Last week I received an email that made my heart jump for joy. “You First,” the second short film that I co-wrote, starred in, and produced had been announced as an official selection by Longleaf Film Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina. While living in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2022 I made “You First” with the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, lush foliage, and running streams as our background. It was a perfectly serene setting to make a slightly unnerving film.
“You First,” co-written with Brent Jones, is based on a true story about my best friend and ex-boyfriend Rob who passed away from an overdose a few years ago. When the situation happened, I was too shocked to imagine writing anything around it. Even if you know the end might be coming, the finality of death is difficult to emotionally prepare yourself for. After a long battle with opioid addiction, I both felt grateful for the peace that Rob was finally able to achieve as well as devastated. Part of me knew the hard reality that hard drugs are almost impossible to kick and the other half of me was furious that a bad habit had curtailed so much possibility. It was the first time that I realized you can’t love someone out of self-harm. If they don’t believe they can achieve sobriety, then relapse is always just a step away.
For anyone who has ever gone through death and not handled it very well, I didn’t either. Rob and I talked every day. He was my very best friend; my champion, confidante, and support system. As time went on, the idea of writing a film based on our relationship kept gnawing at me. I wasn’t a fan of how addiction was so often portrayed on screen. As many of my friends had told me, heroin was overarchingly associated with the flophouse, dirty T-shirt-wearing degenerates of “Trainspotting.” However, the addict I knew was an unlikely suspect: handsome, well-read, and put-together. (More into his clothes than myself, in fact!) Unless you knew him, you would have never suspected that drugs were the demon riding on his back. As a rebel at heart, I wanted to make a film about unconditional love rather than the typical skid row story. Perhaps by showing a softer side to the perils of addiction, it will become all the more relatable- and preventable for anyone who might succumb to it.
I am beyond proud to be able to publicly premiere “You First” on May 13 at 11 AM at the North Carolina History Museum in the same state where it was brought to life. This film is dear to my heart and one that I hope generates empathy for those who can’t handle life sober. If you’re in the area, I would love to see you. And a very special thank you to my Executive Producer Shiro Onedera for believing in me.