About The Production
During a career that now spans almost 20 years, writer, director, producer and
actor Mike White has carved out a unique niche as a filmmaker with a surprising
and very personal point of view. In a raft of successful feature screenplays
including School of Rock, Nacho Libre, The Good Girl and the recent, timely
satire, Beatriz at Dinner, as well as his work as a director on Year of the Dog
and the acclaimed HBO series "Enlightened," White creates stories filled with
seemingly ordinary people whose lives take unexpected turns. His latest film,
Brad Status, will once again intrigue, amuse and unnerve its audience with a
sympathetic, warts-and-all portrait of a man who thinks he wants it all - if he
can ever figure out what it is.
Brad's Status begins in upper-middle-class Sacramento, as Brad Sloan prepares to
take his only child on a tour of East Coast colleges, prompting him to wonder if
his life has somehow fallen short of its potential. Modern parent-child
relationships and today's overly examined lives are thrust under White's
microscope as Brad's anxieties converge in a perfect storm of self-doubt.
Producer David Bernad, who helped White found Rip Cord Productions and served as
producer on "Enlightened," describes the filmmaker as "one of the most original
minds in Hollywood. He has a real humanity and kindness that you don't see in a
lot of filmmakers. There's a real joy to the process of filmmaking with Mike."
The development process for Brad's Status was the typical one for a Mike White
film, says Bernad: "Mike writes a script and that ends up being the script that
gets shot. He sent it to me in November 2015. I remember reading it on a plane
and waiting for the plane to land so I could call and talk to him about it. We
were in prep by August and started shooting in September."
White says he was interested in exploring the surge in what he calls "status
anxiety." "We are not just keeping up with the Joneses today, but literally
keeping up with the Kardashians," he explains. "There are people very publicly
living these unprecedented billionaire lifestyles. Even if we have a lot, it's
easy to feel like it's not enough. We all curate our lives for others through
social media, which adds to this sense that other people have more. Throughout
the course of history, people thought it was only a certain elite that lived
those kinds of lives. Now there's a belief that we should be able to have all of
that ourselves. There's an unsustainable feeling that everyone's winning the
lottery - except you."
Despite his own success, White admits to having those kinds of doubts swimming
about in his own head. "People around you seem to be living bigger lives," he
says. "For Brad, that means he's sitting in economy on a plane, knowing that his
friends are flying private. For me, sometimes it seems like everyone else is
having fun and I'm here rewriting a script for the 500th time in my cave. Or I'm
not working at all. Whatever your situation is, the world more than ever can
create a sense of comparative anxiety."
White also admits that his own self-worth often hinges on how he's seen through
others' eyes. "When I do a film and it gets a good review, I think, yeah! I did
it! Then I get a bad review and I'm a complete failure. I presume that if I'm
doing it, other people must be doing it too. So I wanted to write something
about how our ambition and comparative anxiety fuels insecurity - at least for
me. Where do you stand to the world? Have you made an impact? Seeing other
people's success starts Brad tearing himself down or building himself up in
reaction. That was the initial inkling of it."
As Brad starts measuring his accomplishments against those of his four best
college friends, it seems clear to him that they are doing far better than he
is. Sure he has a patient and devoted wife, a gifted son, a lovely home and a
job at a small not-for-profit he started. But how can that compare to shaping
public opinion, handling billions of dollars in investments, living in a
magazine-worthy Malibu mansion or sharing a Hawaiian beach house with a pair of
bikini-clad young beauties?
"The movie asks the eternal question, is the grass always greener?" says Bernad.
"Are these other people actually living a better life or could his life, which
maybe isn't what he had dreamt about when he was 21, actually be better than
what he envisioned?"
White remembers seeing his father, a minister, struggling to evaluate his own
accomplishments when he retired. "I could tell my father was questioning whether
he felt like he was a success," he recalls. "I see him as a success and part of
my wanting to make this movie was to say that to him. But I also realized that
no matter where you are in your career, there are times when you feel like other
people have made more of an impact or that you could have done more."
Those feelings of uncertainty are heightened for Brad as he watches his only son
on the brink of independence, with limitless potential before him. "At the age a
child prepares to go to college they are ready to break free of family bonds,"
notes White. "On the other hand, parents may be hanging on a bit too tight. It's
a poignant moment for both, I think."
White remembers being at his most prickly - and awkward - on his own college
tour with his father. "I think it's the first time where you have a real
referendum on where you stand in the world. I had a good relationship with my
parents, but during school visits I felt like if they said or did the wrong
thing, anyone there who witnessed it would still remember it and if I went there
I'd somehow have to live it down for years."
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