A producer, writer and director known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more recent series UnREAL and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Marti Noxon is now at Sundance ’17 with her feature directorial debut To the Bone. Starring Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves and Carrie Preston, Noxon’s semi-autobiographical passion project tells the story of a young woman’s last-ditch effort to fight off her severe anorexia. With the help of an unconventional doctor (Reeves) at a group recovery home, 20-year-old Ellen (Collins) goes through a harrowing journey in the pursuit of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

Appearing at Deadline’s Sundance studio alongside Collins, Reeves and Preston, Noxon opened up about her personal connection to the material. “From the time I was about 14 to my early twenties, I was anorexic and then bulimic, and I felt like there’s only been movies on TV about it,” Noxon said. “I think that problem hasn’t gotten much better since I was a kid, so I wanted to try to bring it to a bigger screen with a little more humor and perspective I have now, being older.”

Certainly, in approaching a project with such a personal basis in her own life, Noxon found challenges scattered throughout the process. “There were two parts that were hardest. One was the writing part, only because I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction, and it didn’t have to be entirely true, and I could find different moments, rather than be so beholden to what actually happened,” she said, discussing her transition from the world of television to the set of her feature debut. “And then editing was difficult because my father died a few weeks after we finished the film, so there’s just a lot of emotion in it, and then you’re just there with the footage. But now I feel the catharsis. Now we get to hear other peoples’ stories.”

“I was drawn to the project because I suffered from eating disorders when I was younger, as well,” Collins said. “It was something that really resonated strongly with me.” Discussing the instant rapport and understanding that emerged between her and Noxon, Collins added, “I think it’s really important to tell this story in a way that’s not ostracizing. It’s about a taboo topic that a lot of people don’t like to talk about, but it’s becoming more and more prevalent with young men and women today. I just thought it would be very therapeutic for myself as well to kind of enter back into this world from almost a grown-up perspective, and looking back at experience without shame, and telling this story to open conversation up for other young women and men out there.”

In the Deadline video exclusive above, Carrie Preston and Keanu Reeves discuss their roles in the film—playing Ellen’s mother and doctor, respectively, while Noxon expands on the necessity of finding humor in dark moments.

To the Bone premieres on Sunday at the Eccles Theatre.

Actors, directors, filmmakers and special guests visiting the Deadline Studio at Sundance 2017 enjoyed sweet and savory treats, custom cocktails and more at Applegate’s REEL FOOD CAFE. Find out more about Applegate and their mission to change the meat we eat at http://www.applegate.com