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An Intimate Interview with Brooke Stern Sebold on ‘Grandma Bruce’.



Brooke Stern Sebold ventures into the realm of comedy and introspection with her short film “Grandma Bruce“. Inspired by her relationship with her grandma and their connection to a car, She uses film as a tool to weave together personal experiences, fond memories, emotions and identity. 

She sheds more details about this film and the process of making it in this exclusive interview at


1. What inspired you to create Grandma Bruce? 

Brooke Stern Sebold

Grandma Bruce was inspired by my relationship with my grandmother and our shared car. After my grandma died, I drove her 2001 Lexus sedan for over a decade. I was extremely attached to that car, which I lovingly named Bruce, and whenever I’d drive it, I’d think about what my grandma’s backseat commentary would be about my life choices (and my driving). When the time finally came to part with Bruce, I knew I had to make this film first.


2. How did your relationship with your grandmother influence the story and characters in the film?

Brooke Stern Sebold

My grandma and I were extremely close, and while she loved me madly and unconditionally, there were many parts of my life that she struggled to understand. Ultimately, I know that she was proud of me and my choices, but she was also an old Brooklyn Jew whose love language was judgment and worry. Grandma Bruce is a love letter to her, but it’s also about celebrating one’s own choices and letting go of cultural expectations around life looking any particular way. 


3. Grandma Bruce explores the theme of embracing one’s choices and letting go of cultural expectations. How do you navigate these themes within the context of the film? 

Brooke Stern Sebold

Making Grandma Bruce was a powerful ritual for me in letting go. I was struggling to let go of the car I shared with my grandmother because I feared our connection would somehow be less present or palpable in my life. Through my art, I was able to communicate how deeply meaningful our connection was, which helped me to finally say goodbye to the car we shared, and to those larger cultural stories and expectations that were never mine. Through making the film, I was also able to articulate feelings that I hadn’t been able to convey to my grandma during her lifetime, and that felt like a gift to both of us. 

4. Can you elaborate on the significance of choosing the title “Grandma Bruce” and its connection to the film’s actual themes? 

Brooke Stern Sebold

 I chose the name Grandma Bruce because Bruce was the real name I had given to my grandma’s old car when it became mine. Naming the film Grandma Bruce felt like an intentional genderqueering of old and new, representing both my current choices (the name Bruce) and the traditional secure life path preferred by my grandmother (the Lexus).


5. You have described this film as a ‘magical comedy’. How important or challenging was it for you to blend elements of comedy with more poignant themes such as family relationships and cultural expectations?

Brooke Stern Sebold

In my family, we communicate through humour, and complaining through our jokes is epigenetic. I knew if I were to capture my grandmother’s spirit in this film, it would have to be a comedy. When I think back to my favourite moments with my grandmother, I think about my childhood, and how big and magical the world felt at that time. I think about the films I loved most that captured those feelings for me. Movies like Back To The Future, Ghost, Big, Defending Your Life, and Mr. Destiny. I wanted to combine those feelings of magic and nostalgia, of the warmth of a grandma who always has butterscotch candies hidden away for us, with Brooke’s continued struggle to live authentically in the present. Magical comedy felt like exactly the right tone for the story I wanted to tell about lovingly letting go of cultural expectations.  


6. Please share with us the process of casting and working with actors to portray the characters in Grandma Bruce.

Brooke Stern Sebold

Even though I’m not an actor, I originally envisioned myself playing the role of Brooke as some sort of personal exercise in doing the thing that scares me most. But when I really sat with it and imagined acting, directing, and driving all at once, I made the much safer and smarter choice of casting the incredibly talented Laura Chirinos in the role of Brooke. I found Laura on a casting site, and she was thrilled to hear about the project because it mirrored her own life in certain ways. Drawing from her lived experience, she managed to capture my essence while totally making the character her own. 

I found Monica Piper through a friend who connected me to Susan Morgenstern, the Producing Director of The Braid (formerly Jewish Women’s Theatre) and she was extremely helpful in sending along potential Grandmas for us to meet. Monica had us laughing from the get-go, and since she was also a TV writer who wrote on shows like Mad About You, The Rugrats, and the original Roseanne, punching up jokes together during rehearsals was truly one of my favourite parts of making this film. 


7. What specific aspects of your grandmother’s personality did you incorporate into the character ‘Grandma’?

Brooke Stern Sebold

The personality of the grandma in Grandma Bruce is actually a blend of both of my grandmothers, who were both born and raised in Brooklyn and hilarious in their own ways. My dad’s mom would say wildly unpredictable things and run hot and cold emotionally. Monica Piper, the actor who played Grandma, really took that personality quirk and ran with it. I also had audio recordings of my mom’s mom (the grandmother who gifted me Bruce) telling her life story, and I shared those with Monica as well, so she was able to hear my grandma’s speech patterns. Both of my grandmothers showed their love through worry, judgment and humour, and I tried to capture all of those aspects in her character, and Monica took it to the next level. 


8. How challenging was it for you to create the visual effects to bring ‘Grandma Bruce’ to have its magical look and feel?

Brooke Stern Sebold

We actually didn’t use any visual effects in the film, only a handful of editing tricks to make Grandma feel like she’s sitting in the backseat one moment and gone the next. Since most of this film was shot in a moving car and on a shoestring budget, we were extremely limited around the kinds of shots that we could capture, but we tried to pick a handful of impactful moments to be expressive with the camera. The score was also essential in nailing down the tone, and I collaborated closely with Dave McKeever, our composer and sound designer, to create a shared language around music and sound effects that invites us into this world of magical realism. Lastly, I worked with animator Jayakrishnan Subramanian on the playful credit sequence at the end of the film, which hopefully leaves viewers with a feeling of possibility. 


9. Can you share with us any other memorable moments from the making of this film?

Brooke Stern Sebold

One of our most memorable (and unfortunate) moments was when the Lexus that my grandmother gave me (and that the entire film centres around) was totalled in a hit-and-run accident outside of my apartment a couple of weeks before the shoot. I knew we had to find a clone of Bruce fast, and thankfully we did, just in time.


10. What message or theme do you hope viewers take away from watching this film?

Brooke Stern Sebold

These days, the world feels like such a dark and terrifying place, and that was certainly also true at the beginning of the pandemic when I started dreaming up this story. With Grandma Bruce, I wanted to create the feeling of delight and wish fulfilment in a dark time to remind myself that our world can also be bright and magical. Today, as a Jew watching the horrors unfold in Gaza at the hands of Israel, the world feels particularly dark and confusing. Grandma Bruce reminds me that I can let go of old cultural ideas that aren’t in alignment with who I am now. I’m hoping the film creates these kinds of uplifting and empowering feelings for viewers as well, but mostly I’m just hoping it makes them laugh, and maybe miss their grandmas.  


11. What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers who want to explore personal stories and themes in their work?

Brooke Stern Sebold

I would say that creating art about your life is not for the faint of heart because it requires being vulnerable in so many uncomfortable ways – but when your soul is truly called to express your inner world through film, it’s a beautiful thing that can’t be denied, and you have to keep going with it, even when it feels mostly impossible. Making Grandma Bruce was a true labor of love, and a powerful reminder for me that hard things are worth it. 


12. Lastly, what’s next for you as a filmmaker? Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?

Brooke Stern Sebold

I’m currently creating a non-fiction series called I Changed My Mind which aims to normalize what the changing mind looks like through conversations with guests (known or unknown) who have changed their mind about something (large or small) leading to a personal paradigm shift. The series is supported by The Greater Good Science Center, and produced by Second Peninsula. We plan to release our first episode in June!


My conversation with Sebold does confirm one thing about “Grandma Bruce” for sure. It is certain to leave an indelible imprint on the hearts of its viewers. Its message of embracing individual choices and transcending cultural expectations resonates well. Through her lens and with laughter and love, she invites us to cherish family bonds and celebrate the memories of our past whilst embracing the magic of the present. 

Second on my list of addictions is Movies.. the only thing I could possibly love more is my Dearest Waakye lol. Nothing else does a better job of reminding me that ANYTHING is possible with the right amount of effort. I have great eye for details and flaws in scripts. Shallow scripts bore me. I am an avid reader. Your everyday Mr Nice guy. Always the last to speak in a room full of smart people. Half Human, half Martian but full MOVIE FREAK.

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