Artistic Vision for A Good Day to Die
In 2008 my mother had her first stroke. In 2010 she had another. By that time I was already building the story for A Good Day to Die.
So, when writing partner Gregor Collins came to me in February of 2010 and asked if I wanted to work on something together, I knew my end-of-life project was the perfect fit. Gregor had been working for 2 years as a caregiver for renowned Holocaust refugee, Maria Altmann. (Her incredible story has recently been immortalized in the feature film, Woman in Gold, with Helen Mirren as Maria.) Gregor and I wrote tirelessly in Maria’s home during that first year of our work, which turned out to be the last year of her life. Maria died in February of 2011, just shy of her 95th birthday.
My mother, Karen, is still living today. She is 90% recovered from her strokes – a renewed woman, with an urge to squeeze out of life, all that it has to offer. But, my family and I, for many years, have danced with the prospect of losing our matriarch. Dealing with end-of-life issues changes people, it changes family dynamics, and it raises new legal and moral questions at every turn.
While A Good Day to Die contains the seeds of my own struggle with my mother’s impending death, and Gregor’s endearing relationship with Maria, it also carries the potential to help fuel a growing shift in patients’ rights across the country.
We are at an extraordinary time in American (and world) history. The numbers of people over the age of 65 will more than double from the year 2000, to the year 2030. The percentage of older Americans will rise from 12% to nearly 20% of the overall population. End-of-life care continues to be characterized by aggressive medical intervention and runaway costs. And with the business of medicine now eclipsing 17% of the GDP, Americans are funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into surgeries, treatments and drugs every year. The demand to care for, appreciate and understand the twilight years of human life is overtaking us now, as Baby Boomers put their parents to rest and look toward their own choices in end-of-life care. Boomers, like my mother, are poised to transform the institutions of aging, just as they have done to other aspects of American life.
Our cause-related narrative seeks first to entertain. The story is tender and heart-warming; it’s also satirical and absurd. Our vision is to fuse this comedic look at aid in dying, with the burgeoning EOL movement currently driven by organizations like Compassion and Choices, Dying Matters and National Healthcare Decisions Day. A Good Day to Die is off to a great start, having already delivered end-of-life conversations for the public, in partnership with Roanoke College, Carillion Clinic, Good Samaritan Hospice, healthcare attorneys, clergy, nurses and oncologists.
An indie film, in order to make its mark in today’s vast landscape of narrative choices, must also be a movement. There is a powerful convergence of personal, political, legislative, social and historical urgency that is building around the profound and painful question of dying on our own terms. This tidal wave is begging for a cathartic outlet. It’s begging for humor. Ask any hospice nurse or family caregiver what gets them and their patients through the harsh difficulties of dying, they will all tell you, it’s laughter. Given the right nurturing and circumstances, A Good Day to Die can be a vibrant part of this transformational time in our history.
My life’s greatest desire is to see this vision through.
--Andrea Shreeman, Director