Interview with Filmmaker Braden Joe (ALIVE)

ALIVE was the winner of BEST DOC SHORT at the January 2021 Experimental, Dance, Music film festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Click on the news, read a textbook, listen to a podcast—there is an overwhelming amount of issues in the world that need more attention. I always struggled with this in school, an awful sense of lost information that I felt needed to be shared. I had an idea of creating a museum of these issues and wanting share this experience with the world. That concept was a bit too ambitious on a student budget, so my friends and I found an abandoned sweatshop in Los Angeles, and got to work.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Alive is a concept piece for a larger project that I’ve been designing for the last six years. I came up with it after leaving a world history class in high school, and feeling absolutely helpless about the issues I was learning about.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Do something.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle for creating this film was the research. I did years of research about the topics of modern day slavery and fast fashion before even considering to shoot this film. It’s not a research project, but rather a way of trying to get people to think more critically about their choices and involvement in their consumerism. I cut out fast fashion about a year before shooting, and found it to be a great case study in the subject matter.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Due to the international COVID-19 pandemic, this film was finished remotely. Similarly, all of our film festival participation has also been virtual. And while I am deeply grateful for the ability to enter into these festivals and win some awards, it has felt a bit sad at times, lacking human contact. This was my first film that I have ever submitted to festivals. The feedback video I received made my day. This is the first non-family/friends feedback I’ve been able to receive, and I am incredibly grateful for the kind words and time given by the audience and the festival staff.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I’m an Anthropology BA & Film Production BFA double major at Chapman University in Orange, CA, and love finding ways to create intersectional work. Often times, important social science and human rights issues can become submerged in gatekeeping levels of academia, or are presented in a light that limits the possible viewership and impact. I wanted to create a multi-modal project that was able to get my message across, while still allowing for independent thought and opinion. There is nothing more human than dance, and nothing closer to our skin than our clothing. I am incredibly grateful to the amazing team that helped me bring this concept to life. My dream is to conduct anthropological research and use my filmmaking background to share incredible stories that may not get the attention they deserve.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Children of Men by Alfonso Cuarón (2006) has to be my favorite. I’m a sucker for long takes, and he is the master.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

This was my first time submitting anything on FilmFreeway! I thought the process was incredibly easy to submit, and the platform was simple to navigate. My criticism of my experiences is more the fault of COVID than FilmFreeway as a platform or any specific festival. The virtual environment is difficult—I’m a people person. I cannot wait to be able to participate in future festivals where there can be greater interaction (safely, and only when the world is ready of course). I thought that the Experimental/Dance/Music festival did one of the best jobs of any festival I’ve been in so far in creating a human connection over our computers.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I’m a die-hard Red Hot Chili Peppers/Muse/Green Day fan but my absolute most listed to song of all time has to be “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I just completely principal photography on my first feature-length documentary! It’s about an incredible team of wildlife and zoo vets who came together to help move over rescued Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Mountain Lions, Snow Leopards, and tons more. It was the craziest shoot of my life, and I cannot wait to share this story with the world. Also! I’m graduating university this spring!


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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