With the production expertise of The Idea Factory and director Peter Conradi, and the financial support of a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, my film adaptation of the play Just Keep Breathing is ready for release. The film has already been presented at conferences in Turkey and Brazil and the Canadian launch is anticipated this fall.
Adapting the play to a suitable screen format was a challenge. The decision to be realistic meant we would require more actors. Another decision was to reduce the length of the script so it could potentially fit a one-hour commercial television format. A two-act play with a total 90 minute span (75 minutes with a 15-minute intermission) had to be reduced to 48 minutes and still retain the essential research points. That meant selecting elements that would express the typology of moral distress narratives and the array of coping/resolution mechanisms.
While it was not possible to shoehorn everything into the abbreviated version, the additional impact of an actual PICU unit setting (courtesy of a training facility) adds an element of verisimilitude lacking in the stage version. While I have written for film and television before, this is the first time I have adapted my own stage play to a different format.
Eventually I had to let go of my desire to see the play itself on film – an easy decision once we chose to abbreviate the material.
As a tool for provoking discussion, the film is excellent. Does that mean it is perfect? No – but everyone managed near-miracles on a tiny budget, and I am grateful for the amount we were able to capture.