Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals rank among the greatest heroes of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, imagine a world without them, one in which machines—expertly programmed but lacking in, well, humanity—perform the nuts and bolts of diagnosis and treatment.
"Instant Doctor," a six-and-a-half-minute film from New York creative shop The Bloc and Brazilian filmmaking collective The Youth, depicts such a world—and it's pretty bleak stuff. Our hero has a nagging cough; so, he visits an automated medical booth, which could use a reboot in bedside manner:
Timed to coincide with National Doctors' Day today, the film touts Tribute, a digital platform for creating and sharing videos expressing gratitude. The client isn't name-checked until the end credits.
"Gratitude only works if it's authentic, if it's real," says Tribute founder and CEO Andrew Horn. "That's what I love about this film. You feel the profound appreciation we have for doctors because you don't feel the presence of our brand. We decided to let the film speak for itself, and we think it speaks volumes."
Directed by the Diogo Gameiro + Youth collective (aka Eduardo Lubiazi, Yuri Maranhão and João Machado) and starring Fernando Alves Pinto as the dude with the hellacious hack—which soon becomes the least of his worries—"Instant Doctor" boasts a scalpel-cold style that slices straight to the point.
"We wrote this film before COVID-19, filmed it during the beginning of the outbreak, and edited during the height of the recent drama," Bloc chief creative officer Bernardo Romero tells Muse. "It has obviously taken on new meaning in the era of the pandemic. In a scenario where doctors are risking their own lives and being forced to stay away from their families to save people, we really need to value and pay homage to something no A.I. machine in the world can offer: humanity and empathy."
Below, Bernardo chats in depth about the production.
Muse: How did the project begin?
Bernardo Romero: Tribute is a client with whom we had previously done the Memories For Memory Loss project, which transformed their video gratitude platform into a tool for those caring for loved ones with dementia. A significant percentage of their revenue comes from caregiving or health-related "tributes," and they came to The Bloc in hopes of growing that sector of their customer base.
Who's the target audience?
Initially caregivers, survivors and those profoundly affected by their healthcare professionals—but that has obviously broadened given the current situation. The dystopian view was important because of how saturated the world is with heroic stock footage of doctors and happy, smiley patients. This couldn't be another Hallmark card. To really make your audience appreciate something, sometimes you have to take it away from them.
How will you share "Instant Doctor"?
Tribute will be sharing it on social, but we are really treating this like a short film. We want to let it speak for itself and earn its attention. Shortage just gave the short an impressive 4.1/5 score—and I've been getting amazing responses from specialized film outlets. Long story short, we have no current plans for paid media.
How did you pick the directors?
The Youth is a collective of film directors based in Curitiba, Brazil. I've always been impressed with their ability to transport you to places you've never been through amazing direction, great cinematography, art direction and craft. It seemed like the perfect fit for this assignment. Their work ranges from music videos to global brands such as Budweiser, Nike and Volkswagen.
Where is that "futuristic" setting in real life?
We shot this short in Curitiba [the capital of the southern Brazilian state of Paraná] … the location is actually the entrance hall of a museum. We had in mind this idea that the near future is just a pumped-up version of our reality today. A few innovations in technology, but mostly just a slight evolution of what already exists in 2020. But we also had to let the audience know right away that the short is set in the future. We figured that shooting in a real train station would demand a big amount of development, but we didn't have the time or resources. We needed a location that looked very modern, with simple lines, that would give this [futuristic] feeling right away. This museum designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer was perfect for us.
That A.I. rocks a HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe, right?
We tried to use the colors as a narrative device. Red was supposed to always break his natural world abruptly and cause him some kind of discomfort. We definitely took HAL and the A.I. from Her as references. But we had countless discussions about the meaning of everything we'd shoot during pre-production. The use of red and blue colors, the displaced compositions, the mix of locked shots and camera moments—they were all thought out to try and give you an idea of what the character is feeling.
Did you face a lot of challenges during the production?
We shot a couple of days after the World Health Organization announced COVID-19 as a pandemic disease. There were no confirmed cases in Curitiba at the time, but we had to take every precaution to protect the crew and talent.
[For the dialog with the A.I. in the booth] we had a recording [of the computer's responses] ready, but I chose to feed Fernando the lines myself, so I could go back to certain beats if I felt the need to, without breaking his concentration. Halfway through, I forgot to use the lines altogether and started to verbally throw images while the camera was recording, trying to induce certain feelings.
Any strange stuff happen during the shoots?
Well, it is a museum, and there was a party of some sort going on at a gallery downstairs. We had a 12-meter-wide LED screen there for shooting, and people would go from the party to the screen to take selfies against the blue sky that we were projecting. We also had benches for our production, and people would just walk in and sit on them to rest from the party while we repositioned the camera. I had a crew member come up to me and ask why the extras were dressed so elegantly.
Presented by: Tribute
Directors: Diogo Gameiro + Youth
Written by: Bianca Troncone, David Stemler, Bernardo Romero, Diogo Gameiro and The Youth
Production: The Youth
Producer: Nani Matias
Director of Photography: Yuri Maranhão
Editor: Diogo Gameiro, João Machado
Original Music: Jamute
Sound Design & Mix: Jamute
Colorist: Spalva - Osmar Junior
Art Direction: Aaron Sidorov, Bernardo Romero, The Youth
First Assistant Director: Andreia Campos
First Assistant Camera: Rodrigo Briza
Second Assistant Camera: Adriano Araujo
Video Assist: Carlos EduardoLogger: Maria Machado
Gaffer: Ricardo Pirolla
Key Grip: Flavio Romão
Wardrobe: Luciana Carvalho
Hair & Makeup: Lili Aptz
Prop Master: Mini Arte - Renato HollandaProduction Coordinator - Carol CherobimProduction Assistant: Daniel Maia
Production Assistant: Kayane Cabral
Production Assistant: Adriane LiraStagehand: Rodrigo BernardiLocation: Dudu
Sound Engineer: Audio Nuclear
VFX: Warriors VFX
VFX Producer: Diogo GameiroMotion Designer: Janaina da Veiga
Casting: Renata Scheidt e Flavia Cocoza
Actor: Fernando Alves Pinto
Mom sleeping: Luciana Tavares
Child: Julia Sena