I get asked that question. A lot. You see, five years ago I wrote and directed an independent, low budget film starring Katherine Heigl called Side Effects. The film was loosely based on my ten years selling pills for big pharma and was just now (finally) released on DVD by Warner Bros.
For 16 days Katherine, I and the rest of the crew worked 12 to 14 hours a day. She napped on my couch (we couldn't afford a 'trailer'), she played with my kids (we couldn't afford a babysitter), she knitted on my porch. She even wore my underwear.
Given the current rumor mill about Katherine's on and off set antics as well as the time/money/stress involved with an indie production, most people assume that I must have had a nightmare on my hands during the shoot. The opposite was true. Katherine showed up ready to work. She was in 95 percent of the scenes and had to undergo multiple location, hair, makeup, and outfit changes each day with little to no privacy. She was tireless. Flawless. And gracious to everyone from key producers down to the lowest level extras and production assistants.
But I most appreciated her humor. As a first-time director taking on a controversial issue and a powerful industry, I can tell you I needed all the joking I could get. Katherine had the cast and crew laughing their asses off from sun-up to late at night and I think most people who worked on the film agree that they had the time of their life.
Breaking up is hard to do
But like any production, once the curtain closed we were body slammed back to reality. For Katherine, that meant flying from our set to her first week on Grey's Anatomy. For the rest of the cast and crew, it meant moving on to the next gig. And for me, it meant that the real (and much less fun) work of post-production, endless promotion and media appearances was just beginning. We all moved on.
I'd be lying through my teeth if I said this has been a complete love fest with the now fifth highest paid actress in Hollywood. There were moments on set that were challenging, but they were often more situational than personal. There have also been a few concerns, question marks and body blocks since the shoot in terms of bringing the film to market. This has led to some head-scratching. Is it overt? Or has the fatigue and white knuckles of independent filmmaking seriously messed with my imagination?
And in the end, does it really matter?
Because when all the beans are counted...
Katherine delivered. I got a warm, funny, and authentic performance out of her. And for that I am grateful. Every one of us with a need to know message understands how difficult it can be to reach beyond the choir. Because of Katherine and her rising star, a much larger audience will inadvertently see what happens behind-the-scenes of the pharmaceutical industry and hopefully think twice before popping that next prescription pill. These are our families, friends and lovers who would never seek out such an inconvenient truth, but they'd definitely watch Katherine Heigl light up the screen.
Gotta love that.