Looking for creative practice and experiential learning all in one? Check out what Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley is doing on her study leave: shooting the feature film Two 4 One, using a mix of professional and student crew. While Bradley is an award-winning short film veteran and the driving force behind the highly successful Writing 420 film production class (more on that later), Two 4 One marks her feature film debut. But it’s also notable for being the first transgendered romantic comedy, one created for a wide audience.
“I do want it to be a breakout film that a general audience sees,” Bradley said back in January before she started shooting. “I’ve had tons of films at film festivals but I want to reach a broader audience. Living life as a transgendered man is not something most people know anything about.”
Of course, they’ll know a lot more once Two 4 One is wrapped, edited and released. Starring Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Gavin Crawford Show), Gabrielle Rose (The Sweet Hereafter, The Five Senses) and Canadian TV veteran Naomi Snieckus (Second City), Two 4 One is described as “a bittersweet romantic comedy about oddball couple Miriam and Adam, who have an ill-advised one-night-stand and both wind up pregnant.” (Romantic comedy indeed!)
When asked why frame the story as a romantic comedy, Bradley opts for practicality. “I’m a lapsed activist, and storytelling is a way of reaching people that’s easier than activism,” she explains. “When people laugh, they’re open and might take in new ideas, and understand ‘the other’. From a film studies perspective, I’m dealing with ‘de-othering’ a huge ‘other’ in our culture—but in entertainment terms, I’m trying to tell a good story: it’s a familiar narrative, just with somebody new. As an activist, people will listen to me far more if I tell a good story than if I just shout, ‘You should accept difference!’ Humour is very subversive.”
Read more about her ideas behind Two 4 One in these recent interviews from The Martlet, Plenitude and the Times Colonist. And you can find out more about the long and arduous journey Bradley has taken to get this film made here . . . and here . . . and here.
Not only is Bradley shooting Two 4 One locally throughout February, but the $150,000 film is also set locally—a rare thing indeed for a city that has made its cinematic name as being able to stand in for American, British or European destinations. (Consider the TV series Gracepoint—starring David Tennant of Doctor Who fame—which is also currently shooting in Victoria, standing in for a fictional northern California town.) Reached during a hectic shooting schedule, Bradley juggled a conversation with her location manager while giving us the scoop on her shoot.
“The funny thing is, it doesn’t matter how much money you have—you’re always pushing it, you always want more, it’s never enough, you’re always racing the clock,” she says with a harried laugh. “We work these crazy days, it’s an adrenaline high—but that’s the nature of the beast. I can’t sleep because there’s still so much to do. It’s a lot like having kids: you think you’re never ready, but you’re never ready; then your baby is born and you just roll with it.”
With a 30-person crew drawn from California, Vancouver and Victoria—including Fine Arts digital staffer Daniel Hogg serving as the film’s producer (“we shot our longest day at Dan’s parent’s house, so we got to see baby photos of him,” she laughs)—Bradley is clearly practicing what she preaches in her Writing 420 film production classes by hiring past and present students as well. “I’ve got three students doing directed studies on set, and the other day I checked in with them and said, ‘You have completed plenty of hours and learned a ridiculous amount, so you really don’t have to be here anymore.’ But they’re sticking around—they’re into their jobs so much. The caliber of the crew is just so high.”
Not that she can focus on that. “I’m not very good at accepting and receiving and people giving me things or praising me—it freaks me out,” she admits. “So I look around and see 30 people working for peanuts and not sleeping all for my show, my vision, and it’s a bit overwhelming . . . so I just go back into the gopher hole and focus on the next scene.”
She’s also pleased with her cast, which is a similar mix of actors from Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria. “I was so happy to hear that the Toronto and Vancouver people are really impressed with our local talent,” she says. And it sounds like they’re all game for getting the job done, given that they’ve been shooting five script pages a day. “I’ve never shot that much in a day before. And every day it’s creeping up—five, six, seven pages. The other day we actually shot nine pages in one day.”
Principal shooting on Two 4 One is due to wrap on March 1, but the work doesn’t end there; then comes the editing, the marketing, the promotion, the distribution . . . but for now, Bradley is just enjoying the process of shooting her first feature—if “enjoying” is the right word.
“I’ve only had two breakdowns on set,” she laughs. “And not in front of anybody yet.”
Latest Writing 420 film wins award
Meanwhile, the latest film created by Bradley’s Writing 420 class—‘Til Death—recently picked up the Audience Favourite Short film award at the Victoria Film Festival. That makes three awards from various festivals for ‘Til Death—directed by recent MFA Connor Gaston, written by Writing alumnus Ryan Bright, produced by Bradley with Daniel Hogg as cinematographer.
‘Til Death also just played at the Sedona International Film Festival in Arizona, where director Gaston quipped, “Arrived just in time for the screening of ‘Til
Death, which played before a feature film. Audience member: ‘The short was better than the feature!’”
That’s four festivals now for the well-received ‘Til Death (Sedona, Victoria, Whistler and the Vancouver Short Film Festival) with more no doubt to come. Read more about Writing 420 and their past successes here.