Dr. Nicholas Carulli: Vancouver’s doctor to the stars

Dr. Nicholas Carulli has treated countless patients since opening his Vancouver practice in 1999. However, Clark County residents aren’t the only ones to benefit from his medical expertise. The doctor also takes calls from Hollywood.

“One of my patients is a medic on a film set,” explained Carulli. “A while back she asked if I wanted to be involved with the movies if they came to town and I thought, ‘sure, that would be fun.’”

Carulli got his lucky break, if you will, during the making of a 2007 film called The Feast of Love, which was shot in Portland and starred Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear and Selma Blair.

“I got a phone call saying the director needed to ask me about a scene they were doing for the movie,” remembered Carulli. “All of a sudden I’m on the phone with this big Hollywood director and he’s asking if I can come down to the set and help them with the scene.”

As Carulli tells it, he arrived on set and was told to show the actors how to perform a precordial thump – a post-heart attack procedure used on a patient when a defibrillator is not available.

“They did the scene, the victim fell down and the actress ran over and thumped him on the chest just like we talked about,” said Carulli. “Then all of a sudden the director yelled cut and said, ‘Where’s Doctor Carulli?’ I was horrified because I’m standing there thinking I did something wrong and everyone looked over at me. The director goes, ‘Come here, I want you to look at this. Does it look real to you?’ And I said, ‘Well, it does, but she could hit him a bit harder.’ And so they did it again.”

Over the years, Carulli has worked with film crews on roughly 12 different projects, including: Leverage, Portlandia, the new NBC television series Grimm, Extraordinary Measures (where he met Harrison Ford) and the first Twilight film.

“I didn’t go to the set for Twilight,” recalled Carulli. “I should have. My niece was pretty upset that I didn’t go.”

Perhaps the most eye-opening part of being on a film set, according to Carulli, is the sheer size of crew. For this reason, he said the Washington State Legislature should do more to promote the film industry here.

State lawmakers opted not to extend Washington’s film incentives program this past July, which experts said targeted mostly large-scale productions. Oregon, however, recently extended its incentive program through 2018.

“These are huge productions and they have a lot of people that they hire locally. Carpenters, electricians, set builders, set designers – there’s a whole host of people that are actually in the area and work when these films come to town. So film employs a lot of local people and there’s a lot of money that comes with it because the actors, the producers and directors have to stay here while they are filming. They go out to dinner, they entertain, all that stuff.”

Carulli, who often escapes the medical world by grabbing his SLR camera and going for a hike, said he believes that Hollywood would love to film in this area more often.

“We live in a beautiful area here, which is one of the reasons why the movies like to come here,” Carulli explained. “You’ve got the forest, the mountains and the desert. I would just hope our legislature would see the value in giving them the tax incentives to come. Otherwise they go to Vancouver (British Columbia) or Idaho or somewhere else.

“This shouldn’t be viewed from the standpoint of we’re giving them a break to come here and they’re getting all the benefit from it. They spend a lot of money to move everybody up here and they have a lot of local people that work on these productions.”

Washington Filmworks, the state’s film office, plans to pursue legislation to renew film incentives in Washington during the 2012 legislative session.