A pharmacist, a story producer, and a cinematographer walked into a bar (read: Zoom meeting) and now we’re making a documentary that exposes the fast-foodification of the pharmacy industry within the United States.
When people think about the issues related to pharmacy they inevitably think of the opioid epidemic, as portrayed in the Netflix documentary The Pharmacist and the Hulu series Dopesick.
But sadly, the problems in pharmacy extend much further and have existed far longer.
Corporate chains like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens have taken over community pharmacy, elbowing out patient-focused independent pharmacies, and forcing a retail sales environment. The chains ratcheted up production for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians to a fast-food pace along with adding metrics for upsells and serving times.
Unbeknownst to the general public, this has been going on behind the counter for decades—far from ideal, but manageable.
But then Covid hit.
More specifically the Covid vaccines hit. Corporate chains took on the responsibility of vaccinating the nation, skyrocketing the workload but ignoring the staffing needs required to get the job done safely and effectively. Now pharmacies across the country are facing unsafe conditions for both pharmacy workers and patients.
The pharmacy community has been longing for someone to do a long-form piece that exposes the realities of pharmacy. This is precisely what we're here to show—and change—with our film.
Anaïs Webster Mennuti
Anaïs Webster Mennuti is a pharmacist licensed in three states with a background of just under ten years of retail pharmacy experience, and currently practicing pharmacy at a hospital system in Oregon. Even after switching to hospital pharmacy, Anaïs moonlighted in retail for two more years, until the fall of 2021 when the workload became untenable for retail pharmacists and unsafe for patients. She could no longer in good conscience be a part of that system. She wants people to be vaccinated and tested but she wants pharmacies to have enough support and staff to be able to do so safely, while also filling prescriptions and doing the rest of the job safely. Her dream and vision is for this documentary to go big--we’re talking about streaming on Netflix big. She wants it to reach audiences far and wide. Is that ambitious? Heck yes it is, but let’s do this thing!
In 2014, Kimberly Kessler left an unfulfilling career in banking to pursue her best life. Low and behold, she discovered her sleeping superpower—storytelling. Now she makes her living and her life as a writer, editor, and filmmaker. She is a TEDx Speaker, Story Grid Certified Editor, frequent podcaster, and author of several books on writing craft. With a knack for finding meaning in the most obscure places, Kim is thrives telling stories in any medium. As an editor, she specializes in helping her clients develop authentic character arcs and internally driven stories. As a novelist and filmmaker, she uses humor as a means to cope with and explore trauma—ultimately, so we can find a redemptive perspective on pain. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her stand-up comedian husband and three “think they’re a comedian” kids.
Ethan is a Cinematographer based in Washington State. As a kid, he made short videos with his friends, which ultimately led to his obsession with cameras and technology. This fusion of skills motivated Ethan to open a multimedia and computer business at 21 years old. It was a huge risk, but the experience forced him to learn how to run a business and solve problems quickly. Funnily enough, this turns out to be the most important skill of a cinematographer: quickly troubleshooting technical obstacles while preserving an overall artistic vision. Ethan’s impetus for becoming a lifelong filmmaker was the loss of his friend Ben, due to suicide. Now, Ethan’s purpose as a filmmaker is to act as a lighthouse for people like Ben who are treading in treacherous waters trying to make landfall.
The text that started it all.
Outside of pharmacy, Anaïs is also a writer. She hired Kim as an editor for her first novel. They enjoyed working together so much, they dropped the editor-client dynamic and teamed up as cowriters for a TV pilot and a series of novels. Now as ongoing collaborators and friends, Anaïs began sharing her frustration about life in retail pharmacy.
Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience for Kim who immediately connected Anaïs with her filmmaker friend Ethan.
Now WE are making a documentary.
In January of 2022, we formed Shots with That, LLC and launched our Twitter page @ShotsWithThat to connect directly with the pharmacy community.The outpouring of support has been amazing.
WHY THIS TITLE?
Pharmacy as fast food is a useful metaphor because 1) pharmacy staff members are pressured to dispense prescriptions at a fast-food pace while upselling vaccines like fries and 2) humor and satire are often the best tools for helping audiences to connect with the discomfort of our deepest emotions.
Tweets like these offer a glimpse into everyday life in retail pharmacy. But they are truly just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to corporate greed:
Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians experience burnout, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, miscarriage, and even death.
Patients experience frustration and fear of not being able to fill their prescriptions on time and the repercussions that result.
The greater tragedy? Dangers like these are entirely preventable, but only if we value people more than profits. Ope.
While the commodification of healthcare is no joke, often the only way to cope with such absurdities is through a healthy dose of humor. Ironically, in the quest for truth, comedy can be a strong ally. This is precisely why we went with such a tongue-in-cheek title.
Beginning in January 2022, we put out a request for people to share their stories and experiences of retail pharmacy. By May 2022, we had met and talked with over forty pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and patients from all over the United States via Zoom capturing their stories.
Fear of retaliation has been a strong deterrent of pharmacy staff members speaking up about the dangerous situations they are facing at work every day. For that reason, some of our interviewees requested to remain anonymous. Others, those who had either found a new working situation or made peace with any repercussions that might roll downhill, were boldy outspoken. We have been so grateful for both. Not only does it allow each interviewee to show up in the way that makes them the most comfortable, but it clearly demonstrates the negative working conditions that are happening behind the counter of retail pharmacy.
At the end of each interview, we would ask the same question: “If you could start over and design pharmacy from scratch, what would you do?”
The answers were profound in their simplicity, which made them all the more tragic:
All pharmacy staff want is enough staff, resources, and respect to be able to fill prescriptions safely and counsel their patients thoroughly.
All patients want is to get their prescriptions filled and be able to speak with a pharmacist when they need to.
Nothing earth shattering,folks. Just the basics of good care.
SHARE YOUR STORY
#PizzaIsNotWorking, but speaking out will.
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