who stars in L.A. Film Festival doc winner
Be Here Now” (The Andy Whitfield Story)
By Paola Di Florio

“Be Here Now” (The Andy Whitfield Story) is an inspiring love story between superstar, Andy Whitfield, of “Spartacus” fame and his charismatic wife, Vashti, who together take on the most heroic role he’s ever had to play. With matching 'Be Here Now' tattoos on their forearms, they go on a quest to heal Andy from a cancer diagnosis – by embracing life, rather than fear. They bravely allowed filmmaker, Lilibet Foster, to follow their dramatic and intimate roller coaster, in the hopes that by sharing their journey, they may help inspire others with challenges and dreams.

Q: In the film, you faced harrowing life moments of the likes none of us ever wishes to face. What gave you the motive to have cameras rolling while your family was going through what many would consider a private life crisis?

What always underpinned everything Andy and I did was a sense of living life with purpose. Breaking into the entertainment business was something we tenaciously pursued – after we had started a family -- because of the platform it provided to make an impact on the lives of others. When Andy was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, we invited a camera crew into all aspects of our lives, as we navigated the unpredictable and overwhelming daily tsunamis of cancer.

We actively pursued a greater purpose to the unexpected chapter we were dished up... We both felt that by sharing the ups and downs of this unexpected journey, we would be participating collectively in what millions of families around the world battle, albeit privately. In solidarity, there’s a chance of beating the psychological ravages of this disease. Instead of a slow decline, it became an empowering unifying experience about understanding and acceptance, about life, love and letting go.

Q: It’s Mother’s Day - and in September it will be 5 years since Andy passed away. How has your role as mother to two children (11 and 8) changed since the days of shooting the film?

Throughout Andy’s illness and filming the documentary, I was on an emotional roller coaster. I split myself in three, doing my absolute best to give the love and support where I thought it was needed. I was compelled to keep the family grounded, secure and feeling loved. But personally, it felt like I’d been thrown in the washer on spin cycle, or like I was floating alone on a lake in an eerie silence -- neither of which was familiar to me.

Now, nearly five years later, I consciously view all aspects of my life as an opportunity. Whilst my role has grown into that of a father and mother, provider, breadwinner and pretty much the one who makes everything happen, I have never felt more grounded or fearless. I am confident about who my children are and who they’ll become as a result of our individual and collective journeys.

Q: Did you know while filming that "Be Here Now" would have the life-affirming impact that it appears to be having on its audience.

We never thought about the documentary while we were filming. We were too busy being present in one heck of a crazy journey. We just trusted that by committing to making a film of this kind, that it would indeed make a difference, when and to whom, it was supposed to.

For those who see it, it’s my hope that they be inspired enough to embrace challenge as an opportunity to grow and to view life as the privilege it really is.

Q: You and Andy are powerful and inspiring as partners. Did you have a common spiritual path?

From the moment Andy and I met, we found in essence each other’s missing piece. We were giggling like idiots within 5 minutes of talking to each other. You could say that on a spiritual level, we always knew that we were meant to be together and that we always would be. We knew intuitively that we were in each other’s lives, to not only grow to our unique and individual potential, but also to honour what, as a combined force, we were capable of creating, experiencing and giving back. Cancer had us regroup and connect in a way we never thought possible.

Q: What does it mean to be a life coach and what qualifies you (or anyone) to become one?

While in graduate school, I came across the concept of dynamic leadership. I found an exciting new industry that was anchored in the belief that potential was best harnessed from the inside out! I am intuitively driven to passionately draw out what I see as the potential in others.

As my own curiosity grew, so did my studies in the fields of emotional intelligence, neuroscience and cognitive behavioral therapy. I then began building and designing coaching programs that create sustainable and long-term habitual change.

Q: From where do you draw your greatest inspiration and strength?

If ever I am a little shaky, I just think about what Andy would say, or expect of me, and then the answer is always clear.

For me Andy has become the best friend of my intuition where, as a double act, they regularly inspire and advise me on how to live life to the fullest, to be a gorgeous and present parent and to live each day in awe of what is possible.

PAOLA DI FLORIO is an Oscar-nominated writer/ director/ producer and founder of Los Angeles based Counterpoint Films. She is known for making films about maverick, game-changing women. Her article “The Goddess is Back” was published in the March issue of The Catalyst.

Photos from top to bottom:

  • Vashti
  • Be Here Now poster
  • Andy Tattoo
  • Vashti's husband and "Spartacus" TV star Andy Whitfield
  • Vashti and Andy Whitfield
  • Director and Producer Lilibet Foster and DP Matt Porwoll shooting with the Whitfield family.
  • Recent photo of Indie, Jesse and Vashti Whitfield at home in Australia

All Photos: From the film "Be Here Now" (The Andy Whitfield Story). © BeHereNowFilm.com all rights reserved.


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This article appears in: 2016 Catalyst, Issue 8: Inspiring Women