Portland Film Festival: Drama, Divorce, and Finding Home in the Film ‘Half Brother’
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
New Jersey native Grippa - whose first full-length film, "Running Funny," was winner of Cape Cod’s Wood’s Hole Film Festival nearly seven years ago - will premiere his film Half Brother to Portlanders Wednesday, Aug. 27 at the Portland Film Festival. The film will be showing at a few more festivals in the next several months and then Grippa will be at it again with "The Wedding Party," shooting next year.
Grippa took some time to speak with GoLocalPDX about the film and how it came together even after Hurricane Sandy struck.
GoLocalPDX: How did the project get started?
AG: I started working on the script after my first year at the American Film Institute. I knew I wanted to tell a story that was small in scope, so that I could actually get it made, but I also wanted to make something that was personal to me. My thesis film at AFI was a story that dealt with similar family dynamics and so "Half Brother" was sort of a continuation of what I had started working on in grad school.
What was your inspiration for the film's topic?
The story is definitely inspired by my experience growing up in a divorced family and having to navigate my place in a divided family, so emotionally the story is very real to me, but the plot itself is fiction. I have a younger half brother and sister like the main character in the film, but that's where the autobiography ends. The breakup that happens in the film isn't something that happened to me personally, but it's definitely something that I can relate to.
Can you talk a little bit about working with Stephen Plunkett, if and how the movie was shaped around him as a leading man?
Working with Stephen was great. I had seen him in a short film called "Rolling on the Floor Laughing" that I really loved, and through a few serendipitous events, including a hurricane, he wound up auditioning for the role and he was clearly the right person for the part. I was constantly amazed at the subtlety he brought to the role. He made it look easy. Aside from that, he's just a really nice guy.
Which character do you feel most connected to and why?
I'm obviously connected to Michael since he is the character closest to my age, but having grown up in a family similar to the one in the film I feel connected to all of the characters in different ways. Divorce affects parents and children differently and I wanted to portray a family where there weren't any good guys or bad guys necessarily, but when two parents decide to split up and they want different things for their children it becomes really messy and difficult for everyone, especially the kids.
Tell me about the issues that occurred while filming Half Brother.
Hurricane Sandy was definitely something we didn't expect to have such a big impact on the production. We were scheduled to start shooting a few days after the storm hit, but it quickly became clear that it would be impossible to start filming. Our camera vendors in New York were basically underwater, there was no power at any of our locations, and just getting the cast and crew to and from the set would've been too difficult. So we had to push the shoot to the following month. Unfortunately we ended up losing the actor I originally cast as Michael, as well as a few crew members, so it was a pretty stressful few weeks trying to get the movie back on its feet, but I think it all worked out in the end.
What did you learn about your material while shooting the film?
I was living with my family while I was making the movie, which was interesting because it allowed me to connect with the material in a way I don't think I could have if I was shooting it in L.A. We shot the movie in my father and stepmother's house, so being around them while I was making a movie that was largely inspired by our family was very cathartic for me. I think it affirmed that I can let go of the past and really embrace my family and my place within it.
What is next for you?
I'll be taking "Half Brother" to a few more festivals over the next several months, and I'm also working on a new script called T"he Wedding Party" that I'm shooting next year. But for now I'm really thrilled to be premiering the film in Portland. I'm really excited to share it with an audience for the first time!
Get tickets to Half Brother here