The Road To “Pink & Blue”: Producer/Director Alan Blassberg
By: Marjorie Galas
Pink is a color one might see frequently used throughout the month of October, otherwise known as “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” From the American Cancer Society’s light pink marketing of their “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” events to the hot pink cleats, gloves and towels seen during NFL football games, the color association is omnipresent. A new documentary by writer, director and producer Alan Blassberg suggests that people should be color blind when it comes to breast cancer.
“There’s a bracelet now for every color. You need an encyclopedia to see what’s what,” remarked Blassberg in the wealth of colors different organizations use to promote their causes. “Some organizations use blue for male breast cancer, but it’s not an ‘official’ color. I chose blue and pink (in the title of the film) because they are traditional colors aligned for men and women.”
“Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer” is Blassberg’s feature documentary directorial debut. The film features individuals who have extensive cancer histories. Each subject, including Blassberg himself, undergoes BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing – a test that discovers mutations in human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins – and describes their reactions and decisions made after receiving their positive test results.
Presenting positive, life-altering narratives was a natural step in Blassberg’s professional development. He got his start in New York in ’95 as a shooter working on A&E non-fiction series including “Biography” and “Investigative Reports.” Under the direction of Emmy-nominated producer Steve Rosenbaum, he shot footage for segments that focused on “hot topic news” including emergency room meltdowns and police officer suicides.
“It was very real. That’s what I cut my teeth on,” said Blassberg.
In the late 90’s Blassberg relocated to LA to develop his skills as a producer and director. He started with non-fiction programming, including “America’s Deadliest Season: Alaskan Crab Fishing” – the special that initiated the “Deadliest Catch” series. He also explored reality programming, beginning with “Temptation Island.” While he enjoyed the experience, sobering circumstances, specifically losing two crew members when a category four hurricane ripped through their location, affected his perspective on the genre. He shifted his focus to working on programs that offered positive outcomes for participants and viewers, such as “Wedding Day” – a series that provided weddings for individuals unable to afford them. In 2004 he launched his own production company, First Prize Productions. Early projects the company was involved in producing included “Police Women of Broward County” and “Police Women of Maricopa County”, and “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins” that featured the reknown self-help guru.
Just as his production company was gaining traction, Blassberg was hit with devastating personal news. He learned his girlfriend had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Within hours of receiving this news, he learned his older sister, a previous breast cancer survivor, discovered her cancer had returned and metastasized. He spent the next few years dividing his time between supporting his sister on the East coast and his girlfriend on the West coast.
Throughout this period Blassberg learned a great deal about BRCA testing and the life altering affect it could have on individuals predisposed to breast and ovarian cancers. Recognizing the benefits presenting the subject matter could have on the general public, he requested an interview with Dr. Armando E. Giuliano, MD. Giuliano is a leading breast cancer authority who’s expertise keeps him in high demand The interview was granted before the film was fully conceptualized or funded.
As the concept quickly began to develop, Blassberg initiated a vibrant Kickstarter campaign that exceeded the film’s budgetary goal. Amy Byer Shainman, a Florida-based BRCA advocate, joined him as his executive producer. Wisely outlining their production schedule and notating very specific shooting days allowed them to hire professionals such as cinematographer Scott Carrithers, co-producer Mark Romeo and the other crew members on a very tight budget. Blassberg found that social media connected him to many of the individuals featured in the film as word spread through organizations including the Pink Lotus Breast Center and FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered.)
Despite using himself as a protagonist – highlighting his sister’s last few months battling cancer, his younger sister’s decision to undergo prophylactic surgery, and his experience sitting in a pink waiting room and answer questions about his last “period” and “pregnancy” during his first mammogram, Blassberg focused on highlighting the BRCA test, the choices individuals face upon receiving their results, and the journeys they traverse once decisions have been made. With the film’s first run concluded in Los Angeles, he is looking forward to taking it on the road and having as many people see it as possible.
“There’s no hidden agenda. People don’t know about the mutation –some people have been tested subsequently, and I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Blassberg. “I wanted this film to be about the journey and for people to know about their choices, and to feel good as they left the theater.”
“Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer” will be screened at the AMC Empire 25 Theater in NYC October 23-29th. To learn more about the film and screenings near you, please visit: