As more and more women rapidly join the important movement of Women Behind The Lens, taking on the strong initiative to focus on important stories from the female perspective, fearless young newcomer Valerie Brandy leaps right up to the plate. Realizing the pertinence of this topic, tons of Hollywood’s most sought after and beautiful actresses have went behind the camera to join in this new wave of feminism, and Brandy, having already started out being featured on shows like Lie To Me and Justified on screen also clearly recognizes the value of women telling stories and has helped to try and create that content for other working actresses.
With a role model like Diablo Cody, it quickly becomes clear that the key word when describing Brandy is unflinching. At only twenty-three years old, the actress turned writer and director takes on more than anyone can imagine without batting as much as an eye. Her writing is very much about keeping a modern and realistic voice that comes naturally from her.
With her directorial debut, Lola’s Last Letter, she uses that voice to tell the story of a girl that is on the quest for forgiveness through a mysterious video journal, taking the audience on a very meta single-cam ride. The film has done very well in the festival circuit and Brandy, who stars as lead Lola, was nominated for best principle actress by the Los Angeles Film Review for The Independent Film Awards.
With tons of other scripts with her name on it out into the ether as she starts to grow as a writer, and her next big directorial feature lined up with the film The Summer Of Naked Swim Parties, Brandy isn’t only taking leaps and bounds for the movement of Women Behind The Lens, she is also doing the same for her career!
In the interview below, the exciting newcomer took some time to answer some questions about Lola’s Last Letter, the social media initiative behind it, who else she would love to work with, what she has next coming up and more!
Talk about Lola’s Last Letter, where the inspiration came from, and where audiences can see it?
It’s a movie about atonement. The inspiration came from me sitting there thinking about why we apologize and thinking about what we hope to achieve. Do we apologize for ourselves to feel some sort of atonement and move on, or are we apologizing for the people that we hurt in order to give them some sort of closure? Because, the one thing we share in common when it comes to being human is that we make mistakes and that is part of the human experience, and I think there’s a lot of shame and judgment in our society that makes it hard to find the courage and strength to apologize- so, that’s really where my head was when conceiving this film. It follows a girl named Lola, who spends the film apologizing to this mysterious man named Henry. And we don’t know who Henry is, or what Lola’s relationship is to him, but throughout the film we see her trying to move on with this video apology letter and by the end of the movie the mystery of who Henry is unravels. It will be available On Demand, Google Play, Amazon, and on iTunes, on September 6th.
You also have started a tremendous social media initiative for fans based on the film. Talk about that a bit.
Right! You can also find us on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and every day we post an anonymous apology letter from one of our fans- and that response has been really incredible. We don’t know who these letters come from, but fans online send us their anonymous apologies and we get things like; “I’m sorry I killed your cat,” to “I’m sorry I cheated on you.” There have been a couple of truly heartbreaking letters where people have written about not being present when a loved one is passing away- and those are especially powerful to me because the person they are apologizing to is no longer with us, and I would like to think that this gives them some sense of closure. But, we get everything from ridiculous to emotional apologies, and the response has been so powerful and it’s been so unifying and very satisfying for me as an artist as well.
You are part of a very big movement happening in film of women stepping behind the screen. Talk about the importance of women taking active roles behind the lens.
It’s very important for women to be behind the camera. Storytellers are a huge part of our culture and in some ways sort of define how we see ourselves as a society. When studying ancient cultures, the first thing we look at is their art- so it’s very important that we create art where all people are included and accurately represented. So, we need very diverse storytellers to help put these stories out there, because one of the most essential elements when viewing art is that you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. So, if smart women who understand the female perspective can come in and accurately tell stories that are true to their experiences, that would be great. Again, I’m really interested in things that are unifying, so I definitely believe that having diverse voices and stories on film is important toward unifying us as human beings. So, we are seeing a big shift right now, but I hope that this is more than just a trend and it becomes a permanent change and more women’s voices are heard.
Who are some of your strongest influences as filmmakers, and who would you love to have in one of your films one day, or maybe act alongside?
As a writer, I love Charlie Kaufman- and his scripts were some of the first things that I read when I was learning to write as a teenager and in college. I really connect with his material because it’s so courageous- he seems so unafraid to break rules and have his own voice, and that’s something I admire. I would also say the same thing about Diablo Cody. When I first read Juno, I was just so impressed because this was a person who understands what her voice is and is not afraid to go against the grain and not conform. I think that makes her very powerful. As far as actors go, I love Kristen Wiig. I would love to work with her in a dramatic role. I love her work and I think that she plays comedic characters amazingly, but she also brings a lot of depth to them and could definitely do great in drama, so she is someone I would really love to work with.
You are doing very well as a writer and have already sold a few scripts. What can you talk about that you’ve written and sold so far, and what do you maybe have coming up?
Well, I’ve worked on and developed so many things- but I’m not really at liberty to speak on a lot of them as of yet! [Laughs.] But, one film that I can talk about that I am so thrilled to be a part of is called The Summer Of Naked Swim Parties. It’s based on a novel and it’s set in 1975 Santa Barbara, which funny enough is my hometown- an odd coincidence! And it follows a teenage girl having her sexual awakening in the 1970’s during a summer where her parents throw these crazy naked swim parties. So, she’s not even comfortable with her own sexuality yet and all around her is nudity and sexuality during those crazy free times- and I think that’s a really interesting exploration of women’s sexuality. For that particular film, I adapted the screenplay from the book and I’m also attached to direct it, so it would be my second film as a director and I am beyond thrilled to be telling that story because it’s not a perspective that we have seen very often...but it is also just so funny!
Leave it to Brandy to defy yet another Hollywood myth as she proves that women in the industry are not only capable of writing drama, but she can write comedy as well! Good to know that as Lola wrote her last letter in Lola’s Last Letter, Valerie Brandy was only getting started with her first film, gearing up for plenty more to come!
Lola’s Last Letter is available On Demand, Google Play, Amazon and iTunes on September 6th.