropractors – when I chiropractor sees [the film], if they think, Wow, if everybody in this community saw this film, my business would explode – that's our goal, that's what we wanted to create. Then our goal is to sell the film in bulk at wholesale with the commitment that they get it out to the public. That's the next six months of my life: getting this out and getting it distributed widely.
In the meantime, we'll also be releasing infographics and doing a lot of social media marketing; we'll be selling it from our Web site and also on Amazon and iTunes. We have so many marketing avenues available to us now that we didn't have even five years ago; there's no reason we can't rack up several million views on this film.
I would also love to track the number of chiropractic students that are created because of this film. … I just think there are a lot of people who are going to look at this and go, Wow, I'd like to spend my life doing that. Imagine if out of several million viewers, we might be able to deliver 1,000 new chiropractic students.
There has been talk about the possibility of the film being nominated for an Academy Award. What are your thoughts? The Academy Awards qualifications are that you have to have a qualifying run in both New York and L.A., and you have to be reviewed by either The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times. So we're doing a qualifying run, we doing everything we can to make sure we're reviewed. We are hiring an Academy Award publicist (in addition to a publicist for the film) whose job it is to promote us in the industry. … We're taking it seriously enough that we're spending money on it; I just don't want to jinx it.
It's certainly the right time in health care for this type of documentary. And I think we have a lot of the chiropractic profession ready to support this. The timing is right; never before have there been this many potential promoters of a film. I literally can't think of another film in history – including "Passion of the Christ" – that had this many actively engaged potential promoters. We just have to do a film that's worthy of this effort – I think we will.
Anything else you'd like to add? I'm so glad to cap this off with you (DC) because the first interview we did was with you ["'Medical, Inc.': Exposing the Modern Medical Monopoly," Jan. 1, 2012 issue]. That was in January, and eight months later, I'm still pounding away at this. We have to deliver this baby; then we have to raise it. But this really has been one of the best years of my life.
We really have a chance to make an impact; I'm also interested to see the pushback we'll receive; that will tell us the potential impact we can have. Our job is to start a national conversation. As Dr. Sportelli [who was interviewed extensively for the documentary] suggested to me, our goal is to inform, not reform.
Visit DynamicChiropractic.com to view early footage from the documentary in our videos section. The latest footage as provided us by Jeff Hays should be added to the section soon and embedded in this article.