THR: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Shane Brady: I have two answers for favorite horror movie... Cabin in The Woods is my all time favorite horror movie, because I love how much damn FUN it is. It's such a tongue-in-cheek hilarious, genius, fun scary movie! But the movie that CHANGED me is The Sixth Sense. Everything about it. Unreal performances, genuinely terrifying, and heart stopping twist. I think it changed cinema, because everyone tried chasing the epic "twist" reveal and no one has done it as well as Shyamalan. Even the thought of dead people being around us 24/7 is scary as hell.
THR: I told you through email and don’t mind saying it again here, Breathing Happy isn’t a movie that I would normally review on my site but it so impressed me that I felt like I had to help get the word out there. What inspired you to write and direct the film?
SB: There's too many answers here! Anxiety from covid. Wanting to change my own life for the better. I was prepared to finally make my first feature. I had a wealth of friends that loved the script and were ready to jump into the fire with me. It just FELT like it was time. Everything came together at the right time, and covid allowed me the freedom from everything else to make a movie.
THR: The story in the film is incredible, and as someone who has family members that have struggled with addiction, it was really interesting to see their side of things presented in a way that made it a bit more sympathetic than these types of movies usually are. It’s also funny as hell at times. What inspired you to bring humor into such a serious subject?
SB: The honest answer may surprise you, but I was listening to Eminem a lot during the writing process. My thought was "well here's someone who only knew anger, went through addiction, and then found sympathy and a softer, more healing voice over time." And there was a moment where while making The Marshall Mathers LP, they spoke about how the whole album was too dark. Too mean. That there needed to be one or two lighter songs written to make it more of a complete album. And I had this tiny epiphany of "I better go back through my script and make sure I can bring more levity to these darker moments." So I color coded the script based on emotions, and anywhere there was too much darkness, I made sure to pepper in jokes and make it lighter. Then while filming, we made sure to lean into the comedy more than I intended, like the moments with myself and Augie Duke who played grown up Lilly. We also would rehearse the sadder scenes in British accents to free us up! Lol
THR: Breathing Happy has been linked to the horror genre by festivals but really fits more into drama than horror. Would you consider it a horror movie, and do you have interest in making films that lean more into horror in the future?
SB: I love horror, and have been lucky enough to be an actor in a lot of horror movies. The thing that makes it horror, in my selfish opinion, is Breathing Happy gives people anxiety. The scariest thing to me is the fear of the unknown, or loved ones dying. I mean... What's scarier than knowing someone you love is killing themselves, and they won't stop? That's more terrifying to me than a big monster with a knife.
THR: What inspired you to make films in general? Were there any particular movies that you watched and though, damn, that’s what I want to do with my life?
SB: Haha! Like, every movie I've ever seen?! If the movie was "bad", I would go "I think I can do better..." If the movie was "good", I would go "How the hell did they do that?! I want to do that!" I am CONSTANTLY inspired. I am a total cinephile.
THR: You wrote, directed, edited, and starred in the film. I gotta be honest, usually that’s a huge turnoff and turns into a vanity project for most people. What were the pitfalls that you had to avoid in making sure that the film came across the way that you wanted?
SB: Trust me, I agree. It's a turnoff for me too. I leaned on everyone else as often as possible to make sure I wasn't some totalitarian person helming the ship. I am lucky enough that I've made over a dozen short films with kids -- fun wacky short films. So I've learned how to navigate a set and enrich the project by providing a space for everyone to thrive - cast and crew alike.
THR: I was so impressed with your acting chops in the film. It’s really difficult to believe that you were that good of an actor and also directed the film for your first feature. Did you go to film school? Do you have classical training in the other areas of production?
SB: I went to Florida State University and received my BA in Theatre. My "film school" was being best friends with Aaron Moorhead and the two of us making shorts throughout high school and college. Then after 2.5 years of performing on 7 stage productions in Chicago, Moorhead convinced me to move to LA and get into Hollywood showbiz. I have worn every hat on set. I don't think I'm lying either... I've held the camera, pulled focus, grip, gaffer, crafty, director, editor, DIT, P.A., wardrobe... When you make indie movies, it's all hands on deck. Trial by fire. I think anyone who wants to be a filmmaker just needs to go get their hands dirty and park their ego at the curb.
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
SB: Wow. That's a tough one. I'd go with Mike Flanagan again. I only got to spend one day on set with him on Doctor Sleep, but over the years we have stayed in touch. He did the Q&A for Moorhead and Benson's SOMETHING IN THE DIRT -- which titans of filmmaking don't typically do. There is nothing that he has put out that has struck a false note in my opinion. Midnight Mass was the best thing of 2022. All I ever hear is how much fun people have on his sets, and with Breathing Happy I selfishly hope that I proved to him and everyone else in Hollywood that I am here to work! Put me in your next project! I need to afford puppy food ;)
THR: Every single actor in the film just absolutely killed their roles. Did you go through the standard casting process to fill the roles or were you acquainted with your costars before filming?
SB: I 100% cheated, and between myself and casting director Jake Warnecke, I knew every single actor before filming began except for June Carryl. I e-mailed a casting director friend of mine Mark Bennet, and asked him if he knew anyone who could play my mother who was kindness incarnate... And he sent me one name. June Carryl. And she BLEW ME THE F*CK AWAY!!!! I am so thankful that she was not only the final piece, but the sturdy oak tree that I could build a story around. Then you have Britney Escalante and Augie Duke and Katelyn Nacon being the steel tripod to hold the movie together with their stunning, brave and open performances. Hugh Scott as Marshall stills gets me to laugh to this day. He added so many amazing ad libs that I would crack while filming. John D'Aquino is my mentor, so that was an easy sell. Then I needed to make sure the kid actors were all star level. I already knew Owen Atlas, Mia Castillo and EVee White for years, so I was able to rehearse with them weeks ahead of filming, and I already knew they could bring the goods. The movie doesn't work without John and Owen's connection at the end of the movie. Without talent like that, the whole movie crumbles at the finish line.
THR: What were the challenges making a film like this with such a small budget? (and what was the budget?)
SB: The budget was $20,000 production, and then another $20,000 for post. Everything was a challenge. Everything. Name it, and it was a challenge. BUT -- and this is a BIG BUT -- the kindness and support of everyone involved made it a breeze. Free locations, actors working for SAG minimum, crew working for $200 a day... Brick by brick, we built the damn thing.
THR: What’s next for you? Anything exciting coming soon? (and talk about your horror project as much as you’d like here, as well as anything else you have coming up soon)
SB: Yes! I am almost done writing movie #2. It's going to be something totally different than Breathing Happy. I can't do two movies like Breathing Happy in a row -- too emotionally taxing! So the next film is going to be called HACKED: A DOUBLE ENTENDRE OF RAGE FUELED KARMA. The opening title cards are going to be this... In 2021 filmmakers Emily Zercher and Shane Brady had $20,000 stolen from an online hacker. The first 30 minutes are based on those true events. The rest, is what we wish we could have done to that fucker ;)
THR: Finally, what would you do if you were the only survivor in a plane crash. Would… would you eat the other people? If you didn’t need to for survival… would you still eat the other people? I
SB: would do whatever I needed to, to survive. I would probably just try and find out who were Pittsburgh Penguin fans and start by eating them first.