Quantcast ICONS Interview with writer/director Paul Solet - GRACE

Paul Solet!

ICONS has been with GRACE since it's inception & over the course of the last few years, we've really gotten to know & see filmmaker Paul Solet's passion for the horror genre. That's why we're so thrilled to finally see the movie hitting theaters August 14th, 2009. (With a DVD release in September) We had the chance to sit & chat with Paul briefly about the long road that brought us here, as well as the current state of the genre. Considering our familiarity with him (and previous ICONS interviews), we just jumped right in. Here's our unedited interview with GRACE writer/director Paul Solet! Enjoy! -by Robg. 8/09

I wanted to talk a bit about the style of this movie now that I’ve finally seen it! I think this is the best compliment I can give you – GRACE doesn’t seem like the debut of an American independent filmmaker. It felt very much like a well-crafted foreign film, that… just happens to be in English. I know that you personally like a lot of foreign films, especially the work of Chan-wook Park. Did you draw from foreign influences or reference them during the making of GRACE?
Well, there’s definitely artistic references and film references for the movie, but that’s not the sort of vocabulary that I really used on set. It’s never really ‘well I want it to look like this’, it’s more like ‘well, let’s look at this’. Like ‘I love this’. It’s more sort of the core idea of this style of storytelling which is let’s cut the bullshit. Let’s strip it down and really slaughter every scene we can. There’s no cute horror beats in GRACE. My whole goal was to create a world that was authentic enough and consistent enough that you don’t have an opportunity as an audience member to leave. To check out by going ‘what a great scare there! That’s a horror moment!’
Yeah, there are scares, but if we have people passing out at the screenings, then we’re doing our job viscerally. And that is hugely important to me. I would not downplay that. The movie needs to operate at all levels. There can be no willingness to settle for anything short of a fully functional film. Emotionally, intellectually. Again, I’ve said it before and I don’t want to get too precious about it, but film should function spiritually. You should leave a film and think ‘what the fuck just happened to me?’ (Laughs) If you forget the movie when you walk out of there, then I’ve lost. I lost.
That much you accomplished! After seeing the movie, I knew I had to think about it. Because there were things I didn’t know how to feel about. But the fact that a day later I still wasn’t sure how to feel about certain characters proves that the film worked. For example, there’s technically no “villain” in the movie. There’s no one you dislike, every character has their own motivation and need for something in this movie. I was pretty much torn on my feelings for everybody…
That’s the point! Look – I’m glad to hear you articulate that and I’m really glad to hear you were torn. This isn’t the usual thing. To be perfectly honest, I think too frequently, filmmakers are under-estimating their audience. They’re saying ‘let’s make a villain and let’s make a good guy’. And the reality is much more interesting. Reality is much more interesting then that. Reality is - there are no black and white areas and every one thinks that they are right. Every one can explain to you why what they’re doing is the right thing to do.
And that’s much more interesting, it’s much more challenging, and it might be much more challenging for an audience because it’s sort of a new thing. But the reality is there are no villains in this picture. I think about it as an actor would need to. The guy playing Dr. Sohn needs to know what his motives are. You don’t play a villain. An actor who plays a villain, you know what they are? That’s a bad actor. Seriously. A “villain”? “I’m the villain!” No. An actor needs to know their motives and they need to believe in them.
Well, everyone’s got a little good, and everyone’s got a little darkness in them. My idea of a villain is someone who let’s the darkness show a little more…

I think they’re all different kinds of villains and all different kinds of ways to play them, but the term “villain” is just irrelevant. What drama is is motives in conflict. That’s where drama happens. That’s why people squirm in GRACE. That’s because drama is happening. And it’s not like it defines expectations. I have no interest in giving you what you’re expecting. I won’t do it! I don’t care, that’s not interesting to me. There’s enough shit out there that’s doing that. What’s the point?
I’m being completely seriously – you know me. I come at this stuff as a fan first. When I feel manipulated by a film, I get infuriated! (Laughs) I’ll leave a movie cursing and screaming – and it’s ridiculous! But my initial reaction is I become infuriated, and then I become excited. I become excited about ‘ok, let’s step this up’. I feel like we can’t just sit around as fans and bitch if we’re not going to do anything to solve the problem. You don’t need to be a filmmaker to be doing that, to be moving towards solving that problem with the horror genre. Like, as a fan, go see the movies that are doing the things that you want them to do. Go support the movie! I have no opinion about remakes, ya know? John Carpenter’s THE THING is amazing. You’re going to tell me remakes are all shitty? That’s just stupid. It’s a black and white thing to say. But when you have a movie, a real genuine film that’s doing all these things that we’re always complaining about films not doing, for us not to be supporting it whole-heartedly is a travesty. And beyond my emotional reaction to it, the practicality of it, the reality of what that does, you’re just going to get more shit. If you want the same old shit, so be it. You’re not going to like GRACE. Go see any number of other horror films.
This has been something that’s been with you for a long time, but it’s finally playing in theaters and in festivals. How does it feel to finally see this thing after this long road? I mean, you just went to Korea to show it! What’s that experience been like for you considering everything that’s led up to it?

I could not be more gratified with the reception of the film. We shot this movie very quickly with no resources. When we started talking to people about this movie, they’d say ‘this movie can’t be done in 24 days. Can’t be done’. And we were like ok, 24 days? Let’s do it.
Then they were like ‘22 days, 22 days to do it.’ And we were like egh, whatever, it is what it is. We’ll make it happen. We’ll make it work. Then it went down to 20 days. We figured we’ll be in LA, we’ll call in every favor we can. Then we hear ‘well, it’s 18 days. And you’re shooting it in Regina, Saskatchewan’. (Laughs) 9 days in, the tax incentives got screwed up and we only had 17 days! You end up doing 1 to 3 takes at that point. But we went in prepared. We went in with enough passion. This was a crew in rare form. This was a family thing. You had people coming early and leaving late and not charging for that. This was some magic shit here and that shows on screen.
My conscious is completely clear with this film. Of course, I see things and think I wish I had did them differently or I wish I had more time to do that, but I know deep in my gut that there’s nothing more that we could’ve done with the resources we had to work with. And I’m really proud. I watch this movie with every single audience. I don’t walk around outside and make phone calls. I watch the audiences watch the movie. I’ve seen it with 80 audiences from Utah to France to Scotland to Korea to everywhere. And it goes over the same in each one. It really hits the beats, it really does. The most reserved audience, a Korean audience that is so polite and calm and quiet, it really fucked them up! It really did!

There is nothing more gratifying. And dude, you’ve been with this thing since DAY ONE. Without you and ICONS OF FRIGHT, this thing wouldn’t have happened. It’s a great example that this isn’t just a filmmaker’s universe. The guys that run the sites, the filmmakers, the fans – everybody, this is our genre! This does not go down in the comedy scene. Those guys spend time trying to one up each other. That’s not how we roll! That’s not how the horror crowd does it. This movie was possible because of all of us.
GRACE Red-Band Trailer:

Stills from Grace: Alan Fieldel

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