The Waiting Room

A public safety-net hospital struggles to handle patient overload in a swooning economy and a constantly shifting landscape of health care policy.

Waiting room 01
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
October 21, 2013
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
Diversity Development Fund
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2012 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival -Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2012 Silverdocs-Special U.S. Feature Jury Mention
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2012 San Francisco International Film Festival-Golden Gate Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2013 Independent Spirit Awards -Truer Than Fiction Award
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2013 News and Documentary Emmy Awards-Outstanding Editing: Documentary and Long Form
  • Petenicks

    Pete Nicks

    Pete Nicks is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who has produced projects for network, cable and public television. His directorial debut was the 2001 autobiographical documentary, The Wolf, which aired nationally on ABC. That film chronicled an addiction to cocaine that took him to street corners, emergency rooms, prison, and finally Show more recovery. Most recently he has produced documentaries for Frontline World and Bill Moyers. He has also directed media strategy for two social networking startups. He worked for two years as a producer for the innovative PBS documentary series Life 360 and later as staff producer for ABC News in New York. Nicks earned his Masters in documentary filmmaking from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999. Show less


    Linda Davis

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    The Film

    Highland Hospital, a vital part of the city of Oakland, California and the surrounding county, is stretched to the breaking point. It is the primary care facility for 250,000 patients of nearly every nationality, race, and religion, with 250 patients crowding its emergency room every day.The Waiting Room is an immersive documentary film that weaves together several stories that unfold in surprising ways in the ER waiting room. It is an intimate rendering of the story of our health care system at a moment of great change told through the eyes of people stuck — sometimes for up to 14 hours — in the waiting room. The film tells the story of a remarkably diverse population – as well as the hospital staff charged with caring for them – battling their way through the seismic shifts in the nation's health care system, while weathering the storm of a national recession. It is a film about one hospital, its multifaceted community, and how our common vulnerability to illness binds us together as humans.

    In a purposefully fragmented style, the film will follow young victims of gun violence, artists and small business owners who lack insurance, steel workers, taxi cab drivers and international asylum seekers, as well as the young doctors, nurses and hospital executives struggling to keep the hospital running smoothly.

    With the swelling ranks of the uninsured exerting unprecedented pressure on public hospitals, the state budget crisis undermining social service and medical funding, and the current health care reform package threatening to gut public hospitals, Highland faces extinction. Meanwhile, it's just another day in waiting room.