Greg interviews the director and star of The Sublime and Beautiful.
BR: The Sublime and Beautiful is my first feature as writer and director. I think I’ve acted in about another 15 or so feature length films and about 10 shorts. Part of the reason I made my own movie was to demonstrate abilities I believed I possessed as both an actor and as a writer/director. The film comes from a very personal place of grief. I’ve lost a couple of my best friends one who was only 25 at the time. My aunt was hit by a drunk driver just prior to Christmas when I was a junior in college…these and other stories of loss are what I drew from. I would say that making my own film has given me a deeper and richer understanding of the overall process of filmmaking, absolutely. I think its made me a better actor, but I’ll leave that for others to decide.
TMS: Since this was your first credit as a writer and director on a feature film, who would you say influenced the film creatively and who is your favorite director? Is there just one or several?
BR: I love all kinds of movies and many different directors. Favorite filmmakers include Soderbergh, Altman, Fields, PTA, Sayles, Linklater, Van Sant, Jonze, Kazan and of course the Godfather, Cassavettes. I haven’t even touched on the European filmmakers I love. My film has been compared to In the Bedroom, The Crossing Guard, Buitiful and Woman Under the Influence among others…all are humbling comparisons.
TMS: It’s a very quiet film, from the dialogue to the score. Was this something you planned for the start and was it hard to make a film with this type of dynamic?
BR: It absolutely was a choice to make a film that was as much about what’s not being said as what is. Lili Haydn did a brilliant job of creating a score which I would say is like water for fish…the fish don’t even know it's there but would sure miss it if it was gone. I think making any film is difficult. They all require tremendous passion and energy.
TMS: Did you have backers for this project financially and how exactly did you go about getting the funding to make The Sublime and Beautiful. On that same note, was it extremely challenging to get backers for a project like this?
BR: Incredibly challenging to finance this film. After two separate failed attempts to get the film financed I decided to make the movie by any means possible. This meant a bit of funding from close friends and family in conjunction with a successful Kickstarter campaign. With this very modest amount of money we got through production and close to the finish line, at which point we had a producer come in and help us to deliver the film.
TMS: If you had the chance to collaborate with anyone alive today, as an actor, writer, or director, who would it be, and why?
BR: Gosh I don’t even know. There are so many talented people in this business and I hesitate to start naming people for fear that I would leave someone off the list….I would also add that people, especially famous people, are seldom as the seem. I value my time and creative energy and would much rather use it working with good, generous, kind people. I have no problem passing on working with assholes, no matter how “talented”.
TMS: Similarly, if you could do any project you wanted, what would it be? What film would be “The Dream Project” for Blake Robbins?
BR: As of this moment I have 3 films that could be shot in the coming months. One of them is very close to being financed. It would be a dream to make any of the three. I do love great ensemble television like I started my career with, HBO’s OZ, if someone were to cast me on a show like that again, I wouldn’t complain.
TMS: What have you taken from this this experience? Any way you look at the world different? Any way you look at your profession differently? Or has it changed you as a creative entity?
BR: Wow, these are huge questions with the potential for very long replies. I’ll try to keep it somewhat brief and hopefully inspirational to any budding actor or filmmaker. The act of making this movie has been empowering. I claimed my creativity for myself, and proved to myself that I don’t ever need to wait for a “yes” from someone else ever again. If I choose to wait that's my choice but I always have the option of pulling up my bootstraps and doing my own film again. Its given me confidence as a writer. Its taught me the power of trusting my creativity and intuition. For all of these reasons and more my world today is different.
TMS: Where do you see your career going from this point? Was this a one time exercise or do you plan on moving forward with a new project in the near future? If so, what can you tell us about it.
BR: One film is based on the true story of a man, Matthew Sanford, who was paralyzed in a car accident when he was 13. This same accident killed his dad and older sister leaving his mom and older brother to navigate a new life without them. As his relationship to his body changed over the years he eventually ended up a yoga practitioner who now teaches yoga to both able bodied and disabled students. It's a passionate story of overcoming through acceptance. I also have a civil war re-enactment comedy and a dark comedy/drama that's a cautionary tale of Hollywood’s winners and losers, and the fact that nothing is ever what it seems.
I hope to keep acting, writing, directing and producing. I feel this could be the beginning of something pretty cool, and if the past is any indication the best things in life are just out of view waiting to reveal themselves to me. Thanks so much for these awesome questions, for thinking I might have good answers to them, and for responding to The Sublime and Beautiful.