Peter Nicks

Peter Nicks is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who has produced projects for network, cable and public television exploring topics such as immigration, journalism and technology. He has also directed media
strategy for two social networking start-ups and worked as a staff producer for ABC News in New York and as a producer for the innovative PBS documentary seriesLife 360. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Peter Nicks started out with a Masters in documentary filmmaking from the University of California, Berkeley
in 1999. “The Wolf” was his first film, which is a documentary on his own life before he got into filmmaking. He figured that if he was going to make a living out pointing the camera at other people, then he should at least get a good sense of how that felt. He saw telling the story of the train wreck of his young adult life as an exercise. The result was completing the film while also surviving  his train wreck youth.

He considers himself as a filmmaker, but also as a storyteller. He thinks we are now witnessing a profound change in the way we tell and share stories. He does not doubt that new ways of engaging audiences are emerging that will have a profound impact on how we experience our own story and the stories of others. However, still he considers a feature length film – experienced in a theater surrounded by other souls – to be a primary and powerful narrative experience.

Nicks is currently producing and directing the documentary-social media hybrid The Waiting Room, which explores the impact of America’s health care policy on one county hospital and the population of largely uninsured patients it serves. The idea started out when his wife, who works at Highland hospital, told stories about her work. These juxtaposed against the backdrop of the debate in the public media around health care reform and motivated him to create a project that would put a human face on this complex public policy issue. He wants to change the way people think about the uninsured and stimulate debate around the role of the safety-net. Through distribution of his film and ancillary digital content, he hopes to provide a source of information about how the health care system in America is impacting the health care consumer, caregivers and administrators on the frontlines of America’s public health care system.

The Waiting Room is a transmedia project encompassing both a documentary film and a location-based storytelling initiative that allows
people passing through the waiting rooms of California’s public hospitals to express, connect and share their experience at a moment when seismic shifts are altering the landscape of health care in America. It is based on the premise that the expression and sharing of the story by the under-served is vital to our nation’s understanding of the impact of public policy that is influenced by lobbyists and special interest groups. The project is also driven by the powerfully therapeutic benefits of providing a platform for people stuck in hospital waiting rooms to share their thoughts and feelings about their health and their lives; their hopes and their fears.

Those stuck for hours in public hospital waiting rooms are those people who stand to be most affected by the changes coming to health care in America but who are often left out of the debate around health care reform, in part due to the persistent digital divide that leaves many in underserved communities without access to emerging social media technology. It is this access that has revolutionized the ability for many – but not all – in America to join the “national conversation” around vital issues like health care reform.

The Waiting Room gives the under-served a voice not just at a critical moment in their lives, but also at a moment of critical importance in the evolution of our nation’s health care system. We are curious about what he can tell us about health care in America and what his experiences, spending as much time as he did in the waiting room with patients, have been like. Also, we are excited to hear what he predicts for the future of health care.

Watch Peter’s TEDxTalk



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