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SPIRITS 2011 | Best First Feature Award Nominee Frazer Bradshaw

SPIRITS 2011 | Best First Feature Award Nominee Frazer Bradshaw

Frazer Bradshaw was first drawn to filmmaking through experimental cinema. His first feature, “Everything Strange and New” is currently nominated for a Spirit Award in the Best First Feature Category. The film follows a man as he struggles to understand himself and his adulthood. indieWIRE caught up with Bradshaw over an e-mail interview last week and this is what he had to say.

Being engaged by the challenges in the medium…

My dad taught me photography when I was about 13 and he was nerdy enough to have a dark room in the basement. I went to a fine arts high school, where I got a pretty rigerous training in figure drawing, painting and sculpture. I attended the San Francisco Art Institute for college, where I was, initially, making sculpture, installation and experimental music. I got a job as the evening AV tech, and that included projecting the film history classes (history of experimental film) and I just fell in love with what projected light looked like and started making experimental work. My interest in narrative came a year or two later. I’ve always had a deep need to make work, and cinema is possibly the most complex and difficult artistic medium. I think I love the challenges it comes with.

Staring out a bus window and finding “The American Dream”…

Many of the ideas my films are built on start with a visual cinematic moment that plays in my head. I usually have a several of them, then try to make sense of how they fit together, and once I have some narrative framework, start filling in the spaces to pull something cohesive together. “Everything Strange and New”‘s genesis was riding the bus and watching the person sitting across from me stare out the window as the world flew by. Some version of the film’s repeating theme played in my head at that moment. The subject of “Everything Strange and New” evolved from watching what was going on with so many of my friends, as with me. I was at the age (35) when everyone was having kids and I’d recently had one myself. And/or they were all getting divorced or trying to keep it together. And the majority were trying to keep their heads above water, financially. My family life was pretty mellow and drama free, but looking at what was in front of me, it was easy to see how that could go hay-wire, and easy to see how it had for a lot of people. At some point it occurred to me that all this was “The American Dream” and that we’d all signed up, and many of us weren’t so happy with what we’d been handed.

On what the film is about…

The film is about the American Dream and what happens when one gets it. It’s about a guy who signs up for the wife, the kids, the mortgage, because he thinks he’s supposed to, but finds that it’s not really what he thought it would be. It’s about what happens when the honeymoon is over and you’re looking at what you have and realizing you’ve made a major life choice, wondering if it was the right one. It’s also about the difference between what we perceive we want and what we need, about the difference between happiness and contentment, and how difficult it can be to recognize what we have in front of us for it’s value or it’s lack there of.

Difficulties encountered along the way…

The mechanical answer is financing, but that’s not so interesting. More interesting is the emotional side. I wanted to make a film that came from a deeply personal place (though the film isn’t very autobiographical), and to put some things that I struggle with on the table (relationships, sexuality, parenthood and gender, to name a few). That was a scary thing to do when writing and making the film. It’s less scary now, and it’s hard to see what was so scary and difficult in the moment. Being willing to bare myself, even if through a constructed and non-autobiographical narrative, was a major growing experience for me.  

Avoiding disasters…

I’m a DP for a living, and I know very well what mistakes not to make from watching other people make them over and over again. We had a fabulous and highly professional crew (all my A-listers from projects I shoot for others) and a great, well prepared cast, so we had short easy days, for the most part (only one day went past 10 hours), and virtually nothing in the way of drama or disasters.

Frazer Bradshaw’s next project: The Greatest Story Ever Told.

I’m writing something that I’ve been pitching as “The feel good movie about sexuality contorted by grief and projection.”

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