SFIFF52:Q&A with David Lee Miller

My Suicide director talks about death and the Internet.

If you've ever seriously wondered what the point of it all is, or whether one reason your life feels so empty is that you watch too much of it on a screen, you are very much in the target demographic for My Suicide, Stanford film and journalism alum David Lee Miller's new feature. Miller's frenetic romantic dramedy, a standout among the S.F. International Film Festival's most anticipated titles, limns the life of one variously anguished, media-overloaded teenager, who, for a class project, plans to kill himself on camera. We spoke with Miller about it last week.

SF Weekly: The movie is set in Southern California, but our festival groups it with local films. Tell us about your Bay Area connection.

Miller
Miller
In My Suicide, Archie (Gabriel Sunday), an angst-ridden teen, plans to kill himself on camera for a class project.
In My Suicide, Archie (Gabriel Sunday), an angst-ridden teen, plans to kill himself on camera for a class project.

Miller: The movie came out of a youth group that I founded with my son, Jordan, mainly for young artists in the digital age. Our northern chapter is run by Eric Adams, who basically wrote the movie with me and Jordan, who lives in Oakland, and our star, Gabriel Sunday, who's from the area too. With them and Todd Traina, our producer, we have a big Bay Area contingency.

SF Weekly: Public service announcements are a large part of what your nonprofit, Regenerate Films, does. Did you have a strategy for making sure My Suicide didn't seem too much like one?

Miller: We knew that if we really wanted to reach young people, and people of all ages, we had to make a real connection. There's a few moments in the movie where it's like, "Wow, this is the message." But it's always tempered, sometimes with some maybe inappropriate jokes. Whenever it got preachy, we couched it with something young and outrageous. The fact is, our young people are way more sophisticated than we often give them credit or respect for.

SF Weekly: By necessity, perhaps, it does get in your face. How have audiences responded?

Miller: Some older people don't get it. It's fast. It plays around with form. But it's a very traditional three-act story structure. I think young people feel like it's their movie. Archie is their Howard Beale, if you'll pardon the reference to Network. Oh, and some older people do like a lot of the movie references.

SF Weekly: It's probably fair to assume that some people will seek this movie out from morbid curiosity alone. How do you feel about that?

Miller: I do worry about it a little bit. This is a very touchy subject. We've been very, very careful with it. And, you know, we've had a lot of repeat viewers. People want to see it more than once. Parents call us up and they're like, "Wow. It changed our family dynamics." We had one case where a boy dug his suicide note out of a trash can and showed it to his dad. I've seen how suicide affects so many people's lives. Someone you know. It's not a seventh degree of separation, it's a first or second degree.


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