Interview with Director and Script Supervisor, Brenda Wachel
Today we’re having a conversation with Brenda Wachel, rising director and experienced script supervisor. Brenda is an accomplished script supervisor and has worked with some of the industry’s most well-respected directors, including Paul Haggis, Steven Spielberg, and John Dahl. Her film credits include Furious 7, Captain America: The First Avenger, Hidalgo, and October Sky.
In addition to script supervising, Brenda has directed projects for clients in travel, tech, financial, beauty, and lifestyle. She has also directed cold opens for WSOE live gaming tournaments on Twitch. Additionally, during the lead up to the 2020 election, she wrote, produced, and directed a Get Out The Vote video titled America, Vote set to a soulful rendition of America the Beautiful. Brenda is a director with a vision, and I’m so excited to share this interview with you.
First, could you describe briefly what you do and what types of projects you gravitate towards?
I have been creating cinematic stories and ads for brands and movements of all types. Regardless of how small or large a project, finding and portraying the nuances of stories that touch an audience inspires me. My background is in dramatic narrative, and I am hoping to make a short film project later this year.
I’m drawn to stories that challenge us to think and feel more deeply. I love those that beautifully illustrate our humanity, expand the way we think, and open our hearts. I am a hopeful romantic at heart, always wanting to believe the best is possible, and compelled by narratives that show how courage and strength prevail in our most fragile moments, that the best in us is ever present and reachable, and we make choices during conflict that reveal our true selves, stretching us beyond our limits.
For your recent project, America, Vote! what were some of your motivations and inspirations when writing?
A great challenge always motivates me. I made America, Vote! as a celebration of Americans. I wanted to subtly convey the real reason we vote — it is about us. Our lives. Because our possibilities are affected and shaped by our elected leaders. I challenged myself to inspire people to want to vote, not scare them or play on negative emotions.
The first concept came from the moving song and lyrics of America the Beautiful. I imagined it as a very bluesy, simple ballad with a woman’s vocals, playing against images of little life moments of everyday Americans. It all began with that song in my head, then finding the composer & vocalist who could take that and run with it. All the people who graciously jumped aboard to be a part of this project — that just said yes — they inspired me. I felt all of them had this deep desire to do something, to play a positive role in this pivotal moment in our history.
What sort of impact did you hope America, Vote! would achieve, in addition to getting people to go vote?
I wanted to bring the conversation about the election back to the most basic values of life. Yours, mine, everyone’s. There has been so much ugliness in our world lately. So much hate, intolerance, darkness. And yet we need each other. I wanted to reaffirm our sense of community, and show moments of love, honestly. We are all one, connected, and in this life together. In the most simple things, we can find beauty. It can be a moment, a touch, a feeling. Those little moments are powerful and can transform our day, alter the way we feel.
Do you think that artists, particularly filmmakers, have a responsibility to their audiences?
Absolutely. Art is a conversation between communicator and audience. For filmmakers, stories matter because of an audience. It’s the audience that is emotionally touched and moved. You can have incredible on screen talent, amazing cinematography, great music, a budget that gives you every opportunity you dream of, but all that matters is if that person sitting on their couch watching, feels something. It begins and ends with being honest. That’s when the stars have the chance to align.
Creating images that can inspire a better world, a better understanding, the best in us, means something to me. Every director I have known, as well as myself, respects an audience, its intelligence, and understands the power of film in shaping ideas and thoughts. I would never want to dumb anything down — and I cringe when I feel that is happening in a narrative. Responsibility is actually instinctual, and a natural part of the writing, filming, and editing process.
You’ve worked as a script supervisor for some time now, and more recently have transitioned into work as a director. What’s that transition been like?
It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and the most interesting, compelling and rewarding. I am still transitioning. I wish I had been in the position to completely focus on directing, but I wasn’t. If I had, I believe the process could have been faster. The biggest challenge for me personally was to ignore that little voice that can keep you from moving beyond your comfort zone, and to just do it. Just take the risk. Be uncomfortable for a minute. I had to let myself be willing to fail. And by doing it, I expanded what was comfortable. That’s what happens when you reach farther and create new limits. It’s a beautiful personal process. I love it.
Any new films you’re excited to see this next year?
I think the limited series that the television streaming platforms have created during the pandemic have really been great — they’ve been dynamite. They’ve really broken through the barriers of what TV used to be. They’re brave, courageous, and they let people be real. I started watching Mare of East Town and I’m thrilled to see how realistic these small town characters are being written and portrayed.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m thrilled to see women directors getting the much deserved recognition for their work. Luckily, we are living in a moment when more opportunities are emerging. I personally have never felt that being a woman was a disadvantage. In fact, I have always considered it an attribute. But historically, women being considered and given the directing opportunities has been a different story. Thankfully, that is changing.
I feel grateful for every director, editor, writer, cinematographer, and crew member I have worked beside. They have enriched my knowledge of film and narrative beyond what I imagined. Directors in particular have led the way, opening doors for future directors. I am incredibly lucky to have had this rich education as a person and a filmmaker.