This has been writer/director Paul Solet’s mantra for the last three and a half years as he’s put almost his entire life into his debut film “>Grace, which celebrated its premiere during the Sundance Film Festival on January 16th, 2009.
“Being a part of Sundance is such a validation for the hard work and passion of every single person who worked on Grace,” said Solet. “Everyone sacrificed so much to get this movie made the right way.”
Solet’s journey of getting Grace onto the big screen is definitely one that translates well in the realm of Sundance and its focus on the art of storytelling. Over the last three years Solet took a six-minute short version of Grace, made to cultivate the confidence of potential investors in the feature, to every festival and convention that he could, thinking nothing of donning a baby bjorn holding a “dead” prop of the film’s titular character.
Now he’s celebrating the fact that he got to turn his short into a feature length film and was able to do it on his own terms. That doesn’t happen often in Hollywood.
“I wanted to make sure that when it came time for Paul to make Grace, he had everything I didn’t have when I made Hatchet,” explained Grace producer and genre favorite Adam Green, who was on set for the entire filming process. Green served as Paul’s watchdog since he knew how it can be an overwhelming experience when working on a first film. His company, ArieScope Pictures, helped produce Grace.
“While he definitely did have the perfect scenario to be working in for a first-time director, it’s important that people understand nothing was handed to Paul. He worked for this. I didn’t direct this movie for him. I didn’t write the script for him. Every single little thing about Grace is 100% Paul and all the work he did to prepare himself over the years,” added Green.
Grace’s selection into the Sundance Film Festival is also quite miraculous as well. For the 2009 proceedings over 9,800 feature films were submitted, and only 180 were chosen to play the event, held annually in Utah’s Park City.
“From a producer standpoint, you really don’t take on a project unless you see its potential for greatness,” said Green. “For me, it wasn’t a complete shock that Grace was accepted only because I have always believed in Paul and his vision. The only thing that was surprising about Grace getting in is that there are these behind-the-scenes politics of Sundance, and we had literally no connection to the festival at all.”
Green added that, “When we submitted the film, we just hoped for the best. It was an amazing feeling to find out Grace made the cut with all the other movies under consideration. It restored my faith in what Sundance represents for independent films.”
The premiere of Grace wasn’t nearly the nerve-wracking experience for Solet that most would expect. “I feel like we’ve already done the work, so I know the film will find its audience. People like us find these films no matter what because when there’s something that’s really new and special, that doesn’t underestimate our intelligence, or try to manipulate us with cheap, lazy storytelling, we’re so psyched we do everything we can to support it.”
In fact, what had Solet more worried on the night of Grace‘s premiere was doing justice to the film when speaking on its behalf.
“This film speaks for itself more eloquently than I ever could,” explained Solet. “It’s hard for me to articulate just how grateful I was to be showing this film that we all put so much passion and care into at Sundance, and I really didn’t even know how to begin to express that.”
One of the biggest surprises of the festival for those involved with making Grace were the two instances of men fainting during the premiere screening.
“We were never expecting people to faint as a result of watching the film,” said Solet. “We always knew that the movie would be extremely disturbing to audiences and would get deep under the skin, but this isn’t the type of exploitive shock-fest that you usually think of when you hear that kind of stuff. It’s a film that operates just as much in the realm of emotion and intellect as it does the visceral.”
Added Solet, “I’d rather kick your soul around the room than kick you in the gut.”
“The thing that people have to understand is that the reports of people fainting are not a gimmick,” explained Green. “We still don’t really get why this happened. Grace isn’t that kind of movie, and I personally don’t think in general horror fans would faint during a movie anyway.”
Green went on to further explain, “I know that there are already people out there who have these ‘expectations’ of Grace because of what happened at the premiere. I know that genre fans already think that this movie is one thing when really it isn’t. Nothing about this movie is that hardcore (like Martyrs); Grace is way too intelligent to just be a movie that tries to be all about the ‘shock value’.”
Shock value is certainly the very last thing that Solet wants to offer up as a writer and director. For him everything boils down to the story.
“I am a story guy, and if something about a film is gratuitous or unearned, then I don’t want any part of it,” said Solet. “As a director I never want to manipulate my audience with gimmicks or spectacle to make up for shortcomings in character and storytelling. It feels cheap to me.”
With the Sundance Film Festival wrapping up this week, Solet is now focusing on the future plans for Grace, concentrating his efforts on taking the film on a worldwide festival tour over the coming months to make sure it is available to the audience for whom it was made, even before its official release.
Solet leaves for the next stop on the tour three days after he gets back from Sundance, France’s largest genre fest, Festival de Gérardmer, from January 27th to February 2nd.
Also it was recently announced that Grace would be part of the U.K.’s prestigious Film 4 FrightFest film festival at the end of February.
According to Green, “FrightFest is THE best collection of horror fans you could ever hope for. Real horror fans show up from all over for it. These people are ravenous for new content, and they are so smart and hardcore about quality content. I think Grace will absolutely destroy there.
One thing that Green hopes aspiring filmmakers take away from Solet’s story is that when getting your film made, you have to get it done the right way. There’s no easy way, no handouts, and a lot of people go about it the wrong way these days.
“I am always telling people that I cannot look at unsolicited material because there are legal issues if I do,” commented Green. “When the news broke about Paul and Grace, I received tons of hate mail from people who don’t understand how everything works behind getting a movie made the right way.”
“My suggestion is that you have to make people notice you. No one gets ahead in the industry when they just blindly send out their material,” added Green. “Paul is where he is today because he spent years doing his own footwork. He made this happen for himself. I didn’t hand him anything.”
Keep it right here for more on Grace as it comes including when, where, and how you can see it for yourself!
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