‘SHOT’ Star Noah Wyle And Director Jeremy Kagan On Los Angeles, Filming In Real Time, And What Is Coming Up

As Dr. John Carter on the NBC hit ER for 11 seasons, Noah Wyle often tended to patients with gun-related injuries. As Mark Newman in the new film SHOT, the tables have been turned for Wyle who – by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time – portrays a person impacted by a stray bullet. Acting alongside Sharon Leal, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., and Malcolm Jamal Warner, under the tutelage of Emmy Award-winner director Jeremy Kagan (The Big Fix, The Chosen, By the Sword), SHOT finds Wyle experiencing his life-threatening condition in real time; it also follows the whereabouts of the shooter simultaneously, including a lot of split-screen visualization.

To learn more about SHOT, I had the pleasure of speaking to both Wyle and Kagan via conference call. Not only were these interview subjects honest and willing to answer all questions asked of them, but the two had a fun dynamic to them, able to finish one another’s thoughts with ease. While SHOT is a serious, action-packed movie that takes a smart look at how gun violence can impact many lives in a split second, Wyle and Kagan were able to keep things appropriately light-hearted during our chat.

For more information on SHOT, please visit www.shotmovie.org; the film opens in New York and Los Angeles on September 22. Director Jeremy Kagan can be visited on Twitter via @Ainsof.

I know you two worked together on the ACLU Freedom Files. Had you worked together in any other projects besides that?

Jeremy Kagan: I think we were only walking our animals on the same block… We actually for a while, we lived on the same block in Hollywood Hills.

Noah Wyle: First as neighbors.

Have both of you found that a lot of the interesting projects that you’ve done over the years were as a result of the neighborhood you lived in?

Jeremy Kagan: I think the answer is yes and no. Do you live in L.A.? Are you an L.A. person?

I am a New York person but I’ve spent a lot of time in L.A.

Jeremy Kagan: I’m a New York person and I spend most of my time in L.A. L.A. has everything in it so, therefore, if you’re looking for stories, there is every possible story in our neighborhood. And, in fact, one of the reasons that I wanted the movie to be shot in Los Angeles specifically was because much like New York, all kinds of cultures and economic realities are next door to each other. We wanted that to be part of what this story is about so there is a connect between different cultures and in this case between the white middle class and the Latino culture and also the EMT culture that they’re all in the same neighborhood… Particularly in somewhere like an Echo Park which is where we shot it. So in that sense, Los Angeles was the right environment.

It can happen to anybody anywhere, and it was really important to be able to make that true in terms of this story. Oftentimes we think “oh yeah, well, if you’re here, if you’re poor and have another ethnic background and living in Chicago then gun violence is your problem”… And that’s just not true. We need to remind ourselves of this is a problem that we all are in the distance.

Another thing besides a neighborhood you both have in common is that you both won awards for working on a hospital TV show. Is that something that you ever compared notes on?

Noah Wyle: No, although… [after working as a technical advisor on SHOT] I had wished that Jeremy directed a few more Chicago Hope episodes. (laughs) Yeah we did compare…

Jeremy Kagan: I think it is amazing when you think about it… Noah here has been a doctor for so many years and now is the patient…

Noah Wyle: All the years of poking people with needles and it was finally my turn.

Did you have to give any training to Malcolm Jamal Warner for him to be in the movie in that role?

Jeremy Kagan: Malcolm did get training from a fabulous EMT… [When I spoke to an EMT] He said, “Listen, even if it’s really dangerous and life-threatening, don’t make it that way for the way you treat him. Treat him like hey, everything is going to be okay. We’re going to take care of you, don’t worry.” So that they can relax the person whose in shock and panicked… This is part of your work, make it easier for that person.

Noah, for this movie, you played a sound mixer and you have the great line where you say, “That’s my job, I hear things.” Did you actually undergo any training or study related to sound mixing?

Noah Wyle: No… I was very specific about what I wanted to accomplish and most of it had to do with the nature of the way that Jeremy wanted to make a movie. Which was to have a plan almost real time, which meant that it was really more about the moment to moment escalation of the injury. A moment to moment road map of his emotional journey as the spirit of the situation set in that I was really interested in. So I watched a lot of testimonials from people who were victims of gunshots. Both for their description of the physical sensation, but also the emotional trauma that happens as being a victim of the random act of violence… The second half of the movie deals with this. The first part is the obvious physical jeopardy to the characters and the abrupt change to everybody’s lives from that random act of violence.

But the second half is after the dust settles, you know? How this affects you psychologically, how it affects your relationships, the way you interact with the world and other people. Everything gets redefined and that’s when the cameras are off, if you’re just left by yourself. So we really wanted to show that, this is not something that ever ends. This is a trauma and it can go on and on and on.

As much as we all enjoy movies that have tremendous amounts of gun violence almost on comic book form… You have to make a movie that focuses back on the one gunshot, killing one person and it really hurting and it being really scary and it changes people’s lives forever. And then we go back to regular scheduled programming (laughs), these things are for real…

After the gunshot in the movie, the movie goes split screen. It is in real time with everything timed very specifically. How did you do that? Was everything timed out carefully?

Noah Wyle: Yeah it was. Jeremy can probably answer it more intelligently. But there was a long period where he knew he would be in the other storyline… Nobody’s rushing you to do or arrive at anything. It’s just the process of going through waiting for this next event to happen and, maybe the focus will come back to you… It keeps the situation in a messy one for everybody. Both storylines continually feel alive so that nobody forgets that while this is happening to this character, this is also happening to that character and vice versa.

Jeremy Kagan: For me, it was well before the very first day we were shooting… I knew because I worked this out… over months and months. About how this is going to tie together… When you’re working with actors who have their own rhythms, man it’s supposed to be 10 seconds but it’s taking 20 seconds what are we going to do? But I remember just the very first day, I think we were in the ambulance, and there’s just one camera looking at Noah and all Noah, it’s not cutting away. They’re running and running and running. There’s obviously moments in the scene where he’s having dialogue with the EMTs and also Sharon Leal, who plays his estranged wife. Then there are moments when I knew it needed to be quiet but then, you still really didn’t know. You’d still be in the moment of the truth, what’s going on with the character and I would say something like, “Okay, that thing’s going to hit right now”… If you think about it, that really is what our experiences are from. I get we’re not always in a dialogue scene. Sometimes in change where what’s going on inside us is what really what’s going on.

Noah Wyle: Technically, by never coming out of it, you never dissipate the tension. So the amount of time it takes to get him to the hospital, it increases the jeopardy the longer it takes. We’re told that this is a serious injury, normally you would jump out to the ambulance doors opening and then bring him along into the hospital but not jump-cutting…

Looking ahead, do you both know what your next project is? Or do you do one project at the time?

Noah Wyle: I tend to go a project at a time but I keep a lot of things boiling. I did a film with Angela Bassett once. We were in the crew van and she received a call from the director of the next movie she was doing and she said, “I can’t talk to you… because I’m not dating you, I’m dating somebody else and I only date one person at a time, and when I break up with them, I’m all yours.” I know exactly what she meant, you can really only date person at a time, so I am on a “date” now. Next, I will do an episode of this new show The Romanoffs next month, so I’ll just try to shoot that.

Jeremy Kagan: The Romanoffs? Which Romanoff are you going to play?

Noah Wyle: I’m not, I am married to a woman who may or may not be a descendant of the royal line.

Cool, and what about you Jeremy?

Jeremy Kagan: Um, I’m going to play his servant. (laughs) I actually am so absorbed with this movie right now. This movie is about having an opportunity to do what I believe you can do. About six weeks ago I realized what I wanted to do, which is to save someone’s life. So my energies right now are all about it. I mean, would I like to work with Noah again? You bet… But right now, my energy is, what can I do to help this movie? Help somebody else? That’s where I am.

When you’re not involved with the craft, what do you like to do for fun?

Noah Wyle: That’s a great question — you want to take that one first, Jeremy?

Jeremy Kagan: Uh, what I like to do for fun? I am a musician so I play with a band. That’s one of those things that I like to do for fun. I like sex, I like to do that for fun too.

Noah Wyle: That’s a great answer… I also like to do the sex. (laughs) I was just talking to someone about how much I need to identify what I do for fun in life, because if I only think about work and then kids… Even the things that I read for pleasure are somehow in the back of my mind potential work-related things. So I don’t know quite what I do, I’m trying to get it.

So speaking of kids, any last words for the kids?

Noah Wyle: Any last words for the kids? Well, Jeremy wants to save lives via this movie, I think that’s a pretty noble ambition. I think we both would love to see some serious corrections made to some of the gun laws in this country. There’s 270 million guns in this country. This is not going to take the guns from people’s homes, but hopefully, we will make them a little bit more responsible with the ones that they have. We can only remember that life is fragile and precious and fleeting, and it only takes one second or mistake to end that experience for you or end that of somebody else. That’s what I’d tell the kids.

Sure, anything to add, Jeremy?

Jeremy Kagan: I think that was so well-spoken… The only thing [to add] is, just remember guns are not the solution to our problems.

[Featured Image by Jeremy Kagan]

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