The script doctor is in.
Not Hollywood's usual kind, patching up other people's screenplays. Juan Gallego writes his from scratch, and he's a real doctor, to boot.
Gallego, 39, is an emergency room physician for Emergency Medical Associates of Tampa Bay, now working at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. He's also the first-time screenwriter and executive producer of Mantervention, an unrated low-budget sex comedy as frivolous as his day-and-night job is grave.
"This is cathartic, creating characters doing something completely different from what I'm doing," Gallego said, sitting in a hospital cafeteria.
"If I only thought about what I see and deal with every day, I'd be a pretty depressed individual."
What Gallego imagined in his spare time is horndog comedy that has worked since Porky's: Spencer (Nick Roux) is a jilted romantic whose best friend Coke (Travis Van Winkle) stages a "mantervention" to help him out of his rut. According to Coke's "man formula," Spencer must have sex with 13 women to get over his ex-girlfriend.
The quest winds through bars, beaches and bedrooms, with ample skin and simulated sex. It also features Gallego's genially risque dialogue, polished to late-night cable standards. He is billed as "John E.G." in the opening credits, an early play for anonymity that the Redington Beach resident since discarded, hiring a publicist but not an agent yet.
Mantervention is available as home video-on-demand, and will be screened at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at AMC Westshore 14 in Tampa, part of a limited release aimed mainly at college towns, where this Neighbors-style humor plays best.
"Sure, there will be people who find some of the scenes a little offensive or vulgar," Gallego said, "but there's an audience for it. The way comedies have gone over the last decade or so … we don't push the envelope too far."
Mantervention isn't what viewers may expect from an ER physician who chose to train amid the violence of Newark, Baltimore and Detroit.
"When I finished, I wanted to be comfortable seeing anything," Gallego said. "I've seen the fear in some people's eyes, when something comes through the door and you've never dealt with it, and you're unsure with yourself. I didn't want to have that look in my eye."
Getting a first screenplay produced isn't common, but Gallego had help. His Florida State University fraternity brother Jordan Rosner was already in Los Angeles working as a producer. Remembering Gallego's sense of humor and writing ability, Rosner asked for his input on a screenplay.
"That was the first time I ever read a screenplay," said Gallego, who grew up in Boca Raton. "It was, like, this is pretty cool, goes a lot faster than a novel. I think I can do this."
He tried with the idea of Mantervention, drawing on his bartending experience during college and the companionship perks and stories it provided. A 200-page first draft — equating to more than three hours on screen — was eventually trimmed to less than 100 minutes. An impressed Rosner and his partners decided to produce it on their own, for "under $1 million," Gallego said.
The partnership continues with Gallego helping to produce two more projects: The Sand, a beach creature feature starring actor-comedian Jamie Kennedy, and a Guns N' Roses documentary based on bassist Duff McKagan's memoir It's So Easy and Other Lies. "I'm a huge GN'R fan," Gallego said.
Of course, Gallego has other writing projects in mind. He keeps a pad of sticky notes in his lab coat pocket at work, ready to jot ideas. Not all of them are comic relief from emergency room tension. "I'd like to do something less fluffy next time," he said.
What Gallego doesn't envision is quitting medicine for the movies. Coming from a family of medical professionals, it's in his blood.
"I don't think I would ever give up practicing medicine," he said. "I would just practice it more on my terms, in a sense that I wouldn't do it full time. … I love what I do."