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Tribeca Women Directors: Meet Garrett Bradley (Below Dreams)

Women and Hollywood By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood April 17, 2014 at 2:00PM

"I am fascinated by the reverse migration of young folks graduating college and moving to the South. This migration, which further exposes socio-economic differences in our generation, grows more and more evident in newly established neighborhoods, nightlife and most explicitly, in the workforce."
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Still from "Below Dreams"
Still from "Below Dreams"

Garrett Bradley was born in New York City and now lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana. The recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Award, the Lynn Weston Fellowship, the Motion Picture Association of America Award, the Mary Pickford Award and several academic fellowships, Bradley worked from 2003-2004 as post-production assistant to filmmakers Laura Poitras and Linda Goode-Bryant on the Emmy-nominated film Flag Wars. Bradley has made 24 short films. Below Dreams, her debut feature-length film, was honored by the Independent Filmmaker Project as one of only ten projects selected for their 2013 Narrative Lab. (Press materials)

Below Dreams will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 18.

Please give us your description of the film playing.

Below Dreams merges current conversations about lost millennials with a more diversified view of what that looks like for twentysomethings living in the South. 

What drew you to this story?

On August 18th 2010, The New York Times published an article entitled "What Is It About 20-Somethings?" At the time, I had left my home of New York City to study filmmaking at UCLA. I found myself pulled south and began traveling on Greyhound buses between New York and New Orleans, interviewing people my age about what their goals were in life and how, in their own way, they planned to achieve them.

I found the realities and aspirations of the twentysomethings I had met were absent from the article I had read months earlier. I realized at this moment that my inquiries had a very clear agenda: to contribute to the dialogue by including the accounts of those who also qualified as being a "20-Something," but who had been removed from the conversation. 

The goal for this film was to illustrate, objectively, an inclusive view of the struggles facing my generation. Based on my interviews, I sought to recreate their stories by focusing on three archetypes: a college graduate, a single mother, and a convicted felon, all the same age, having something to say and with equal validity. Unable to locate the original interviewees, I resolved to leave Los Angeles and establish my home in New Orleans, where I could cast characters locally using Craigslist and develop the film in a natural environment.


I am continually fascinated by the reverse migration of young folks graduating college and moving to the South. This migration, which further exposes socio-economic differences in our generation, grows more and more evident in newly established neighborhoods, nightlife and most explicitly, in the workforce.

I made this film for the people who are too rarely in the room or validated in their individual persistence for life.

What was the biggest challenge?

Filmmakers are by nature fighters, and the occurrence of a challenge is a baked-in part of materializing anything in the world. Somehow it's got to go from being an idea in your head to a tangible living thing in the world, and there's no magic machine that does that for us. I guess it was all a big challenge but that's also what's fun -- that's why we keep doing it over and over again. It's problem-solving. It's a test of yourself in every way possible.

What advice do you have for other female directors?

Stay true to you, girl.

Do you have any thoughts on what are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films?

I think regardless of the internet, the theatrical experience is an essential element to experiencing film, and there has been a lot of momentum as of late, via TUGG and tax incentives for theaters in certain neighborhoods, to help maintain that tradition. Bringing people together in a single space for the purpose of feeling something is so important, and I think maintaing this opportunity is one of the biggest challenges facing independent filmmakers. 

Equally important is getting access to consumer information from online platforms like Hulu, Netflix, etc. As filmmakers, we are constantly asked who our audiences are and how we plan to engage them, even in the initial fundraising stage! I think we're all sort of guessing. But these companies have this info! We don't have to guess. How sad is it to finish a film and not have a concrete idea of that answer? 

Name your favorite women directed film and why.

I don't have a favorite film, period. I'm really interested in Agnes Varda as a filmmaker, in terms of her process and working with non-professional actors and blurring the lines between fiction and non-fiction. Cleo from 5 to 7 or Vagabond, for instance. Others include Lynn Ramsey's Rat Catcher, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker...

These questions are difficult because as a filmmaker I want to respond to what speaks to me first as opposed to being obliged to the political implications behind any given project. Can the guys get asked this same question? 

This article is related to: Interviews, Women Directors, Tribeca Film Festival, Garrett Bradley, Below Dreams