Interview with Filmmaker Brandon Robert Gries (BARE METAL)

BARE METAL, 10min., USA,
Directed by Brandon Robert Gries, Ryan Freng, John Shoemaker
Microsoft, Google, META, and AWS are some of the biggest single-power consumers in the world. Along with other digital infrastructure companies’ consumption, they make up 2.4% of the world’s energy use. This film details the digital infrastructure industry’s work to reduce their carbon footprint in an effort to lower carbon emissions and help save the world.

Get to know the director:

1. What motivated you to make this film?
To save my soul. I made a spiritual commitment to myself at the start of 2022 that I would make space in my life for film and creative work. This was my first film. The universe gave me many gifts through the year, notably an inaugural film contest from Bloomberg Green Docs that catalyzed my spirit to do something. The rules of a 10-minute film, including credits made it feel achievable. Originally, I wanted to do something with my wife about her work with first nations populations; water and land rights and conservation. Only later did I happen upon a concept for a film that intersected with my professional life to date as an engineer designing and building modular data centers.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
About 3 months

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

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

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It lifted my spirits. It was the first feedback from a general audience, and it meant a lot to me that they connected to the material. Every other screening and all other feedback to date had come from people who already knew me or the industries in the film, insiders. The whole purpose of the film is to expand the sphere of engagement and collaboration wider, broader, to a general audience.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
From the moment I first saw Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick in 1999, when I was perhaps too young to see that film. I was born in 1982. Before that, and from my earliest memory, I had thought about being an actor, most vividly envisioning getting to be James Bond, which for me as a child meant Timothy Dalton. I also want to be a spy as a small child. I would fall in love with other Bonds like Sean Connery later. Later as well, as I saw other great action movies, this expanded to the fantasy of creating and being the leading star in my own action movie, and my imagination saw potential for action movies everywhere: hostage takeovers during mass at my Catholic grade school, international intrigue erupting in my small suburban town; the places where my childhood was happening. But after seeing Kubrick, and then seeking out all the rest of Kubrick, I was hooked on his genius for composition, controversy, and an anecdote I had heard that he always chose his music long before he shot his scenes. That made sense to me, as a lifelong piano player and voracious music lover, it is the way I approach creative work as well. Subsequently seeing, falling, and remaining in love so many other directors in general but particularly with Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, who did not go to film school, have kept the flame alive inside me that I still have permission to think I can do this. My challenge now is to commit the time, develop the skills and conjure the bravery to make my own Clockwork Orange, There Will be Blood, or Pulp Fiction. After completing this first short film, I have made a new spiritual commitment that I will make a wide release feature film by my 50th birthday. I just turned 40 this past November.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Barry Lyndon and annual holiday film traditions like Hocus Pocus on Halloween and too many Christmas movies to list.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
This was my first time going through this, so I do not have a lot of perspective to compare. I am really happy with the event. I think you are very thoughtful.

If I were to offer anything, I know that the thing that I am looking for and need are ongoing guidance and connections to other helpful resources and potentially interested collaborators to ongoing work. With respect to collaborators, I think that the festival format goes a long ways to fostering exposure. But, as far as resources go, perhaps there could a way to guide filmmakers in the direction of resources that may be useful to them as they continue in their journey.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
It has been great. I have been super happy about it.

10. What is your favorite meal?
I will preface with a couple honest realities, and then do the best I can to give you an answer in the spirit it is meant I am terrible when it comes to eating, I unintentionally forget to eat all the time, when I do go for food I hunt protein, my friends and family also know that I am willing to eat most things (so when they order food they don’t end up liking, I end up swapping to give them a second shot at having something they might enjoy, whatever I may have ordered). Lastly, home cooked food from whoever, wherever, is always my favorite food/meal. And when I am with others, the company is way more important to me than the food, meaning I choose a randomly just to get through the task of ordering food.

With that said, I do have a weakness for macaroni and cheese, burgers, and whiskey. Writing this sentence, I do not think that I have ever had them all together as a meal. But I think they might make for a very cozy and pleasing dining experience. Perhaps your question has helped me discover my answer to the perennial question about choosing your last meal.

11. What is next for you? A new film?
I am working on an industry initiative to operationalize the thesis of the film in the data center and materials industries. I am in the process of organizing a multi-industry roundtable with leadership from the aerospace, automotive, materials, construction, digital infrastructure, and industrial water industries. I am also trying to write a 9-episode documentary series expanding on the themes from the short film. I am planning an art book of the internet. I am also in the process of working on a short film around Alzheimer’s and related dementias and the village of community based long term care resources in my hometown of Madison, WI. My longer range dream is to make a wide release feature film by or before my 50th birthday.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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