Congratulations on the film and getting it into Sundance. I saw it and really loved it. Tell me a little bit about your background.

Thank you! My background is in theater. I went to NYU for directing and design for theater along with costume and a little bit of set design.

Very Cool. When did your interest in film first start?

I’ve always loved film. I think if you’re a person who likes art, then chances are you like film. So that’s always been something I have been interested in. I did work as a costume designer, commercially, and for music videos, and theater, and stuff like that. That was sort of my money-maker. Theater doesn’t pay a lot. I think some people make money directing theater. I didn’t make any money directing theater.

How did you get around to making your first short, and where did the idea come from?

The cinematographer who shot my film at Sundance, called Gregory Go Boom, shot my short film before that, called Eat. He had seen a play that I directed and really loved it. He was just super excited and didn’t know that theater could be like that. We had this great conversation, and he was like ‘If you ever want to do a film, I am available, I will get the crew, I will make whatever you want to make.’ I was interested, but peripherally it wasn’t really what I was pushing for right at that moment. He wrote me again a few days later and said ‘I’m still thinking about the play and the offer still stands.’ I had actually written this short that I was interested in making. I just figured it would be really expensive, and I wasn’t sure if I had enough money to make it. As you know, you don’t make a lot of money back from a short film (laughs). The investment wasn’t going to pay me back. He said ‘I will do this for free. I have a camera and a crew. Let’s make this.’ So we shot Eat, and that was our first short.

Did Eat make the festival rounds?

About a year later we put it into festivals, and I was like oh, I want to do this. The experience of watching something I’ve made with an audience was amazing. I mean, I had had the experience of doing something like that in theater, and the sensation and the feeling of that is unlike any. So that is obviously something very special, but the experience with film, once you’ve made the film and it’s done, and it’s like how you want it to be, it’s always going to be the same. And there’s something really amazing about watching something be the same, but the experience of the audience is different. The audience is what changes it. So I just really loved that. I could always present it the way I meant to present it.

What was one of the biggest challenges you had to overcome while filming your first shoot?

I think time. Time is really hard. How it flies. Coming from theater, I really benefit from the rehearsal process, and finishing something and fleshing it out, and how it moves moment to moment. Your days go fast, especially when there’s not a lot of money, so there isn’t any time to sit with something and think about it. So it’s like really being in the moment, moving forward and letting things go. For someone who is so deeply rooted in theater, it was definitely different for me, and I had to just let things go. There’s no looking back. It’s about being spontaneous. There’s no amount of planning that will totally prepare you for the moment. So it’s about being ready for anything that could fall apart at any moment.

For somebody who hasn’t seen the film or doesn’t know anything about it, what is Gregory Go Boom about?

The film came to me from a place of wanting to tell a story about somebody who is dismissed, and sort of exploring the space of being overlooked, and dismissed, and the pain that comes out of that, and the fight that comes out of that. In this case it’s about a paraplegic man who also happens to be a racist and kind of a jerk, but ultimately he feels overlooked, and that’s why he feels the way that he does and makes the choices he makes.

What inspired you to make it?

Two or three years ago, I was out to dinner with my boyfriend and his uncle, and there’s this paraplegic man sitting next to us, and I have the tendency to be really enraptured by people around me. I’m sort of attention-deficient in that way. I could never sit in a cafe and write, because I would just stare at people and examine what they are doing. So there’s this guy sitting next to us, and he just seemed very interesting to me. He kept looking at his watch…he just seemed really distracted. And during the time we’re having dinner, I just sort of kept looking at him, and this woman shows up, about thirty minutes of him being there. So when she walks in, I realize, because there is a look on her face, it seems as if she didn’t know he would be paraplegic. And then I pieced together that they were on a blind date, because she walks in, and her eyes sort of widen, and then she sits down, and she apologizes for being late, and she says she has to leave very soon actually, because she was really tired, because she had been working really hard, and she had to go to work tomorrow. And then she gets up, and is like ‘I need to make a call.’ And then I follow her out, and she is on the phone, and I think she was British, and she was talking on the phone saying ‘I can’t believe you didn’t tell me! Usually when you set somebody up you say that they are paraplegic…’ I can’t hear who’s on the other line, but I can hear her end of it, and I’m just like holy shit, that’s so crazy! And then I go back to dinner, and at that time he orders two glasses of champagne, and she comes back in, and she apologizes for having to take this call, and she’s like ‘I’m going to have to leave soon.’ And then the two glasses of champagne show up, and they proceed to have like a really awesome time. And then he orders more champagne, and they’re laughing, and it’s great. And then we ended up having to leave before they were done, which is very frustrating for me, because I wanted to know what happens. But after I saw that guy, I saw him for three days in a row. I saw him the next day at dinner at this place in Hollywood, and then the day after that at the movie theater. So I saw him for three days in a row, and then I sort of just kept thinking about him and his experience, and then I was sort of interested in telling this story about a paraplegic man, who would go on these blind dates, and the women wouldn’t necessarily know that he was in a wheelchair. Then I went to the Salton Sea, and then after that I was sort of excited about setting this story in this kind of environment and writing in kind of a language unlike the language that I’m generally attracted to, or just setting it in this environment that’s not necessarily a drain that I would naturally drain towards. And that’s kind of how it came up, and that’s also how I got the idea of a racist kind of paraplegic.

Where were you when you got the call from Sundance, and what was that experience like?

I had just landed in New York. I was there a week before Thanksgiving, and I had landed to this email sent from this agent at CAA just with the question of how would you feel, if they were interested in playing that? And I was like, what does that mean? And it was seven in the morning in New York, so it was like four in LA, so nobody was going to respond. And my thoughts sort of wandered. And to be totally honest, since I had just flown into New York, I never ever take drugs to fly, but it was in the middle of the night, and I was worried I would not sleep on the redeye. But I had a Zanax and two martinis, and the reason I don’t take drugs is because I’m so sensitive. So I was like high the whole day. So I get this call, and now I’m like peaking from what I had the night before, and that’s when I found out.

What do you hope to get out of this experience?

That’s a really good question, and it’s important to me not to play out and standardize, and don’t think that’s really healthy. I’m just kind of going with it, and I’m really excited. The biggest thing has already happened for me, which is the validation that I have made right choices. There’s a reason that this is my path. So if nothing comes of it, if people boo my film, if no one ever talks to me, it would totally be fine, because the best has already come for me. I’ve gotten the best thing already. So whatever comes of the festival would just be icing.

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Michael Cera as Gregory in a scene from Gregory Go Boom.

Name

Janicza Bravo

Place of Birth

Panama City, Panama

Occupation

Writer, Director