2020 was going to be a big year for Brea Grant, and it may still be yet. But for now, the actress, writer, and director is recalibrating after having two films—one she wrote and stars in, and another she wrote and directed—delayed by the cancellation of this year’s SXSW and postponement of the Tribeca Film Festival. And although she’s quick to emphasize that the world has much bigger problems right now, she does concede that it’s a bummer. “All the dominoes kept falling, and I thought—God, I have horrible timing, apparently,” she says.
So while its release date is, at the moment, unknown, Grant’s film 12 Hour Shift will screen for press and potential buyers online through the Tribeca Film Festival this week. The black ensemble comedy stars May’s Angela Bettis as Mandy, a nurse at an Arkansas hospital whose secret sideline in black-market organs comes under some unwanted scrutiny during one chaotic, bloody double shift. Chloe Farnworth co-stars as Regina, the clueless lynchpin to this entire scheme, along with Dusty Warren and Mick Foley as Mandy’s connection to the organ-selling underground.
Warren and Farnworth feature in the exclusive clip for the clip premiering above, alongside David Arquette, who co-stars as a mysterious prison inmate who checks in—and escapes from—to the hospital during that fateful overnight shift. We asked Grant about her work on the film, and she gushed about working with Bettis and Arquette, as well as the urban legends that inspired the story.
The A.V. Club: The film reminded me of the dark ensemble comedies of the ‘90s. Was that an influence?
Brea Grant: Yeah, definitely. I was a teenager in the ‘90s, so I love those kinds of movies. I love the big-budget comedy movies of the 90s and was watching a lot of them during all of this. But for me, the movie is a heist movie. I think of it as an ensemble heist movie. It’s a lot of things: A love letter to the ‘90s, and to my hometown, and to urban legends. I love urban legends. You know the one about waking up in a bathtub with your kidneys being stolen?
AVC: Of course. Don’t accept drinks or drugs from strangers, because they’ll take your kidneys.
BG: Exactly! You wake up in the bathtub, and there’s written on the wall, “go to the hospital right away.” So I started thinking about all the urban legends of that [’90s] era, and took that one and ran with it. And I got to a story about nurses trying to get a kidney to this [black-market organ dealer] by the end of a 12-hour shift.
And I was living in a small town, so I believed 100 percent of urban legends [growing up]. The razor blade in the apple, all of them. Totally part of my childhood and my teen years.
AVC: Speaking of small towns, why’d you set the movie in Arkansas?
BG: I originally set it in East Texas, which is where I’m from. But my producers are from Arkansas, and they found a hospital [we could use] there. Arkansas is very friendly to films—just putting that out there for any filmmakers.
And it’s not too far off for me. Being from Texas, it felt like I was at home when I was in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It didn’t feel that different. The town we shot in was actually a lot bigger than my hometown, where I originally envisioned it taking place, but it still worked.
AVC: Angela Bettis is great in the lead role. Did you have her in mind when you were writing?
BG: First of all, shoutout to Angela. She’s incredible. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time. May was what inspired me to get into indie filmmaking. Before I saw May, I did not realize that you could make movies that weren’t mainstream. I was in college at the time and thought, “I cannot believe this movie exists.” It was crazy to me. And I’ve just followed her since then. So when we were looking for the main character, Mandy, I had a list of dream actors and when I brought her name up, everyone was like, “oh my God, yes.”
I’m an actress as well, so I thought I was going to play one of the lead roles. But when it got down to pre-production, I decided I would just rather focus on directing. I was in my first movie that I directed, and it’s very hard to do. There are so many moving pieces in this movie, and I just wanted to be able to concentrate on making the best movie I could possibly make.
AVC: Do you think being an actor influences the way you write and direct?
BG: Yeah, for sure. I write from a character first perspective; a lot of times I’ll be writing, and I know the script needs to go a certain direction, but I can just feel that the character doesn’t want to be doing that. And so I will take a script in a totally new direction cause I’m like, “this is not the character that I’ve written.”
And then directing-wise, it definitely makes me more empathetic to actors. I try to give them space, and put 100 percent of my trust in them. Once they have the role, I try to just step the hell back and let them do their part, you know?
AVC: The clip we’re premiering features David Arquette, who’s been getting into pro wrestling, and [WWE wrestler] Mick Foley is in the film as well. How’d all that come about?
BG: David Arquette was a producer on the film. He and his wife were both producers, so he was on from the very beginning, and they brought in Mick Foley. They basically said, “would you want to have a wrestler? Who would you want?” And we all love Mick, so that was wonderful and easy.
David was very kind to us, but we had to work around his schedule. He’s very busy. And so he was only able to come in and give us a few days, but it was awesome working with him. He’s such a professional, and he came in with all these ideas about the character and I think he really made that character really interesting. So yeah, we had limited time with him, but it’s always amazing when an actor can just come in, do the work, and then they’re gone after three days.