SxSW 2021 Interview – BRUISER director Miles Warren

BRUISER is about a young boy named Darious who sees his father get into a massive fist fight in a bowling alley, and how he deals with seeing his father be so suddenly violent and aggressive, along with how this affects Darious’ search for the limitations of his own manhood. Having its Texas Premiere in the Narrative Shorts Competition at SxSW Online, we speak with Miles Warren on his film BRUISER.  

Welcome to SxSW and congratulations! Is this your first SxSW experience? 

Yes! This is my first SXSW experience. I wish it could be in person but I am still humbled to be chosen to take part in such an exciting and innovative festival.

How did you first hear about SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?

I heard about SXSW the same way I think most aspiring young filmmakers do, it’s just one of those festivals that everyone wants to be accepted to. It’s one of the most talked about festivals in the country and it was a no brainer to submit the film.

Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!

The idea came from my obsession with Worldstar and YouTube fight videos that often went viral online. The videos, which almost always depicted conflicts between Black men, were always horrific in nature, though there was something undeniably funny about their absurd presentation of machismo. It unsettled me, as a Black kid, how much amusement my White friends got from them. I had always wondered what it would be like if someone from one of those videos had their kid just off-screen watching, and what it would do to them to not only see something so intense and horrific, but to then see it mocked online as a joke.

Getting the film made was a huge challenge in its own right but we were lucky enough to work with amazing actors like J.D. Williams, (from THE WIRE) and newcomer Noble B. Whitted who I think steals the show.

Who are some of your creative inspirations? Any particular filmmaking talent or movie that inspired you for this project?

A few different filmmakers inspired the short film. I really love Charles Burnett’s work, the way he deals with day-to-day black livelihoods in films like KILLER OF SHEEP and MY BROTHER’S WEDDING. Stylistically I was very inspired by filmmakers like Werner Rainer Fassbinder or Stanley Kubrick, who use the formal control of their frames to great dramatic effect.  I wanted to channel their restraint, holding on shots like the fight scene and the weightlifting scene to highlight the intensity and absurdity of both situations.

How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use and/or did you have any creative challenges in making it?

We shot the short on 35mm film, which certainty stretched the budget, but it gave the film a certain quality that would have been possible to replicate otherwise. I want to give a huge shout out to my cinematographer Justin Derry, who pushed to shoot on film and put in so much work to make the short look as gorgeous as it does.  I think shooting on film really allows you to think very intensely about every single detail of the film. We did a lot of on set rehearsing in order to save film, which really helped us fine-tune the performances and perfect each scene. 

Being all virtual this year, what do you hope to get out of the virtual SxSW experience? And where is your project going next?

I honestly think that festivals being virtual is pretty good for the overall exposure of short films. I hope more people have a chance to see Bruiser at SXSW online and can connect with it. For me personally I am excited to check out as many films as my schedule allows. This virtual format has really been nice for scheduling a film marathon. 

What would you suggest to film festivals as a way to show more short films or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?

I think there could certainly be an add on to many festivals in coming years where they have a select few short films that are available online with the permission of the filmmakers. I think some shorts would do really well in a virtual premiere type of format, but who knows what the future holds for festivals.

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone to get their start as a creator or filmmaker in the industry, what would you suggest?

My only piece of advice is to save up as much as you possibly can, and then invest that money into your art as much as you can. Investing in yourself I think is the most important thing you can do. Of course it is so prohibitively expensive to make films, and it is so sad that for many people it is not an option, but finding inventive ways to invest in yourself is one of the most important things a filmmaker can do.

And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?

My favorite short film of all time is MULLIGANS by Shaka King!

Follow Miles Warren on Instagram!

This film and many others like it will be showing at the virtual South By Southwest taking place March 16-20th. For more information and to register for the festival, point your browser to!

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