David Ehrlich April 24, 2013
So I’ve been pretty outspoken about the fact that, of the approximately six bazillion films premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, my personal favorite is Matt Creed and Amy Grantham’s “Lily.” Because I’m super lazy and exhausted on account of not sleeping through nearly as many films as I have in years past, I’ll just re-post what I wrote about “Lily” yesterday when Film.com ran an exclusive clip from the movie:
“Lily” is a beautifully rendered portrait of a young woman preparing to take the next step as she finishes treatment for breast cancer, a film that’s tiny but true, as precise as it is universally relatable. Indebted to the free-flowing spirit of John Cassavetes and inspired by lead actress Amy Grantham’s fight with cancer, “Lily” is the kind of movie that proves – among other things – that there’s hope for indie film beyond the likes of Sundance and SXSW, and that Tribeca is full of buried treasure if you know where to look.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Yesterday, Matt and Amy were kind enough to sit down with me and chat about “Lily,” all of the choices that made the film possible, how such a personal story can be so universally relatable, and how a blog can save a life.
David Ehrlich: So this is a pretty unusual situation for me because I know nothing about you guys other than the movie, which is not typically how I go into these things, so if I ask you some super asinine questions… well, sorry about that.
Matt Creed: No you’re good.
Amy Grantham: (laughs) it’s okay.
David: So this is your first feature?
David: Your first festival…
Matt: First festival… first film-related experience, really. I’m learning, trying to figure it out.
David: Do you come from a film background?
Matt: No, more like art history and fine arts…studio art stuff. But, I watched films while I was growing up like crazy.
David: “You’ve seen movies?”
Matt: (laughs) Maybe just a couple. You know, I just started making a bunch of short films about five years ago and then about three years ago I was like OK, I really want to make a feature. So I started writing a couple, just kind of dedicating all my time towards writing and finding the right project, and then I met Amy and I found her story.
David: So you guys met as a result of this, you didn’t know each other before?
Amy: No we didn’t.
David: And you’d been acting before?
Amy: In my apartment, if that counts.
David: It definitely counts.
Amy: In my wildest dreams, I thought, ‘yeah that’s definitely something I’d like to do someday, but I have no idea about doing it. How about we just write a script?’ (Laughing)
David: How did that conversation even start since you didn’t look at her as an actress, first? How do you make that leap from “I don’t even know this person” to “you should be an actress in this movie?”
Matt: I don’t know, I kind of just had this idea for a story that I wanted to expand and, I had been reading Amy’s blog and she’s a great writer. I asked her if she’d be interested in taking this little idea I had and writing a short story because she had been telling me that she wrote them, so she was very interested and then went into chemo, and then, obviously, disappeared into chemo world.
Amy: That put a damper on the writing (laughing).
Matt: And then I hadn’t seen her and we kind of crossed paths accidentally and decided to meet up one afternoon in a coffee shop towards the end of her treatment. So I said to her ‘Oh, you must be excited that your treatment is coming to an end’ and she said ‘no, I’m not’ and I was just struck by that. She said ‘it’s the only thing I had ever done from beginning to end. It’s my purpose, but it’s weird, how can it be?’
She was only 31 at the time. And I just, related to that and was a little weirded out at first because I’ve never had cancer but what I realized was that I related to her vulnerability. I was just getting out of a relationship and was feeling the same way, very unsettled, so I thought it would be interesting to explore that through Amy’s story and I found that to be so much more interesting and unique. I mean, if you’ve ever felt unsettled or vulnerable, you can relate to Lily.
David: It felt to me like a coming of age story in a way, with higher stakes. So, Amy, it seems like your experience with cancer was something that you wanted to communicate and express, as opposed to something you wanted to internalize.
Amy: Yeah, as Matt was saying, I already had a blog to chronicle the treatment as it happened.
David: So you started the blog when you were diagnosed?
Amy: I started it the day I was diagnosed. I just thought this could be really important because I was so young and there was just nothing out there for me that was the least bit comforting.
I thought it was important when we talked about doing the script to show what for me was the hardest part emotionally, which surprisingly was when it all came to an end because you know, everyone was happy for me. My friends were ecstatic, the doctors were ecstatic, other patients were ecstatic…but I went from having a very tight-knit family of doctors and nurses, assistants, other patients, and then literally overnight waking up and everyone was gone.
David: There’s a certain inertia of being in that life and then…
Amy: It’s hard because you’re supposed to wake up the next day and it was the hardest day of my life. You know, get out of bed and there’s supposed to be little Disney birds flying around your head and it wasn’t like that at all. It took me about three weeks to get over being really bummed out.
David: Yeah, I was struck by the obvious intimacy between Lily and her various doctors.
Amy: Luckily I get to see some of them because I still have to go pretty frequently for check-ups, and its ridiculous because I kind of get a little excited when it’s time to see my oncologist and I’m like ‘Hey, how’ve you been?’. But it really is like seeing an old friend because these are people that were with me constantly for almost two years of my life and its intense – that’s a long relationship.
David: To what extent is the film autobiographic in that sense… how much of the details explicitly reflect your story?
Amy: Yeah, 80-85%. A lot of it.
Matt: I mean, it’s like some things are true but then you embellish them a bit to make it more cinematic and you kind of give it that narrative pleasure.
Amy: The cancer stuff is all real, like having that gene and you know, doing the egg retrievals.
David: Well, the gene thing really struck me because so much of the film is about the rift between the things we choose and the things that choose us, especially as it pertains to Lily’s parents. There’s the hereditary nature of the disease, but also Lily’s relationship with her parents, which is strained on both sides, and inspires her to she make a very clear decision to become her own person…
Matt: The film is definitely about choices, and making choices from kind of this little window we all get every so often. Not to sound sentimental in a way, but every so often you get this opportunity where you have this clarity and I find that comes from being very vulnerable, and it’s one of the purest state of minds we can be in. A lot of people don’t want to stay there very long because it f**king sucks and you see yourself and you see everything and it’s really scary so we tend to stay where we are and not try to move forward and just not deal with things.
For Lily, she really sees it and is like ‘alright, I need to do something here. I don’t need to do something insane but I need to take a step in the right direction, or in the opposite direction of what I’m going into’.
Amy: Yeah. The day you’re diagnosed and it’s decided you’re going to need treatment because surgery isn’t enough, you have ‘x’ amount of time mapped out for you from there. In my case, they said you’ll do two surgeries, chemo and then do radiation, so you know from this month to this month my life is planned and it’s kind of great, but then afterwards you have to make decisions again.
In regards to making choices, we had someone ask a question last night that at the time, I kind of tried to brush it off, but she was saying how she wished that Lily had just said something to her dad, or emailed him or anything and, I have to be careful not to get defensive because it is a character, but I found myself thinking about it this morning when I was walking around and thought it was a really good question because it shows how different our choices are for each of us as individuals because she might’ve been projecting her life onto me with that question.
Maybe she’s got a great relationship with her dad, and it would be devastating to her if he didn’t know, and maybe it’s hard for her to understand that someone might not have a relationship at all with her father and then vice versa, like it’s hard for me to understand what it’s like to have a good one.
David: That might be the healthiest response to a Q&A question in the history of film festivals.
Amy: (laughs) But truly, I think with most questions in an environment like that, that’s a reaction to art or any form of music, cinema or painting. I think a lot of questions that come up for us are obviously from us, you know, we’re projecting in some way. So that was a good question, emotionally difficult, but good.
David: Well, the art is important to that moment as well because to me, I didn’t read it as a decision for her not to reach out to her father at all, but just her expressing herself in a particular way and her father not being especially engaged.
Amy: And that was just one moment. Who knows what could happen later.
Matt: To me, my response to that question is that she just opened a dialogue. There is just so much she hasn’t seen in three years or spoken to him in three years and, she immediately sees him and he’s just a fucking asshole. I think Lily really wants to tell him but maybe just not at that moment. Maybe she goes back later on, but that’s just another film, right? And you can’t just cover everything.
Amy: Well, we were at asked if we’re doing a sequel.
David: Like a trilogy.
Amy: (laughs) “Lily: Part Two.”
Matt: We had talked through the writing process but to me, that was a very honest response and the moment was very human. I think a lot of people want to go and tell someone something and they have the opportunity, and they just can’t do it because it doesn’t feel right or that person has scarred them enough to where… you know, obviously there were some medical things there with the gene, but I think it was one moment.
Amy: For sure.
THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES ON PAGE 2.
Categories: InterviewsTags: Amy Grantham, Director's cut, Interview, Lily, Matt Creed, Tribeca film festival