After a decade of co-writing and co-producing in Hollywood, Pike County native Ashley York received an offer to direct a documentary feature she couldn't refuse.
Her friend and eventual co-director Kristina Goolsby turned her onto the story of comedian and cancer survivor Tig Notaro.
"I had been working steadily ever since I came (to Los Angeles)," York says. "But it's not every day that you get offered the opportunity to direct a film about a person such as Tig Notaro."
Three weeks later, Tig was in the works.
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The film, which began streaming on Netflix last month, documents a series of trials that Notaro faced in the span of about a year. It revolves around her now-famous stand-up special at the Largo Theater in Los Angeles.
While filming the movie In a World, Notaro collapsed and was diagnosed with C. diff, a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the digestive tract.
Her mother planned to visit her a week later, but she hit her head and died before she could.
Notaro was then diagnosed with bi-lateral breast cancer two months later.
Instead of letting it get the best of her, Notaro wrote jokes about it, and in a short time delivered a 30-minute stand-up set that vaulted her into the national spotlight.
"I don't think it's about detachment, really; I think it's more of the opposite," York says of documenting difficult subject matter. "It really is about connecting with the material. I think when we're able to connect as storytellers it teaches us to listen and be present as things are unfolding."
She says that's all part of the process of being a documentary filmmaker and telling a story that represent a person.
"We have to try not to judge things or make them something they're not," she says. "But just be there, no matter how devastating or celebratory they may be."
York had been a fan of Notaro for a while after discovering her on a live presentation of the public radio show This American Life, in 2012, in which she talked about her run-ins with Taylor Dayne. It's one of Notaro's most popular stand-up sets.
"I was completely enchanted and immersed in that story," York says. "Tig was this featured storyteller, and she was the person I remembered from that whole show."
Tig has been generously received by critics and has an 80 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 89 on Metacritic.
In his review of the film, New York Times' On Comedy columnist Jason Zinoman wrote, "The directors of Tig do a nice job showing the relationship between her art and her life, establishing Ms. Notaro's history as a comic and balancing it with behind-the-scenes shots of private moments with her family and of her fellow comedians."
Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times called it "such a good story about such a remarkable performer."
York became interested in telling stories about extraordinary things and people while studying journalism at the University of Kentucky.
She thought documentary filmmaking was something she wanted to pursue, so during her final year at UK, she began to apply for graduate school in the cinematic arts.
York was accepted to the University of Southern California's graduate program and two years later was working on projects around Hollywood.
One of those projects was the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat, on which she was an associate producer. York also worked on television shows TransGeneration and Intervention.
Tig was her first directing credit, however.
Despite the difficult subject matter, York didn't feel any extra pressure.
"It's a deeply personal film that we made," she says. "But any film that you make, or any story that you tell, ... you want to get it right."
York says one of the most difficult things about filming the emotional documentary was not laughing behind the camera, which was difficult with so many comedians on set.
York is now busy with two other documentaries.
One is So Help You God, which she has worked on for more than 13 years about a murder that happened in East Tennessee in the 1990s. Among those involved were two girls from her hometown, Kimper, who went to high school with her at Pike County Central.
Another is The Hollywood Hillbilly, which she is co-directing with Sally Rubin. It examines what she sees as a limited view of people from Appalachia that is perpetuated over and over in movies and TV shows.
It's a stereotype she is trying to break.
Note: This story was changed from its original version to clarify the description of the C. diff.