JOSHUA BRANDON is an Australian filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He sold a TV pilot within two years of arriving in Hollywood and went on to write for several TV shows, including SyFy’s “Haven” and Fox’s “Houdini & Doyle.” He is the co-author of William Shatner’s new book, “Boldly Go,” which arrives in bookstores on October 4TH, 2022. He is also the writer/director of the film “A Thousand Little Cuts” starring MARINA SIRTIS (“Star Trek”) and REBECCA LIDDIARD (“Alias Grace”). Released theatrically earlier this year I had the pleasure to produce that project with Josh. It will have its premium cable premiere on SHOWTIME on August 1st, 2022.
Hi, Josh. When did you first know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
When I was a kid, I’d watch movies and TV, and depending on the story, I’d think I want to do that. So one week I’d want to be a doctor, another week I’d want to be a lawyer; I really thought I wanted to be an astronaut till I found out they wouldn’t take me ’cause I’m color blind. But eventually, it dawned on me, that I don’t want to be any of these things. I just want to tell the stories. That’s when I knew.
Who were your early influencers?
My early influencers were all TV writers, as that’s what I really wanted to be. I was always spellbound by how much consistently brilliant writing David E. Kelley was able to do, and I really admired a lot of the Star Trek and Columbo writers.
You landed some high-profile writing gigs fairly quickly after arriving in Los Angeles. How did that come about?
They say it takes five years to be an overnight success and ten years to have a career. I got lucky to get off to a quick start. My cousin Steven and I were writing partners and we arrived the day the Writer’s Strike ended in February 2008, which we took as a good sign. Later that year, I made some friends in the local racquetball league, and a few months after that, one of them invited me to a big Hollywood party that started at 1 am. While there I met someone whose roommate had just left Sony to start his own management company. He was looking for young voices to represent. Steven and I had been writing samples constantly and the manager read all of our stuff in a weekend, came back with great notes, and we all just took a chance on each other. Six months later, he got us a general meeting at ABC Family (now Freeform) and we wound up pitching a show and selling it. That was eighteen months into my American odyssey, but then the goalposts moved, as they often do. A new President came in at the network and scuttled everything that was developed under his predecessor. It was another two years before the next gig, and the next one followed two years after that. That’s still very fast by Hollywood standards, but boy, you really feel the times when you’re out of work.
You recently directed your first feature? What was that experience like?
Directing A Thousand Little Cuts was magical. I remember calling my wife after an excruciatingly long day and telling her “I’m completely exhausted, but I’ve never felt more fulfilled.” For someone who has always wanted to tell stories, finally getting the chance to bring something to life all the way from conception and script to directing and post-production was a dream come true.
What was your best and worst day on that shoot?
Our worst day actually turned into our best day, in a way. We were finishing up the first half of the day in an office location and from there we were supposed to move to a theater to get a short but very important scene. It turned out that the theater had a Board of Trustees that all had to sign off, and one of the members hadn’t as yet. It looked like we weren’t going to get in there, which could have thrown off the schedule dramatically. The production went into problem-solving mode. The location on the schedule had us filming at a rental apartment, and the owner had asked that we get in and out of there in 10 hours, as opposed to our usual 12. I called and asked if we could move our equipment in now, which would allow us to get straight into shooting the next morning. He was elated because he knew it would help us get done in 10 hours, but it also meant that we had a little more time for the actors to get through some challenging emotional scenes. A few nights later, we were able to get the shot we needed at the theater, and our dilemma worked itself out, but we had to be agile on the day to turn those lemons into lemonade.
Tell us about your new feature, Black Bags?
Black Bags is a terrific little story. I was sent an early draft of the script, written by Adam Pachter, and it told the story of two women who meet, seemingly by accident, on a Greyhound bus going to a small Middle American town and wind up switching identical black roller bags. When one of the women gets back to her house, she opens the suitcase and finds something truly shocking in it, and then the other woman shows up asking for her bag. It had a really Hitchcock vibe to it, which I ate up immediately. The script had a number of more expensive elements that we’d have to jettison in order to make it for a low budget, so I was able to hire recent BlackList honoree Angela Bourassa to do a new draft, and we just focused it on the heightened reality of these two women encountering each other and this frightening situation. And even though we had to make the film on a shoe-string budget, actors will respond to great material. We managed to land Laura Vandervoort and Olesya Rulin, which is nothing short of incredible.
What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters or film directors?
It’s never been easier to write and direct your own stories. You see award-winning films being made on iPhones and stories being discovered in the most unlikely places. Just create your art. Go out there and do it. I was in TV for a number of years and only wound up directing a feature because I got some friends together to make a short, and from there, a producer friend introduced me to other like-minded filmmakers, and it just all sort of took off from there. Now we all work together and have made four films last year, with more on the way.
Thanks for the chat, Josh.
My pleasure, and don’t forget, A THOUSAND LITTLE CUTS starts airing on Showtime on August 1st, 2022.