HotDocs 2018 Interview – EXIT MUSIC director Cameron Mullenneaux

“EXIT MUSIC is a visceral, emotional, and unexpected story about death and dying and how a family struggles to face mortality. I follow the last year in the life of a young artist as he grapples with end of life decisions and focus on his relationship with his father, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD who immersed him in a world of imagination and creativity as a way to escape the reality of the disease. Equal parts comedy and darkness, EXIT MUSIC is the last year, last breath, and final creative act of Ethan Rice as he awaits the inevitable.” Director Cameron Mullenneaux on EXIT MUSIC which screens at #HotDocs25.

Great to have you here at HotDocs! Are you going to be attending your screenings?

I will be attending the first two screenings with some very special guests, Ethan Rice’s father, mother, brother, and doctor. This is my first time at HotDocs!

Tell me more about your process of getting this documentary project together!

I shot this film between the winter of 2014 to the winter 2015 when my main character Ethan Rice died. It was an emotional and monumental experience for me getting the opportunity to walk so closely along with the family as they encountered the end of life process. Every day, we weren’t sure how long Ethan would live so I didn’t realize I had a feature film until way later. After shooting, I spent 2 years fundraising and networking and found an incredible producing partner ITVS and spend a little over a year editing. I was working on this film solo up until post production and got to collaborate with an amazingly experienced team: Linda Davis (THE FORCE, THE KILL TEAM, THE WAITING ROOM), Nels Bagerter (CAMERAPERSON, LET THE FIRE BURN), and Amy Foote (THE WORK, MAVIS! & A MATTER OF TASTE).

How long was your process from beginning to end and did you have any challenges during the filming process?

It took about four years from conception to finished product.  The filming process in general was the most challenging part. Because of the intimate subject matter, I didn’t want to have a lot of equipment around. I used a Canon 5d Mark III and zoom recorder with wired microphone. I chose to be more of a Often the camera battery would die, or the I’d realize the microphone stopped working but I chose to be

How long did post-production take and editing the final product together?

Just over a year! The last two months were a whirlwind getting ready for our World Premiere at Hot Docs.

Throughout the whole process, what kept you going while making this feature? What drove you?

I was determined to make a film that the Rice Family would be proud of so that Ethan’s legacy and art could continue to touch people’s hearts.

What excites you the most about presenting this to HotDocs audiences?

I hear Hot Doc audiences are the best, so I’m happy this is my first real audience and look forward to the Q&A with my film subjects.

After the movie shows at HotDocs, where is the movie going next? Are there any other festivals coming up?

We plan to screen at festivals through the fall!

How do you feel with the theatrical experience versus streaming debate for documentaries? Are you okay with the movie going to streaming/digital only, or do you strive for the theatrical experience?

I would hate to lose the theatrical experience, there is great power in watching it with an audience. But again, we are turning into robots and straight to streaming/digital might be the future.

What is the one piece of advice you would say to anyone looking into making a documentary short or feature for the first time?

Trust your creative instincts and finish the film!

And finally, what is your all time favorite documentary feature film?

América, which is a new film by Chase Whitehead and Erick Stoll


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For more information on screening times and HotDocs, visit!

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