"I Love You, Now Die" Is The Most Relevant & Shocking True Crime Story Of 2019

In this documentary, you used the pop up text messages to convey the conversation between the two main teenagers. That really highlighted the difference between the way teens and adults communicate.

"There was genuine franticness about the volume [of texts]. We had a record, in real time, of the degradation of two people’s mental state as primary evidence. As a documentary filmmaker, you can’t really get better than that because you knew at the time what people were thinking. I feel very lucky to be a filmmaker working in this age where I have access to these materials. I hope this film sparks debate about girlhood and mental illness and loneliness. I think those are all things that are uniquely...like, you can read those text messages, but when you see them come up on the screen and you’re experiencing them on your screen, you’re going to have a reaction."

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Text message from Michelle Carter to Conrad Roy. Photo Credit: Courtesy of HBO

What was it like reading those texts messages on paper?

"It felt really voyeuristic. I moved up to Massachusetts to cover the trial, and I was sitting out on a porch with a print-out of all these text messages. The sun was shining and I was drinking my coffee and I felt sick to my stomach. It was so sad."

What do you think this case tells us about America’s perception of teenage girls? Because we even see Conrad’s mom saying that she had specifically warned his about manipulative young girls.

>Dr. Peter Breggin is like, 'Men are terrified of women.'" data-reactid="69">"That stuff is in there because it mirrors our media portrayal. But I don’t think women are inherently manipulative. I think she was just trying to exist as a person and tried to get attention the way she found she could get attention. I don’t know that she was aware enough, or cognizant enough, to be aware that she was being manipulative. But my all-time favorite part of the film, and I am not embarrassed to say this, is when >Dr. Peter Breggin is like, 'Men are terrified of women.'

The fact that I get to make this feminist allegory about a crime case where a doctor is talking about being frightened of women, I was like, made in the shade. This is what I was meant to do."

Where there any different challenges in this documentary compared to Mommy Dead and Dearest?

"Mommy Dead and Dearest was so much easier. I had access to the main person, and there were incredible characters. There was a crazy crime, but there was also a sense of playfulness, in that everyone was living their life after the fact — every moment of their life was not about a tragedy. It felt very different with the Roy family. I’ve done probably 140 interviews in my life and it has become something I’ve really enjoyed doing. When I interviewed Lynn Roy [Conrad’s mother]… it was just so painful. I actually had pneumonia at the time, and she didn’t want us to be there. It’s really painful asking people about the worst thing that ever happened to them, and being careful and thoughtful. I slept the whole next day. I had one of those days where my job was a little too painful. I think that it is important to stay connected to that because this is not entertainment."

Have you seen Eighth Grade?

"No! I am such a doc weirdo that I’m like, ‘Docs only!’"

There’s one scene that reminded me of Conrad’s videos of himself in the documentary. It’s something that we really see in Eighth Grade: young people are really using technology to work through their issues in a way that no other generation has.

“[Conrad] was singular in that way. He feels special to me that he had awareness, and we lost something really special and really thoughtful. Yes, you see him sort-of joust and be playful in the text messages, but he was a very smart, sensitive, good kid that lost his battle to mental health issues.”

The Carter family denied your request to be interviewed. Was that for legal reasons or were they not interested?

"They were really not interested in participating. It made complete sense to me. Their kid was facing a 20 years prison sentence. Then when she was found guilty, which I was honestly more shocked than anything about, she was allowed to stay at home under her appeal. So when they finally sent her to prison, I emailed her lawyers once again and was like, ‘I know you’re sick of hearing from me, but I am still here and still waiting even if you want to do an off-the-record.’ I really wanted to honor her at every juncture and see if they could participate while acknowledging that she is fighting for her survival."

you asked the crowd if they thought that Michelle should go to prison for what she did, and only a few people raised their hands to indicate 'yes.' Were you surprised?" data-reactid="79">

At the movie’s SXSW premiere, you asked the crowd if they thought that Michelle should go to prison for what she did, and only a few people raised their hands to indicate 'yes.' Were you surprised?

"I was genuinely shocked. Jesse Baron, >[a journalist] who is in the doc, and I were just chatting and we said, ‘We [the public] all feel that way because she is in prison now.’ We are able to have that emotional rendering. But had she not been in jail and just been this person at home pending her appeal, I think people would be more angry [at her]. It depends what part of the case you’re in."

If you had been given the opportunity to talk to Michelle, would you believe what she had to say?

"I don’t think I would believe what she would say."

This documentary also reminded me of another case currently happening in Philadelphia. Rappers are testifying in Supreme Court that rap lyrics are poetry, and not threats. It is the same conversation defining the difference between a written word and an actual viable threat. Do you see this becoming a bigger issue?

“That’s a good question. I really hope that this case and this film generates a sense of awareness about how we treat others. So that when you do text somebody else, or you’re tweeting, we need to remember that somebody else is on the other side of that. I just think we have lost our way a bit when it comes to this. I am in no way technology-phobic — I am a product of this technology explosion, but I am also very wary of it. We can contain those hopes and those fears in those same space.”

Watch I Love You, Now Die on HBO summer 2019.

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