Amy Grantham in Matt Creed's Lily
Matt Creed's Lily, which screens Wednesday in our monthly Indie Night series, handles serious issues in a unique way. Lily is a twenty-something breast cancer survivor who tries to put her illness behind her and focus on her life with a newfound clarity. The story is loosely based on the experiences of co-writer and lead actress Amy Grantham, whom we had the pleasure of interviewing along with the film's director.
FilmLinc Daily: How did you two meet?
Matt Creed: We met in a coffee shop (yeah that's very cliché). We just started talking and it was around the time she had just been diagnosed. She was very blunt about that and told me she had started a blog and I read it one day.
FD: How closely (or loosely) is the film based on Amy's experience? What are some major similarities and differences?
MC: I would say its loosely based on her life. All the scenes and issues that deal with cancer are all very real and true. Then we built a character and story around those moments. But a lot of the themes of the film come from those moments. Having been through something very intense and coming out on the other side of it. How that makes you vulnerable. The feeling of being unsettled late in life, etc...
FD: Amy, what did you do to differentiate the character from yourself?
Amy Grantham: Matt and I talked a lot during the writing process about what we wanted to use from my life, and what we would create to make Lily a fully fleshed-out character. We chose some similarities to focus on (cancer being the most obvious one) and from there we created a character who's not really that much like me at all. I like to say that we have some things in common but, overall, she's very different from me in a number of ways. Little things, right down to her wardrobe choices, helped to get me into character. She has a very different life than I do. She might be cooler than me to tell you the truth!
FD: Matt, was it difficult to direct an actress with such a close tie to the story? Or did it make it easier?
MC: I didn't really think too much about it. Amy is very easy going and I think that we built a character that was far enough removed from her that it was easy for her. Of course I was aware and sensitive to the fact that some of the material was very close and personal to her, but at the end of the day we are storytelling and Lily is a character. I also made it a point when writing that if it were too close to the truth that we had to alter it a bit, distort it so she would be outside of herself.
Amy Grantham in Matt Creed's Lily
FD: Amy, were you always going to play the lead role?
AG: Well, I think I hoped I would get to play the lead role, but in the end it was up to Matt. Luckily, Matt was kind enough to put his faith in me and give me what I think has been one of the most incredible opportunities of my life. To get to be in a feature film and work with someone who I believe has such promise as a director was just great. It was my first time acting so I feel like it was Matt's faith and intuition that really helped me believe I could do it. If he didn't think I'd mess up his film then there was nothing to lose!
FD: Did you decide from the beginning that the film would focus on Lily's life at the end of her treatments instead of going through the more typically portrayed beginning stages?
MC: Definitely! It was very important to me that we make a film that dealt with cancer, but wasn't a cancer film. I think Amy felt the same way. It relates to the way Amy was feeling at the time of her treatment coming to an end and I realized she was just very vulnerable and I was, as well, at the time. It was about tapping into that state of mind. I thought: If I can relate to this then anyone can. It's about being vulnerable and unsettled then exploring how someone navigates through this moment of their life. Everyone has felt this way at some point in his or her life and if they haven't, they will.
FD: Towards the end of the film, Lily reminded me of Jean Seberg's character Patricia in Godard's Breathless. Was that an influence here? Or any other influences you want to mention?
MC: Not for me, but there was definitely some French New Wave influence in the film. The biggest inspiration for me was probably A Woman Under the Influence and 400 Blows—films that deal heavily with the human spirit.
FD: Lily maintains a child-like wonder with which she explores each day. This is enhanced by her boyish pixie hair, her overalls, playing with bubbles and toy planes in a bathtub, etc. This contrasts with the very adult, intense issues she is dealing with. Was there a specific approach to writing her this way or was this related to Amy's personal experiences?
MC: I think that when you are in this state of mind, being completely vulnerable, as adults we become very pure again. It's a brief moment, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable, that we can see ourselves very clearly and we can become childlike in these moments. So it was important to portray Lily in this light; to make her playful even while coming out of the more heavy moments.
AG: I think the innocence that Lily seems to have held onto (as opposed to most adults who lose it) is the very thing which helps her to navigate her way through these difficult issues. The way she looks at the world isn't so much naive as it is unfiltered. She still has that ability that grown-ups sometimes lose to be amazed by things. I think that quality is essential in how she deals with not just cancer but the other issues that come up for her along the way. Personally, I do enjoy a good bubble bath, but I'm usually reading New York Magazine!
Lily screens on Wednesday, November 13 at 7:00pm as part of our monthly Indie Night series, with Matt Creed and Amy Grantham in person for Q&A!