Inside the SXSW World Premiere of My Dead Friend Zoe

Inside the SXSW World Premiere of My Dead Friend Zoe

A 20-year mission to tell a soldier's story

Creators have become increasingly tentative when it comes to writing characters outside of their own demographics for stage and screen. While representation for communities like Veterans is more frequent, it's often accompanied by heavy narratives or stoic soldier personas.

Director Kyle Hausmann-Stokes was able to pull from personal experience to create the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection My Dead Friend Zoe. Featuring piles of dark humor, a cast and crew overflowing with Veterans, and festival darling Sonequa Martin-Green, the representation of service members is undoubtedly authentic. Learn more about making the movie in the SXSW Studio and in a post-screening Q&A while the SXSW Conference stage offered a deeper look into the lives behind service members.

During the Conference session Dynamic Characters: Portraying Veterans in Film & TV, writer and director Kyle Hausmann-Stokes and actress Sonequa Martin-Green discussed industry representation alongside two combat veterans, Mary Beth Bruggeman and Chris Marvin.

"I had a lot of experience with how I was perceived by society. I found that that was often moored in pity, charity, and low expectations. I ultimately found that there was this 'broken hero' stereotype that abounded for veterans." – Chris Marvin


The 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival marked nearly 20 years since the project's inception to its World Premiere red carpet. After a five year Army career and receiving a Bronze Star in Iraq, Hausmann-Stokes traded a PC (patrol cap) for a director's hat. His feature film debut caught the eye of additional established talents like Natalie Morales, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Gloria Reuben.

"I wanted to tell a story that is incredibly personal. There's some heavy stuff in there but I just wanted it to be watchable and enjoyable. The people that it's inspired by and dedicated to - we used to laugh, and they would want to laugh. It was just important to me to really balance those two." – Kyle Hausmann-Stokes My Dead Friend Zoe Writer/Director

The delicate balance of humor and heartbreak was a focus for artists working on this particular film. While important to share Veterans navigating their pain, it was essential to illustrate the community of service members and how they work together to cope.

"No matter how hard or heavy it got, all I had to do was look at [Kyle Hausmann-Stokes] because this is his story that we were bringing to life on behalf of those veterans that he lost...never before has it been less about me. This is not about me and I want to disappear so that others stories can be told." – Sonequa Martin-Green, My Dead Friend Zoe Actor

Red Carpet + Post-Screening Q&A

From World Premiere arrivals to a post-screening chat with the SXSW Film & TV Festival audience, watch all the buzz-worthy moments from the inaugural screening of My Dead Friend Zoe.

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SXSW Studio Interview

The My Dead Friend Zoe cast and director are in the Studio during SXSW 2024. Learn about this dramedy's World Premiere.

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Watch SXSW On Demand

Go beyond sessions, showcases, and screenings during exclusive interviews at the SXSW Studio. Watch Conference Keynotes and select Featured Sessions on our official SXSW YouTube Channel. Browse the full list of available content and stay tuned for more event recaps.

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