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Steve Long director of Global Film Exhibition in discussion with Brad Case the director of "The Stranger" 


Brad, the raw emotional journey that Nevaeh embarks on in "The Stranger" is incredibly moving. Could you share a moment from your own life that echoed the vulnerability we see in Nevaeh?

   Her journey is a truly dark one that many have faced. She is battling some very dark thoughts from the out lash of coming out. I made her lesbian in support of my best friend and others like her. A message that they belong here no matter what anyone says. We all bleed red. She feels lost and alone like no one cares if she lives or dies. I have felt that many times, I have battled mental health for a long time. You have to find a reason to pull you out of the darkness. You can’t let the world win and let the opinion of someone else decide your fate. 

The chance meeting that changes Nevaeh's life is both mysterious and profound. Have you ever had a serendipitous encounter that left an indelible mark on your life, much like Nevaeh's encounter with the Stranger?

    The whole meeting has a very religious tone. The idea of she is lying in the tub dying as she is having a conversation with her dead father. She is trapped in a sort of purgatory. Her father is trying to save her. It’s weird because I have no religious affiliation. I am no believer, so the whole thing is for me. Is a simple grasp at one final strand of hope. I want nothing more than to believe my dad is watching over me. That I will see him again. Because if heaven exists, no one deserves it more than him. 

The portrayal of mental health in film is a delicate matter. How did you immerse yourself in Nevaeh's world, and what do you wish for viewers who might see themselves in her?

    The whole story was pretty easy to immerse myself in. As it is greatly based on my own personal struggles. The story the stranger shares with her is my own personal story. When I set out to write this it was a simple idea. Two people meet on a bridge, one is dealing with a lot the other is going to save them. Then it was the matter of what are they going to talk about? I started writing and my own personal struggle came out in the dialog. I almost scrapped it as I didn’t think it was good. But my partner said I had to make it. I hope anyone who sees her struggle knows they are loved, they are needed. They belong here. 

The Stranger is such a compelling figure enigmatic yet impactful. When creating this character, did you draw from personal experiences or philosophies about the strangers who walk into our lives?

Yes, after my wife watched the rough cut. She cried as it was our story he was telling. She told me I just watched you as an old man. The whole thought process for “The Stranger” is that we’re all strangers. None of us know how much someone is hurting, the battles they are fighting. We can all do better, and be better to each other. 

Crafting a character's descent into despair requires a journey into the darker parts of the human experience. How did you navigate this in your storytelling, and what kept you anchored during the process?

    The idea started rather simple. I wanted to do something deep and dark. The simple idea of two people meeting on a bridge. One is on the ledge of suicide and the other is going to save them. So the question became, what do they talk about? As I started crafting the dialog I quickly realized I was telling my own story. It became more than a screenplay. It became a way for me to deal with my own personal mental health struggles. In hopes of putting issues to rest. It was a hard journey for me. I have never been so open and honest about my own struggle. But I felt it was a story worth telling. 

Your film beautifully illustrates how small moments can have a huge impact. Is there a small, personal moment you can share that turned out to be much bigger than you initially thought?

The whole thing was hard for me to film. As I was watching my own story play out in front of me. Mark Owen came in last minute as we had a casting issue prior. Watching him deliver the raw emotion was gut-wrenching for me. I saw myself in his performance and it made me tear up a few times. The biggest moment for me was the ending. The idea was simple, Mark fades away showing he was never there. I didn’t think much about it until I watched the scene put together. I cried like a baby, it hit me so hard, and there are many others I’ve talked to. It was the culmination of a deep dark story and the realization and acceptance that. My dad is gone.

  Setting plays a crucial role in "The Stranger." What significance does the path Nevaeh walks have for you? Is it a place where you've found solace or contemplation in your own life?

There was no big plan behind the setting. In the beginning, I always knew I wanted a bridge. But it all was meant to play out almost like purgatory. Starts with her in a tub, to the bridge waking up on the floor. Then she realized this Stranger was her dad. Her only support in a world so cold, saving her in her final moments. Over all the idea was to keep the setting simple. But as production began I quickly realized that the settings went much deeper.  

The world in "The Stranger" is depicted as a cold place, yet it is within this setting that warmth can be found. How does this duality play out in your own life and worldview?
The world is a cold depressing place. We’re all facing monsters running wild in our heads. Humanity has failed each other, we need to do better. Sometimes all it takes is one word to save a life. 
The title "The Stranger" suggests an unknown, possibly transformative presence. What personal meaning does 'the stranger' hold for you, and how did this shape the narrative of your film?

The Stranger was a concept. We’re all strangers, every one of us. None of us know how much someone else is struggling. Struggling to stay sober, to put the gun down. To just survive in a world that is cold and unforgiving. But if we can set aside our differences, we can truly make a change for the better. So many times I have been on the ledge with no one to care. Left alone in my own head. I needed a stranger, we all need a stranger. 

As the audience leaves the theater, what conversation do you hope "The Stranger" will ignite in their lives? Is there a particular aspect of Nevaeh's experience that you find personally challenging or enlightening?
I hope everyone leaves realizing they need to do better. I hope it opens conversations about their own personal struggles. I hope it makes them reach out to someone if they are struggling. I hope they become someone else’s stranger. Nevaeh’s story is extremely challenging for anyone lgbtq+ who has dealt with the same struggles she is. The world is not kind to people who love differently. But you belong here, just as The Stranger says.

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