bridey elliot is not a hipster brat
Bridey Elliott is one of a new wave of brash, bold New York comic actresses who don’t wait around for life to happen to them. Taking on the role of Harper in Charles Rogers and Sarah-Violet Bliss’s SXSW Grand Jury Award winning film Fort Tilden, Bridey...
Photography Brayden Olson
Following the tribulations of two best friends as they attempt to ride to Fort Tilden beach in the stifling New York summer, Fort Tilden is an entertaining satire about disaffected, entitled Brooklyn hipsters, as well as a touching tale of friendship. Perfectly cast, Bridey has paid her dues as a standup comic, writer, and actress around the city. And the girl has serious comedy lineage: her father Chris Elliott is a noted comic and longtime Letterman star, and her sister Abby was a Saturday Night Live cast member. i-D speaks to the rising star about stolen bikes, suspending judgment, and driving representations of women in film into the future.
How did you get involved with the movie?
The directors Charles and Sarah-Violet actually contacted me on my birthday last year and just said, "We've seen some of your videos online." They went to one of my standup comedy shows. They had this part with me in mind and asked if I wanted to read the script, but we hadn't met before that. It was very out of the blue and I had no expectations whatsoever. We met at the Ace Hotel and I talked to them and thought they were really smart and funny and I read the script and loved it.
What intrigued you the most about the script?
It was super funny. You know when something is a funny idea but it's not there yet? It was just completely funny in a belly-laugh way and I had this reaction of, "I know these people and I know this person and I'm really connected to this world." I mean I live in New York - I don't live in Brooklyn, I live in Harlem - and I know this friendship and I've been in this friendship, so it was mainly the friendship between the two girls. The scene in particular where the bike gets stolen and they do nothing, when I first read that I was like, "Oh my God, I love this so much."
I think that was my favorite bit.
You know it's funny because when you're with your girlfriends or whatever, shit like that happens and both of you don't help the situation because you're in the zone shopping or whatever it is.
Did you ever feel frustrated by your character's reactions to things?
Yes. I think it's weird when you're playing the character because you don't want to judge it and you want to play it as real. My character in particular is pretty nasty and pretty demanding. She really doesn't see the other flip side of the coin that what she's doing is wrong or naive or ignorant. When we were filming it I really tried to just commit to that side of it. I know that person and I've been around that person so it wasn't that hard to slip into this role.
Is there anything specific about the character that you identify with?
Yes. She's an artist, this girl who isn't aware of her privilege, and can ask her father for anything. She's trying to be an artist, but not trying that hard, and not taking the risks and not pushing herself. It has to do with this generation kind of racing towards goals that they can't actually get to. I think I related to being in the city and being around artist friends who are putting out work productively and regularly and having that feeling of being stuck. I moved here three years ago and my dilemma was, "How do I start? Where do I start?" I think that's what she's going through. What she does instead is judges other people and judges the world instead of participating in it. I related to the feeling of being stuck and feeling like "Everyone has their thing, what's my thing?"
Why are there so many films and TV shows with these disaffected, aimless 20-something female characters at the moment?
It's terrain that hasn't been explored by previous generations. There have always been these archetypes of these flawed girls - these 80s valley girls, and Clueless in the 90s - but there haven't been these flawed but normal, sort of hipster brats. There's way more grey area in how women in their 20s are being represented. It started with 'Girls' a little bit, just showing different relationships and different women characters, and I think we're obsessed with that because it's speaking to everybody, we can relate to that. And it's new. Like 'Broad City' and even 'Orange Is The New Black.' Just showing women in new and different lights. I think it's awesome.
It's interesting because the women who are playing these characters are very successful and driven. So what's the evolution there? Will that be reflected in the representations of young women in film?
I guess the thing would be to see what they grow into. We're talking about a very specific woman--women in their 20s living and working in New York City. The question is, "Where can we go?" I don't honestly know. I think the answer is to show more different perspectives, but I don't think we're seeing more of the same. I think the comedy in Fort Tilden is different from the comedy in 'Broad City' and different from the comedy in 'Girls.' They're all very specific to that world, but they're all different perspectives on that world. So I think we're just going to be sharing more and more perspectives and seeing where that goes. There's no one absolute female character and that's hard for this patriarchal world to understand. There's not one Lena Dunham there's not one Samantha from Sex and the City. We're all different and we have the right to show that difference on film and TV.
What's on the horizon for you?
Right now mainly just comedy shows. I'm at Over The 8 in Williamsburg every second and fourth Friday of the month. My sister is an actress and we're developing a show idea possibly for the two of us. I also have a short film that's just premiered: 'The Jane.'
Text Kat George
Photography Brayden Olson