Gail Rubin speaking, photo by Pete Vidal.

Gail Rubin speaking, photo by Pete Vidal.

Funny films can help break the ice about serious subjects – medical care, end-of-life issues, estate planning, and funeral planning. Certified Thanatologist Gail Rubin is a death educator who brings a light touch to serious subjects with humor and clips from movies and television shows that help audiences learn and remember important lessons.

Her presentations qualify for continuing education credits for medical professionals, hospice and social workers, attorneys, financial planners, funeral directors and other professionals who need CEUs. Look for the seal of continuing education credit approval from the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice.

Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death®, offers a number of film presentations in 60- to 90-minute sessions and longer workshops. DOWNLOAD A LIST OF TALKS HERE. And yes, she does have a license from the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation to legally show films to the public.

Check out these program descriptions:

Undertaking Betty coverCFSP APSFPLaughing in the Face of Death: Funny Films for Funeral Planning

This upbeat talk illustrates funeral planning issues with clips from comedy films and television programs. Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead – and your family will benefit from the conversation. Films include Get Low, The Six Wives of Henry Lefay, Death at a Funeral (U.S. version), Undertaking Betty, The Big Lebowski and Elizabethtown.

“Doctor, How Long Do I Have?”

Having a serious healthcare conversation with your doctor takes effort to ensure clear communications. By watching dramatic and comedy films depicting doctor-patient conversations, doctors and medical professionals will learn how to become better communicators. Patients will learn how to ask questions and be involved in treatment decisions. Families will learn effective ways to discuss difficult topics with their loved ones. Films include Patch Adams, The End, Wit, The Shootist and The Descendants.

CFSP APSFPLessons on Grief and Mourning in Cartoons

Disney Pixar Inside Out emotions

Disney Pixar Inside Out emotions (L to R): Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, and Sadness

Animated movies designed for children can also address the grief of adults. This presentation incorporates clips from popular cartoon films that illustrate and instruct about mourning losses. From the death of loved ones to significant life changes, we can learn about resiliency and the rebirth of joy by watching characters address their challenges. This session provides a framework for understanding grief and coping strategies gleaned from thanatology, the study of death, dying and bereavement, and ways to effectively use animated film clips in aftercare programs.

Six Feet Under OpeningEverybody Dies: Lessons from Six Feet Under

From 2001 to 2005, the HBO cable television series Six Feet Under took viewers behind the scenes at Fisher & Sons Funeral Home. This upbeat talk uses clips from this award-winning series to illuminate funeral planning issues for those who don’t plan to die. Topics include funeral consumer issues, cremation, traditional and green burial, developments in the funeral industry, and aspects of contemporary grief and mourning. (Sensibility Warning: There is strong language in some of these clips.)

The Birds and the Bees of Mortality (a.k.a. Estate Planning, Hollywood Style)

The way the movies portray it, wills are supposed to cover funeral plans in addition to the distribution of assets. Unfortunately, family members may die before doing any estate planning. Even with a will, plans can go awry. Clips from comedies including Carpet Kingdom, The Six Wives of Henry LeFay, Eulogy, Bonneville, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Grand Theft Parsons and other movies illustrate the need to do estate planning TODAY.

This presentation can provide continuing education credits for estate attorneys and financial planning professionals. After attending this session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify how the Terror Management Theory and mortality salience impacts estate planning.
  • Minimize end-of-life planning resistance with humor and funny films.
  • Prevent identity theft of the deceased’s information.
  • Utilize information provided to create their own film clip presentations.

Alfred HitchcockFilm Appreciation Presentations

These one to two-hour film clip talks on Hollywood giants make great spouse programs. “Hallmarks of Hitchcock” identifies top thematic elements of Alfred Hitchcock films. “All Singing, All Dancing: Storytelling in Busby Berkeley Musicals” showcases his elaborate production numbers. “John Ford: When the Legend Becomes Fact, Print the Legend” identifies thematic elements of this master director’s Westerns.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust in Your Face: Cremation, Comedy and Creativity

Cremation is the fastest growing disposition method in the U.S. Watching funny and serious film clips, you’ll learn about what you need to know before there’s a death in the family, including choices to make and disposition options. Films include Elizabethtown, The Big Lebowski, Due Date, The Bucket List, and The Descendants.

CFSP APSFPThe Funeral Director on Film

Watching scenes from comedies and dramas focused on funeral directors throughout history, learn important consumer tips for funeral planning. With humorous insights, presenter Gail Rubin traces the evolution of the funeral industry from the 1800s to today through Hollywood portrayals of “the last man to let you down.” It’s a great presentation for consumer education as well as funeral director continuing education credits. Films include The Shootist, The Loved One, About Schmidt, Get Low, Bernie and the TV series, Six Feet Under.

A scene from Nora's Will

A scene from Nora’s Will

CFSP APSFPJewish Funeral Traditions on Film

Jewish traditions regarding death and dying, the funeral, the treatment of the body, burial, mourning, and annual remembrances are very different from Christian practices. This talk illuminates the differences and similarities of these funeral traditions – highly beneficial for interfaith families. Scenes from two comedic films from Mexico, My Mexican Shivah and Nora’s Will, illustrate Jewish funeral, burial and mourning traditions.

Jewish attitudes toward cremation, burial, tattoos, suicide, and other issues can be addressed. Christian audiences will find the information fascinating as it relates to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jewish burial is naturally green burial, and the environmental aspects of cremation and burial are also discussed.

A Funny, Fractured History of Funerals on Film

This fast-paced collection of short comedy film clips traces the history of undertaking starting at the dawn of humankind (History of the World Part 1) and medieval times (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Grave robbing (Young Frankenstein), casket sales (The Loved One), and cremation (The Big Lebowski) are among the issues examined.

Hollywood’s Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms

Dr. David Kessler’s book Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms shares the personal stories of medical and hospice professionals who witness death. Some of the dying see remarkable visions, some speak of going on a trip, and others see people who they knew in this lifetime crowding the room. Hollywood films provide a concrete way of looking at this phenomenon when someone dies. This talk opens the door to discussing mortality issues.

Susan Sarandon in Elizabethtown

Susan Sarandon in Elizabethtown

CFSP APSFPThe Many Faces of Grief

Grief and mourning takes people on a journey with twists and turns. It’s a process that takes on many faces. Using clips from Hollywood films to illustrate and lighten the conversation, attendees will learn about different grieving styles, length of mourning, disenfranchised grief and other elements of thanatology, the study of death, dying and bereavement.

Film clips will include scenes from The Big Lebowski, Elizabethtown, Walk the Line, Gravity, Smoke Signals, and The Jane Austen Book Club. (Sensibility Warning: There is strong language in some of these clips.)

This presentation can serve as a continuing education presentation for hospice and social workers, funeral directors and psychologists. Presenter Gail Rubin is Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement through the Association for Death Education and Counseling.

To book Gail Rubin for any of these presentations, contact her at 505.265.7215 or email Gail [at]

A Good Goodbye