Katch University was very privileged to have jack-of-all-trades Brea Grant join us via Zoom to talk about her time in entertainment. Brea has worn numerous hats in Hollywood, from actor to writer and even director. She has acted in shows such as Friday Night Lights (2006-2011) and Heroes (2006-2010), as well as written and directed the film 12 Hour Shift (2020), which recently won best screenplay at the Fantasia Film Festival. She talked about her experience breaking into Hollywood, her process as a writer, and her time working with comics, all while explaining why everyone should choose to be an artist.
Growing up in Marshal, Texas, Grant found that her first love was television. A self-described latchkey kid, she says that “spending six hours in front of a television set everyday ended up helping [her] career in the long run.” Her film education began in the library, when she started to rent older movies in her spare time. She went to college originally as a math major, but eventually switched it to American history. Eventually she would work towards getting a master’s degree in American history at the University of Texas. Finding graduate school boring, she moved to L.A. to try her luck as an actor. She waited tables, did internships, read scripts for the Creative Artists Agency, took acting classes, and auditioned for shorts and student films. After landing a role on Friday Night Lights, a new character was modeled after her in the show Heroes. She would go on to audition and get the role.
While working on Heroes, she began to write indie comics. She loves writing, because “[she doesn’t] need anyone’s permission to sit down and open up a doc and start writing something that is important to [her].” After meeting comic book artist Ben Templesmith, who worked on the comics Fell (2006) and Welcome to Hoxford (2009), Ben was able to set her up with his publishing company, who published her first three books. When talking about writing, the more she did it the more she realized that writing “is where [her] heart is.” Grant describes her writing process as “treating it like a job.” She has set times to write everyday, then “clocks out,” which she stresses is important. When dealing with writer’s block, she says that it is important to work through it, even if you have to throw out what you wrote the next day. When asked about the responsibilities of writers and filmmakers, she states, “We do have a responsibility to think about where we want media to go, and what we want to see in the world.”
As Grant got more into writing, she got into directing as well. After losing financing to a movie she co-wrote, Grant decided to direct it, so then she didn’t have to pay a director. She now finds that directing is her favorite role on set. When asked about her style, she says that she likes to let her actors improvise, stressing the fact that actors are artists, not puppets. She also says it is worth it to let actors do improv takes. It allows them to have more freedom, and could lead to something better than what was previously written. Directing is also heavily about personality management. “I think it’s figuring out how you need to be communicating with people, specifically in television. You’re coming into something that has been a moving machine for a while and you have to figure out where you fit… Directing is a lot of ‘okay, I see what this situation is,’ assessing the situation and figuring it out.”
When asked for advice, Grant says that “When I first entered the industry… the advice was always ‘if you can do anything else, go do that thing because [entertainment] is really hard’, and I think that’s the most bullshit, crappy advice that anybody could give you. You’re smart, you should be able to do other things… but you choose to be an artist, and put art out into the world, which is a noble thing and a cool thing to do.” She emphasizes that, just because you could be good at something, that does not mean you should not pursue artistry. “You might also be a great lawyer, or a great doctor… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue being an artist. I think you should pursue being an artist because I think it’s very valuable and the world is nothing without art.”
If you want to see more of Brea Grant, she wrote and acted in the film Lucky, which comes out next year. She also co-hosts a podcast, “Reading Glasses,” which focuses on books and literary culture. You can find “Reading Glasses” wherever you stream podcasts.