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“Love You Anyway” – A New Filmmaker Tackles First Love and Addiction

Few movies have successfully utilized the found footage formula that the 1999 juggernaut The Blair Witch Project took all the way to the bank (grossing over 4,000 times its original budget). The technique of narration through a series of (supposedly) discovered raw, candid, and startling, video recordings naturally lends itself to the horror genre. Films like 2007s Paranormal Activity, 2008s Cloverfield, and 1980s Cannibal Holocaust are perhaps some of the other most well-known found-footage, horror/sci-fi endeavors.

Yet the 1961 film that is widely considered to be the first found-footage movie, Shirley Clarke’s  The Connection, is about a distinctly different type of horror: substance abuse. The ambitious and overly-stylized movie used cinéma vérité techniques to follow a director making a film about a group of addicts waiting for their ‘connection’ to supply a heroin fix. Writer/director Anna Matz’s new film Love You Anyway brings the found footage format back to its roots.

Love You Anyway was selected as part of the Six Feet Apart Experiment created by Justin Baldoni, the filmmaker behind the Disney+ drama Clouds. The initiative challenged storytellers to use the pandemic to fuel their creativity. Part of the Six Feet Apart Experiment involved having first-time directors paired with established filmmakers. Kentucky-native Matz, who is 25 and graduated from Biola University’s Cinema and Media Arts program, was mentored by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, the directors behind Bad Boys for Life.

The film, which follows two childhood friends from adolescence through young adulthood, centers mental health and substance abuse issues within a moving story of love and loyalty. It combines an assortment of real-life video mediums, such as 90s home video, digital cameras, laptop webcams, iPhone videos, dash-cams, DSLRs, and news channel reports to create intimacy between the audience and the films protagonists Mackenzie (Reign Edwards) and Lucas (Charlie Gillespie). Matz recently sat with the Hollywood Foreign Press to discuss her film.

There are a lot of similarities to EuphoriaSpiderman and Zendaya. Were you inspired by either?

Not a specific inspiration on the pages. When we were approaching the casting process, it was open ended as far as what Mackenzie’s race was going to be. We auditioned lots of different actresses and Reign Edwards just knocked it out of the park, she was the first one I saw, so then once we casted her, it became this collaborative conversation of how do you want to approach this? Because a lot of the characters were based on my family and myself growing up, and obviously I am a white woman, so talking to Reign and collaborating on that. I know that she loves both of those franchises, so I can’t speak specifically, but I think just in the climate right now, you have to look to both of those pieces because that’s where the conversation is.

So far as research for the film, did you visit drug treatment centers? Or was the inspiration coming from a personal specific experience?

Regarding research, I wrote this film during the pandemic, during May of 2020, so any on the ground research, would’ve been incredibly limited, but that’s why the internet is fantastic. I watched a lot of documentaries…specifically the scene where Mackenzie is graduating rehab…there’s a lot of content out there about people in that process of going to one of these communities and then what it feels like to leave them, so that scene was specifically drawn from a documentary I watched about teens dealing with opioid addiction. Largely for the depression, there’s a really wonderful book called “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig, that I read, and I have friends who have credited it with really helping them survive, if not be the reason that they are still alive. Reading that was really insightful into getting into that mindset, but a lot of it was pulled from just myself and my friends and high schoolers and Gen Z(ers) that I know who struggle with depression.

What type of technical experimentation did you use as a director?

It was fun to think through all the different possible mediums, like when I was first beginning the process, I literally racked my brain and listed out every conceivable way that a person could be recorded and then from there chose the ones that would serve the story the best. The dash cam is pretty pivotal in a lot of the story’s moments, and a lot of people have those, but I don’t think people think of using that in a found footage style movie. It was definitely a fun, creative challenge from the writing point of view, and then once we got on set, it just made everything feel more organic. The question always came back to is, what feels natural, what feels natural, because the second with any sort of found footage esque project, the second it doesn’t feel like real life, you lose the audience. That was always the paramount concern, both with the page and with the being on screen.


Could tell us a little bit more about being part of the Six Feet Apart Experiment, and if you were in touch with the other participants?

The contest was announced early May 2020, so I wrote the script for the contest, reverse engineered it to fit what they were looking for. I found out I was the winner in August of 2020, which left three or four months before we ended up shooting in October, and it was such a shining light of hope in the middle of peak pandemic, and definitely gave structure back to my days and it was such a fun thing to throw myself into. I think because of that, the other participants, the other four winners, we definitely created a bond, almost like trauma bonding of how are we going to do this movie, this is how much money we have. Right off the bat, we knew, we’re in a very unique experience that not many other people are going to be able to relate to. We were very collaborative and helping like, hey, I need this location, do you know anything, or I’ve been getting these notes, or I need to find this. Or with COVID, which was always a threat to an indie film, especially at that time, if any one of your crew members tested positive, your shoot would get pushed two weeks, so the stakes were always up to here because on our budget and on our scale, we couldn’t afford to push two weeks. We were incredibly supported by Wayfair and each other, and that is definitely why all five films are finished, which an incredible feat, and I’m excited for all those to come out as well.

Despite all the restrictions of the pandemic to everyone, as a young filmmaker, did it make you more open to experimentation to overcome the challenges of social distancing, for example?

Definitely, and I think personally, I’ve been waiting my whole life for a moment where it’s just Anna, write, just write, because it’s always been school or homework or work or whatever. When the pandemic hit, as awful as it was, I was like, writing is going to keep me sane, I can create a structure for myself. Then doing that with the challenge of, how do you write a movie that’s pandemic doable, so little crew, little cast, few locations. Writing scenes that don’t need tons of extras, which was also difficult and we found creative ways to avoid that at different turns. I think those restrictions, as they usually do, make you write better stories and made me really focus on the emotional core of the movie, because at the end of the day, that’s what engages audiences and that’s what makes an impact. Not necessarily when you have a concert scene with hundreds of people, yeah, that’s great, but if the emotion behind it isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how many extras you have. With the restrictions, it made me hyper focused on making those elements land.

Talk a little bit about the film’s reception so far.

For me, the target audience was always young women struggling with their mental health and having a lot of internal dialogue that they think is unique to them. Then to have a character like Mackenzie on screen in very simple, organic ways, saying all the things that they feel like they were the only ones feeling, was always my goal. On social media primarily is where I’ve been keeping up with fan responses, and it’s been really incredible to see that people love these happy moments and they love the dark moments, they’re like this is such an important film. Obviously, Charlie and Reign both have huge followings, they’re very beloved, and I think a lot of people just clicked in for them because they’re great, and then they were almost taken aback by how the movie spoke so much to their individual experience growing up. A lot of times fans have mentioned that it’s been inspiring and helpful, and I think specifically with movies that showcase depression in teens, a lot of the movies are very, very sad and …usually there is a death, there’s something romanticized very often about teen suicide. I think for a lot of my friends that I’ve seen go through depression, it’s like ‘why can’t we have an honest representation of depression with a happy ending? Can this be relatable and optimistic at the same time?’ I think that’s why the film, from what I’ve seen, is really taking root with fans, because they see themselves in the characters, but then they see the hope and they see the end of the tunnel

Love You Anyway is available to stream across various internet and satellite platforms now.