ICONS first met writer/director Paul Solet while he was on the promotional tour in support of MEANS TO AN END, his collaboration with Jake Hamilton which was one of the featured shorts on the 2nd FANGORIA BLOOD DRIVE DVD. Almost immediately upon our initial conversations, we knew that we had found not only a life-long friend, but a budding filmmaker to look out for. One who had grand ambitions of trying new and different things within the horror genre. Cut a year later to his follow-up short film GRACE, which premiered at the LA FANGORIA WEEKEND OF HORRORS convention back in 2006. Solet had taken the stage with actor Brian Austin Green and the corpse of his latest creation, dead baby Grace proudly strapped to his body for all to see. Besides being a talented writer, Solet proved at that appearance that he was both a showman to a genre based crowd, and a man with a really sick & twisted sense of humor. (Something we can all relate to.)
A year after that, ICONS had formally introduced Solet to fellow filmmaker Adam Green (the writer/director of HATCHET & SPIRAL), who would eventually go on to produce the feature length version of GRACE, which completed production earlier this year. Written and directed by Solet, the feature length version stars Jordan Ladd (CABIN FEVER, DEATH PROOF) as Madeline, the mother who would do anything to help sustain the life of her baby Grace. Gabrielle Rose, Samantha Ferris, Malcolm Stewart, Stephen Park and Serge Houde round out the ensemble cast of this Cronenberg-esque tale of a mother’s undying love. We had the chance to sit down with Solet for lunch at Roscoe’s and we got a full update on the feature length version of GRACE!
Firstly, we asked Solet how the editing process has been thus far on GRACE. "We had a really fast post-production, but I had the exact right editor. Darrin Navarro, who cut BUG for Billy Friedkin and he’s worked with Friedkin for the last 12 years. I’m pretty hands-on with every frame. But once you’ve worked with William Friedkin, that shit is not going to be a problem for you. So, Darrin was amazing. He brought a lot to the table, he really understood we were making a sophisticated genre film but in a restrained way. He got that this was about psychology and atmosphere and character. That was where we were going to hit you. It does become visceral, but the access to visceral was the intellectual, spiritual approach."
Considering that GRACE had gone from several incarnations from short film to multiple draft after draft of the script, did the prolonged start time benefit this version of GRACE that went before cameras? "Oh, without a doubt!" Solet confesses. "Just the fact that it was able to percolate in my brain and it gave me time to work with the DP Zoran Popovic (THE LOST) very closely beforehand. We really cut it on paper, we were certainly aware on the day when you have 50 set-ups to do that you’re not going to be shooting storyboards necessarily. But yes, absolutely. I got to just marinate in every single element of this thing in a way that I don’t think a lot of filmmakers get to. It meant some personal struggles but that’s the name of the game."
Speaking of the shoot itself, it couldn’t have gone any smoother for a first time director, especially with the help of his overly supportive producers. "Having Adam Green and Cory Neal and Will Barratt from Ariescope is literally like having 3 guardian angels. They’re such good guys that you just know that you’re in good hands. Not only are they awesome dudes, but they’re so fucking savy. They’re disarmingly friendly, but they really do know how to do this, and they’re straight shooters. You just know you’re in good hands with them."
It also seems that the entire crew was always on the same page with Solet right from the beginning, which only helped the overall work on the picture. Solet continues, "Our supervising producer up there Rhonda Baker, she’s certainly one of the best producers I’ve worked with and that I’ve ever seen work! She did TIDELAND for Terry Gilliam, she’d done basically every big film up there and she’s fiercely loyal and really good at her job. From her down, we got really amazing people. Our camera team was unbelievable. We had a fantastic operator. Crew up there was really good. By the time we got there, I had a very tight relationship with everyone. What I learned was really a confirmation that there are different management styles, and if you’re directing, it’s like managing. And my style of directing… it reaffirmed my faith that if you treat people well, and you hire the right people and respect them, and trust them to give you their all and embrace the fact that this is an organic collaborative process, then magic happens. That’s why I love making films. Magic fucking happens! You can’t just sit in your room and do this shit. If you add an amazing production designer into the mix, or add an amazing DP in the mix, even a camera operator or a dolly grip. I’ve had situations where our dolly grip would be like, "Ya know, if I boom down first…" And I’m like "Fucking right, dude." We allowed this shoot to be organic."
Considering that this is primarily a character driven horror movie, we asked Solet about his experience working with this group of actors. "We assembled an amazing cast of generous, mature, strong actors. They were all such good listeners that just watching them work was a delight. Literally, watching Gabrielle Rose for example, there were literally times when I forgot to call cut. You just have the whole room hanging around the monitor and everybody forgets that you’re making a movie. You’re talking about what should’ve been a 6 second take? In 6 seconds, a whole room of professionals loses themselves to the point that they can’t turn off the camera. This woman is fucking amazing! Amazing. She blew me the fuck away. Wait until you see this performance. Un-fucking- believable."
And what about baby Grace herself? You’d think that working with a baby actor would prove difficult on the shoot, but Solet seemed to have no real problems with his pint-sized performer. "Working with a real baby, which on a time schedule might be a problem is fine… if you can wait! We were literally 25 camera set ups before lunch on some days. So, from the start, I really did some ethical, moral thinking about how I was going to approach this. Am I really going to be manipulating this baby? How much of that is OK? Is this really how the universe wants this film directed? You know what I mean? I decided to point the camera at the baby, and allow the baby to dictate the drama, and allow that to be your starting point, and it was right, it was perfect. If you create the right situation, I think the baby cued off of it. And if the baby needed to cry, the baby ended up crying. And if the baby needed to have an intimate moment with the mom? We created a situation where Jordan was cradling the baby, being kind to the baby. It was amazing. And this baby was just a fine actor! She was fucking awesome! And the parents were amazing. The mother was a very grounded, present, down-to-earth, reasonable person. She understood that if the baby
cries, we need footage of the baby crying. It’s really hard to shoot a baby crying! Unless you’re a sociopath, you’re hardwired to respond to a baby’s crying by doing whatever you can to stop the baby from crying! And so, I literally would find myself gritting my teeth during takes, remembering that my allegiance is always to the story. And that, it’s just like, weighing every single case. Every single case required a real moral consideration, a constant vigilance of "Ok, have I crossed the line?" And if I felt I crossed the line, I called cut and mom came in and comforted the baby."
We’ll have more exclusive updates on GRACE in the coming months!
Don’t forget to watch our exclusive video of Adam Green on the set of GRACE right HERE!!! – Article by Robg.