From "Alternate Endings": A woman places a flower into Barbara Jean's green burial grave. Photo: Courtesy of HBO

Our friends Perri Peltz and Matthew O’Neill, the directors and producers of "Axios on HBO," have spent 2 years and traveled to 10 states to produce a landmark documentary on death and dying, "Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America." It premieres this Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 8pm ET on HBO.

What they're saying: Here's a bit of a long conversation I had with Peltz and O'Neill, who repeatedly hopped on planes over the past 2 years when they heard one of their subjects wasn't doing well.

Your subjects were really talkative. Some of them were even funny.

  • O’Neill: "The humor is because there's a great deal of comfort and affection in each of these stories. If there's one thing in each of these stories besides death, it's love. And out of that love comes humor and comes teasing and intimacy and smiles."

Why do we have so much trouble talking about death?

  • O’Neill: "The baby boomer generation has had a greater degree of control over their lives than any other generation before them. It's because every topic that's taboo — be it sex, be it drugs — it's all on television and it's all being talked about. And death is the last taboo."
  • Peltz: "As Axios would say, why does it matter? We both believe that if this film can at least begin a conversation about death, that's going to take us to a better and more informed place."

When you screened a segment at the Aspen Ideas Festival, people cried.

  • O'Neill: "What we've been hearing is some variation of 'I was nervous about watching this. I was afraid to watch this, but since watching it, I can't stop talking about it. I talk to my husband about it. I talk to my kids about it. It made me have a conversation with my kids here that I've been putting off.'"

How did making this documentary change you? 

  • Peltz: "My mother has been trying to talk to me about her end of life for a good 10 years now. And every time she says, 'We really should talk about the end and what's going to happen and about my will,' I basically put my fingers in my ears and say: 'No, no, no, no, no — another time.' And what I've learned from this film is we have to talk about it. I went back to my mother and I said: 'You're right. Let's talk about it.' And that, for me, was a big difference. I'm still afraid of dying. But I'm willing now to have a conversation about it."

🎬 Watch a clip.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Podcasts

Facebook boycott organizers share details on their Zuckerberg meeting

Facebook is in the midst of the largest ad boycott in its history, with nearly 1,000 brands having stopped paid advertising in July because they feel Facebook hasn't done enough to remove hate speech from its namesake app and Instagram.

Axios Re:Cap spoke with the boycott's four main organizers, who met on Tuesday with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives, to learn why they organized the boycott, what they took from the meeting, and what comes next.

Boycott organizers slam Facebook following tense virtual meeting

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Civil rights leaders blasted Facebook's top executives shortly after speaking with them on Tuesday, saying that the tech giant's leaders "failed to meet the moment" and were "more interested in having a dialogue than producing outcomes."

Why it matters: The likely fallout from the meeting is that the growing boycott of Facebook's advertising platform, which has reached nearly 1000 companies in less than a month, will extend longer than previously anticipated, deepening Facebook's public relations nightmare.

Steve Scalise PAC invites donors to fundraiser at Disney World

Photo: Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s PAC is inviting lobbyists to attend a four-day “Summer Meeting” at Disney World's Polynesian Village in Florida, all but daring donors to swallow their concern about coronavirus and contribute $10,000 to his leadership PAC.

Why it matters: Scalise appears to be the first House lawmakers to host an in-person destination fundraiser since the severity of pandemic became clear. The invite for the “Summer Meeting” for the Scalise Leadership Fund, obtained by Axios, makes no mention of COVID-19.