Interview by Paul Salfen
Paul Salfen talks to Kelsey Grammer, Julia Styles, Colman Domingo and Writer/Director Austin Stark about THE GOD COMMITTEE.
SYNOPSIS: When a donor heart unexpectedly arrives at a New York hospital, an organ transplant committee must convene with one hour to decide which of three other patients deserves the life-saving heart. God’s work is now left in the hands of five doctors, including Boxer (Kelsey Grammer), a cynical but brilliant heart surgeon; Jordan (Julia Stiles), an idealistic up-and-comer; and Gilroy (Janeane Garofalo), a weary bureaucrat. As the debate over the heart heats up, ethics and bribes clash, leaving the committee members to question what’s more valuable: morals or money?
PRODUCED BY Molly Conners, Amanda Bowers, Jonathan Rubenstein, Ari Pinchot, Jane Oster, Vincent Morano, Benji Kohn, Bingo Gubelmann, Austin Stark
STARRING Kelsey Grammer, Julia Stiles, Janeane Garofalo with Dan Hedaya and Colman Domingo
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT A few years back I heard a story about a wealthy man, in desperate need of a liver transplant, who bribed a hospital in the Northeast for an organ. I was shocked that this could happen in the U.S. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then I read a powerful play by Mark St. Germain, which explores a very similar situation, and in doing so, offers a lens into the organ transplant system. My film is inspired by Mark’s play. It is also inspired by various biotech companies currently trying to solve the worldwide organ shortage.
THE GOD COMMITTEE unfolds over two parallel timelines: one set in 2014, the other in the present day. The 2014 storyline follows a team of doctors – a heart transplant committee at a New York hospital – who are forced to make a life and death decision under extraordinary circumstances. Objectivity is key, so the doctors must grapple with their own biases, ideologies and ambitions in order to make a clear-headed decision. This is God’s work in the hands of human beings, which as you might imagine, gets messy. The storyline in the present day explores the unexpected impact of that one decision: how it ripples over time and changes the course of many lives. I framed the narrative this way to highlight the importance of transplant committees and their role in a larger system. Unifying both storylines you’ll find a controversial, age-old question, which has taken on greater significance in recent times: Is it justifiable to sacrifice one life to save many?
My film is a love letter to doctors who toil away in a well-intentioned but imperfect system. Although we shot THE GOD COMMITTEE before the pandemic, the thematic parallels are evident and I think it’s safe to say there hasn’t been a better time for this film. I look forward to contributing to the dialogue on the transplant system and the politics of modern medicine as a whole.