Tribeca Filmmaker Profile: Matt Creed (Director – ‘Lily’)

Diagnosed with breast cancer and nearing the end of her treatment, ‘Lily‘ turns her focus to the rest of her life with newfound clarity. Wandering through atmospheric New York City streets, she reevaluates what she has built for herself, including her life with an older boyfriend and his children and her feelings about her long-absent father. Lingering in intimate, charged moments with ‘Lily‘ during this vulnerable period, first-time director Matt Creed and actress Amy Grantham create a mature, stylish character piece reminiscent of classic French New Wave.

Loosely based on the real-life experiences of co-writer and lead actress Grantham, ‘Lily‘ is an immersion into a rarely explored side of the cancer narrative: the moment when the disease is gone and the survivor is thrown back into everyday life. How does one cope with that experience? What are the emotions that come with losing something that has been an integral part of your life, even if that something was a life-threatening disease? Grappling with these ambivalent issues with courage and sensitivity, collaborators Creed and Grantham have made a delicate, heartfelt film that deals with cancer but is not a cancer film.

As part of our Tribeca Film Festival Profile Series, we talk to Director Matt Creed about the influences behind the film, its relation to the city of New York and Tribeca’s place in the life of an indie film .  The film premiers at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea 4 on Saturday, April 20, 2013 @ 8:30pm as part of the festival’s World Narrative Competition.

For ‘Lily’ Tickets & Screening InformationHERE

Your film ‘Lily’ has been described as reminiscent of French New Wave cinema.  Were you specifically influenced by the New Wave when making this film?  What were some of your influences as a Director, whether they be visual or stylistic?
I wouldn’t say that I was specifically influenced by the French New Wave, but I was definitely influenced by some of those films.  I am more attracted to the darker and more internal films of Louis Malle, like “The Fire Within” or “Elevator To The Gallows.”  Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” was a big influence on Lily, the two characters are trying to find their place in the world.  Specifically for this film, as a director I was influenced by the early films of Jerry Shatzberg, John Casavettes, Jim Jarmusch, and Bela Tarr.  IA really big influence on Lily was, “A Woman Under The Influence.”  I like how that film comes right into the drama of the story, there is no real set up, right from the get go we sense something is not right, and then we just watch it all unravel, but it’s just a moment in this woman’s life, and a very vulnerable one.  Lily, I think, captures that aspect of a woman’s life.  It’s an exploration of a really vulnerable period in a woman’s life, and we observe her navigate through it.

The film’s plot, as well as its New York City location, immediately drew my attention.  Why did you set this film against the backdrop of Breast Cancer treatment?
What’s unique about the film is that it’s a film that deals with cancer, but it’s in no way a cancer film.  I was very attracted to the story, because I thought a lot of what Amy, co-writer and lead actress, was going through was very relatable.  She said things like “cancer is the greatest achievement of my life and I’m 31, how is that possible?” and “this is the only thing I have ever finished from start to end.”  I could just tell she was really in this very fragile and vulnerable place and she as asking herself the same questions I was as that time.  I was also in this really vulnerable head space and I thought it would be really interesting to explore this vulnerable state of mind through Amy’s story.  I could of just written another break up story or love story, but I thought Amy’s story was really unique and special.  I had never thought about this aspect of cancer before, the “what now?” aspect.  I never knew about the BRCA 2 gene, or the radiation treatment, the burns.  So this film really deals with everything after the fact of treatment.  While we see some aspects of treatment, it’s really the aftermath of it, and how someone deals with it.  I think it’s a very relatable film.

How does a location like New York City, with its rich history and atmosphere, help with treatments for such emotionally tumultuous afflictions?
To be honest I can’t really answer this question because I have never had cancer.  I will say that this city makes you feel like you’re never alone.  I spend a lot of time alone in New York, but I never feel lonely.  There is always someone willing to talk to you and there is always something really amazing to look at or observe in the streets.  Maybe that could help someone going through something like this.

As a Director, how did you approach the New York City visual aspect of the film?  How did you want the city to play into the narrative?
I never really thought hard about how I was going to portray the city in the film.  It was important to me to not blatantly expose New York.  It fits into the film the way it fits into my day to day life and I knew that’s how it would come across in the film because it’s a New York I know so well.  New York is very special to me, I love this city very much.  It’s the longest I have ever lived anywhere in my life and it’s definitely my home.  Lily, in a way, was my little love letter to New York.

This is your debut feature as a Director.  What did you find the most difficult aspect being in making this film?
Honestly, everything happened so naturally for me.  I think we just got really lucky, but I didn’t find anything too difficult.  I would say money is always a hard part of filmmaking, but that’s a given.  The only thing that I really stressed about while filming was Amy’s health.  She was still recovering from treatment and her immune system was no where near back to normal.  On films like this your days are long and hard, especially when you’re in every shot.  I think she had a fever for a few days towards the end of filming.  I was so scared for her and I didn’t want to push her too hard, but she was so amazing.  She showed up every day ready for whatever was coming her way and she brought so much energy and laughter to the set.  That goes such a long way for your crew.  She’s a very special and strong individual.  She’s also a very talented actress.

Why is the Tribeca Film Festival an important destination in the life of ‘Lily’?
Well, that’s obvious, it’s a New York festival!  Tribeca has been great to us and they’ve been so supportive.  They really got the film and I think Tribeca is a great festival for a film like Lily to premiere at.  I’m very excited about it and excited to show the film to a New York audience.

About Matt Creed
MATT CREED is a New York-based filmmaker and artist. He spent his childhood in transit from Toronto to Ohio, Los Angeles and eventually New York. With a background in studio art and no formal film training, Creed’s approach is that of the silent observer, watching and recording.

Facebook: /Lily


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