Bradley Rust Gray
Filmmaker Bradley Rust Gray captivated audiences with his poetic narratives, stunningly quiet visuals, and his precision in capturing not life's biggest events, but the smaller moments that seemed to fly under the radar. The writer-director first gained recognition for helming independent features like "Salt" (2003), a poignant coming-of-age tale set in Iceland, and for writing the nostalgic drama "In Between Days" (2006), inspired by his wife's experiences as a young Korean immigrant. But it was the drama, "The Exploding Girl" (2009), an exquisitely sharp story about young love, that punctuated Gray's career and launched him as one the industry's finest and most imaginative filmmakers.
Bradley Rust Gray studied architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he met his future wife and film collaborator, So Yong Kim. He earned graduate degrees from both the University of Southern California and the British Film Institute in London. Realizing that making movies was more lucrative than making sculptures for a living, Gray decided to pursue filmmaking full-time. He started off making experimental films with Kim, and in 2000, released the short "Hitch," which followed two road-tripping friends - one gay and the other straight - on their journey towards self-discovery. Gray expanded "Hitch" to include it in the film "Boys Life 3" (2000), which featured the work of other independent directors. In 2003, Gray premiered his first feature film, "Salt," a tentative love story about a small-town Icelandic girl falling for her sister's boyfriend as they embark on a road trip. The film was made with only a three-person crew that lived with the cast during production. The close and communal interaction between the production team and the actors lent a more home video look to the movie. Gray also split his time between operating the camera and directing his actors to respond spontaneously to each other, which further enhanced the film's realistic appeal.
While he busied himself with his directorial projects, Gray also helped write Kim's first feature drama, "In Between Days," about the experiences of a young Korean immigrant who slowly falls in love with her best friend in a mostly-Korean district in the United States. By this time, his minimalist approach, fondness for tight close-ups, and knack for transforming seemingly small moments to feel bigger than they actually were steadily gaining a following in the indie film festival circuit. Gray kept the momentum going with his second feature, "The Exploding Girl," which he wrote in four days and directed in 17 days. The delicate drama told the story of a college student named Ivy (Zoe Kazan) who rents a room from her longtime male friend while she is in New York City for summer break. Ivy - whose name symbolized the growing tension and begrudging romance between the characters - suffers from epilepsy, which she manages to hide as long as she kept her emotions in check. As the summer heats up, so too does the platonic friends' feelings for each other, made more complicated by Ivy's constant attempts to connect with her long-distance boyfriend. Determined to give the movie a more intimate connection with its audience, Gray used longer takes and used a more stable hand-held camera to capture the characters' tiniest shifts in emotion. Given the cast's rich performances, breathtaking cinematography, and the director's careful character study, it was not surprising when Gray received a John Cassavetes Award nomination from the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.