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Vandon N. Gibbs: Writer/Director of SOLACE

February 22, 2013

pario2-47581Q: Tell us a little about the origins of SOLACE, from concept to financing.

SOLACE was actually only supposed to be a short from the beginning. Two films; Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and Joe Carnahan’s Narc mainly influenced me. I loved the feel of the opening scene of Inglorious Basterds between the Nazi and farmer and the third act in Joe Carnahan’s Narc where two cops interrogate a pair of suspects tied up in a chop shop. Both scenes take place in one location, were dialog driven, and lasted between twenty to thirty minutes. This was the route I was choosing to take because of my limited resources. I was keeping it simple.

That’s the moment where actors Russell Comegys and Dixie Light came to mind. I’d met them through my Producer, Jyn Hall, as they had auditioned for me previously. They were great, just not the right for that project so I told them I’d give them a call if I had something that was a better fit. And that’s what I did… almost nine months later. Luckily, they remembered me, (so they say) and took my call. I explained my SOLACE idea and surprisingly they were interested in seeing a script, which I didn’t have at that point. I had an abandoned warehouse in mind for the location and just needed to write a story that gave them a reason to be there which was easier said than done. It’s difficult enough to pull off a five-minute scene with just characters talking and not bore the audience to death, let alone a compelling twenty to thirty-minutes that sustained tension and suspense throughout.

I sent them the first draft of the warehouse scene and they both loved it. My only issue at that point was that I felt like there was more of the story I wanted to see. I went back to the drawing board and added two more scenes that tied everything together and just like that, my short had become a feature.

Financing was tricky as initially, I only planned to shoot a short. Growing it from one scene to three tripled my budget. I accepted money from friends, family and also used finances from my personal savings and credit cards. I had just began taking class as at Savannah College of Art and Design as a Film/Television major so I ran the student discount plea into the ground.

2Q: Cinequest is proud to host the World Premiere of SOLACE. Explain to the audience how you feel about bringing this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?

I think the audience will enjoy their SOLACE experience giving them an equal share of laughs and thrills.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making SOLACE?

MV5BMjE3NjY5Mzc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDI2Njc1OA@@._V1_SX214_The worst experience had to be the first day of shooting. I’d prepped the first scene for almost four months before we actually shot it. During that time I had ran across a lot of people who were drawn to the project and wanted to help out in any way possible. Eventually, the crew grew to a number that was more than we needed for such a small shoot. This made the first day big and slow as opposed to small and fast. It’s daunting when you have twenty-five pages of dialog to shoot in three days and you only get through three the first day. I think I was the only one who thought we’d finish on schedule and budget, and we did. We were able to do it by cutting crew down, being efficient, and getting lucky with the weather on the last two days.

My best experiences of making SOLACE would be working on the visual feel of each scene with my Director of Photography, Robert Halliday. It was a challenge to keep the movie visually interesting because the story only has three locations and the last thing I wanted was for it to feel staged or stiff. Each scene also needed to have its own visual style to match its narrative tone. We had months of constant communication, location scouting, and even shooting test footage with actors and editing it together as if it were the movie. We wanted there to be as little guessing as possible on set when time would be a factor.

It was also a great experience working with the entire cast and getting to see them totally inhabit their characters and make them their own. I can honestly say that actress Rhoda Griffis is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Because of this, I was concerned that she’d be turned off by the script’s content or by its gritty dialog. But not only did she want the role, she embraced it and gave a chilling performance.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

It’s original. Solace isn’t necessarily telling an original story but it’s telling its story in an original way. It forces you to pay attention and takes you along on a ride. It’s an experience.

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

My hopes are to get Solace distributed so that it can gain the audience it deserves, which are people who enjoy well-crafted and smart films. I’m open to all avenues of distribution including DIY, VOD, and Netflix.

Watch the trailer!

Buy tickets to see SOLACE at Cinequest!

From → Interviews

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