Brydie O'Connor is a graduate of GW's American Studies Department. She now works producing films, and recently produced "Going Steady," a short narrative film about a young woman's imagination of the relationship she truly desires after her boyfriend proposes to her in 1950s Kansas. "Going Steady" was featured in the 2020 D.C. Independent Film Festival. We reached out to Brydie to feature her in our weekly alumni spotlight.
What inspired you to create "Going Steady"?
Going Steady is a short film about a young woman's imagination of the relationship she truly desires in 1950s Kansas. The film is a punchy consideration of LGBTQ+ desire in terms of normalcy, visibility, and defiance. I wanted to create a film that placed a queer woman in my hometown, long before I grew up there. In this way, I felt like I was reinserting a queer history into a space I long craved LGBTQ+ community and lineage as I came to understand my own sexuality.
What made you decide to pursue filmmaking after GW?
I chose to pursue filmmaking because I wanted to tell stories I hadn’t seen on screen before. I was frustrated that LGBTQ+ lives and experiences had been majorly left out of mainstream cinematic spaces, and I wanted to create films that reflect my own experience as a queer person. Becoming a writer/director and controlling narratives that represent, and highlight, my own existence, is tremendously empowering.
Is there a meaningful moment you remember from your time at GW that stands out?
My first job in the arts as an intern at DC Murals: Spectacle & Story! I was hugely inspired by how Dr. Perry Frank, founder of DC Murals and GW AMST alum, fused her love for art into activism. We curated artful coffee table books of public murals, but also used this material to lobby for historic building preservation in Washington, D.C. It was very illuminating to see passion, activism, and academia in conversation with each other in a professional project.
What has been your favorite production job so far?
One of my favorite production jobs was working on a pilot for Comedy Central. We shot in a studio and I worked across production and talent teams. A close second favorite has been producing concert recap videos for iHeart Radio. Ultimately, the best film jobs are the ones in which you meet awesome people and build relationships. Production hours are long and the work can be stressful, so it makes a huge difference to be surrounded by amazing co-workers throughout the process.
Where do you see yourself going next in your career?
I am currently directing a documentary on the life, love, and legacy of lesbian filmmaker Barbara Hammer. The film will be a conglomeration of archival material and cinematic imagery that I am filming with Barbara’s wife, Florrie, between New York and Berlin. I wrote my AMST senior capstone on Barbara Hammer’s films in the 1970s - 1980s, so the project is an extension of my longstanding admiration for Barbara and her work. Beyond that, I plan to make my first narrative feature film in the next few years.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received and what advice would you give American Studies students today?
The best advice I’ve received in my field is: directors direct. It’s true! There’s no one set path to becoming a director, and it takes both observation and trial to hone a narrative visual voice. Going Steady was my first stab at a narrative short film, but I have made small videos along the way on topics of personal interest. Each of these experiences, regardless of scale, has allowed me to sharpen my skills and build confidence as a filmmaker. My advice to current American Studies students is to lead your career path with intention, and seek mentorship in your respective fields. Your professional life is a new phase to continue learning and growing.