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Originally Published in 2024, the premiere took place at ManBar in Soho, a great Gay venue that's no more.

Last month saw the exclusive U.K. premiere of {Brace} written by and starring Jake Graf. After the huge success of Graf's debut short XWHY. {Brace} is more than a labour of love that is infused with real passion, experience, and thought from its writer Graf. It is also a skilful masterclass in how one can make a heartfelt and honest film with no funding. This is made possible through its remarkable cast and co-directors Sophy Holland and Alicya Eyo's brilliant understanding and ability in bringing {Brace} to life.

With the premiere at Manbar, how did it go?


The screening was a massive success, we had a great turn out, and lots of really positive feedback. Chris from Manbar was incredibly accommodating, plus Manbar was one of the locations used for the film, so it was particularly relevant to hold it there!


There was a huge turn out, was you expecting so many people to come and support the film?


The turn out was really encouraging. To have so much support from the community really means a lot, and I spent several nights with my Brace co-star, Georgia Winters, flyering at Flare for the screening, so we had a lots of film buffs there, which was great.


Tell me a little bit about {Brace}, how did the film come life?


I first had the idea nearly two years ago, and wrote the story quite quickly. In the interim, I made another short, but always came back to the Brace script. When my very old friend Sophy Holland (who worked tirelessly with me to produce the film, and then co-directed with Alicya Eyo) read the script, and offered to help bring it to life, given her vast background of creative and fashion direction, it was too good an offer to refuse!


This is a very personal story for you, was it hard to be so frank and open with this story?


Without giving the story away, yes, the story does draw on a lot of my real life experiences, but all three of my shorts so far are written from a very personal standpoint. I think that's how you get the best and most authentic writing! Strangely, I find these stories very cathartic. Ongoing therapy, if you will...! 


Being the writer and star must have been challenging, how did you manage to stay focused?


To be honest, that was the biggest challenge. I have studied acting, but at nowhere near the same level as my amazing co-stars. They were all a massive help, and I learnt a huge amount from them. I think it is hard to do justice to a part when it is so very personal, so I am hoping that my next project will be someone else's work!

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There is still a lot of prejudice towards the transgender community how do you manage to stay strong and focused when you've encountered prejudice and abuse?


I must say that I have been mostly lucky in that respect. I suppose I am lucky in that physically you would never wonder about my past. I just remember that growing up there were no reference points or role models at all for trans teens, so I think that that, more than anything, is a reason to stay positive, and carry on telling these stories.


Your debut film XWHY went down a storm, how did this experience prepare you for filming Brace?


XWHY was on a totally different level. Obviously, XWHY was about as personal as you can get, as I based it around my transition, and used my physical changes as part of the storyline, but it in no way prepared me for the scale on which Sophy brought Brace to life. XWHY had a crew of 5, and was shot on an old camcorder, Brace had a crew of 30, and was shot on a C300, with some of the most talented people in their respective fields. It was truly awe inspiring!


What where the best things you discovered about yourself during the making of XWHY?


That whole time, as I prepared to start T, and readied myself for surgery, as well as semi documenting the changes, was such a strange time for me, it was all a bit of a blur. I think that as the months went on I started to slowly gain confidence, and do things that even a year before I could never have imagined doing, and to discover that I was able to do those things was the best thing, I think.


It seems almost impossible to think that you could have filmed Brace in 5 days, how did you achieve that?


We worked hard! 14 hour days, a schedule meticulously laid out by 1st AD Zoe Gregory (who ran a tight ship, and also let us invade her home to use as Adam's flat!), plus an amazing cast and crew who were enthusiastic and committed throughout. Strangely enough, on the last day we even had time to spare...!


What was it like working with your directors?


I have know both Sophy and Alicya for nearly 15 years, and had studied under Alicya at the London School of Dramatic Art. Sophy was gaining huge success as a creative director in NY at the same time. When I initially asked Alicya to direct, we were going to make it our collaborative project, but when I showed the script to Sophy, and she liked it, it seemed only logical to step aside, and with their vast experience of their respective fields, ask them to collaborate to direct the film. Clearly it was a good call, as Brace would be nowhere near what it is without their individual input! I certainly could not have made it look as stunning as Sophy did! But to answer your question, working with two old friends was both a pleasure, a challenge, but an incredible learning experience.


What was the most challenging scene for you to write and film in Brace?


To be honest, writing it was a joy, and I might even go so far as to say that the tougher scenes were more fun to write. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but I think my opening scene, where I had to show the gamut of emotions from self loathing, to disgust, to regret, to sadness, to frustration, all with a camera in close up on my face was the hardest to film for me personally. No distractions at all...!


'Rocky' is such a complex and damaged character how did he come to life?


I think that both Adam and Rocky had elements of my character in them. Obviously, my background was nothing like Rocky's, but I think anyone gay, trans or queer has at some point felt that sense of just wanting to fit in, and be normal. With Rocky, I felt that he had to come across as truly vulnerable, and hopefully very likeable, and a character that any audience would be able to relate to in some way.

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"As soon as we met him, and heard him say a few lines as Rocky, Alicya and I just looked at each other, and knew he was our man."

Harry Rundle who plays 'Rocky' is stunning in the role, what was it like working with him?


We were very lucky with Harry. We had already gone through the first round of castings, and were down to two Rockys, when on the evening before deciding, Harry applied through Casting Call. As soon as we met him, and heard him say a few lines as Rocky, Alicya and I just looked at each other, and knew he was our man. He is incredible. Such a talented young guy, who really threw himself into a very difficult part. It was an honour working with him, and a challenge to keep up. I see him going far!


And finally what do you hope people will take away from the film?


I really hope that it makes people think, and empathise with the characters, and possibly have their viewpoints altered. Brace obviously deals with some very heavyweight issues, and at every screening so far we have had people in tears, many coming to me afterwards to share their stories of coming out, physical or verbal abuse, and lost love. And if nothing else, I really hope that it inspires other young filmmakers to go out, and tell their own stories. You might just change someone's whole perspective.

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