‘My Passion is to Improve the World by Film’
Southwestern graduate produces films that address contemporary social issues
This summer, audiences across the country will get an inside view of the country’s busiest emergency room through a new film called “Code Black.”
The film follows six young doctors as they complete their training in the emergency room of the Los Angeles County Hospital, which has been described as the place where “more people have died and more people have been saved than in any other square footage in the United States.”
In the process, it shows the problems that plague our health care system from a doctor’s perspective. The film opens in New York City June 20 and will then begin playing in 40 cities nationwide. It opens in Austin July 25.
Southwestern graduate Andrew Richey served as co-producer for the film, which received several awards at film festivals in 2013.
“I hope people will start discussing some of the issues that are raised in the film,” Richey said.
Producing films that raise awareness of contemporary social issues has become a focus for Richey, a 2005 graduate who also holds a master’s degree in production of television and cinematic arts from the University of Southern California’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts.
Richey worked on his first such film while he was still in graduate school at USC. One of his classmates, Ryan Coogler, successfully pitched a short film called “Fig” about a young woman in South Los Angeles who is trying to leave a life of prostitution.
The film was picked up by HBO after it won a Grand Prize at the 2011 American Black Film Festival, which is sponsored by HBO. Coogler has since gone on to direct another award-winning film called “Fruitvale Station,” which is based on the events leading to the death of a young black man who was killed by a police officer at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Station in Oakland, Calif.
“It was pretty exciting to be on HBO right out of grad school,” Richey said.
Richey also became involved with “Code Black” through a connection he made at USC. One of his professors was hired to be the producer of the film and he brought Richey on as co-producer.
Richey recently finished a film about the disability rights movement called “Love Land” that was filmed in Corsicana, Texas, last summer. The film tells the story of a young woman with a traumatic brain injury whose family can no longer take care of her, so she is put in a state-supported center for people with disabilities.
Richey and the other producers hired 50 people with disabilities to be in the film.
“We held them to the same standards as everyone else,” Richey said. “”They raised up and met those standards as well as any professional actor.”
Southwestern student Abby Birkett had the opportunity to work with Richey on “Love Land”, and she went from being a volunteer intern to second assistant director over the course of the summer.
Richey held a test screening of “Love Land” at Southwestern in October 2013. He is currently searching for a distributor for the film, but even if he never finds one, he said the film will be a success.
“It was a very special time in their lives (the cast members) and ours,” Richey said. Several of the cast members with disabilities have since been cast in bigger shows, and Richey is working on another film that focuses on a movie theater in Connecticut that was built specifically to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities.
“My passion is to improve the world by film,” Richey said. “I try to do that through whatever I do.”
The filming of “Love Land” brought Richey and his wife, Michelle (who also graduated from Southwestern) back to Central Texas. This enabled him to serve as the guest director for the spring 2014 production of “The Laramie Project” at Southwestern, a play Richey said he selected because he was interested in exploring issues related to the gay community.
“It was fun to be back where I started,” Richey said. “I realized how much I missed it.”
As a student at Southwestern, Richey produced “Crimes of the Heart” for his capstone project. He also was involved with five theatre-related King Creativity projects, including a 1940s variety show and “Tell Me On a Sunday.”
“The King Creativity Fund really allowed our class to thrive,” Richey said, noting that several of his classmates have also gone on to successful careers in theatre.
Richey said he hopes to guest direct more productions at Southwestern in the future.