2007 was a highly competitive year for Best Actress in a Leading Role, but it was Nadja Brand who ultimately won. Her intense, no-holds-barred performance as Hope, a young mother who wakes up in the middle of the forest with a madman who is intent on testing her with severe physical and emotional abuse, was hard to ignore and are the kind of stellar, complex performances not seen very often in low budget slasher films. Her performance is memorable and extreme and sticks with the viewer long after the credits roll.
We recently got the wonderful opportunity to interview her about her Fright Meter Award winning performance, the film, and what is next for her. Enjoy the interview with this extremely talented actress!
First, congratulations on being named our 2007 Best Actress winner for your brilliant performance in Broken. For those who may be unfamiliar with you, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I want to say thank so much for the award! I was really taken aback and extremely flattered. It is really lovely to have won an award like this.
Well, I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and grew up in Cape Town. My first stage appearance was at 4 and I loved every second of it. I studied acting at a film school in Cape Town. After my studies I moved to the UK with my then husband, director Adam Mason. We started up a film production company Brand Mason ltd. And produced 5 feature films and 65 music videos. I acted in The 13th Sign, Dust, Broken and The Devil’s Chair as well as in several short films and music videos. My favourite colour is green and my favourite place to relax is the desert. I enjoy scuba diving, reading and oil painting. Haha, sounds a bit like a singles ad.
My ex-husband Adam Mason was working with co-writer Simon Boyes and wrote a low budget horror originally called The Heart eater. I was to star in that film but it luckily evolved into Broken. The part was really written with me in mind so it was easy for the scriptwriters to get a feel for the character, as they both knew me so well. I read the script and loved the rawness of the theme and how exciting it was going to be as a character. Broken is a very demanding film and I wanted to do something that was going to push my boundaries and put me out of my comfort zone. And it did just that… and more!
Broken is an extremely dark, brutal film and your character, Hope, is put through some extremely severe physical and mental anguish. What was it like filming these scenes and how did you "get into character?"
Yes, I agree fully! It really was a bleak time for all of us. The film was shot outside with no running water, no trailers, no luxuries like make-up and hair. We shot mainly through winter and loads of night shoots. During one of the night shoots it started snowing. I used the external factors like the cold, the dirt, the location etc. to help me achieve internal emotions. It was sometimes very hard to get tears on call and something I had to work with a lot. There is one scene where she asks the man “just kill me”; this was one of my lowest points. I really went deep inside and thought about how desperate and broken a person had to be to want to be killed. Her lack of desire to live drove the performance. I internalised the process and used thoughts about what my life would be like if I had nothing or no one to live for. Going to mental states where you break your own thoughts down to achieve the desired performance can stay with you and you need to be able to cope with it afterwards. When the shot is done you sometimes still have deep feelings of despair and you need to find a natural balance to get back to feeling “normal” again, ready for the next shot. Crying on call is quite hard; we didn’t have tear sticks so each tear on screen was real.
With all the disturbing elements of the film, what was the atmosphere like on the set?
We had such a small crew. Most of the time it is only Adam (director), Simon (director), Erik (DOP), Ali (production assistant), Eric (actor), Neil (art director), Tristan (SFX) and Gonzalo (gaffer/camera assistant). Mostly we had 9 people on set and sometimes other people helping out on a day-to-day basis. The atmosphere was one of camaraderie. We all work extremely hard. The crew worked for free and that says a lot. Everyone was helping and doing more than was ever expected of them. We all wanted one thing: to make this movie and make it great! We all had worked together on 3 previous films so really knew each other well. Although it was excruciating and so tough, we all had a good time.
What is your most memorable experience from filming Broken? Any interesting behind-the-scenes stories you can share?
Cracking my front teeth! There’s a story. We were filming the leg-breaking scene. During rehearsal Eric was told to drag a log, put my leg over it and pretend to break it so we could get the shot set up. During one rehearsal he decided to pick up this huge 2 meter “tree” and instead of dragging it behind him, lifted it into the air. I was crawling away but on one bit I have to look back at him and the saw the tree trunk tipping out of balance and landing on my face. It cut my lip and cracked both my front teeth. I was in agony. Filming had to stop for 5 days until my lip was healed. This was a disaster as people had to go home, and come back again, equipment we had rented had to be extended and I was a grumpy little girl.
So, what's next for you? Any upcoming projects?
I am in the process of writing a short film with a student of mine. It is a romantic comedy so something I have not done yet. I am moving away from the horror genre for a bit to explore different angles of acting and performance. I will be shooting in Feb/March of 2012.
I know that you currently are involved in teaching acting classes. What advice would you give to any young person who is interested in getting into the acting business, particularly the horror genre?
The best way to get into acting is to get some training and then to go to as many auditions as possible. Get into the acting circles; make friends with other actors and crew and network. The horror genre is a difficult one as you are dealing with many raw emotions and you are always covered in blood, or crying, or being scared or running away... It is not for everyone. You can’t be a diva on a horror set. Practice your skill and keep at it. Believe in yourself and just do it!
Any final thoughts/comments?
I just wanted to say thanks again. It has really meant the world to me to be acknowledged for my performance, which really took blood, sweat and tears. Thanks to all the fans for supporting low budget, indie filmmakers and allowing us to continue making films and living our dream.