Many of you may know Brea Grant from her roles in shows such as Heroes, Dexter, and Friday Night Lights. Recently she and fellow female actor Vera Miao collaborated to write a road trip buddy story about two women. Not only is this awesome because we so rarely get to see this genre with female characters, but it also happens to take place at the beginning of the apocalypse. Apparently somebody forgot to tell the two main characters, played by Grant and Miao, that the end is kind of nigh. This story is called Best Friends Forever and is Grant’s debut as a co-writer and director of a film.
Grant was awesome enough to take the time to answer some burning questions we had about this project. In this interview she talks about what it was like to direct for the first time, what sets Best Friends Forever apart from other apocalyptic stories, what she hopes people will take away from the film, and what superpowers she would choose if she were facing the apocalypse. Check it out, folks!
Not only do you star in this movie, but you also co-wrote it with Vera Miao and directed it. What was it like to be involved not just in front, but behind the camera?
Very different from me. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned about filmmaking. I think as an actor I had this attitude that I knew so much about movie-making and I really didn’t know anything. I have a new respect for the entire process.
And overall, it was really difficult. It was hard to separate out my ego and insecurities as an actor from being a team player and trying to give other people what they needed. It was one of the toughest (probably the toughest) things I’ve done in my whole career but it was also very rewarding. I have this amazing thing that I went and did and not many people can say that.
What was your favorite part about directing this film? What has been your proudest moment so far?
Finishing it. No joke. I still work on the film a lot (right now promoting our July 1st release!) but finally finishing and saying, “Okay. This is as much as I’m going to do. I can’t stress about this anymore.” That was my favorite part. In general though, I liked the post process. I’m much more of an solitary worker than someone who wants to be surrounded by people. So in post, I would spend my evenings coming up with cool sound cues or searching for good music by myself and then work with other people during the day. The opportunity to have that alone time was so valuable to me since the rest of the time as a director, there’s a million people with a million and one questions always at your door.
My proudest moment was premiering at Slamdance. We were all so worried that we wouldn’t have good attendance and the team plastered the city with posters and tried to get the word out. Then the day came and it was completely sold out, with standing room only. I stood in the back and listened to people experience the film for the first time and they would laugh and gasp at all the right places. The energy in the room was incredible. It was worth all the sleepless nights just for that.
What sets ‘Best Friends Forever’ apart from other stories that take place during the apocalypse?
We like to say that BFF takes place in the calm before things really go to shit during an apocalypse. Nuclear bombs detonate and the two leads (played by Vera and myself) are in the middle of nowhere. So people are just starting to panic, celebrate, cry, whatever. No one knows what it is happening. There is a lot of misinformation. And for a lot of the film, the girls don’t even know something happened. I think a lot of other apocalyptic movies take place in a post-apocalyptic world, whereas we are more on the brink of an apocalypse. And we kept it very realistic. There are no zombies or vampires or things like that. It’s very much what I think people would behave like if there was an actual disaster of that scale.
From the trailer, there seems to be some disturbing and scary scenes. What kind of a message do you think Best Friends Forever is going to get across in terms of human nature?
When Vera and I were writing we talked a lot about what happened around 9/11. Vera was in New York at the time and said everyone was helpful and kind to each other. I was in Texas and there was so little information, I felt like people were in almost a blind panic. We really wanted to see how people would deal with disaster because I think it says a lot about people.
The biggest question we wanted to ask was “When things fall apart, what is the most important to you?” Who is the person you call? Who do you need to apologize to? Who are you still angry with? Who do you not want to lose? I think a major disaster makes people actually think about who and what is important to them.
Acting wise, how emotionally challenging was this movie during the filming process?
It was fairly challenging. Luckily, writing and directing the script meant I spent a lot of time breaking it down and was pretty ready for what each day would bring, at least on the logical planning part of my day. I wasn’t really prepared for the pressures of directing to creep into my acting brain. Like if someone would stop me with a problem I wasn’t ready for first thing in the morning, it was hard to move my brain back and forth from acting to directing and back again.
Overall though, I had a great team. My AD was a guy named John Michael Thomas who had directed me in movies before and knew what I wanted from each scene. I didn’t want a lot of people giving me acting notes on set but he was allowed to. My DP, Michelle Lawler, was awesome and pretty much made me plan every single thing for every single day so she knew exactly what I wanted and needed. And Vera and I also did rehearsals with our acting coach. So it was mostly about planning, planning, planning.
It is so refreshing to see a road trip “buddy” story about women. What inspired you and Vera Miao to create this story?
There’s not a lot female buddy road trips and there are also very few female buddy comedies in general. Trust me. When doing research for this film, I looked a lot of them. Female friendships have always been a really important part of my life and I don’t feel like the intensity of my relationships are often depicted in films — relationships where we actually rely on each other and talk about things that aren’t just boys or crap like that. I wanted to see that in a film.
What are some of your favorite apocalypse stories?
I’m really into dystopian or utopian sci-fi so I love to see worlds created. Like I just read Roboapocalypse and I love books like that. I love to be transported into entirely different worlds. I got into reading sci-fi by reading Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler, two women who both create amazing science fiction worlds that I can just lose myself in. That’s still the kind of book or movie I like to see.
If you could have any superpowers (yes, you can have more than one!) during an apocalypse, which ones will you choose?
Something survival related. Probably super-strength so I could break into metal refrigerators to get food and build houses really fast.
Since you are also a comic book creator, do you think you would want to take the movie’s characters or world into a graphic novel format?
That is actually something we’ve been talking about right now. The end of the movie has a lot of comic illustrations by Ryan Kelly of the two main characters continuing on their adventure and I think it’d be the perfect platform for more time with the BFF ladies. Stay tuned for that.
What do you hope people will take away from this movie?
It’s funny. The thing I thought people would take away would be the theme of friendship and that sometimes it takes a big event to make you look around to see what’s important to you. But instead, there’s another part of the film in which my character, Harriet, carries around a note in her pocket that says, “You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.” And she refers to it a few times throughout the film. And people have been coming up to me and saying, “That made me feel a lot better” or “I thought about that phrase a lot after seeing your movie.” I thought it was a great theme for Harriet who is going through a big change in her life and it seems like it has really resonated with people.
Watch the trailer: