Something about bubbles is an original political satire comedy series, following two liberal filmmakers as they attempt to make "The Bubble Project", a documentary exploring the issues that divide our country.
While seeking a better understanding of how people from different parts of the country view racial discrimination, police violence, gun laws, immigration, women's rights and health care, what is discovered is that we are all flawed and that if you can’t laugh at yourself, you will never even begin to see the other side. The series was an award winner of the latest edition of LA Indies and took multiple awards for the cast and the crew of Something about Bubbles.
At an LA dinner party, “The Bubble Project” is born. Graham and Mark, two liberal commercial filmmakers, recruit Nate to be the front man for their documentary about Middle America and the political divide. Kimberly serves pâté. Vivian shares a deep dark secret. Graham has a near death experience. Crys gives no fucks. The award winning indie series is directed by Mark Cheng and Graham Brown. It was our pleasure to speak to Graham Brown.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your series? I wrote the pilot for "something about bubbles" in early 2017 as a reaction to the 2016 election. Some protested, some tweeted, I wrote a sit-com (I also protested & tweeted). I was incredibly frustrated by the division that was increasing all around us and I wanted to say, if not do, something about it. Anger, hostility, and frustration are at dangerous levels and so is the need to blame. “bubbles” is an invitation to commonality, empathy and respect. The series (the first season consisting of ten episodes) sets out to challenge the perceptions of the left and the right by satirizing both sides of the equation at the same time. While seeking a better understanding of how people from different parts of the country view racial discrimination, police violence, gun laws, immigration, women's rights and health care, what is discovered is that we are all flawed and that if you can’t laugh at yourself you will never even begin to see the other side.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in this particular genre of short filmmaking? I would have to say navigating the Hollywood culture of false promises and the trap of waiting for someone to do what they say they’re going to do. In 2017 we did a reading of "bubbles" for a producer which ended with him saying to the cast, “We should just shoot it”. We were ecstatic, popped champagne, the whole bit- but in the end, nothing became of that. Later, a prominent director asked to read the script and it ended sitting on his desk for maybe over a year. In 2018, we rented a theatre in West Hollywood for a stage reading and invited over fifty literary agents. Not only did no agent come, not one even responded to the invite. Finally, in 2019, we were like “fuck it” we should just shoot it ourselves. So in a way, that first producer was actually right and we stopped waiting for someone to get back to us and raised the money and just shot it ourselves.
When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films and what was the first film project that you created as a director? I’ve been writing, directing, producing and acting in ensemble based work for the theatre for over twenty-five years. Moving over to film with a philosophy centered on a group of empowered individuals working together as a collective was just a natural extension. But ensemble work, in this case, just doesn’t just apply to the actors but everyone involved in the production. It’s very much an idea rooted in the theatre and I believe raises the quality of the work. Our first attempt at bringing this concept to film was, interestingly enough, in response to another national event, 9/11. In “Clarity”, a well meaning short, a man tries to make his way back into the world of post 9/11 NYC with the help of his imaginary friend, a cow named Clarity.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of the film and what was the most challenging aspect of production? After deciding to go ahead and shoot “bubbles” I began looking for a co-director. While I feel very comfortable directing actors and telling stories, I knew that I needed someone to help me translate my work to film, particularly on the scale I thought the project deserved. I met Mark Cheng on the set of a short that he was directing. The writer, a collaborator of mine in New York, who, in fact, played the cow in "Clarity" reached out to me to play a small part in Mark’s current project. I liked him quite a bit as well as the crew he had assembled. There was very much an “all hands on deck approach” and I found Mark to be kind, humble & collaborative. We spent the next few months meeting and coming up with a system of how we would construct the pilot and a system of working together. In the end, besides writing the script, I did the casting and directed the actors while Mark and our DP, Joe M. Han focused on the visual aspects of the film. I played myself, well, a version of myself. The rest of the cast came from three different sources. Vivan Dugré was an actress that I worked with in NY, on, among other things, believe it or not, “Clarity”. We met Abigail Marlowe when we cast her in the 2018 reading of “bubbles”. The other three main characters, Mikel Miller, Mikel Parraga-wills & Kristan Vahl were cast through Actors Access & Backstage. We had over 5,000 submissions, auditioned 120, and called back around 30 to fill the three roles.
There are too many challenging aspects of independent film to list. What’s the old adage? What can go wrong while making an Independent film will go wrong? Some of my “favorites” were, losing power in the rented ambulance and having to push it into the street, a neighbor trying to shut us down at three in the morning, the hair and makeup artist getting food poisoning and disappearing and being so tired that by five am on the the fourth night of shooting, the DP had to literally push me around for me to hit my marks. In the end, though, everyone showed up fully, pulled together and helped create something that we are all incredibly proud of.
What genre of filmmaking fascinates you as a director and which genres do you prefer to work on? I'm drawn to stories about relationships, which comes from my interest in ensemble work. Films that work in small moments.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society? I think film works best when it draws focus and perspective to issues and stories that challenge an audience's perception of themselves. This only works if it is done honestly without preaching. It's about treating an audience with respect, as an equal - like "This is what I think about this, what do you think?" What is your next film project as a director? I'm working on feature script and will probably direct a piece for the stage in fall but if all goes well, it will be episode two of "something about bubbles"