The Brooklyn Film Festival Artfully Tells a Story Hollywood Would Rather Ignore

A nun, spy and elf queen walk into a bar…

What do the nun, spy and elf queen in this promo for the Brooklyn Film Festival have in common? 

Well, for starters, they're all women who meet at the iconic Long Island Bar in Cobble Hill for "The Gathering," a short film by TBWA\Chiat\Day and director Emily Elizabeth Thomas. As their conversation develops, we learn that they share a deep, sad bond. It's a story many women who've tried to succeed in Hollywood can relate to: 

They're actresses, dressed for parts they never got, turned down because they wouldn't make certain "sacrifices" for men who run the movie business. The trio stay in character as they lament their lost opportunities, but sexual misconduct by Hollywood moguls is never specifically discussed. 

"It was hugely important to us that the dialogue felt true, but also cinematic," TBWA\C\D executive creative director Julia Neumann tells Muse. "All the stories are inspired by real accounts, so we wanted to retell them in a nuanced way that felt believable for each character." 

So, the nun speaks in pious terms, the spy adopts a dramatic, noir-ish delivery, and the elf queen uses heightened, Game of Thrones-style language. While initially odd, the approach draws us in, and the final interaction—"Weren't you in that movie?" a waitress asks, and the elf queen replies, "No, I wasn't"—drives the point home. 

"This film is important to show at the Brooklyn Film Festival because New York City, Brooklyn—this is a space for the different, the other, the weird, the strange, the disruptors," says Thomas in the clip below. "I hope that it proves that a better Hollywood is possible." 

Opening today, the mostly women-led festival runs through June 9, with entries from more female directors than ever before. "The Gathering" will screen with each BFF program, and you can learn more about its creation in the clip below:

"We chose the elf queen, the spy and the nun because they are classic movie archetypes," says agency ECD Amy Ferguson. "They represent not only actual famous roles from Hollywood films but also women everywhere. They needed to be very iconic and feel like they had all stepped out of other movies." 

There are also mock movie posters featuring each of the characters: 

Festival promos frequently provide fertile ground for creativity, with TBWA\C\D and the BFF teaming up in recent years for memorable takes on global unhappiness and the wonderful weirdness of cinema. "The Gathering" feels more intensely personal, using the lingua franca of film itself to address one of the industry's most shameful issues. 

"Something that was striking was that each actress felt personally connected to the roles they were playing," Ferguson says. "For them, it was deeper and more meaningful than just playing any old part. Sexual misconduct is such a universal story for women. Different members of the cast and the [mostly female] crew commented on how they were moved by the concept of the film, and that they were thrilled to have the opportunity to actually do something to further this conversation." 

Cast members tackle such issues and more in video interviews on the campaign hub.


The Gathering | Brooklyn Film Festival

Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day New York

CCO: Chris Beresford-Hill
ECD: Amy Ferguson, Julia Neumann
ACD: Shannon Murphy, Line Johnson 
Senior Art Director: Marjorie Vardo
Executive Creative Director/Head of Design: Chris Rowson
Senior Designer: Robyn Makinson 

Head Of Production: John Doris
Executive Producer: Amanda Revere
Producer: Sarah Haroldson
Post Producer: Pietra Cangialosi
Senior Cinematographer/Editor: Jon Lynn
Associate Editor/Producer: Craig Helfer

Business Leads
Business Director: Nora Chivelly
Business Manager: Meredith Zambito
Group Planning Director: Matt Kuzelka
Director of Business Affairs: Jennifer Bilyk
Business Affairs Manager: Anne-Camille Charpie

Social and Digital
Executive Producer, Interactive: Jen Vladimirsky
Executive Director of Digital Strategy: Tom Hyde
Content Manager: Bodi Karsono
Strategist: Elise Reichard
Animator: Connie Chen
Poster Layouts: Rebecca Mass
Designer/Animator: Vivian Lee
Designer: Bonnie Wang
Designer: Dawa Kyisarh

Production Company: Derby
Director: Emily Elizabeth Thomas for Derby
Executive Producer: Rebecca Niles
Producer: Madeleine Askwith, Lizzie Shapiro
Director of Photography: Alexa Wolf

Production Design: Eugene Choi
Costume Design: Laura Gordon
Editor: Stephania Dulowski
Assistant Director: Rachel Morgan
Production Coordinator: Max Lovera
1st AC: David Merino
2nd AC: Madai Villa
DIT: Ryan Windsor
Sound: Heather Monetti 
Gaffer: Julian Tran 
Grip: Ty Ebata
Swing: Johnathan Tang
Makeup Artist: Rachel Estabrook
Hair Stylist: Kayla Fenwick
Prosthetics: Chelsea Paige
Wardrobe Assistant: Brady Drose
Truck PA: Adam Kenner
Art Assistant: James Bianchini 
PA: Tyler Foltz
PA: Matthew Parish 
Casting: House Casting
Casting Director: Neil Myer
Casting Assistant: Rebecca Yarsin
Casting Assistant: Mary Callahan

EP, Exile: Sasha Hirschfeld
Post Production Producer: Charlotte Delon
Color: Jenny Montgomery
Producer for Company 3: Stephanie Arce
Re-Recording Mixer: Craig LoGiudice
Sound Design (Trailer): Rob DiFondi
EP, Sound Lounge: Becca Falborn
Sound Lounge: Marshall Grupp
VFX Artist: Adam Greenberg 
Music by: Human
Composed by: Jon Hubbell
Credit Track Composed by: John Barnes
Trailer Composed by: Daryl Pinsdorf 
Executive Producer for Human Carol Dunn
Producer for Human Joshua Green 

Caroline Hewitt as The Spy
Chanel Carroll as The Nun
Elizabeth Ward as The Elf Queen
Chelsea Watts as The Waitress 

David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is managing editor at Clio Awards.

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