Arun Fryer did not need to look far for inspiration for his original documentary Before She’s Gone. Fresh off a successful stint at the Vancouver International Film Festival with Cadence — a film he produced with a team of fellow Film Production grads — Arun’s next project is a personal one.
Watching his grandfather care for his grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s fifteen years ago provided Arun with the ultimate love story, and a lesson in resilience. In Before She's Gone, Arun documents their sixty-seven year relationship by incorporating 8mm footage from 1955 along with GoPro video from 2015. The result is a hopeful take on a tragic disease.
Before She’s Gone premieres at the Vancouver Short Film Festival from January 27-28, so be sure to get your tickets soon.
We had a chance to talk to Arun and his producer and life partner Ana, also a Vancouver Film Festival grad, about the film and what’s next. Read on for more!
Arun, you recently wrapped a successful run at VIFF with Cadence -- a film you produced alongside director and fellow Film Production grad Alex Lasheras. What was it like to win the Audience Must-See-Film Award?
Arun: Winning the MustSeeBC Award helped launch our world premiere at VIFF and gave us lots of buzz and publicity throughout the festival, leading to three sold out screenings. As a small indie production team, it was an honour to be recognized as the most anticipated BC film and rewarding for our fans, friends and family members who voted for us. Hearing Cadence announced at the opening gala was a moment we’ll never forget.
You’re about to premiere your documentary Before She’s Gone at the Vancouver Short Film Festival – congrats! Can you tell us what it’s about?
Arun: Thank you! ‘Before She’s Gone…’ is a documentary love story about my grandparents, Stan and Shirley Fryer, their sixty-seven year marriage, and how they’ve dealt with my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s for the past fifteen years. The main focus is Stan’s role as the primary caregiver and what he has learned while taking care of his beloved wife. It’s an uplifting story that unravels in the midst of tragic circumstances and great struggle, but also one where patience, hope, and relentless devotion makes a positive difference. Local musician Jason Mitchell composed a beautiful, original song for the film, which helped us thread the piece together.
What was it like to film/document such a personal story?
Arun: Digitizing family archive footage from the 50’s and 60’s, shot by Stan in 8mm, and VHS tapes from the 80’s, shot by my father, was very special. I had the privilege to go back in time and celebrate my grandparents’ journey and show my family images they had never seen before. It doesn’t get any better than that.
What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process? What was the best part?
Arun: The most challenging part of the process was to find the story and let go of any preconceived ideas of what this documentary should look like. I knew I didn’t want to make a depressing film about Alzheimer’s and mental issues, but I had no idea it would turn into a love story about my grandparents. The best part was during the shoot; we all laughed and cried but always came home inspired and filled with hope. Stan has an incredible spirit and it was impossible not to walk away feeling inspired.
What do you want audiences to take away from your film?
Arun: I hope the audience leaves the theatre with a sense of hope, believing that in the midst of everyday adversity it is still possible to enjoy life. My grandfather, who turned 90 last year, travelled all the way to Peru to dance at my wedding — until 2:00 a.m.! If audiences can take a little of Stan’s message with them, then we’ve succeeded with our film.
Why is it important for people to see Before She’s Gone?
Arun: The number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to grow significantly in the next few decades, so it’s important to nurture a positive mindset when caring for a loved one. I believe my grandfather is a shining example of how to best care for a partner with patience and love, and I’m happy that our film can be used by families and friends when confronted with this mental disease.
As partners (in real life and professionally!), what has it meant to be able to work on this particular project together?
Arun: My wife, Ana Carrizales (VFS alumni), was also my producer and co-writer and helped tremendously in shaping the story arc of the film. She was the one who suggested we focus more on the love story and less on the Alzheimer’s. Her input was invaluable, and we still tease each other to be spoons and not knives; when you see the film you will understand what I mean by that.
What has your grandfather taught you about life and love?
Arun: My grandfather taught me life is what you make of it: one day at a time. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so soak up the moment while you can. He also showed me the healing power of patience and love. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from the film: “I am a very impatient man. I have patience with Shirley because I love her.”
What’s next for you?
Arun: I’m currently working on a feature documentary called ‘An Indian Affair’ with VFS alumni Greg Brown, and I’m preparing for the US premiere of Cadence with the rest of the team. And although we are not allowed to officially announce yet, we have a big surprise coming up for ‘Before She’s Gone…’ which we’ll be making public on the weekend of the Vancouver Short Film Festival.
Also, I am producing the Panties Project, a global platform for women to share real stories, created by my wife Ana, hopefully ready to launch this spring.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Arun: Thanks again to Vancouver Film School for helping me with my first steps as a filmmaker. I enrolled in film school having never touched a camera before, and six years later we received an award at VIFF for a narrative feature I produced, and now I am also premiering a documentary I produced and directed at the Vancouver Short Film Festival. The last few months have been several dreams coming true.
Thanks, Arun! We can't wait to see it!