Director David Zucker met Memphis, the subject of his new documentary, while they were both working on a film set in Austin. Though Zucker described the experience as pretty miserable – he noticed Memphis always had a terrific attitude.
“And so I ended up reaching out to him afterwards. And what I learned is that he had been creating personal vlogs about his experiences for like nearly a decade at that point. And he had this real desire to share his story and have his experiences just be more visible to more people. And so we ended up deciding to kind of go on this journey together,” Zucker said.
Over the next five years, the two worked together to document Memphis’ experiences navigating life and love. Memphis has cerebral palsy and, in Texas, does not receive government support.
“[Memphis is] an aspiring blogger and filmmaker and actor, and he’s interested in coding. He just has all of these wide-ranging interests. And he’s a romantic. And so in the film, we kind of follow him over the course of years as he pursues all of these interests, and comes of age in a universal and specific way,” Zucker said.
Zucker says the documentary doesn’t really come with a message. It could be seen as an intimate portrait of a person pursuing love and independence or as something more political considering one theme is Memphis’ lack of government support in Texas.
“Sometimes parents really engage with this story of how to protect your child while also supporting them and letting them fly and pursue their endeavors,” Zucker said.
But, above all, Zucker hopes it’s an opportunity for people to just get to know Memphis.
“I’m excited for audiences to see a complex portrayal of someone who I think in all sorts of other spaces gets reduced to something much smaller,” Zucker said. “Memphis lives a really rich life filled with conflict and all the things that make up a human experience. And so that’s the goal with the film, and I hope that lands.”
“Your Friend, Memphis” is having its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival – which runs March 11-20. The film actually features a few clips of Memphis volunteering at that same festival in 2015 so Zucker calls the premiere “a real homecoming.”