Well it’s true isn’t it? We eat three times a day. Plays have three acts. There were Three Stooges, Three Little Pigs and Three Blind Mice. And now I’m entering the third phase of making my film – Cancer Rebellion. Phase one was actually going out and doing the road trip. Phase two was re-living that road trip as I worked with the footage to make sense of it. But now both of those tasks are in my past.
Phase three is getting out there and promoting it. And it’s really interesting moving into this phase! Because now the film is complete, it’s refined and shinier than ever. It sounds good, it looks good — I’ve done my part. All I can hope is that as many people as possible get to see it. I’ve watched it hundreds if not thousands of times now and I’m confident that it does what I set out to do. I wanted to see a film that was honest and real. A film that could convey the huge experience of just what it’s like to get cancer when you’re young. This is the film I wish I could have seen when I was 15 and starting treatment. It’s the film I silently promised myself I would someday make if I could only get over this cancer thing and grow up.
Well, I’m happy to report I finally grew up.
The painful part is over. It didn’t hurt to drive 25k miles. It didn’t even really hurt when I was stuck in the hospital from pushing myself too hard. (Well ok yes that was a physical pain but as a cancer survivor you learn to live with that) The real painful part was cutting the film down. You see, out there on the road I filmed interviews with 90 people. That’s 90 amazing beautiful stories of life told by 90 amazing young people. When I got back to the edit bay I had this huge task in front of me: How do I include everybody? Believe me I tried as hard as I could. The first rough string-out of the film was nearly three hours long.
Cutting a documentary is a lot like chiseling into a block of marble. You start with a largely shapeless mass of raw material. And the more you take away, the clearer the shape becomes. In the process there comes a point where you’re not in control anymore. The sculpture itself is in control — and it will dictate where the chisel goes. So it was with Cancer Rebellion. The film told me where to cut. I was just the guy protesting every time hammer met chisel. All in all, the film now clocks in at a speedy 1 hour and 41 minutes. But the last few months of finalizing that cut were just pure torture as I had to face facts and cut even more people out. So if you’re one of the many great young people we interviewed – and you don’t hear yourself speak in the film – feel free to come up to me slap me good ’n hard.
My only defense is that I actually did create a short film about each and every one of the people we filmed with. And if you string those together back to back, the running time of those is over 2.5 hours (and that material has little crossover with the film). So yes, I’m proud that I managed to use so much of what we shot on the road trip.
Ok whew got all that off my chest so I’m feeling a little better. I’m really proud of this film we’ve made together. As I hit the road for screenings and what I hope will be some amazing Q&A sessions, I’m feeling good about Cancer Rebellion. I’m feeling hopeful that we can make a dent in the way cancer is perceived – the way it’s treated and the way we survive it. I hope to see all of you out there!