YEM Interview | Rebel with a Cause, Brando Crawford

Photography by Robin Vega Pictures. 

How one director is reinventing classic works by teaming up with the likes of Versace and Dolce Gabbana (all while making impact). Rebel with a cause, Brando Crawford is an Argentine-American director, writer, and producer. His film Carne! Which he directed, wrote and produced was just released on Instagram. He also wrote, directed and acted in Julius Caesar Live! YEM was able to speak with Brando about what his process for making Carne Looked like, how he brought the cast together, and what it was like on the set of Julius Caesar Live!

MORDECHAI LAUB: First off, congratulations on your film Carne!, which was released on Saturday October 1st, 2022. What a twist ending. What did your process look like?

BRANDO CRAWFORD: Thank you! I had a lot of fun making it. I have no idea how we pulled it off. We flew in from Paris and didn’t have locations set beforehand- we didn’t have a costume for the villain- we planned to shoot on 16mm film at night. I intended to buy the mask at C’a Macana, the mask maker that provided masks for Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick, but we didn’t even have a mask picked… thanks to the collaboration and trust of Robbie Miller, Celia Marie Cheri, and Shayna Klee everything was locked before the actors arrived by train… Every project I undertake is the act of turning chaos into order… it mirrors the Genesis creation narrative… creating art is the only way I think humans can relate to God… that sounds crazy, but it’s exactly how I feel.

“I think the more I can involve every kind of art, the more we take part in and contribute to the Zeitgeist.”

LAUB: Why did you choose to release it on Instagram rather than submit to festivals?

CRAWFORD: I think art is made for public consumption and festivals can be a distraction, especially and specifically when it comes to short films… Additionally we wanted to raise additional funds for amfAR and the more eyes, the more funds/public awareness is raised.

LAUB: Your casts are truly remarkable. Carne stars Denise Tantucci who lead the cast of Tre Piani, which premiered at Cannes in 2021 and Giuseppe Maggio from Netflix’s Original Series BABY. How do you bring them together?

CRAWFORD: I think the purity of the mission: “Art for the sake of art… and impact” is exactly what it comes down to. All of our actors participate in Acting for a Cause projects on a pro bono basis and that is at odds with the way the industry works: there is a process that includes connecting with artists’ agents, managers and publicists that happens first… I think our reputation precedes us now, but each project is more ambitious, and so each time we have to convince an actor and their team that our project is worth their time and effort… In this particular case neither of the actors lived in Venice, Italy so travel was now a factor. Denise left the set of a film she was working on to come and do this project… Giuseppe came all the way from Rome… I love when an actor senses how special Acting for a Cause is and move mountains to take part.

LAUB: Switching over to Julius Caesar Live!, which premiered on March 15, 2022: Acting for a Cause’s plays have reached 3 million live views across all platforms. That means your plays collectively have been watched more than Hamilton on Broadway. What does that mean to you?

CRAWFORD: That reach is crazy to think about. I cannot conceptualize what 3 million people look like in person. That’s the beauty of presenting theatre online… Acting for a Cause is about raising money for charity… but equally so, the impact is introducing many young watchers to classics, including Shakespeare, for the first time… That’s not just charitable impact, but cultural and educational impact.

“I love when an actor senses how special Acting for a Cause is and move mountains to take part.”

LAUB: When did the idea of involving Fashion Brands come to you? How do the brands contribute to the impact?

CRAWFORD: I saw a production of Marie Antoinette at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago that featured a runway show between scenes. Seeing that production helped build my awareness that all art interacts with each other to become, participate in, and interact with the Zeitgeist. I think the more I can involve every kind of art, the more we take part in and contribute to the Zeitgeist.

LAUB: What was it like on set? How did you and the cast come together to create such a special production? What did you do beforehand to get everyone into it?

CRAWFORD: I would describe our sets as ‘childhood birthday party vibes’… but where everyone is both a guest and the entertainment… It’s a bit chaotic and very social and fun, even when we sit down and start the table read. Growing up I was a part of two theatre groups: one put product over process, and the other process over product… and I always think you can tell when actors are having fun making art and it makes it that much more fun to watch.

LAUB: Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?

CRAWFORD: I do every time, and each time we make adjustments. For example, the first reading we used physical scripts. I realized after that we would pick up on the sound of a page turn every minute or so. We used iPads the second time. In the near future I would love to use teleprompters, so we can capture more emotion.

LAUB: What’s one BTS thing you had to do while filming that you’ve never done before?

CRAWFORD: Most of the cast, with the exception of Brandon Flynn, had either not done Shakespeare recently or ever before, so I worked with some of the actors individually to prepare them- Gavin Leatherwood and Cameron Monaghan had never performed Shakespeare before and truly delivered. I also provided, with the coordination of associate producer Joseph Blakey, a modern translation of the text for some of the actors to use as a resource as they prepared. We realized the modern translation would be as helpful to our audience and therefore the play has two sets of subtitles, one with the original text and the other with the modern translation. It’s a subtle innovation on how we consume Shakespeare, combining the visuals and emotions of a performance and the educational quality of No Fear Shakespeare by Sparknotes.

“Every project I undertake is the act of turning chaos into order”

LAUB: What is the ideal future for Acting for a Cause?

CRAWFORD: To continue to provide consistent free entertainment to the public for years to come.

LAUB: Thank you again for your time.

CRAWFORD: My pleasure. Thank you for your questions.