Episode 063: Brett Story, Non-Fiction Filmmaker

I’ve interrupted my own break to deliver a bonus episode of sorts. It was recorded last week, and I didn’t want to hold onto it for a new season, it was a really mind-expanding conversation if that’s not too self-important to say and I wanted to share it ASAP. 

It’s with award-winning non-fiction filmmaker and geographer Brett Story whose is based in Toronto. I became aware of work maybe last year when I saw The Hottest August at CPH:DOX, a documentary festival in Copenhagen and I was really wowed by it and then I saw Brett speak at Sheffield Doc/Fest and again found her to be a very interesting and illuminating figure in the non fiction scene. And yeah with zoom and these lockdown podcasts, I figured why not reach out and see if she would talk to me about her career. 

Her 2016 feature documentary, The Prison in Twelve Landscapeswas awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and was a nominee for Best Feature Documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards. Her follow-up film The Hottest August was released in 2019 and has screened world-wide and considered to be one of the best films of the year, according to places like Variety, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Sight & Sound and IndieWire. 

Brett holds a PhD in geography from the University of Toronto and is currently an assistant professor in the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University. She is the author of the book, Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power across Neoliberal America, and co-editor of the forthcoming volume, Infrastructures of Citizenship. Brett was a 2016 Sundance Institute Art of Nonfiction Fellow and a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow in film and video.

Her interests across the fields of documentary and critical theory are expansive, and include experimental cinema and essay films, politics and aesthetics, racial capitalism and Marxist political economy, and visual geography. We touch on some if not all of those ideas. 

We talk about how academia facilitated her filmmaking interests, how she formulates ideas and then tethers that to form, what production looks like and how she funds her films. It’s a far-reaching and provoking conversation, which is exactly what Brett’s films feel like to me, so it was a joy to connect the dots in that sense and I hope you get something out of it too!

I’ll be back later in the year with Season 3. For now this is episode 63 of the Best Girl Grip podcast.