Sweet Little Grace

Much like Anchor Bay’s DVD for Adam Green’s Hatchet (2006), Grace (2009) is another superb release with extras that dissect and map out alternative steps to working one’s way towards completing a feature length film – not in the sense of guaranteeing success, but by inspiring some forward-thinking, creative planning, and being persistent in a marketplace that’s often cluttered with sub-standard horror.

As Solet recounts in the DVD’s making-of featurette and commentary track, the script went through several rewrites before he decided the best way to ensure his story wasn’t mucked up by a hack was to direct the film himself, something that studios often don’t like.

Step 1 was to make a short promo film that showcased the script’s main plot points. Step 2 was to shoot a behind-the-scenes video to show Solet capably working with cast and crew. Step 3 was following the short to every film festival and promoting the hell out of it while wearing a babybjorn carrying a dead child mannequin.

Be notorious, and leave an indelible impression.

Step 4 is networking, and Step 5 is repeating the promo stages when the feature film’s been completed and is doing the festival rounds with media attention (and if media is lacking, get their attention somehow).

The reason Grace succeeded in the genre marketplace is two-fold: it’s a solid film, and Solet is comfortable doing the promo grind, which many filmmakers (if not writers) generally avoid. You go on the road with your baby, you answer the same questions innumerable times during junkets, and you remain fresh, enthusiastic, and affable. You make sure the media likes you, and you make sure the result of all that self-promotion is to establish yourself as a professional, financially viable filmmaker.

Solet will probably be able to land a feature film project with a major studio, but just like the studios shoo away the writer after a script purchase, they also like to control and remove qualities, freedoms, and associations that made the indie filmmaker succeed in the first place

Even producer Adam Green makes light of the idiotic habit where studios disallow the involvement of the director’s key creative personnel: the cinematographer, composer, producer, etc.

There are two worst case scenarios in recent years: Chris Sivertson, who directed the excellent Jack Ketchum adaption of The Lost (2006), and followed up with the inept I Know Who Killed Me (2007); and Lucky McKee, whose May (2002) is a brilliant little gem, but whose studio debut The Woods (2006) is an awful, awful mess.

Both filmmakers are very talented, but studio control, politics, and probably a lot of forced compromises resulted in the directors’ studio debuts being turkeys. Switch to Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009), and you have the ideal situation: talented filmmaker gets to work with his chosen team, and delivers a box office and critical hit.

Solet may be in the enviable position where he can choose to remain independent, or accept an offer for a major studio project. Both come with different kinds of compromises, but here’s hoping he’s careful in his next move…



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