Cameron Mullenneaux and David Peck talk about her brave and brilliant new film Exit Music, regrets and imagination, living and dying well, short-term goals and being guided by love.
Exit Music is a documentary film that travels the intimate and complex path of terminal illness. Ethan Rice was born with cystic fibrosis, an incurable genetic illness that eventually leads to respiratory failure. At their home in a small upstate New York community, Ethan and his family live in constant uncertainty as the disease takes more and more away from them. While medical interventions continue to keep him alive well beyond his prognosis, 28-year-old Ethan questions day-by-day how long he is willing to fight and what his absence will mean to those he leaves behind.
With stunning access, the film closely follows Ethan’s final months, weeks, days and hours and is witness to death’s transformative influence on a family. Home video footage traces the bond between Ethan and his father Ed, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD who withdrew from the world to become a stay-at-home dad. Ed immersed Ethan in a world of art, creativity, and imagination and documented it all on camera, a hobby that provided relief from the fear of his son’s prognosis and his own painful past. These archives show the progression of Ethan’s illness over time and reveal Ed’s obsession with preserving his son’s memory. Even during his final days with Ethan, Ed had a camera in hand.
Interweaving home movies with Ethan’s original music and animation, his story is an unflinching meditation on mortality and invites the viewer to experience Ethan’s transition from reality to memory. In a culture that often looks away from death, Exit Music demystifies the dying process, a universal cornerstone of the human experience.
Cameron Mullenneaux is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco. Her directorial debut, Exit Music (formerly How Do You Feel About Dying) is a co-production with ITVS and received additional support from LEF Foundation, The Visual Storytelling Consortium, Independent Filmmakers Project, and the San Francisco Film Society.
She directed and produced the short film Angelique for Conde Nast’s digital Glamour brand. She has an MFA in documentary film production from Wake Forest University and a self-designed major in death and dying from Warren Wilson College.
For more info about the film head here.
Image Copyright: Cameron Mullenneaux. Used with permission.