Approaching Grimmfest: 12 Hour Shift Interview with Brea Grant
Having missed talking to Brea Grant during the official Grimmfest press week recently, due to the way time zones and working hours misaligned at the time, I was very happy when another brief opportunity came along. Brea has written and directed her second film, 12 Hour Shift, which has recently held its UK premiere at FrightFest’s virtual edition in August and will also be screened at Grimmfest next month.
12 Hour Shift is a black comedy that straddles the line between realistic and outrageous, about one night in an Arkansas hospital, and… organ trafficking. Watch this space in a couple of weeks for my full review.
The interview opened with a huge smile. There are pros and cons to conducting press activities this way, but Brea was struggling to get her head around a schedule when there isn’t actually any traveling to do.
I told Brea I’d seen her on TV years ago in Heroes (she played the speedy Daphne Millbrook) and on the big screen last year in the marvelous After Midnight, and asked her what was it like to be alternating between acting and directing. “As I get older, I’m definitely being drawn more to the filmmaking side of things, in part because it’s just a better fit with my personality. But also because there just aren’t many roles for women after you hit about thirty-five. Well, except for that one Jeremy Gardner wrote in After Midnight, which is brilliant! I think as an actress I’m trying to be a bit more choosy about what I’d like to be doing, and as a filmmaker, I’ve got an opportunity to do such cool stuff. So I’m kind of choosing what I want to do and they are feeding into each other: I’m a much better actor because I direct, and because I act, I think I know how to talk to actors. And I treat actors like adults. I think what really bothered me about being an actor is that everything is brought to you, people treat you with kid gloves, they’re scared you’re going to break at all times; the truth is that most of the time actors are just glad to be there because we don’t get to work that much. Even me as an actress making a living out of it for twelve-plus years, I only got to work a couple of times a year. I know most actors are pretty happy to be there for the most part; I’m aware of that, and they respect that, hopefully!”
Having watched 12 Hour Shift, I had to ask: had Brea had some bad experiences in hospitals? “No, actually! I have nurses in my family, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time in a hospital, as I have an elderly father and was one of his primary caregivers for about eight years, so I’ve been at a hospital quite a bit and wrote a lot of it in a hospital. I think the atmosphere of a hospital is a very stressful one, so it makes sense to me that you would ask that.”
I had found it interesting to see the ebbs and flows of one single shift in that film. “Exactly,” she said. “You know we shot it in a working hospital and the nurses would come up to our floor and talk to me, give me advice and stuff. And there was one point I was like ‘am I making the nurses too mean?’ and one of the nurses said ‘no, they’re not mean enough.’”
I mentioned I’ve experienced hospital myself plenty of times, and there can be a huge variety of staff. In her film, the one I liked the most was the young man who added some music and dance to his day, just a couple of times, but no-one seemed to notice. “Yeah, that’s Tommy Hobson. He’s a friend of mine and our producers, and he just came out for a few days to help us out. And knowing that I had him there, and he was a great singer and dancer as well as an actor, I thought why not throw in some singing and dancing into this movie.”
Angela Bettis, the lead in 12 Hour Shift, was amazing, so different from the fragile roles I’ve seen her in before. I asked Brea was she your choice? “Yeah, she was. But in May, she has this interesting turn, a switch where she becomes powerful towards the end. But I had also seen her in Drones, and she has such range to me, and presence and gravitas on screen. I met with her and I’d always wanted to work with her. I pitched her the idea, sent her the script, and she is so calm in real life, very like the character of Mandy in some ways. She was a real leader on the set, as she had so much experience compared to some of us, and I think she just knocked it out of the park.”
I had to ask – again – what is it like releasing a new film via virtual festivals. Brea replied, “Well I don’t just have this film, but another that I wrote and starred in, called Lucky, that’s also doing the virtual festival rounds. I saw the director yesterday, Natasha Kermani, and you know it feels very cool that we can do this: [if the pandemic had occurred] twenty years ago, and we would have been screwed. There are so many things going on in the world that I’m not going to lament about my problems, but yeah, it’s a bummer. I actually wore my Sitges t-shirt today, because I have both Lucky and 12 Hour Shift in Sitges, and so is a movie I’m in called The Stylist, that has its premiere in a couple of weeks. That’s a terrific film, Jill Gevargizian is definitely a director to look out for. But I have three movies there and I can’t go!”
The Stylist will also be screened at the October Frightfest in a few weeks’ time. “The Stylist was shot before the pandemic, and it’s been in post-production since. She always does post long distance anyway, so it doesn’t matter. We finished Lucky and 12 Hour Shift both last year, and we were at a restaurant when we found out that South by Southwest had been canceled; and a week later, Tribeca got canceled. So I had a movie in both, and they both got canceled.”
Brea tells me she has been doing some television directing. “I was actually just in Bulgaria, shooting a show called Pandora for The CW, I worked on that last year and I’ve done a block for them. Just trying to get my next movie off the ground next. Oh but I do have a graphic novel coming out, which you don’t have to be on set for: it’s called “Mary”, about the fictional descendent of Mary Shelley, YA science-fiction.”
I asked whether all these new projects are horror or science fiction. “Lucky is a horror movie, it will be out on Shudder next year. 12 Hour Shift comes out in the States in October and in Europe early next year.”
If you want the chance to see it before that, 12 Hour Shift will be screened on 7 October as part of Grimmfest.