“BRAND: A Second Coming” follows comedian/author/activist Russell Brand as he dives headlong into drugs, sex and fame in an attempt to find happiness, only to realize that our culture feeds us bad ideas and empty idols. Award-winning director, Ondi Timoner, explores the contradiction between Brand’s clarion call for revolution and his hunger to transcend pop fame. [Synopsis Courtesy of SXSW]
What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
“BRAND: A Second Coming” tells the story of comedian, actor, author, activist Russell Brand as he takes everything we are told will make us happy — drugs, sex, fame, money, and power to the hilt, and is left feeling empty. So he starts to look inward and writes a transformative show called the Messiah Complex, in which he studies the difference between fleeting pop fame and the lasting relevance of his true heroes, Ché, Gandhi, Jesus Christ, & Malcolm X. He leaves Hollywood and moves back to England to dedicate his life to debunking the lies we are all sold. He starts a YouTube channel to expose the truth behind the news, “The Trews,” and writes a book called “Revolution” calling to overthrow the government. It’s quite a ride, and a wake up call to all of us.
Now what’s it REALLY about?
I was very interested in exploring whether ego and narcissism are vital components to anyone who is going to change the world, or veer off the charted, expected path. I was also interested in exposing the difference between the cheap, expendable and often value empty celebrity fame versus living a life that matters. I hoped that looking at Russell’s remarkable transformation in this film — whether or not it is partially motivated by a desire to reach a certain kind of immortality he could never get in Hollywood — would affect audiences, especially young audiences, to avoid some of the rabbit holes Russell went down and get to making that internal switch a little earlier in their lives.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I am a mother, a daughter, a sister and a filmmaker. I tend to shoot, edit, write, direct, and produce my films. I am also extremely collaborative and have incredible luck in attracting dedicated, awesome talented teammates – without whom I could never do this work. I am intensely excited about the time we live in, especially the Internet revolution, and I express that through my two ongoing Internet series (running four years now) atotaldisruption.com about innovators and entrepreneurs and Chief Executive Artists and BYOD, the only talk show about documentary in the world. With my own work, I believe the form should follow the content, so I get a lot of inspiration from the subject matter itself! I am probably best known for the two films I made that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance — “Dig!” (2004) and “We Live in Public” (2009) but I love all my film children equally.
Biggest challenge in completing this film?
What do you want the SXSW audience to take away from your film?
As “BRAND: A Second Coming” is opening the SXSW festival, I hope it will do all the things it’s done to our test audiences: Leave everybody energized and inspired to go do something about the world we live in, to question their own priorities, and become active before it’s too late. I hope the film will get everyone in a good state of mind to view all of the films, and hear all the talks at the Interactive conference through that filter — so that SXSW can be the kick off of a vital transformation for all of us.
Any films inspire you?
I love films that break the mold and leave some grey area. I thought “The Celebration” was brilliant, “The Graduate,” “Slacker,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Don’t Look Back” — there are so many, and I am out of time to write this now!
What cameras did you shoot on?
Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform. If not, why?
No we didn’t on this one, but I am a believer after doing one for “A Total Disruption” a couple of years ago! In fact at this SXSW, we are launching a search and discovery platform that makes all of my footage for that project —- the hundreds of hours with the innovators and entrepreneurs — searchable down to the word, which was kicked off and funded by that Kickstarter!
Did you go to film school? If so, which one?
Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.