A Good Day To Die, the upcoming feature film by writer and producer Andrea Shreeman and director Emily Lou, will explore right-to-die issues with a comedic perspective. Lily Bauer (played by Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman) is a sassy 81-year-old terminal cancer patient who enlists the help of her daughter to organize her own assisted suicide with a theme- Lily wants to die amidst the sights and sounds of the Amazon rainforest. More outrageous death proposals start to come their way, and the two unexpectedly escalate their idea into a successful start-up death business.
Life Matters Media spoke with Shreeman and Lou about their project and their hopes for it.
Why make comedy out of this subject matter?
Lou: I think, from a directorial standpoint, it opens people up emotionally to hear our message. The obvious choice would be to make it a drama, but a lot of people can be turned off by that. They don’t want to enter into a sad story. Andrea is an established comedian, and I direct comedies- so it is the best way for us as a creative team. It’s also really important to have light in a really difficult subject- especially a subject people find difficult to talk about. Humor during an end of life event is absolutely priceless.
What is the message?
Shreeman: On a personal level, I want people to feel empowered at the end of their life. You don’t need to turn all the power over to doctors, the hospital or everyone else. You should have a say about how the end of your life goes. In a much broader sense, I want people to just start talking. Everybody always has a friend or knows somebody going through this.
Lou: That you have a choice about how you live your life or end your life. People always want their personal choice, but they are sometimes afraid of being judged. It’s important that we respect everyone.
Why are discussions about death and dying rare- and even uncomfortable- for so many Americans?
Lou: Unless death is about a romanticized violent end, like in a video game, people don’t want to talk about death or sickness. When somebody asks you ‘how are you doing?’ you always say, ‘great.’ People just don’t talk about it, and if they do people may think, ‘I didn’t mean that much information.’
Shreeman: And in video games, people always have 12 lives. So if they die, they have another one. Some people, like 12-year-old kids, find dying repeatedly to be normal. And yes, death is taboo, but I have noticed people are starting to be more open to such discussions. Our population is aging rapidly, and when I speak to baby boomers they say, ‘Look, when I die, I want to do it on my own terms.’ A lot of folks are starting to speak up about this topic. So, even though it is taboo, there is a country-wide shift. The tipping point is near, and I am excited to be on that wave.
The film was co-written with Gregor Collins.
The film’s first mission is to entertain, but the producers also want to inspire conversations surrounding end of life care and planning. They are spearheading a series of community discussions, the first of which will take place at The Jefferson Center in Roanoke, VA, on Oct. 24, entitled “End of Life: A Community Conversation.” Learn more at thediemovie.wordpress.com.
The film is still in its early stages but should be completed by September, 2014. You can learn more by contacting Shreeman at email@example.com.