“Your art is important and you matter. If it means something to you, it means something to someone else. “
Interviewee’s Name: Brea Grant
Profession or Passion: Filmmaking (writer/director)
City: Los Angeles
TCP: You act, write and direct! Which came first and how did it lead into the other things?
I started the film industry as an actress but found it to be incredibly frustrating. I didn’t want to be the person waiting for the calls. I wanted to be the person making the calls. Writing was something that I knew I could do at any point and time and I didn’t need any outside force to okay it for me. I started writing comic books with my brother and moved on to writing screenplays. I fell into directing my first feature when a script I co-wrote and was set to co-star in lost its director. I knew I was a cheap choice and a person who knew the script inside and out. The best of all of our limited choices! My co-star/co-writer supported my decision and I just did it. Have to say I learned a lot during that film because it was the first thing I had ever directed but I did quickly fall in love with the process. I’ve continued writing and directing since because I feel that it uses my talents in the best way possible.
TCP: I love that you rose the challenge and opportunity that was presented to you! And it seems that you continue to do so. What do you feel has been the biggest obstacle you have faced?
It has not been a smooth road. I think a lot of people see me as just an actress because they recognize me from television. So I still feel I am re-educating people on what I am capable of and the amount of work I put into writing and directing. There was also a big gap between my first and second movie. For women, I think we are given so few shots. My first film premiered at Slamdance and immediately got distribution but because it wasn’t a huge indie hit, people weren’t reaching out to me about my next film. I spent a lot of time trying to pitch my next project because people still felt I wasn’t a proven creator. Hopefully that will get a little better after these two projects.
TCP: These “two projects”, you mean the ones that are premiering at Tribeca and South by Southwest?! Both films are amazing accomplishments. Please tell us a little more about those and what’s your favorite type of story to tell?
I love being in the genre space. I love horror, science fiction and action. I’ve loved that kind of stuff for a long time and was lucky enough to start acting in that space early. So now that I get to be on the creative side, I lean towards that. This year, I have two genre movies I wrote that premiered at two major festivals — LUCKY which premiered at SXSW and 12 HOUR SHIFT which I wrote and directed and premiered at Tribeca. I should say “premiered” because both fests were cancelled due to COVID-19. We are all still navigating how to deal with those lost premieres. I’ve also been lucky enough to work in TV, directing for the Netflix series, EASTSIDERS and for CW’s PANDORA. I love going between the mediums of indie films and TV because they are such different beasts. I’m at my happiest when I feel like I’m learning new things and navigating new waters on a daily basis.
If you love learning, you will never get stale or back down from a challenge! What have you learned that you’d like to share with others who maybe face similar challenges?
Find people who believe in you and stick to them. Hire people who are nice. Nice is better than famous. If people aren’t nice to you, don’t worry! You don’t have to keep working with them! Keep a happy, active life consuming art outside of what you’re making. If you don’t have anything but the film industry, there is nowhere to draw inspiration from. As an actress, I heard the word “no” a lot. Sometimes, it was every day. Get used to rejection and know that it has nothing to do with you or your art. Your art is important and you matter. If it means something to you, it means something to someone else. Also, write a manifesto. You don’t have to show it to anyone. But it can be a guiding force. You already know what you want to make and what aligns with your values but put it down somewhere to remind yourself.
TCP: Love the idea that nice is more important than famous! And the choice to take care of yourself by surrounding yourself with people who believe in you but are also kind. Plus you can’t change the world without an manifesto! You have always been fearless about your choices and the people you support. We have respected not only your work, but your work ethic and the positivity that you constantly put out there. What drives you in your search for equality?
When I was a kid, my dad would say my brother was going to grow up to be the president of the United States. In the next breath, he would say that I would go grow up to be a prison warden because I was so bossy. I don’t blame my dad for this because I think in a small town in East Texas, prison warden is a high profile job for a bossy woman. I think about this a lot when it comes to visibility and the importance of being seen. I have a lot of trouble when male directors tell me about their favorite auteur directors because I just don’t see myself in them. It’s hard to imagine yourself somewhere if you’ve never actually seen it so I think continuing to forge a path as a woman has become really important to me.
Another female director I follow on Twitter wrote about how important it was to actually ask for more in negotiations. More money, different things in your contract, etc. It’s not necessarily for you but it’s for the next woman because once your producers realize that women will be asking for more, they will gradually get used to it and start to give more. Also, if they can’t even imagine having a conversation with you about money, they are going to have trouble down the road once production starts.
TCP: Thank you so much Brea for taking the time to share your experiences and wisdom with us! Where can we find you online so we can follow your inevitable industry take over?
Image Credit: Allan Amato