It only seemed fitting that I throw up my second short film “You First,” which I co-wrote and starred in this weekend while I was in Asheville, North Carolina. That was the city in which I filmed this seven-minute movie about the passing of my ex-boyfriend and best friend Rob Stecz. It was also where I processed my grief around his heroin overdose and what it was like to lose someone I loved so much.

This was the hardest project I ever worked on and I completely flipped out after making it mostly because of being overwhelmed by sadness. It is one thing to go through something traumatic. It is another to play a character inspired by someone who you loved so much and knew you couldn’t save. However fortunately because of a wonderful cast and crew, I was able to get through this period. They saved me from my melancholy and together we created something that I believe represents my relationship with Rob: one that was built around love, trust, and mutual respect for one another. We truly did put each other first. I am so proud of our friendship and the memories that I have with him, good and bad, that were based on truth.

I am also so thankful to have had the support of his family while digging into this project. I love his mom like a surrogate family member. They knew that I wanted to create a film to commemorate his passing and cheered me on. It was kind of amazing and I know I couldn’t have done it without them.

I could say a lot more things about this film, which was nominated for “Best Narrative” at the Longleaf Film Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, but I won’t — in hopes that you all watch it. This is a film about unconditional love and acceptance. It is a film about loss and overcoming it through one of my many creative outlets. Most importantly, it is a film about knowing you cannot change anyone but rather, we all need to make the right choices for ourselves.

Like Rob told me once, in life you have to “put yourself first.” He was talking about me who could, at times, be too much of a helper.

I’m so proud of my co-writer Brent Jones, director Jason Stokes, co-star Greg Robbie, one of my favorite rappers Clinton Standifer aka “Showyousuck” and the crew for helping me to bring this to life. Many thanks to my Executive Producer Shiro Onedera for believing in my vision.

If you think this film can help someone, I encourage you to share it! My hope is that it does.

Lots of love, Lily

Lily Clayton Hansen

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