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LENOX HILL: Q&A w/ Netflix Documentary Series Filmmakers + Overview + Meet The Docs

Maj Canton - June 9, 2020





On Wednesday, June 10, 2020 Netflix premiered the outstanding eight-episode documentary series, LENOX HILL. An intimate look at the lives of four doctors -- neurosurgeons David Langer & John Boockvar; Chief Resident OBGYN Amanda Little-Richardson; and emergency room physician Dr. Mirtha Macri -- as they navigate the highs and lows of working at the renowned Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. With extraordinary access and an unflinching eye, the series shows each physician's struggle to balance their personal and professional lives, and delves into each patient's personal journey. From birth to brain surgery, each case offers a rare inside look at the complex, fascinating, and emotional world of medicine. Directed and produced by Adi Barash and Ruthie Shatz. You'll laugh, you'll cry and fall in love… this exceptionally moving series is a MUST BINGE!


Two weeks later -- Wednesday, June 24 -- Netflix will debut a ninth, special episode of LENOX HILL, which follows the doctors through their high stakes, emotional journey as they band together with extreme resilience to save the critically ill while the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down New York City. The episode follows their lives in and out of the hospital, highlighting the daily sacrifices they made to provide care on the frontlines.  


From Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash, EPs and Directors of LENOX HILL“We had the privilege of getting to know these doctors when filming this series and we felt a deep responsibility to continue to share their stories as they navigated this unprecedented and life-changing situation. With this special episode, we wanted people to see the impact this pandemic had, and is still having, on our hospitals and healthcare workers through the eyes of people on the frontlines.”






David Langer, MD, Chair, Neurosurgery
(Twitter: @drdavidlanger)

David started the neurosurgery department in 2013 at Lenox Hill and struggles more with the administrative duties and politics of being the head of a department than his work as a doctor. He's following in the footsteps of his cardiologist father, who suffered a life-altering stroke at age 45 and subsequently died a few years later.

"Healthcare has suddenly taken a new role in our daily lives in a way that I haven't seen in my lifetime, and I look forward to having the world see healthcare from our unique perspective -- one full of sacrifices, all made in the hope that we can make the world better for others. LENOX HILL will hopefully become a tribute not only to the lives and times of healthcare workers, their patients, and their families, but also to the resiliency and uniqueness of New York City.

John Boockvar, MD, Vice Chair, Neurosurgery
(Twitter: @johnboockvar)

John left a prestigious post to help start the neurosurgery department at Lenox Hill Hospital. Outgoing, charming, and a father of four, John juggles a busy family life with his grueling work responsibilities.

"LENOX HILL is the first show I've seen that truly captures the relationship between patients and providers, as well as providers and our families. This show tells real-life stories, there's no acting. It cuts deep into the emotional psyche of what it means to be a doctor, someone on the frontlines of healthcare -- and this show could not come at a more important time."

Mirtha Macri, DO, Emergency Medicine

Down to earth, relatable, and warm, Mirtha is inspired by working the front lines of emergency medicine, treating all walks of life equally and urgently. Currently pregnant, Mirtha reluctantly prepares for maternity leave as she's anxious about leaving the hospital behind.

"This series delves into not only the patient-doctor relationship, but also explores the personal lives of physicians. I feel that what happens in our personal lives -- how we live life and experience things outside of medicine -- greatly impacts our work. Hopefully by portraying not only the challenges and hardships faced by patients, the series can highlight how physicians advocate for their patients in a way that promotes mutual trust."

Amanda Little–Richardson, MD, Chief Resident, Obstetrics and Gynecology

Amanda's residency is at Lenox Hill and she's preparing to move to California for her husband's job once it's completed. Amanda comes from a military family, and both of her parents have a background in nursing. She wants to help and give attention to traditionally underserved communities -- largely women and minorities.

"This series humanizes physicians and allows people to see the hard work, dedication, passion and sacrifice we give to our jobs -- not for money, but because we genuinely want to help people. As physicians, we recognize the leap of faith our patients take by allowing us to provide care. We respect our patients, and see them as individuals deserving of respect and excellent care.."


(Courtesy of Netflix)

Adi Barash (left) and Ruthie Shatz (right)

Question: You two are long-time collaborators both on and off screen. You've worked on multiple projects together over the past 19 years, and you're also married. Talk a bit about how you balance your partnership.

Ruthie Shatz: We met in Israel, at film school. Adi asked me to edit his graduation film. Originally, we both tended toward fiction projects. We never imagined we'd end up making documentaries. But after we'd been dating for a few months, we started working on a film together about a diamond mining ship off the coast of Namibia. And that turned into our first feature documentary film, DIAMONDS AND RUST.

Adi Barash: Ruthie and I have very little ego in our mutual work, and we quickly learned what our strengths are, both as a team and as individuals, on that first film. We produce together, and we both direct, and I am the director of photography and Ruthie is the editor. That workflow gives us an advantage.

Surgery during 3rd episode of LENOX HILL.

Question: You've made medical docu-series before -- most notably the Israeli series ICHILOV and AMBULANCE. How did the idea for LENOX HILL begin?

Shatz: Our involvement in the medical arena began in 2009 with a fiction idea that we started working on after a personal medical experience we went through. When I was pregnant, I had to stay at the hospital on bed rest. At the same time, my mom, who had cancer, was staying in the same hospital. She was dying and I was going to have a baby, and we were both at the same hospital. Adi and I recognized how ironic and insane that contrast was. That was the basis for ICHILOV, which got us very involved in the medical world and interested in the mindset of doctors. Once we were involved in the medical arena it was clear that there was still so much to say and further explore, and that's when we decided to make LENOX HILL.

Dr. Amanda Little-Richardson (far left)

Question: Is that contrast a theme you wanted to revisit in LENOX HILL?

Shatz: Yes, we wanted to emphasize that same theme that originally inspired us: the tension between life and death, and the fragility in between. We knew that Dr. Mirtha Macri was pregnant, and that casting choice was intentional. But when we first met Dr. Amanda Little-Richardson, she wasn't pregnant. We totally fell in love with her and we knew she was going to be an incredible, unique, authentic character in the series. Very early on in the filming process, she realized she was pregnant, to our amazement. And also John's story -- he lost his dad to cancer and he's now a cancer researcher and neurosurgeon who is on a constant mission to find a cure while dealing with loss and death very often. It was serendipitous.

Barash: We wanted to document doctors who are not afraid to say what's on their mind and how they feel without sugarcoating. We wanted to capture both their strength and fragility. It was really important for us to show their humanity, and that they're truly complex human beings and great caregivers.

Shatz: We wanted to dismantle this specific frame of thought that people have toward doctors: They are distant. They have egos. They think that they are superior. We wanted to break that idea and also show how intensely hard they work, and what enormous sacrifices they make in order to save lives. All hospitals are like a microcosm of life. And regardless of where you come from, who you are, or what you believe, everybody finds themselves at the hospital at some point in their lives; it's a place where all cultures and classes meet. Our goal was to find a way to tell these fascinating scientific stories and the personal stories behind them in the same breath.

Dr. David Langer (right)

Question: How did you end up bringing this idea to the doctors at Lenox Hill in New York City?

Barash: It was a long time coming, moving from Israel to the United States, and we were both very enthusiastic to bring our vision to a bigger, diversified market. And we moved all the way to New York to do that. But the first thing that we needed was a hospital that would trust us to document and explore. And in NYC, that is a big hurdle to overcome. Ruthie's will power and unflinching conviction to find the right hospital and to make it happen was instrumental, and laid the foundation that enabled us to make this show.

Shatz: We were interested in finding a hospital that had some connection to the community. In many ways, this show is also a love letter to New York City -- to its uniqueness and diversity. Adi grew up here. New York has always felt like home to us, and we knew we wanted to raise our kids here. We didn't want to go into a big corporate hospital -- we wanted an environment that had a deep sense of connection and humanity, where the doctors are very much hands-on, and the relationship between patient and caretaker is eye-level. We also knew that Lenox Hill was a small community hospital that reinvented itself, and had fought hard to compete and place itself amongst the biggest, richest hospitals in NYC -- and in the world. That ideology aligned with ours precisely.

Barash: We met Dr. David Langer through a friend in 2017 -- actually, through the lead in our Israeli show ICHILOV, Dr. Erez Nossek, who moved to New York after the show and became friends with David -- and David was very excited about the series idea. David was building his department from scratch, and was creating a medical environment that we hadn't seen anywhere else. He was implementing a different perception and behavior in regards to working as an equitable team.

Shatz: We met David at a dinner in the city and immediately formed a strong connection with him. He then introduced us to the hospital administration, and the rest is history. We filmed from April 2018 until November 2019. In total we collected about 450 hours of footage.

Dr. Mirtha Macri (left)

Question: You film some deeply personal moments between the doctors and patients. How did you approach capturing those moments with both authenticity and respect?

Shatz: We have a whole process of consenting the patients before we even meet them. Once we meet them they are already fully aware of the show and have made their decision to take part.

Barash: When we film these moments, we actively recognize and respect the vulnerability in that moment; respect for the patient, and for this process. And we really bond with the patients throughout the days, weeks, and months of shooting, which is what we love the most.

Shatz: In many ways, you choose subjects like you choose your closest friends. You want to be amongst people who you trust and respect; you respect their ethics, their humanity, their point of view on life. It's a lot of trust. They put their faith in us, and we feel a sense of responsibility to them.

Behind the scenes during surgery on LENOX HILL.

Question: Logistically, how did you shoot these emotional moments when patients are giving birth, or undergoing surgery, or receiving life-altering news?

Barash: I can't tell you how delicate it is to be inside a room when a baby is delivered, which is a super happy, magical moment. It's just as delicate to be in the room when a patient is receiving devastating news. We're privileged to experience the moments that give you perspective in life. When I'm filming inside a patient's room, or inside the operating room, it's a very intimate space. It all happens in real time, and in order to capture these delicate moments, I film everything solo. I wear neck microphones to try and capture the best sound, and I mic the doctors as well. The doctors are constantly on the move, and never wait for me. I get them for 10 or 15 seconds to hook up the mic, and then I'm on the ground with them. I call it "sculpting chaos," it's like a dance.

Dr. John Boockvar

Question: You began filming in April 2018, before the COVID-19 global pandemic, and the world has changed a lot since then. Why do you think this is an especially important series now?

Shatz: These doctors, all of the healthcare workers in the series, were heroes before the COVID-19 global pandemic, but now that message carries even more weight. This global crisis has shined a limelight on the healthcare community, the sacrifices they're making, and the resources they need to do their jobs. I hope that people remember all of that.

Barash: These doctors are throwing themselves into taking care of others in a dangerous environment. It adds an extra layer to what the series shows, and offers an even further extension of their humanity and heroism.

Shatz: It's our hope that we can provide real-life role models for young people, and ask the question, "What does it really mean to take meaningful action, to be a thoughtful person, and to take the steps to contribute to society and truly enact change?"