We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with the Award-winning filmmaking duo The Bragg brothers; Austin and Meredith Bragg on their short film A Piece of Cake which focuses on a father (Mad Men’s Rich Sommer) who will do anything not to break his promise to his daughter, even if it means breaking the law! We had the pleasure of speaking with them both on how the film came about and much more.
The visual quality of the film is great and it’s obvious that numerous locations were required for the short. Was this the largest budget you’ve had for a short film? If so, how did you handle the responsibility associated with large sums of money?
We come from the no-budget duct-tape-skateboard-wheels-and-PVC-pipes school of filmmaking, so this was absolutely the largest budget we’ve had to work with… and it shows! There were many benefits to having MPI produce the film. Among them, the fact that they handled all of the budget details…so we can’t really speak to that responsibility! Our responsibility was simply to come out the other side with a great film.
While it may look like we shot in a dozen locations, we really only had three: a house, a supermarket, and a large warehouse. The art department did amazing work transforming various spaces inside the warehouse to look like a bakery, a police interrogation room, a visitation room, etc. The parking lot doubled as our external locations.
Was comedy always a genre you were interested in? Do you plan to enter any other genres together?
We’ve been doing comedy since we were kids — somewhere in the world, there is a cassette tape of the two of us making up Star Wars parodies.
Our style usually veers toward dark comedy, so this piece certainly counts among our lighter fare. While I don’t see us writing films with absolutely no humor, some of the best dramas have incredibly funny moments. So anything is possible.
How did you ensure each joke would be a hit in the film?
That’s pretty generous, thank you. I don’t think you can ever ensure any joke will land. Comedy is a weirdly personal genre, and we don’t expect everything will connect with everyone, but we do constantly hone and edit and question our choices to try and make sure we’re hitting the target. It also helps that there are two of us. If only one of us finds something funny, it will likely get cut.
Why did you feel Rich Sommer was the best actor to direct the humour in the film?
We were looking for someone who could land a joke but still keep the film grounded as the ridiculousness of the world around him kept ratcheting up. Rich is primarily known for his role in ‘Mad Men,’ but he also has a great back catalogue of hilarious comedy work. We knew he had the range to play with whatever was thrown at him. Rich was our first choice and we’re damn lucky we landed him. That man is ridiculously talented.
How did it feel selling your web series to Warner Bros and receiving recognition from George Lucas?
Selling ‘The Defender of Stan’ to Warner Brothers Television was a huge moment for us and our collaborator, Hunter Christy. Obviously, we wish it had found its way out of development, but it was a learning experience we’re grateful for.
Getting an award from George Lucas was a fantastic, bizarre surprise. Even having our short doc be accepted to the Star Wars Celebration was unexpected since we hadn’t even entered! We actually got the acceptance email on April Fools Day, and we were pretty sure it was a prank. Turned out one of the subjects of the doc submitted the short without even telling us. But I think the R2-D2/C-3PO trophy on our shelf is reason enough for us to forgive him.
What advice do you have for working with family? How did you two work through disagreements?
Years ago the answer would have been “through violence,” but thankfully we left that behind in childhood.
Really the great thing about working with family is that not only have we developed a kind of short-hand to work and communicate efficiently, but we can be exceptionally honest and blunt with each other. We’re not worried about hurt feelings — we did that already in our teenage years. We’ve also developed a sense of trust in each other, especially when we disagree on something. We each have particular areas of expertise the other can lean on, but if one of us is passionate about something, we generally trust that passion.
What advice do you have for young filmmakers?
We firmly believe the best thing you can do as a filmmaker is make stuff and show it in public. There’s no substitute for the honest and immediate feedback provided by an audience of strangers.
With Thanks to Austin and Meredith Bragg.