Student Spotlight: Houston Bradley '15

Senior creative producing major Houston Bradley is passionate about film. This fall, he is working as the Unit Production Manager for student film Juniper. We caught up with Houston to learn more about his latest project, and to find out what he says "the most crucial piece of equipment on set" is!

ED: You're working on a film called Juniper. What's it about?

HB: Juniper is about a young woman living in the city who is basically a product of the modern day world we, especially at Chapman and the LA area, are also apart of. “Apart of” isn’t really the right phrasing either… More like, we’re contributing factors. Social media, staring at a phone screen, stressing about what people think of us and not what we can gain from real interactions and meaningful conversations are all factors of the kind of life Annabelle, our protagonist, is living this and it leaves her feeling empty and without purpose. She hears about a hippie commune in the mountains that offers weekend retreats and decides to give it a shot. 

ED: Where did the name Juniper come from?

HB: Juniper is actually the name of the Hippie Commune. It’s also a street that our director, Hannah McDonald, grew up nearby to. So I guess it’s very much a reflection of the environment that led to the inspiration for the story. 

ED: What is your role in the process?

HB: I’m the UPM. That stands for Unit Production Manager and in the Hollywood world, I’d say, means you are responsible for all physical production and administration of a feature film or TV program. At Chapman, it means you handle the budget, craft services, and problem solving as far as making errands and actually going to places away from set in order to literally buy or pick up solutions to issues that arise. I like to think that student film making should be one of the most collaborative efforts you can be apart of so I would follow that with I do whatever needs to be done! I’m just as down to go to the gas station and get more ice for the cooler, as I am to wake up early on a Thursday morning and drive to various vendors around LA to pick up camera and sound equipment. I’ll go to an actor’s house to walk their dog midday if it means our schedule will work and shooting will go smoothly. That’s what it is all about.

ED: What has the journey been like so far? 

HB: The journey has been just that: a journey. Mostly what I’ve noticed is my level of commitment and involvement to the project. At first, I just needed a second producing gig to fulfill my Dodge requirements for senior year. I was in Cape Town and posted on the Chapman Film Connection to see if anybody was looking for key crew positions. I have had a lot of experience with SAG projects and this film was planning on going the SAG route so I fit the bill. I have really only worked with one filmmaker throughout my time at Dodge. Brandon Kapelow was the director of my sophomore year AP and a thesis I co-produced last year. But don’t tell Dodge… It was a secret. Oops! Once I began working with the team and getting to know everybody and what the film was all about, it didn’t take long for me to find my place in it all and a reason for wanting the film to be as successful as possible.

ED: How did you fundraise for Juniper?

HB: Fundraising for this film was a bit different than my previous projects because we didn’t use Kickstarter. We created our own website and did it that way. It’s all the same but something about the novelty and reputation of Kickstarter makes it the most used method of transportation. We set out to raise $8,000 and we raised $8,105! That’s a win. I think we raised exactly what we needed, even though that remains to be seen. You can always use more money, but you never want to waste money or use it just to use it. Making a film for as little money as possible is one of the most valuable skills you can have as a producer, so I’m always working towards developing that through observation and experience.

ED: What's a typical day like on set? 

HB: We’re shooting in the mountains by Lake Arrowhead so “on location” as they call it… Wake up is anywhere from 5:30-7:30am. Cast and crew are scattered everywhere from bedrooms to couches to the floor. Matt, our location manager, and I even slept outside in hammocks one night. It was cold but I got cozy in a sleeping bag and threw a jacket over my face- slept like a baby. Then you’ll layer up, gather your things, and the key crew will head out to that morning’s location to get things ready. I am in charge of craft services, which means snacks and drinks basically. I have a truck so the bed of that is overflowing with fold up tables, coolers, snacks, and, the most crucial piece of equipment on set, a coffee maker. I don’t know if that’s actually a thing but it sure does help to keep everybody caffeinated. Once we call wrap for the day, you need to pack up and leave the location better than you found it. That’s really important to me. It’s just a good rule to abide by.

(On set of Juniper! Photo by Houston Bradley)

ED: How much time goes into the whole process? 

HB: A lot of it. The process starts as soon as the idea is born and ends… never? The whole point of a movie is that you can rewatch it as many times as you want and there’s always a new audience somewhere. For example, the Mona Lisa was painted from first brush to last brush in however long that took. True. But, the Mona Lisa is never “finished” because people will never stop looking at it or appreciating it or trying to figure out what she’s looking at.

ED: Funniest thing that happened on set?

We’ve only gotten through half of shooting so far, but I don’t see anything topping the noises I heard coming from the creek during the skinny-dipping scene. It sounded like a pack of ten year olds on a summer trip to Schlitterbahn.

ED: What are the plans for this movie? 

I want this movie to do well in the festival circuit! I want it to win some awards! I want Hannah and this team to be rewarded for their passion and efforts.

ED: Anything else you want people to know about the crew?

One of our producers, Adam Kostylo, is an awesome hip-hop artist who just came out with his first mix tape. Shouldn’t be too hard to find on the web if you’re a fan of music at all… Give him a listen and you’ll now what I mean when I say, “FINGERS CROSSED!”