In the end, we, too, had to say goodbye to him, and that was a very difficult and intense thing to do, although I realized that each goodbye was actually a gift to him. Letting him go was, in a sense, allowing him the transition he so deeply desired.
During the making of the film, I realized what a gift it was to be able to say goodbye. About a year after Gregg passed away, my younger sister, Danielle, died very suddenly. It was incredibly devastating. None of us had a chance to see her one last time or to say goodbye. What a gift that would have been.
BG: I realized how much easier this journey was for us, as filmmakers, than for his friends and family, in part because we seemed to have so much more access to Gregg during his final days than any of them. We were kept completely in the loop.
One moment that stands out was when I was having feelings of uneasiness and sadness about Gregg’s eminent decision to take his life. But I discovered that when I spoke with him, or when I was with him, I knew that this was the right decision.
Gour, Boyaner and Green
AE: How was the film received by selection committees when you began submitting it, and then, by audiences when it began screening it at festivals?
MB: We knew that this might be a difficult film for festivals to program, due to the subject matter. But we also knew that we had made a film that was full of humanity and love and humor and acceptance. We were hoping that festival programmers would be able to see that, although it was difficult. It told an important story and contained themes that people could relate to because they would wonder: “What would I do? How would I say goodbye?”
BG: Many selection committees labeled this film an AIDS/HIV story, when this documentary is a universal, broad story about one man’s decision to take control of his life.
MB: The film had its premiere at [the] Frameline [film festival] in San Francisco, and we had no idea how it would be embraced. We were overwhelmed with a full theater and a very enthusiastic and thoughtful audience that were deeply moved. It went on to play many other festivals with amazing responses, winning audience awards, too.
BG: It was received with warm, open arms and standing ovations. It won Best Documentary from the Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in New Mexico.
MB: I want to take a moment to acknowledge the composer for A Finished Life, Meghan Toohey, who is an incredible musician, singer-songwriter, and producer. She has worked with Missy Higgins, Lenka, Rachel Cantu, The Weepies, and many other amazing artists and bands. We were thrilled to have her as our composer.