Monday, April 23, 2012

Bucknell alumna Juliana Brafa ’05 on writing to shape--and reshape--our culture through film.

Juliana Brafa ’05 is a filmmaker currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Her award-winning film All is Normal, which she co-wrote, co-directed and produced with filmmaker Todd Bieber and starred in alongside actress Linda Blair, will be screening at the Campus Theatre on Sunday April 29th at 1pm, and is also available online. She is currently in post-production of her newest film, a documentary called Turtle Derby.

What writing project(s) are you working on right now?
I'm currently writing the outlines for several feature scripts for new narrative films.

What do you love about it?
I love that writing allows for pure exploration and creativity, especially in the initial stages when really anything goes. When writing for film, it can be challenging because I also have to consider what's realistic for production or what would be within a certain budget. But in the initial brainstorming stages, I try not to let myself think about the practicalities and just let the creative sparks fly. It's great fun.

What about it (if anything) is driving you nuts?
If I let myself think too much about the audience or "will this sell tickets" as I'm writing, it can become stifling. Those considerations are important, but it's also important to not shoot down my own ideas right off the bat before they've had time to develop. When I think of some of my favorite films, I find that the parts I love most are often those quirkier moments that could have easily been second-guessed and cut early in the writing process, but those are the bits that really make the movie special.

How would you describe your writing process?
My instinct when writing is to collect what I lovingly refer to as "scraps" - ideas that float in while I'm not consciously trying to write. These are often the best material. Then I need to balance that type of writing with a more consistent, disciplined practice, which works best when I do it for a small amount of time every day or two. During that time, I will start to look at the "scraps" I've collected and start piecing them together like a puzzle and create more of a structure.
What kind of feedback on your writing do you find most helpful?
In the early stages of a piece, I generally benefit from just plain encouragement. As I start to craft the idea further and feel more confident, then honest, one-on- one feedback and discussion from a variety of perspectives is most helpful for me.

What would you like others to know about you as a writer?
I love that writing, and especially film writing, has the power to reach so many people and either support or subvert our current cultural messages. That's why it's so important that there is diversity among those who are creating the content (yet, unfortunately so few of Hollywood writers and directors are women or people of color). So I see being a woman writer as a huge opportunity to get my own voice heard and try to break through some of that.

For any writer, not just women writers, even small choices can be powerful - by writing the doctor in a story as a woman for example rather than going with your first thought of making the character a man - it can all make a difference in shaping our culture, and all it takes is just simply reminding ourselves to be aware that what we're writing has an impact. There is a very funny, simple test you can give (that unfortunately most films fail) called the Bechdel Test: 1. It has at least 2 (named) women in it, 2. who talk to each other, 3. about something besides a man. As a consumer, I try to support films that pass this test, and as a writer, I strive to pass this test myself. I find this responsibility very exciting and empowering! 

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