When Olivia finds out that her brother has had a psychotic break and has ended up in a psychiatric ward for attempted suicide again, she begins to spiral back down the same path and the thought of death begins to haunt her.
Studying at the Los Angeles Film School, Braeden Hall is a young aspiring filmmaker who focuses on arthouse/psychological thrillers and other etherial film genres. Braeden was raised in Humboldt County, California. After high school, she was accepted to San Francisco Art Institute where she studied traditional and classic film techniques and learned most variants of film mediums, including the use of 16mm film, shot on a handheld Bolex camera. After the unfortunate closure of SFAI, Braeden moved to Los Angeles where she currently attends the Los Angeles Film School, studying digital film making. Here she hopes to build connections within the film industry to further lead her to work on larger projects and travel the rest of the world.
It is with great pleasure to interview the aspriring filmmaker for Toronto Film Magazine.
What was the inspiration behind the making of The Thought of Death?
My inspiration for my film, The Thought of Death, came from a couple of places. The seed of the idea started a couple of years back when I first heard artist Agnes Obel's song, “A Poem About Death”. When it came time to figure out a short film idea for my production class at The Los Angeles Film school, I knew immediately I wanted my film to be based around the concept of death. Due to the current state of the world my access to crew and locations were very limited which inspired me to just take the entire project into my own hands, with the help of my partner, Ethan Vella who filmed for me, and made due with the space I am currently living in. Once I figured out I was going to be only working in my small apartment, I knew I wanted to make use of all its creepy and dark corners which is what initially inspired my concept of having a ‘dead’ body double of myself haunting me and from there the seed was planted and everything fell into place.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you created?
My grandparents were artists so the arts were a very large part of my childhood, I was a dancer, musician, I painted, drew, etc, but it wasn't until highschool when I was finally able to have a smartphone that I got into more media style art. During the summer after my freshman year of high school, my mom was kind enough to get me my very own subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, and from there I spent nearly every day that summer taking found footage and trying to learn how to edit on premiere pro. As the year went on I was given my first camera. Since then I heavily became interested in photography, not having the confidence to actually film anything. The first film I ever made wasn't until the end of my sophomore year when my school's arts institute I was a part of announced we would have the opportunity to group up and make short films on why the arts are important for the Student Voices Campaign. I filmed and edited my groups short and a couple months later we found out we won first place. It was from then on that my interest in working in film took off, and I began finding PA jobs in my small town until I could graduate highschool and then really let my journey with film begin.
What were some of the challenges of making your film as a director?
The challenges of making this film were endless, starting with the fact that the crew was only made up of two of us, meaning I not only had to write and plan out the entire film, I had to act in it, direct it and edit it while my partner shot it for me. The other issue was that I had never done an effect before of having two of the same person on the screen at the same time, I was confident I could figure out how to do it once in AVID but it did create quite the challenge for the two of us when filming, we needed to really plan out our shots and shot order. Of course just like any film set there were a million little things that became a challenge, from the fact I personally don't see myself as a strong actor and suddenly needing to play a highly personal role to having to be very meticulous about how we were living in our apartment for the entire month of filming as to not mess up the continuity within the film. In the end though I welcome all of the challenges because I learned amazing lessons from them all.
How did you fund the film and how did the film go into production? Tell us about how you finalized your casting and crew as well.
For this film there was zero funding or budget, the crew was just my partner Ethan and I so we had to work with whatever we had in our own apartment which I think pushed us to be more creative in the end.
Where do you see the future of female directors in cinema and why is it important to have the perspective of female directors in world cinema?
I think as the world and society is starting to change, the role of the female director is going to as well and for the better. Unfortunately female directors are still far and few within the industry mainly due to the fact the industry is still so male dominated. I think though as society is becoming more progressive we will start seeing more female directors and their work. There are many amazing and talented male directors out there and that I look up to, and so do many others, but I think many people don't realize just how much the male gaze has affected films and the film industry because we are just so used to it now. I hope to start seeing more work from female directors because I think it's about time we allow room for a woman's perspective within story and film because it's an important perspective the world could use a lot more of.
Which genre is your most favorite genre to work on? Why?
My favorite genre to work on are psychological thrillers. I love working on them because I think they can really challenge the viewer. The most attractive part of working on psychological thrillers is the fact that they can allow you to work with themes that are very real with a horror style twist to them, I think it's a creative way to mess with the psyche of the viewer because your concept could be about something scary that really could possibly happen to them.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
I am currently working on quite a few projects, I've got a few scripts in the works, some editing jobs, DP jobs, production design jobs for friends that i'm very excited to be working on and an upcoming ad campaign for one of my good friends eco friendly and inclusive lingerie line, Rhododendron, that I will be shooting and filming. My next film project though is going to be a short film music video for a childhood friend of mine and musician Cole Jackson. He has allowed me to have complete creative freedom on the entire project and so with that I'm working on creating an entire story and concept for his character throughout that will continue his journey through videos for multiple songs on his upcoming album.
How can cinema and films have an impact on society and change the world?
I think just like any art form, film has a very important role within society and the power it has over the world. Film is used as a tool for many, whether you're the viewer or the creator I think it's an outlet for everyone. Films and what we see in them have always had such an impactful role in society, whether they are being used as propaganda, teaching you something about a concept you knew nothing or very little about or simply allowing you to just relate to a concept through a cinematic piece of art. I think film is something that will never die out especially when you think about the fact that storytelling has always been a part of who we are as human beings and film is just another way we get our fix of hearing other peoples stories and telling our own.
Why do you want to make films and what gives you satisfaction to work on creative projects in the media?
I want to work on films because I think all of the different creative elements that have to go into them are so fascinating and the feeling of completing a project is so amazing and rewarding. The ability to work and collaborate with so many different people as well to create and tell a story together is such a rewarding and special process as well. I've made quite a few short films in the past but never ones I truly felt were my own or that I felt really proud of until The Thought of Death. Seeing all of the positive feedback and constructive criticism over this film that truly has been a project of my own from start to finish has been so rewarding. Don't get me wrong, working on films and other creative media projects can be insanely frustrating at times, i've had many a night in tears over problems while editing or not being able to get something to work as planned but even then I still absolutely love doing what I do even when the project itself is something i'm not necessarily super excited over and I think that's what's important. I feel like I have an unconditional love with film and creating them.
Please name three of your most favorite filmmakers who have been influential to your work and please tell us the reason for being inspired by their work.
My three favorite filmmakers are Ari Aster, The Daniels and Philippa Price, all three have very different reasons behind why they are my favorites. Ari Aster seems a bit obvious, his work within psychological thrillers and horror is amazing, his work in general is fantastic and I have a strong appreciation for his ability to tell a story. The Daniels have made it onto my favorites list because although they mainly have worked on short films and music videos, their feature film Swiss Army Man was the movie that fully pushed me to decide that working in film is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Between the cinematography, soundtrack, and story, Swiss Army Man is one of my all time favorite movies and has continued to be a huge inspiration for me. Last but certainly not least is Philippa Price. Philippa mainly works on music videos and fashion videos but her work is something I am always drawn back to for inspiration. Her videos are very eerie, futuristic, and arthouse and I'm absolutely obsessed with her style. I was first introduced to her work in 2017 when watching her music videos for artist Banks and ever since I cannot get enough, she will forever be an inspiration to me.