Paige Irene Bruns: More to the Story

Taylor Harrington 12/13/2021 4:17pm EST

Paige Irene Bruns is a writer and director whose short film “Anchor” touches the sensitive subject of sexual assault on college campuses. Through her vivid storytelling, Bruns pulls their audience into this intense story which she hopes will ignite change in the way these cases are handled both on a small and global scale.
Bruns was recently diagnosed with Lupus, but she did not let that stop her imaginative ways or put a halt on production. Get to know Bruns a little bit better below, and be sure to check out her short film “Anchor”, which can be viewed here.

Thank you so much for being here today, Paige!

Thank you so much for having me!

Of course. So, I recently watched your short film, “Anchor”, which left me speechless. We will get into “Anchor” because it covers such important subject matter, but I want to get to know how you started on this path first. When did you first get into screenwriting and directing?

Well, I think first and foremost, I have always known that I wanted to do something in entertainment. For a while I was focused on a completely different side– I was very interested in acting. I kind of did the whole acting thing for several years and I was involved in theatre and did a lot of auditions, but the more auditions I went on, I very quickly realized that I was not cut out to be an actor. Being in a room full of people, whether that’s the audition room, or being on a set, where you have a camera and eyes on you at all times, was just not something that I could get comfortable with. So I kind of took a step back from that, but still was involved in my high school theater program because I still really loved acting, I just didn’t like it in high-pressure situations. One day, my theater director came up to me and said, “Hey, Paige, I’m thinking about doing a series of student-directed one-act plays, would you want to direct one?” I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know anything about that side of this, so I don’t know why you’re asking,” but I ended up doing it and that was the first time that I was introduced to being behind the scenes in anything other than acting. I absolutely fell in love with it and then the rest was kind of just history.

That’s incredible. You have a background in acting on the stage and so then you’re able to write and direct in a way that comes across so strong because you’ve been on the other side of it. That is really exciting.

Yeah, I’m definitely an ‘actor’s director’. There are directors who are more focused on the camera or on the script side of things, but for me, it’s my actors. I think that really stems from my acting background for sure.

Yeah, so let’s talk about “Anchor”. When was the film first released?

“Anchor” was released in June on YouTube.

In the beginning of the film, there is a message on the screen letting viewers know that it contains heavy subject matter and ends with the fact that only 5% of sexual molestation or assault on college campuses is reported, which is a staggering fact and what this film is all about. Can you give us a little synopsis on “Anchor”?

“Anchor” is about Haleigh Emerson, who is a very bright, very independent college student who experiences a traumatic sexual assault at a party. Then, simultaneously, we kind of get to see the handling of that situation and how that affects all of her relationships, including with her best friend.

It’s strong, and it’s heavy, but you were able to wrap this all into an eight-minute short film. What was the process of writing a short film like for you?

I think the writing process is very different for every film, but for “Anchor” specifically, it was heavily research-based, especially early on, and I think that mainly stems back to the topic. I knew that if we were going to tackle this, we were going to do it in the most real and authentic way that we possibly could to show the harsh realities of it all. It was a lot of conversations and communications with survivors early on and then when we went through the casting process. My actress, Sierra Green, who plays Haleigh in the film is a survivor herself. I sent her every draft the second she was cast. Every change, I sent to her, because it was really important to me that we had an open dialogue about, “Okay, does this feel genuine and real to the situation?” without pushing it too far. I didn’t want to push it too far. I want you to be uncomfortable watching it because that’s what sparks change, but I never wanted to push it too far, to where it was showing too much. Having her feedback was really, really important. I think to craft something in eight minutes that has a whole arc– beginning, middle, and end– really stems from understanding the experience that you’re tackling, whether it be something like this, or something that you go through every day, to have a really strong understanding of the emotions behind it and the angle in which you want to show it.

Like I said, I was just speechless at the end of it. It is very accessible to everybody with it being on YouTube, so I really hope that it can bring a real voice to making changes in these campus cases, especially those involving student-athletes. I don’t want to give it all away, because it is such a strong film and it should be watched by everybody. What kind of feedback have you been given from different survivors that have watched “Anchor”?

Well, first of all, it’s been overwhelming. Anytime I get a message from someone who has a survivor situation like this, I stop everything and I pay full attention to it and read it. Every single time I’m blown away by it, because when I set out to do this film, I knew what I wanted to accomplish with it, but I didn’t know, especially with it being such a short-form project, I didn’t know if we would be able to achieve it or find people who would be willing to put in the effort and the time and the commitment to pull it off. On top of that, anytime you make a film, you don’t know how it’s gonna resonate with people. So to have survivors now come back and say, ‘hey, it was very real to what is going on’ makes me so proud that we made the film for that reason alone.

Who is the goal audience for “Anchor”?

So this is such a tricky question because I feel like it’s a broader audience than the majority of other projects that I would put out, just because of the nature of not only bringing awareness but then trying to start the conversation. I would love for more survivors to be able to see it and I hope that they can see a piece of themselves with their story within Haleigh, but I also just want as many people in the general public to be able to see it as possible. I kind of had a realization moment that pushed me to write the film, that with criminals in society- they are always innocent until proven guilty, but when you take a survivor of assault, more often than not, they’re looked at as the villain until they’re proven to be the victim. So if we could through this film start a conversation and change it from”Can you provide details to prove that it happened?” and shift that to, “How can we support you?”, that would be huge.

Are you working on any other projects right now?

I’m working right now on a multi-season drama series. I can’t tell you too much about it just yet, unfortunately, but I am really excited about it. What I can tell you is that it’s kind of in the tone of Ozark-meets Breaking Bad- meets Outer Banks, if you know any of those.

I know all of them, and I’m so excited!

I’m excited about it, too. I can’t wait to be able to talk more about it, but that’s all I can say about it for right now.

How do you go about casting for a character when you have a certain vision in your head as the writer?

When I write I mentally turn into that person, like I’m feeling everything that they feel, so I know them really well and have an idea of who they are. It’s not necessarily physical– it’s the vibe that they give off.

That is so much fun because it’s essentially your baby coming to life, and you have such a hand in that. So I always like to ask this question, where would you like to see yourself in the next five years, both personally and professionally?

Oh, good question. I’m working on this series, so by then we should be wrapping that up. So I would hope in five years professionally, we’d be wrapping that up that series and I’d be working on whatever’s next. Then personally, I hope that by that point, I have mastered the skill of balance, which is something that I’m learning every day, and I’m trying to focus on. I’m very passionate about what I do. I love it. I’m 110% in all the time. So I kind of had this tendency to just work but it’s hard because I also really love spending time with my friends and my family and going out and getting to meet new people. I hope in five years I’ve mastered or at least I’m closer to understanding the art of balance.

Amen. You’ll get there. How can our listeners, readers, and followers find you to follow your journey and any upcoming projects?

I’m on Instagram at @PaigeIreneBruns.

Great! Thank you again for joining us today, Paige! It was really wonderful to get to meet you and we can’t wait to see what comes next!

Originally from Edison, New Jersey, Taylor won the 2005 “Middlesex County Caring Award”, and hasn’t stopped caring since. When she is not writing for Confessional Magazine or hosting “More to the Story”, Taylor can be found chasing her two mutts around Austin, Texas where she currently resides with her husband.

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