We introduced you to Josh Grossberg's documentary A Bridge Life: Finding Our Way Home in 2009, and between then and now, it earned several awards, began screening on the Documentary Channel, and came out on DVD (available on Amazon). Grossberg, who is also senior entertainment writer for E! Online, hosted a screening of A Bridge Life at Temple Beth Orr in Coral Springs on Tuesday. There, the Juice caught up with the filmmaker and gained more insight into the documentary as well as plenty of reasons to believe that he will not be a one-film wonder.
A Bridge Life is the story of a "Good Samaritan" in Plantation who helped Hurricane Katrina evacuees temporarily displaced to the Houston Astrodome to restart their storm-ravaged lives. The film documents these people's worst days and the journey by which most of them bounce back while one falls even further off track.
Why did you choose A Bridge Life as the title?
Well, Under the Dome was one of the many working titles; another one was After the Storm, but that was like an Ernest Hemingway story, and then it just seemed cliché. And to be honest, we wanted a title to reflect how inspirational the story is. We were watching the latest cut, and Heidi [a subject in the film] had mentioned, "We wanted to give them a bridge life." She's a broker, and she's used to giving bridge loans. It came out almost as a sort of flub... but A Bridge Life really fit.
As you were walking around the Astrodome, surrounded by thousands of people with unique experiences, how did you choose to follow this story?
That was a challenge. There were so many directions you could go in. [A Good Samaritan trying to do the right thing but facing unintended consequences] was a really interesting story that hadn't been told and could apply to not just Katrina but any disaster. That's why there's no "Katrina in the title... It's really a universal story.
What was it like when one rescuee turned out to be different than you expected?
Try not to mention the twist, so we don't ruin it for people. Let's put it this way... that was certainly a shock to all of us, but at that point, this was two months after he had left the group, so it was sad. You see somebody and you don't think they can actually kill someone. But the reality is that he was troubled and he didn't have the right help, and if it didn't happen in Florida, it could have happened in Houston.
You essentially have two careers. How do you find balance in your work?
The funny part is, I used to be the entertainment editor of my high school magazine. Now, I'm the senior writer for E! Online. The beauty of working there is I have one foot in the industry. I interview celebrities; I cover film festivals, so I can see it a little bit from the outside, but it gives me the time to pursue my own projects. And they're very supportive, and honestly, I couldn't be here today without the support of my boss and our editor in chief.
The film is called Disappear, and it's based on a short I did called Betrayed, which premiered at the Cannes film festival this past year. It's a mystery thriller about an investigative reporter that disappears, and his best friend is suspected of murder. It stars Seth Gilliam; P.J. Sosko, who's an amazingly talented NY actor who, I'm telling you, is the next Steve McQueen; and Cara Buono, who is in Mad Men. We got a great reception at Cannes; we are screening at a few festivals coming up, but more importantly, that short film has given executives an idea of what I will do with a feature. Disappear is sort of a cross between Memento and The French Connection. It's like a gritty crime drama. I'm hoping that by the end of next year, we'll be shooting.
We're in the midst of talking to NBC about a potential reality series. I can't really divulge the topic, but it will be huge if we can get the deal to happen the way we need it to happen. I'm really psyched about that. For me, creatively speaking, I've been going back to writing. While I'm pushing A Bridge Life, I've been working on a number of scripts. I'm working on a franchise comedy/horror blockbuster thing. But I just finished writing my first Broadway musical, which I'm hoping to set up. Yeah, it's crazy...