Melissa Seymour: Hi, Brenda! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Brenda Chapman: I’m a mother, writer, director, artist and storyteller.
MS: What was it like co-directing the Pixar film Brave?
BC: Well, first, I didn’t co-direct. I was sole director of the film until I was replaced in the 11th hour. Sorry, it’s a bit of a sticking point for me. 🙂
MS: What challenges did you face?
BC: Well the big one is my answer above. I faced the challenges that most directors face – creating a compelling story, creating good characters – it just doesn’t come that easily. Also when you have many notes coming from many different people above you, it’s hard to hang on to your vision as the director.
MS: What made this project so rewarding?
BC: That despite it all, in the end, it was still the story I’d been struggling to tell. That I could still see my daughter in Merida – she inspired the character – and that the mother/daughter story seemed to resonate with so many people, not just women. I’ve had many letters and emails from mothers and daughters who relate so much with the characters, and I also have received quite a few from men who love that they can see their mothers, wives, sisters or daughters in Merida and Elinor… or themselves in Fergus. 🙂
MS: Tell us a bit about the A Mighty Girl’s “Keep Merida Brave” campaign. Why is it so important to keep Merida her child-like, stubborn, strong-willed self?
BC: Because she’s a different kind of princess – one girls can relate more to than the pretty, helpless heroines of the past. She goes out and gets what she wants. She makes big mistakes and has to try to put them right, and learns something about herself … and her mother… along the way. To change her to look like the other princesses of Disney past is to say she isn’t good enough as she is. That’s a horrible message to send to children.
And I hope no one tries to make another Merida. There are so many different types of characters that girls can be – let’s discover them! Let’s inspire girls with all the different possibilities – lets explore different stories in which girl protagonists can struggle and shine through.
MS: Why are campaigns like #BraveGirlsWant important?
BC: Young girls have so long been fed these stereotypically passive characters, sexualized characters, marginalized characters – it’s time to say “Hey! That’s enough!” We need to stand up for ourselves and not let society and the media try to make us less than who we are.
MS: How can we increase the number of women directors?
BC: Getting the men who run the studios to crack open their minds and give more women the opportunity. Or getting more women to run the studios. I know there are plenty of talented women out there who would be ready and willing to take on either job!
MS: Do you think it’s important for women to mentor other women in their field?
BC: Of course! And I think the majority of women do. I know it’s said that women tend to scorn other women in the workplace, but I have yet to see that. Maybe it still happens, but I think the more we bring this issue forward, the less that will happen.
It’s important to mentor, but also important to set an example. Our failures are just as important as our successes. We have to show how we handle adversity, so when the younger women and girls come up against it, then they can look to us and say, “If you can do it, we can do that, too!”
MS: What are you currently working on?
BC: I’m developing a couple of projects for DreamWorks Animation… can’t tell you anything about them, unfortunately.
MS: What do you hope to work on in the future?
BC: Stories with female protagonists. In the past, I never thought about it that much, but after everything surrounding BRAVE, I realize that it’s sorely needed. I may make films, I may write books. I’m looking forward to it all.
MS: Who is your hero/heroine?
BC: My mom.
MS: Do you have any advice for young women striving to become directors, producers, or writers?
BC: Don’t give up. When you get knocked down, get back up. Watch movies, read books, love your art.
photo credit: http://www.hdwallpapers.in/walls/disney_pixar_brave-wide.jpg