Q&A with Brenda Chapman: Director of the Pixar film Brave


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. ūüôā

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‚Ķ or themselves in Fergus. ūüôā

MS: Tell us a bit about the A Mighty Girl‚Äôs ‚ÄúKeep Merida Brave‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Ķ and her mother‚Ķ 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‚Ķ 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