by director Gabriela Cowperthwaite
When I reflect back upon what it was like growing up in Denver, Colorado, a place where I didn’t know any filmmakers and didn’t even understand that becoming a director was actually a career choice, I realize that it seemed foretold in a way. I feel like I have these similar discussions with a lot of directors, actors, musicians. We may not have had the tools or the connections or the money but all of us seemed to be doing it anyway.
I was the kid who made up ghost stories around the campfire. I’d write stories, put on plays, I’d gather a group of kids together and tell a wildly embellished version of something I’d read. I was the one who said things like, “Okay you guys, you think that was freaky? This next story REALLY happened.”
And that might be a clue to one of my great loves in this world. Real life stories.
I received the script for Our Friend from producer Mike Pruss and writer Brad Ingelsby. I read the logline and immediately told them I had already read the article the film was based on years ago. Freelance Journalist Matt Teague’s article “The Friend,” which was originally featured in Esquire, took the National Magazine Award in 2015. I read it back then and was floored by it.
I lost someone close to me years ago and reflecting back, I realize I didn’t have anyone grieving alongside me. Plenty of people held me and sat beside me in my darkest hours, but I was living somewhere else at the time and wasn’t able to process this event alongside anyone who knew her. So my heartbreak, my inexplicable breakdowns and my memories were mine and mine alone. That’s what spoke to me about Matt’s article.
To people who’ve suffered a loss or even people who fall into depression, we tend to say “you’re not alone,” when in fact you’re very, very alone. What that person meant to you and the chasm that’s left is absolutely unique to you. But just because you’re the only one grieving in that particular way, doesn’t mean you’re alone in your grieving. This story tells us that if one day you get back up on your feet after losing someone, you can look back and see that when you did sink into the abyss, there was someone there to brake your fall.
This story is both intimate and enormous. What happened to Matt Teague is accessible and yet unbearable at times. It’s important because it’s life-affirming. But it’s also powerful because it happened. That’s the beauty of a real life story.
I’m so grateful to have been entrusted with it. Hard to express how much it means to me. But I hope you like it. And I hope you watch it with a friend.