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FLATLINERS

Medical Bootcamp
Following Oplev's direction to ground the thriller and supernatural elements by making the medical procedures as real as possible, the filmmakers focused on getting it right. "It was important that anything we were exploring in terms of medicine and flatlining be accurate and medically correct," says executive producer Michael Bederman. "The action had to be believable."

The filmmakers brought on medical consultant Lindsay Somers to ensure that the material and action be as medically accurate and believable as possible. Before the cameras rolled, and throughout production, Somers worked closely with Oplev and Ripley as well as her network of nurses, radiologists, neurologists and neurosurgeons to try to ensure that every diagnosis was correct and every drug prescribed was the right one, that the actors were carrying their equipment correctly and giving injections and intubations the way a real physician would.

"Right from the beginning, Niels said he wanted medical authenticity in the film, so the first thing I did was to go through the script and bring any medical inaccuracies to his and Ben's attention," says Somers. "For instance, in many films and television shows, you see people shocking the flatline, which is completely inaccurate because you can't shock a flatline. Ben added a scene that explains this to the audience in medically accurate terms by having Kiersey's character explain that you can't shock a flatline, that 'paddles are useless without a heartbeat.' Obviously, because we're making a Hollywood film and not a documentary, we took small liberties with some things, but overall we tried to keep it as accurate as possible."

One area of research, of course, was how long the flatlining sequences should be. "We did research on how long a person could actually be dead - how long your brain could survive without oxygen," says Oplev. "Most doctors would say it's about three or four minutes - but it's actually an individual thing. There are some very interesting examples of people who lived for many minutes and came back under certain circumstances."

To bring the necessary verisimilitude to their portrayal of third year medical students, Somers put the cast through an intensive course that she describes as "medical boot camp."

Somers explains, "We started with a bit of theory to help them understand exactly why they were going to do all the actions they were going to do, especially in the flatline scenarios. Like, why does CPR work? What do compressions do to the heart and body? What does administering oxygen do? After that, we worked on skills -- I had an ER nurse come in to help me teach them how to do CPR, how to work with IVs and oxygen masks. Then, we began to focus on the flatlining scenes themselves, as these were going to be the most physically intense scenes to shoot and were the biggest concerns for Niels and the actors."

The cast all agree that the medical training was integral to their performances. "The terminology, theory and using the equipment was a lot to learn and choreograph, but it made it so much more enjoyable to shoot," says Page. "Having the opportunity to train together made us feel so much more connected and comfortable when we were shooting the flatlining scenes."

Adds Luna, "Hopefully, doctors will see this film and say 'Ahh, I see that they did their research.' It was a lot of work, but I'm very proud of the fact that we all took it as seriously as we did."

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