Interview with Lilibet Foster: “Be Here Now” – The Andy Whitfield Story
Andy Whitfield, best known for his role in the Starz TV series: Spartacus: Blood and Sand, was diagnosed with cancer in March 2010 and passed away in September 2011. While he was battling cancer, he allowed Academy Award Nominated director, Lilibet Foster, to film a documentary of his remaining months. Lilibet brought this documentary to Kickstarter to raise $200,000 for final production costs. Over the course of her campaign (which ends today), she has raised over $290,000, a very impressive 148% of her goal. Lilibet was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the film and her influences as a documentary film-maker.
Q: Where did the inspiration for this documentary come from? What was it about this project that called to you?
Lilibet: When Andy Whitfield was first diagnosed with cancer after filming season one of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” he and his wife, Vashti, felt that going through chemotherapy was isolating, lonely and scary. So, when he was re-diagnosed after going into remission, right before filming began on season two, they felt that this time, rather than hide in the shadows, they would allow a camera to follow their story in a documentary so that they may help or perhaps inspire other people going through a similar experience — or facing any kind of challenge in their lives. Andy called his manager, Sam Maydew of LA based, The Collective, who is my producing partner on the film, to ask for his assistance and he contacted me to ask if I’d make the documentary with Andy. In the very first call with Andy and Vashti, I asked Andy where he was from. He said that I probably wouldn’t know it because it was a very small town on a small island off the north of Wales. When he said it was called, Bull Bay — I said that I knew it well because that is where my father grew up. You can imagine the chances of this coincidence were slim and from that moment on we knew that our making this film together was meant to be. From that first time when we all met, we’ve always felt as though we were old friends.
Q: Who do you expect your audience will be? Who are you trying to reach out to with this documentary?
Lilibet: We’ve already had an enormous response from people all over the world, of every age and background. We plan to distribute and market it as widely as possible, internationally — and now in as many languages as possible. We now have the added request from people from all over the world, that in addition to English, we make sure the finished film is translated into German, Spanish, Russian, French, Italian, Serbian, Czech closed captioned and many more languages. We already have already starter translating the trailer and hope to post the Spanish version today. Our plans for distribution include film festivals and worldwide distribution channels that include television, home video and movie theaters, but also making it available for cancer related organizations and groups around the world, to fulfill Andy’s wishes to inspire and help others to live in the here and now, while pushing to accelerate the pace of cancer research. We are more inspired than ever to make this film.
Q: What is the draw for your audience? What makes your documentary unique?
Lilibet: Andy and his family’s unprecedented access, openness and honesty, gives the audience an intimate look into Andy’s personal life that is rarely shared, especially by a celebrity. And because the documentary also captures his and his wife Vashti’s infectious determination, love, humor and self-affirming attitudes, “Be Here Now” transcends the subject of cancer and becomes a universal life-lesson for anyone, about going for your dreams, embracing each moment and fearlessly living in the here and now – despite the potential outcome.
Q: Did you draw influences for this documentary from other films? Which ones? Are there any specific directors you draw inspiration from?
Lilibet: I’ve been making feature documentary films for +20 years and have earned an Academy Award Nomination for one film and another won the Independent Spirit Award. If I think back on who first inspired me when I started out it would be the originators of cinéma vérité and direct cinema like Ricky Leacock, The Maysles, Robert Drew and D.A. Pennebaker as well as Frederick Wiseman.
Q: What specific locations or people are featured in your documentary? What is their significance to the project?
Lilibet: “Be Here Now” is a feature documentary, and love story that follows the actor, Andy Whitfield, who, just like the inspiring, handsome, legendary warrior he played in “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” fought a heroic battle against all odds, in his own life. The documentary is also about Vashti Whitfield, Andy’s charismatic wife, who supports him throughout his journey that takes place in Australia, New Zealand and because Andy also explored eastern healing, India.
If you would like to make a donation to the film, you can find the Kickstarter here: http://kck.st/LBgeJ6
Also, the film’s official site can be found here: www.beherenowfilm.com