Friday, 24 July 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Paul Solet - writer/director of GRACE

Paul Solet’s debut feature film Grace is currently causing quite a stir at various festival screenings and amassing both shock and acclaim in equal measure. Solet has expertly crafted a genuinely moving, deeply unsettling and utterly unforgettable film. Grace is the troubling story of a young pregnant woman, Madeline (Jordan Ladd), who after losing her unborn child in a horrific accident, still decides to carry the baby to term. Following the traumatic delivery the child miraculously returns to life, but with the most disturbing consequences imaginable. Madeline’s maternal instincts kick in and she stops at nothing to ensure her newborn’s seemingly insatiable appetite for blood is catered for, no matter what.

Solet is a relatively new name on the horror scene, but since writing and directing Grace and subsequently raising the bar in horror cinema, the young filmmaker has been championed by the likes of Eli Roth and Adam Green.
Solet obviously knows how to perturb and deeply affect his audiences. Grace is a thought provoking and character driven film saturated in dread and foreboding and one that audiences are not likely to forget in a hurry. I thought it was high time to have a chat with Mr Solet to discuss Grace, wax lyrical about the horror genre and talk about the highs and lows of making an independent film.

Where did the idea for Grace come from?

I was having a conversation with someone and it came up that its actual medical science that if you’re pregnant and you lose your child and labour isn’t induced, you can carry your baby to term, and that this is a decision women make more frequently than is commonly discussed. To me, that’s just such a potent kernel of horror; it was a perfect jumping off place for a genre tale. It also says something fascinating about the uncanny power of the bond between a mother and child.

What made you decide to develop your short film into a feature length film? What challenges did this present you with?

The feature length script was actually written before the short. People wanted to option the feature, but it was much more difficult to get anyone to let me direct it because I had only done shorts before that. So I made the short to help raise interest in the feature. The challenges are virtually the same, making a short as they are making a feature. Time and money. There’s never enough. So you embrace the restraints and do your best to exploit them to your advantage.



A number of critics have compared your film work so far to the early films of David Cronenberg, with their themes of body-horror and mental anguish. What is it about the darker aspects of the human body and psyche that intrigues you so much?

I’ve always been much more affected by terrestrial horror, real horror, horror you can touch, that could actually happen to you or your family, than supernatural stuff. I just don’t find ghost stories especially frightening. Losing control over one’s own body, or carrying death within it, is something that I think it’s very difficult not to have an intense reaction to.

Reports of shocked audience members fainting whilst watching Grace are quite rife. Have you ever written anything that has shocked and disturbed even yourself?

You’re certainly your own first audience, and it’s great if you can get some kind of reaction from yourself. It’s a very good sign if I’m finding myself disturbed by something, but I have a very high threshold and tend to just grin at the darker stuff, so I am not necessarily looking for the same reaction in myself I would in an audience. I’m frequently the only guy cackling at the horrible violence in a movie theatre. People look at me like I’m a psychopath.

Were you ever worried about going ‘too far’ with Grace?

No. Genre films are supposed to get under your skin. I felt bad when the guy fell down and hurt himself passing out at our USC screening, but he was okay and he came to the film to be moved. I’ve got no interest in doing tame, vanilla genre films.

What themes and ideas appeal to you most as a filmmaker?

I often go back to body horror - losing control of your faculties or your mind, bodily or mentally, or spiritual violations, damnation, guilt, trauma… Those are the things I think we can all identify with. We’re hard-wired to respond to things like this, and when you pull these themes into the genre, you can explore them without limitation.

What is the writing process for you? Do you have any particular methods of writing stories or turning ideas into stories?

I outline extensively before I ever start constructing scenes. I’m a real believer in footwork, so I’ll work for months outlining something, and then by the time I sit down to write a draft, I know exactly what I want to do and the script itself is just the fun part of the process. I tend to start broad and work my way into more precision. I usually begin with a premise, then beginning, middle and end, then break it into sequences, then scenes, then beats.

What has your reaction been to the response Grace has received from audiences and critics?

I couldn’t be happier. People are so grateful to have an original genre film that delivers something new, and across the board audiences and critics have been immensely supportive. Even the mainstream press, which looks for any excuse to shit on genre films, has given us nothing but praise. The fact that men keep passing out is pretty damn gratifying too, truth be told.

Who or what have been your biggest influences?

As far as directors go, my biggest influences are David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski, but there are a whole slew of other directors that I find intensely inspiring, and that list is always in flux. I just got back from a film festival in Korea, and got a chance to see Tom Shankland’s new film The Children and was thoroughly blown away. Also saw Vinyan, Fabrice DuWelz’s new flick, which is absolutely mesmerizing. Those movies are every bit as inspirational for me. I’m just so excited that films like that are being made. Guys like Michael Haneke and Kiyoshi Kurosawa are huge for me, as well. All these guys are making such brave decisions in their work, it’s just a joy to have these guys working.

What is your opinion on contemporary horror cinema?

Like I said, I am thrilled to pieces about the state of the genre right now. We’ve got some of the most talented filmmakers around in our realm, and they aren’t just trying to use horror as an in to make their romantic comedy; they are students of this shit and they love it and they want to do their part to raise the bar.



What is it about the dark subject matter contained in your films that compels you to explore it?

I could psychoanalyze myself but I wouldn’t come up with anything too solid. I’ve always been into the darker side of things. Since I was a little kid. Not everyone’s like that, obviously, I don’t think it’s an acquired taste, but if you’ve got it, you sure as hell know it. And that’s why we all get along so well in the genre community. Because we’ve got this thing.

What’s next for you? Any projects in the pipeline you can mention?

There are a number of projects I’m extremely excited about right now. I’m not supposed to mention any of them quite yet, but stand by…. Expect grave emotional trauma in the near future.


According to sources such as Variety and Fangoria, Grace is to be released theatrically by Anchor bay Entertainment and will open in New York and L.A. on August 14th 2009.
Anchor bay will also release the film on DVD and Blu-Ray on 15th September.

Click here to visit the official Grace website and click here to drop by Paul Solet's myspace...

6 comments:

Carl (ILHM) said...

Very happy to see the interview up, I cant wait to see Grace and Im just bummed I missed the screenings here in CA, great interview James!

Radiation Cinema! said...

James: What a coup for your blog! Great interview! Very cool, and can't wait to see the movie. Job very, very well done! -- Mykal

Radiation Cinema! said...

James: If you can put your wine glass down for a moment, come on over to my place. I've given you a nod as one of the blogs I like. -- Mykal

Matt-suzaka said...

Great interview James! I cannot wait to see Grace, and I am hoping it makes its way to my local art house theater soon. If not, then I will have to wait for DVD, either way, thanks for the awesome exclusive!

James said...

Guys, I share your enthusiasm and cannot wait to see this film. Mr Solet is a gentleman and a scholar and I was so happy he was up for doing an interview.

As always, thanks so much for dropping by - and Mykal - thanks again for your kind words on Behind the Couch - and congratulations on your Great Read Award! Most deserving.

:)

christine said...

I'm still putting off actually reading this until I see "Grace". Not that I think it's laced with spoilers.
I just think it'll be more special that way!