Director Elegance Bratton: From Homelessness to Hollywood

the film’s creator, Elegance Bratton, first decided to turn his pitch into a professional screenplay.
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When I first saw the trailer for The Inspection, a new film about a Black, gay man joining the Marine corps in the age of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I let out an excitable, “No freaking way!” I was there several years ago, when the film’s creator, Elegance Bratton, first decided to turn his pitch into a professional screenplay.

Bratton and I met in 2016 while studying at NYU – I as a clueless college freshman, he as a graduate student pursuing his MFA in directing — and partaking in the university’s Development Studio fellowship. With guidance from award-winning writers like Terrence Winter (The Sopranos) and Tony Gilroy (Jason Bourne), we spent the better part of a year workshopping our juvenile one-page summaries into feature-length scripts, offering constructive criticism on each other’s drafts.

While the red carpet remained a distant dream for me, I never once doubted Bratton would make it. Six years later, he has, with that very script. Of course, changes were made over the years, but the basic outline of The Inspection — which premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in September and debuted in U.S. theaters on November 18 — was there from the very beginning. After all, the film is based on Bratton’s own experiences.

Like his on-screen counterpart, the kind and courageous Ellis French, Bratton was kicked out of his mother’s home as a teenager, and like Ellis, he spent several years in and out of homeless shelters before joining the Marine corps, where he was eventually introduced to the art of filmmaking. The Inspection, Bratton tells me over Zoom, helped him make sense of his complicated past: one in which love, hate, grief, and joy all coexisted without contradiction.
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