Allison W. Gryphon wrote an Examiner.com column, a novel and the Showtime film, La Cucina, starring Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks. What she never thought she would one day pen is a memoir on film…about breast cancer. Through her journey, she, now a survivor, created the documentary with a title as worthy as the topic it takes on, What the F@#- is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It?
Is it easier for you to write a novel or a screenplay? Everyone always has a different response.
Writing a screenplay and writing a novel are very distinct experiences for me. The story itself dictates the format through which I decide to tell it so one isn’t more difficult than the other, just different.
Was your cancer documentary very scripted knowing what you had to do in life, or did you write/edit it according to what was filmed?
What the F@#- Is Cancer and Why? Does Everybody Have it? began as a loose outline based on thirty three primary questions that came to mind right after I found out I had cancer. Through that experience and then interviewing many people we got a lot more than one movie’s worth of content. We explored all of it, and ultimately landed on the original outline with the intent of providing a recently diagnosed cancer fighter, and their friends and family with a basic overview of the cancer experience.
If someone has cancer in real life, he or she may feel they’ve heard enough about it. Yet you say your movie was made to help people understand it and feel more at ease. How would the film help others?
This movie isn’t about science or fundraising or opinions, it’s about what it means to go through cancer treatment day-to-day. The unique thing about this movie is that if you have no reason to see it, I think that’s great. As far as the information it conveys, when I was diagnosed I looked all over for a movie like this. I couldn’t find it so I made it for whomever it can benefit.
I’d love to say that people wouldn’t care about what they look like, but we all do, or we would leave the house daily without showering for weeks. What did you find most women thought about the physical changes of cancer treatment such as hair loss and plastic surgery?
Losing your hair and your breasts is losing what you’ve grown to understand defines you as a woman for most of us. It’s scary. I have not met a woman it didn’t scare. Putting on a great face of make-up, a head wrap and a wonderful outlet is an emotional armor that in my experience women treasure and rely on.
This may sound weird that you would be upbeat with a sad theme, but what parts of your documentary now make you happy when you are rewatching it?
All of it. This movie makes me happy in every way because it’s honest, which is refreshing. It’s helpful. It’s hopeful. It’s a group of people sharing their personal, raw experiences in order to empower and support others. Nothing makes me smile more than the power of the people in this movie.
How do you hope your film is raising awareness of the issue?
I hope that this film educates, empowers, raises hope and removes fear so that as a one world community we can take cancer on and kick its ass.