In the ever-evolving realm of Hollywood, some names leave a mark and one such is that of Valerie Brandy – a versatile actress, ingenious screenwriter, and trailblazing filmmaker, whose exceptional talent keeps turning heads in the film industry. Many viewers fondly recall Valerie from her compelling performance as Trixie on the FX series, “Justified,” and as the enigmatic Lola in “Lola’s Last Letter,” but there’s more to this star than meets the eye. In an industry often seen as a male-dominated field, Valerie is breaking barriers and reshaping norms as an accomplished screenwriter, director and filmmaker. Renowned for her unwavering dedication, Valerie continually gives a 100% to her work, a trait admired by many in the industry. She’s a unique powerhouse and visionary, diligently scripting narratives for major studios, including a stint as a staff writer for Walt Disney Studios’ live-action feature division. Her passion for spotlighting stories from a female perspective is palpable and has made waves in Hollywood. An ever-growing number of stunning and talented actresses have been inspired to step behind the camera, embracing this new wave of feminism that Valerie is leading with verve.
This determined woman, who began her journey in the spotlight on shows such as “Lie To Me” and “Justified,” is a proud UCLA graduate. Valerie’s wide range of work, including numerous shorts and features, have played in festivals across the U.S., including prestigious ones like Dances with Films, Napa Valley Film Festival, Tribeca, and the Santa Barbara Intl film Fest. One of her earliest ventures into the world of filmmaking, “Dying with Daisy” (2011), became a quarter finalist in the Nicholl Fellowships the same year. Further, she has adorned various shows with her charisma, including “Lie to Me,” “On Air with Ka$h,” “Sunday Brunch,” and, most notably, her recurring role on FX’s Emmy-winning series, “Justified.”
At just twenty-three, Valerie embraced the roles of a writer and director, demonstrating a talent for creating modern and realistic narratives. Her feature “Lola’s Last Letter” beautifully explores a girl’s quest for forgiveness, leading audiences on an introspective journey. The film resonated strongly with the festival circuit, and Valerie’s performance as Lola even earned her a nomination for Best Principal Actress from the Los Angeles Film Review. With numerous successful scripts to her name, Valerie is set to direct her much-anticipated new film called “A Unified Theory of Love.”
Valerie, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Lavish Life. What sparked your journey into screenwriting and filmmaking?
I started making movies because I’ve always wanted to tell stories that show us how to live better lives. We learn through stories, and it’s the oldest human tradition. Watching characters make mistakes, overcome obstacles, and grow from what they learn gives us the “lesson,” by proxy. Additionally, I love the medium of filmmaking because it encompasses so many other art forms. Writing, directing, performance, wardrobe, editing, music, set design, visual composition, makeup… Filmmaking is truly an art that involves multiple other arts. You can never get bored doing it, and there’s always something new to learn. Working on my newest film, “A Unified Theory of Love,” I’m once again experiencing all those other spaces that combine to make a movie. Choosing wardrobe. Talking with our producer and cinematographer. Rehearsing with actors. I get to work with many different kinds of artists and bring them together to their best work to form a cohesive vision. It’s rewarding in so many ways.
Your efforts to champion women’s voices in the film industry are commendable. Could you elaborate on why it’s crucial for women to play a more active role behind the camera?
Absolutely! It’s crucial because women are people, and people tell stories. Supporting stories told by all different kinds of filmmakers behind the lens is a great way to highlight our shared humanity as the number one factor that allows us to connect. I’ve thought a lot about this because– in my current project, “A Unified Theory of Love,”– a woman has to try and fall in love based on a set of AI determined rules, and one candidate in particular challenges her expectations. And yet, they find themselves connecting over what they have in common, not what separates them. They find out that the stories they have about their own lives aren’t that dissimilar.
Can you share some of the hurdles you’ve overcome to become a renowned female filmmaker and screenwriter?
This is a challenging industry. Nobody reaches a certain level of accomplishment without major hurdles and obstacles. To be honest, I focus on my “wins” more than the challenges because I look at any failures as simple redirection– I try to say, okay, that door wasn’t the one, let’s try another. But in the interest of helping newer artists, I can definitely say that this isn’t supposed to be easy. It wasn’t for me, and it still isn’t! If it’s hard, you’re probably doing it right, and doing it ethically. One big piece of advice I’d have for all newer artists, and especially women, is to retain ownership of your work wherever possible. Protect what you create and make sure you control the underlying IP whenever it makes sense for that to happen. Have a good team around you that can help you decide what’s right and what isn’t, but also listen to your inner voice over everything. Have a lawyer, an agent, and a manager you trust. My Mom and I often work together– she manages me for acting along with producing with me. We produced my last movie together, just finished a slow content drone video that’s headed to SLINGTV, and we’re currently working together on “A Unified Theory of Love.” What’s so nice about working with family is you have an added layer of honesty and protection, and can tackle those hurdles that so many people trip on with added support. Basically, my advice is keep good people around you, and balance what the outside industry is saying with that quiet inner voice, which is most often right.
You received a Best Principal Actress Nomination from the Los Angeles Film Review for your self-scripted and directed film. How did that feel?
I was surprised! I totally didn’t see it coming and was really honored and humbled. I felt lucky, too, that I had such a great cast around me to make it easy. Nobody talks about this enough, but acting is a team sport, and having especially talented people across from you makes your own performance better. When I found out I was nominated, I knew that the nomination was a reflection not just of me, but of our entire cast. I felt like I shared it with them and it was a nod to the talent of everyone involved.
Who are some of the filmmakers you draw inspiration from and would love to work with in the future?
Early on, I was really inspired by Diablo Cody and Charlie Kaufman. Their scripts were formative for me when I was first starting out because they both have strong personal voices that they don’t censor. Their work taught me to embrace my own unique voice, and allow it to be “different” and authentic. In terms of balancing artistic vision and career, I’m really inspired by Steven Spielberg. He’s created films that are commercially successful, but also artistic triumphs, and– as someone who’s worked in the family space for Disney, I love that Amblin movies are accessible to most ages and don’t rely on violence or gore to create narrative high stakes that both children and adults can enjoy equally. I love Greta Gerwig, and think the trajectory of her career is really exciting. She’s an example of artists starting in the indie space but being able to cross over into more commercial projects that combine the classic Hero’s Journey with independent vision with originality. Finally, I love Tyler Perry. I think he’s insanely underrated. As an artist and businessperson, he’s carved out his own space and makes what he loves, despite the fact so many doors were closed to him when he first started out. He’s an example of not waiting for permission to make art you love. I really admire him.
We’re excited about your upcoming film “A Unified Theory of Love.” Can you give us a sneak peek into your upcoming movie featuring talented actor Kash Hovey?
“A Unified Theory of Love” follows a female scientist who creates artificial intelligence that she uses to help her fall in love. Despite the science themes, it’s a magical script in many ways. I’m taking what I learned at Disney about connecting magic to a narrative and putting it to work in the independent film space. We have some incredible actors attached to the project, including Eric Isenhower (Parks & Recs), and of course, Kash Hovey (On Air with Kash). They both play the two central love interests, forming a triangle with our protagonist. I’ve known Kash for many years after meeting on the festival circuit, and love that he’s so involved in the independent film space. His genuine passion for this industry shows in everything he does, and he’s a team player who’s created such an incredible community in indie film. His performance in this project is so dynamic, and– even though he’s playing someone very different from himself– he brings the role to life with a grounded, skillful performance. We are really happy to have him!
Lastly, what inspired you to script your latest film, “A Unified Theory of Love”?
I’ve been really interested in the idea that love isn’t something you can plan, explain, or promise based on a checklist. I asked myself, “Is love something you could ever predict or guarantee based on qualities, studies, checklists, or statistics?” I’m not sure where ideas come from, but I think my brain mashed that central question up with current events– including AI– and then used my experience writing magical stories to meld it all together and create this beautiful little movie. That’s where everything usually starts for me, though. A central idea or question. And the central question here is, “Can love be predicted, measured, or manufactured using science?” And my hypothesis is, “no.” We cite studies that have been done on love in the film– all of which are real– but our central premise is that there’s still intangible factors that allow love to surprise us. And that’s kind of beautiful.
By Lavish Life Publication Editorial Team