(09/15/2004 - Denver, CO) N.C. filmmakers Jay Niver and Jay Spain have won a prestigious Gold Award in the 30th Annual Media Festival sponsored by the Health & Science Communications Association (HeSCA).
SpaiNiver Films was honored at HeSCA's international conference in Denver, where Live and Let Go - An American Death was one of only four gold winners cited for "the very best in health science communications." Twenty-two others were awarded silver and bronze honors in four categories: film, video, print, and interactive media.
HeSCA membership is worldwide and diverse, broadly described as biomedical communicators. From conceptualization to final products, its members are involved in designing, producing, implementing, and evaluating informational and instructional media experiences for the health sciences.
The HeSCA media festival is internationally known as the pre-eminent competition in health-sciences communication.
(11/09/2003 - Asheville, NC) Live and Let Go – An American Death was named Best Documentary on Nov. 8, 2003, at the inaugural Asheville Film Festival. Jurors chose the chronicle of Sam Niver and his right-to-die plea over 14 other documentaries, including Rebecca Cerese's acclaimed February One, the story the nonviolent Greensboro (NC) lunch-counter sit-ins that galvanized the civil-rights movement throughout the South.
Writer/producer Jay Niver accepted the award for Live and Let Go at an SRO banquet at Blue Ridge Motion Pictures studios, where veteran Hollywood character actor Pat Hingle was an honored guest speaker. Hingle told the crowd that North Carolina must "pull together as a family" to keep the state's movie industry alive. Niver told them that "the right to die can coexist with, and be just as strong as, the right to life."
Niver and editor David Iversen were at the Nov. 7 screening and answered post-film questions from nearly 100 who attended. Iversen was back on Sunday, Nov. 9, to host an encore showing that attracted almost as many viewers.
Other competition documentaries included: I Can't Marry You, which explores the intimate lives of gay and lesbian couples and is narrated by Betty DeGeneres, mother of comedian/actress Ellen DeGeneres; Brothers ... On Holy Ground, filmed days after 9-11 to reveal the agony and pride of NYC firefighters who lost co-workers in the World Trade Center; and Rod Murphy's Greater Southbridge, an unconventional dissection of a small New England town. Finishing second behind Live and Let Go was George Guehl's King of Bluegrass: The Life & Times of Jimmy Martin.
The Asheville festival showcased 51 films including features, documentaries, shorts and student productions. My Dinner with Jimi was named Best Feature. Directed by Bill Fishman and produced by Harold Bronson, it recounts the true story of a 1967 meeting between The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and how it changed the life of lead singer Howard Kaylan of The Turtles.
'Live and Let Go'
Garners Media Attention
Writer/producer Jay Niver was interviewed live by public radio's Ellen Pfirrman on WNCW, and he recorded "Issues and Answers," a 20-minute public-affairs program hosted by Valerie Watts on WOXL 96.5. That show will be broadcast Saturday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Nov. 23.
Niver is also slated to do a Dec. 9 call-in show ("Evening Rounds") with David Hurand, host and news director at WCQS, "Public Radio for Western Carolina."
Writer/reviewer Sam Watson at the daily Johnson City (TN) Press noticed Live and Let Go when it was previewed to the media before the festival. He gave it an "A-" rating and called the film "as compelling as it gets."
(10/22/2003 - Raleigh, NC) An edited version of Live and Let Go – An American Death will have its television broadcast debut early in 2004 as part of South Carolina public television's "Southern Lens" series. SCETV chose Live and Let Go on condition that an abridged version be aired, cutting about 90 seconds from the film.
"Obviously, we hope that folks accept the film in its entirety," said writer-producer Jay Niver. "Still, we understand the sensitivities that a broad television audience may have, and programmers have to be aware of that. We're just grateful that SCETV had the courage to accept our film and deal with this volatile topic of the right to die."
Southern Lens was launched in August 2002 and airs the first Thursday night of every month. It has become one of ETV's highest-rated local programs.
The series spotlights independent Southern filmmakers and indie films that focus on the South. Southern Lens' Amy Shumaker said Live and Let Go will be packaged and promoted as one of "four strong films we're using to start the year." They include Rebecca Cerese's February One, the story of the nonviolent Greensboro (NC) lunch-counter sit-ins that transformed the civil-rights movement.
(10/22/2003 - Raleigh, NC) Live and Let Go's two latest film-festival screenings will take place just hours apart on Nov. 7 and 8. The inaugural Asheville (NC) Film Festival will screen the documentary at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7, with the established Northampton (Mass.) Independent Film Festival showing it the following morning at 9:15.
"Spirit of Human Potential in Film" is the theme for the Asheville event, set Nov. 6-9 in this Smoky Mountain town. Organizers say the festival's theme is a reflection of the 51 films to be screened, including features and documentaries, student films and shorts.
Live and Let Go – An American Death was one of
two feature-length works previewed to the media Oct. 13.
Jay Niver was interviewed by WNCW Public Radio's Ellen Pfirrmann on Oct. 21. In addition, WCQS, NPR for Western N.C., will make Live and Let Go the subject of its Dec. 9 "Evening Rounds" call-in program, hosted by News Director David Hurand.
Celebrated actress and Asheville resident Andie McDowell will officially open the festival at a Thursday-night gala at the Grove Park Inn with a screening of Ang Lee's "One Last Ride," starring Chazz Palminteri, Robert Davi, Charles Durning and Patrick Cupo.
(4/30/03 - Winston-Salem) Live and Let Go played to a full house and earned the highest review accorded any film at the RiverRun International Film Festival April 24-27 in Winston-Salem, N.C. RiverRun selected 12 documentary features from more than 200 films submitted. Screenings took place downtown and on the campus of the North Carolina School of the Arts.
It was the in-state premiere for Live and Let Go – An American Death, which was filmed largely in Sneads Ferry with post-production done in Raleigh. It was the only RiverRun film to earn a 3.5-star rating from reviewers at the Winston-Salem Journal.
Critic Mark Burger called it "one of the most powerful and thought-provoking films being shown ... an eloquent and remarkably even-handed approach to a heated topic."
Live and Let Go was also the subject of a Journal feature article, an interview with filmmaker Jay Niver. He and Director Jay Spain, along with co-producer Gretchen Niver, attended the festival and answered questions for more than 30 minutes after their sold-out screening at the NCSA Gold theater. Click here to view a .pdf version of this article or click here to view the .jpg version.
A rough cut of Live and Let Go first screened to a RiverRun focus group in fall of 1999. Festival founder and Executive Director Gene D'Onofrio "has been supportive since Day One," said Spain. "We felt honored to be back at RiverRun for our home-state premiere."
(4/05/03 - Raleigh, NC) Live and Let Go – An American Death will premiere in the filmmakers' home state on Saturday, April 26 at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. The controversial right-to-die documentary premiered last summer in Los Angeles and has since screened at film festivals in Minneapolis, Greenwich (CN) and Tiburon (CA).
RiverRun will be hosted this year by the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts after its initial four-year run in the picturesque Smoky Mountains town of Brevard. Dale Pollock, dean of the NCSA School of Filmmaking, convinced festival founder Gene D'Onofrio to bring RiverRun to Winston-Salem. By partnering with the arts conservatory, and moving to a major city, festival organizers hope to more than double attendance and exposure.
D'Onofrio, whose son, Vincent, stars in TV's Law and Order - Criminal Intent, said this year's festival will have a heavy educational component. "We want to build a creative think tank for filmmakers, both professional and student," he said. He also said the festival will showcase regional and independent filmmaking, in keeping with the adopted slogan of "The Sundance of the South."
"We want RiverRun to be what Sundance was in the early days," said Pollock. Live and Let Go will be shown at the Gold Theater on the School of the Arts campus.
Admission to all RiverRun films is $5. For more information, call the festival office at 336-831-1914.
(1/16/03 - Raleigh, NC) Following it's world premiere and three
successful festival appearances in 2002, Live and Let Go - An
American Death will begin the new year in the Tiburon International
Film Festival, March 14-20 in Tiburon, CA.
Screening at St. Paul, MN Festival
(August 12) On the heels of its successful July premiere in Los Angeles, Live and Let Go - An American Death will screen in September at the Rolling River Music and Film Festival in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Rolling River presents five days and nights of world-class music and independent film along the Mississippi, Sept. 18-22. Thirty features and eleven documentaries will be screened from the hundreds of entries submitted.
Programmer Todd Hansen was familiar with Live and Let Go from his tenure at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He invited filmmakers Jay Spain and Jay Niver to the Twin Cities to share the story of Sam Niver and share the story of Sam Niver's powerful plea for death with dignity and physician-assisted suicide.
L.A. Times columnist Dana Parsons wrote a major piece on the film when it debuted last month at the DancesWithFilms festival. As a result, we have been contacted by Tim Cornell at The Scotsman, Scotland's national newspaper, about doing a future story. We also heard from Oregon's Death With Dignity organization, which will be considering Live and Let Go for programming in conjunction with the upcoming 5-year anniversary of that state's physician-assisted suicide law.
We made a number of great contacts in L.A., among filmmakers and right-to-die advocates alike. Hemlock leaders including Dr. Richard MacDonald and actress Mimi Manners were wonderfully supportive, as were all the other indie filmmakers.
(July 3) Live and Let Go - An American Death, the groundbreaking documentary about Sam Niver's dying plea for doctor-assisted suicide, will have its official world premiere at the DancesWithFilms Festival July 12-18 in Los Angeles.
In its fifth year, DWF has quickly gained industry recognition as the only major American festival that remains dedicated to the truly "independent" filmmaker - aspiring artists who tell stories without "name" actors, directors or producers.
Live and Let Go has previewed to film and advocacy groups in New York, Boston, Indianapolis, L.A. and elsewhere, but the DWF screening will mark its official public debut, as well its first acceptance into a nationally recognized competitive festival.
Writer Jay Niver and Director Jay Spain suspect that the film's highly personal, controversial topic will attract media attention in festivals where it fits the programming agenda.
"We're proud that DancesWithFilms has accepted Sam's story to share first publicly with a West Coast audience," says Spain.
"Jack Kevorkian put assisted-suicide on the front page, and he's in jail," says Niver. "Oregon voters made it legal, and now John Ashcroft wants to put Oregon doctors in jail if they help patients die peacefully."
"It's tough to
take a public stand on this, like Dad did so intimately."
In its first year, more than 40 percent of DWF works found domestic distribution deals with outlets like HBO, Cinemax, PBS and Warner Brothers.
DancesWithFilms received more than 1200 entries this year, and only 25 feature-length films were accepted. Live and Let Go - An American Death will premiere at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at Laemmle's Theatre in Santa Monica, sole venue for DWF. Hemlock Society officers have been invited to attend
Japan views Live and Let Go
(Raleigh, February 2002) – The Japan Society for Death with Dignity, after frustrating delays in international communication, this month is receiving the latest cut of Live and Let Go — An American Death.
Society Director Meiko Moori learned about the film in buzz that followed its international conference preview in fall of 2000, and had been in tenuous touch ever since via cyberspace.
Given differences in currencies, getting the Society's donation to the filmmakers was a challenge. After three or four e-mails spanning more than a year, a Japanese money order solved the dilemma — and raised some eyebrows with local N.C. bank tellers who had never seen such a thing.
Film featured at Indianapolis Spirit and Place festival
(Indianapolis, November 2001) – Under the umbrella of "Stretching Limits," Live and Let Go screened here as part of the annual Spirit and Place festival.
Sponsored by the state chapter of the Hemlock Society, writer-producer Jay Niver attended the showing at Marion County Public Library, to answer questions and talk about Hemlock's "Caring Friends" program.
Spirit and Place is a weeklong festival of widely varied public programs involving arts, education and popular entertainment. This year's theme was Stretching Limits, and Hemlock thought the topic of assisted-suicide — and the right to die with dignity — fit squarely within that description.
Film previews in New York; filmmakers visit WTC on 9-10
(New York, September 2001) - North Carolina filmmakers took their ground-breaking documentary, Live and Let Go - An American Death, to New York City for a preview showing that coincided with the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival, a non-competitive marketing forum. Director Jay Spain, editor David Iversen, and siblings Jay and Gretchen Niver screened it for a crowded room of local Hemlock Society members. The events of 9-11 ended NYIIFVF less than halfway through its schedule. Ironically, Gretchen and Jay had visited the top of the World Trade Centers the day before, on Monday afternoon, Sept. 10.
In December, David accompanied the film to Los Angeles for NYIIFVF's West Coast edition. Live and Let Go again was well received and earned a juror's award for "Best American Documentary."
Preview Screening at World Conference on Assisted Dying
(Boston, September 2000) - A video preview screening of the current cut of Live and Let Go - An American Death screened September 2 to a large and attentive audience at the Hemlock Society's World Conference on Assisted Dying.
Almost 400 attendees from around the world gathered in Boston to share their experiences and concerns about end-of-life options, and learn the latest progress - and setbacks - in the global drive to let terminally ill people have choice and security when facing death.
Live and Let Go was part of the convention's "Right to Die Film Festival," which mainly featured Hollywood renditions and interpretations of compelling, poignant storylines. Films were shown on Friday and Saturday nights in the Terrace room of the Boston Park Plaza.
Co-producers Jay and Gretchen Niver attended the conference at the invitation of the Hemlock Society. Jay spoke Friday along with Hemlock President Faye Girsh, addressing attendees in the main ballroom as an introduction to the film series. He told the crowd to believe in the power of public opinion, and that maybe a film like Live and Let Go can help sway it.
He also noted the difficulty people have in dealing with real death on screen, as opposed to a Hollywood version (even when rendering a true story).
Live and Let Go excerpts were featured two nights in primetime news on Boston television, and Jay was interviewed by PAX and New England cable TV networks. The 4-minute Live and Let Go trailer was the only b-roll video provided to the media by conference organizers.
At the Live and Let Go preview showing, viewers were visibly moved and support was overwhelming after the credits rolled. Jay answered questions about his father's death, legal concerns, Sam's ability to obtain the needed drugs, and how he and Gretchen felt committed to support their dad in his "self-deliverance."
Viewers also provided valuable feedback on the film itself. Many in attendance expressed hope they could show it to local Hemlock chapters, as soon it is available for purchase and public viewing.
After receiving positive feedback from 2001 Sundance and Los Angeles Film Festivals the film is still searching for it's audience. We would like to thank Nicole Guillumet and John Cooper at Sundance for their kind words of encouragement in this regard.
Filmmakers Travel To Sundance
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Let Go Productions, LLC