Earlier this year, writer/director/actor Jake Graf played a major part in our groundbreaking global FiveFilms4Freedom project. Now, as the short, trans-themed film, Brace, which he wrote and stars in, gets an online release, Jake takes a moment in our spotlight to talk about the films that have inspired him.
Jake Graf - starring in the short film, Brace
What’s your connection to the British Council?
I was lucky enough to have my third short, Chance, featured as part of the British Council's pioneering project FiveFilmsForFreedom earlier on this year. This groundbreaking project made it possible for 5 films that had been selected for BFI Flare [London's LGBT film festival] to screen online for the duration of the festival, accessing an audience of global proportions, and allowing people from 142 countries to view them. It was an incredible and humbling experience to know that we had viewers from all four corners of the world watching our films! I would work with the British Council again in a heartbeat, and am currently writing my next short, that I hope will be relevant to the project in its second year.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I am collaborating on an LGBT webseries, Spectrum East, which we aim to release in late October, and for which we have already shot the pilot. I am also in talks with a production company about an idea for a trans themed series, which will aim to 'normalise' as opposed to sensationalise the transgender experience. I also have a feature in the pipeline, and am in various stages of development for two more short films. I like to keep busy!
What/who originally turned you onto film?
As a child, I lived very much in my imagination, and so immersion into the world of film was a welcome outlet. I was an avid fan of the original Bond films, Star Wars, and all the classics. I very much admire writer/directors, and even more so actor/directors, and this is what I am aiming to eventually master. Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck both seem to excel at this, and I am a huge fan of their work. The incredible amount of talent, and the responsibility that you feel when you are wearing so many hats is phenomenal and an amazing experience, at whatever level!
What has been your career high so far?
There have been so many high points over the last 5 years, and I still can't really believe how far I've come, and how far things have progressed for queer film. Obviously, I am hugely proud of all three films, XWHY, Brace and Chance, but I think that the absolute peak was getting a part on The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne, and directed by the incredible Tom Hooper. They needed someone like Eddie as the star to get the finance, but really tried to cast trans actors in the supporting roles. I was flown out to the set in Belgium, had my own trailer, and for a couple of days felt like a star. And all that for one line!
What was your first job in the film industry?
I really just decided at the start of my transition that I would write a screenplay, using the physical effects of my own transition to reflect those experienced by the fictional lead of the film. I hadn't really written, produced or directed before, but it felt important, and the fact that the story was so personal made it all easier I suppose, and rather cathartic! When it was premiered at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and nominated for the Iris Prize, I thought I would just plough on.
If I knew then what I know now…
Preparation is everything! Cover your bases, as much as possible. Oh, and just to avoid problems later on, get everything in writing. And don't put it off, just do it!
What is your favourite British film?
I am a huge fan of This Is England, and all the TV spin offs. I can't imagine a more authentic depiction of Britain in the eighties. I love the whole cast, especially Vicky McClure and Joe Gilgun. I would kill to work with either!
If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
One of my absolute favourites is Warrior, directed by Gavin O'Connor, and starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton. Rarely has a film made me feel so much. I spent most of the film covered in goosebumps, and much of it in tears. A truly incredible and epic story about the human spirit. Mind blowing!
What’s the first film you remember seeing?
I think it was probably Star Wars, but I also remember seeing Blade Runner at a very young age, and The Terminator, and being spellbound by all of them. I'm a huge sci-fi fan, probably as a result of the early exposure. All three are films that I could happily watch on repeat. True escapism!
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
From Blade Runner, Rutger Hauer's monologue about the fragility of life: 'All those moments will be lost in time, like teardrops in the rain.. Time to die.' Goosebumps every time.
Favourite screen kiss?
I must admit to a fondness for James Cameron's Titanic, it's one of my Guilty Pleasures! When Rose jumps off the life boat to come back for Jack, and as he's telling her off for putting herself in danger for him, he's covering her in kisses. Moving stuff indeed.
Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
My hero would be Matt Dillon's character in Crash. That scene where the 'rough around the edges', racist cop slips free from his colleagues to dive back into the burning car to save Thandie Newton's character is stunning. Another beautiful film!
The villain would probably be Derek Vinyard in American History X. I'm a huge Edward Norton fan anyway, and I love the film, and he's such an intelligent, complex and hate-filled character, you can't help but love him.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
Edward Norton. I think he's a stunning actor. Although I've heard he's tricky to work with, so I might steer clear on set!