Introducing Sarah Spicer and Matthew Moore, directors of the inspirational documentary HOPE FOR STEVE. Sarah and Matt spoke to us about their documentary and why they decided to film Hope and Steve’s inspiring story.
1. How did you both meet Hope and Steve? When did the idea of filming occur?
SARAH: I met Steve in college. He and his roommate lived above me and my roommate and we quickly developed a very brother-sister relationship where they would stomp on their floor or drop weights and we would bang on our ceiling with a broom and then run upstairs and just…pester them. It was typical freshman shenanigans.
Shortly after I moved back to Atlanta, I ran into Steve’s roommate. He told me that Steve had been diagnosed with ALS and that the doctors predicted that he had only 2-5 years to live. I had just finished film school and was doing some acting at the time, but really wanted to tell stories through film, especially theirs. I met with Hope and Steve and found out they were interested in doing a documentary. We discussed angles, topics, etc. and they introduced me to Matt and Taylor, which is how our team came together.
MATTHEW: Steve and I grew up in the same neighborhood. I am four years his junior, so I always looked up to him as the cooler older kid who got a bunch of girls and was awesome at hockey. Our dads played golf together, so I was always updated on the Dezember’s family life. I got involved with the project about a year after he was diagnosed as I helped our cinematographer Taylor Graves edit some videos. Hope and Steve and introduced me to Sarah, and with our combined dream to turn this story into a film, a beautiful friendship was born!
2. The film follows Hope and Steve for a couple of years after his ALS diagnosis. How did you figure out which scenes you both wanted to include in the final version of the film?
SARAH: We had a storyline we wanted to follow and we had a direction we were going. The neat thing with documentary is that sometimes you go down these rabbit holes that you didn’t anticipate finding and either blend it with the story or take off on a whole new direction. It was cool working with Matt because sometimes he would see things I couldn’t see or would not have seen on my own and vice versa. When we blended our visions the story really started taking shape. And of course, there were elements that were really important to Hope and Steve, so those always got first priority.
MATTHEW: Sarah and I spoke extensively about making sure that the film had balance, even if it was extremely highs and extreme lows. We didn’t want to make just a flowery inspirational film, conversely we didn’t want to make an over edgy, dark, nihilistic film. We balanced triumphs and tear jerking moments with the let downs, and unsuspected humor and laughter with emotional toll the disease can have on a couple, especially newlyweds.
3. Did you encounter any moments during filming that were difficult to capture?
SARAH: Difficult to capture? Not that I recall. Difficult to handle emotionally? At times, yes. Matt and I had talked about our ideas on how we wanted the film to end. He had been working on the last scene one day before I came over to edit with him. He showed me what he put together, which beautifully and perfectly captured what we had both seen in our minds. Seeing it absolutely rocked me. We needed another hard drive so I quickly excused myself after watching the final scene and said that I was running to the store to go grab one. I got in my car and just started bawling. I called my mom and talked to her all the way to the store and back before I finally calmed down. As a filmmaker, you have to have a little bit of a wall up so you can separate yourself from some of the tough, emotional stuff. Seeing the ending for the first time knocked my wall down hard.
MATTHEW: After Hope gave us all of her home video and cell phone footage, I noticed that there were a few videos of her and Steve fighting over pain medication dosage. Hope had forgotten that those videos were included and had not intended to send it. However after viewing and discussing with Sarah, we both felt that the footage, though uncomfortable, helped the film in that people could see them not as saints but as everyday real people who were doing the best they could in an incredibly difficult situation. Those scenes made the film better, even if they are uncomfortable. It took a few conversations with Hope and Steve to get their approval, but they saw the ultimate purpose and agreed.
4. The film has been shown at various film festival and has won awards as well. What would you both say has been the most rewarding experience throughout your filmmaking process?
SARAH: The most rewarding experience throughout the filmmaking process was the premiere. Hands down. Steve had had a hard year medically and neither he nor the doctors thought he was going to make it to Christmas (2014). We rushed to put the premiere together and give Steve and Hope the red carpet experience they both desired. Seeing his face as he rolled down the red carpet, spoke with the news outlets, saw the incredible turnout and outpouring of support, sitting in the sold out theatre, the standing ovation he, Hope and the film received….that will always be one of my greatest memories and by far the most rewarding part of this experience.
MATTHEW: Getting distribution with Virgil and doing the film festivals has been a dream come true and has made me feel like a little bit more of a bad ass. But far and away the most rewarding experience was the premiere in Atlanta at the Buckhead Theater. We packed the place with 700 of our closest friends, family and Hope and Steve fans, and everyone had a huge reaction. There were tears, laughter, standing ovations. It was a very emotional, if not spiritual experience. Being entrusted with the great responsibility of telling Steve and Hope’s story, and then having it affirmed by the audience and more importantly by Hope and Steve – through their tears and laughter and hugs – that was the final light at the end of the tunnel we were working toward when we started this project, honestly, having no idea what we were doing. Everything else since the premiere has been icing on the cake. Delicious icing.
5. Do you both have any interesting projects coming up?
SARAH: I have several projects in the works. I’ve got a documentary, a feature and a TV pilot on the radar….and a little baby girl expected to arrive in September. That project is understandably getting the most attention right now. 😉 We can’t wait to meet her!
MATT: I am developing a project temporarily called Atlanta by Atlanta, a film by aliens for humans, an experimental documentary about a handful of Atlanta musicians/artists as told through an ET perspective.
Watch Hope for Steve on iTunes.