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Interview With Chris Scheuerman Writer And Director Of Lost Solace
By James Whittington, Monday 29th August 2016
One of the more surreal and deep films of FrightFest 2016 has been the rather stunning picture from Chris Scheuerman, Lost Solace. Here he chats about this very original movie.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?
CS: I was 4 years old when I told my mom I was going to make movies. She was a librarian, and raised us on all kinds of stories, whether it was books, movies, or music. I had a very hyperactive imagination (which remains a blessing and curse!!). I was always writing or creating. I lived in my own worlds. I had a few teachers who expressed concern to my parents about that. We got the first family video camera when I was 11, and looking through that eye piece felt so right. That passion was very real. I only graduated from High School because my principal and my communications technology teacher let me make short films for school credit, otherwise I would have flunked. I don't know where the hell I'd be if it wasn't for them.
HC: Where did the idea for Lost Solace come from?
CS: My best bud Andrew Jenkins (the lead actor and co-producer) came in from auditioning as a psychopath. He told me how much he loved playing that character. We joked about how fun it would be to feel no remorse, and the freedoms in that. And how being a psychopath would make it so much easier in our society. We're a couple of nerds. Eventually we talked about making a film about it that I could Direct, and he could play the lead role. This was all happening at the same time I was fighting my way out of a panic disorder from Hell. Like, I was completely down the rabbit hole. I felt like I was just f******g losing my grip on reality man, and undergoing a ton of therapy. In the midst of it all, I remember noticing how much I was changing. Literally becoming a different person. More mindful, using meditation to abort fears and let go of things out of my control. That whole experience introduced me to how your brain is plastic, and how people can change. I remember pitching the idea to Andrew about this happening to the psychopath, where he gets really messed up, feeling these crazy f****d emotions for the first time. We both loved it. We began developing an idea, and then I got to writing.
HC: The movie is a smart, complex mix of psychological horror and extreme family tension, did you have to do much research for the script?
CS: Yes, there was a ton of research done. The psychological horror was inspired by my panic disorder, which was very cathartic. I tore a strip off my heart, and it got dirty, digging into my past, family dysfunction. Making it very personal, and truthful. I ended up doing a lot of healing with it. I had this whole rising from the ashes feeling. The science was thought out with the involvement of a neuropsychologist and a radiologist. We got it as close to plausible science as we could, without being in a creatively abusive relationship with it. We were making a fantasy, not a research paper.
HC: Did the script change much over the time you spent writing it?
CS: It took four years until there was a screenplay I was happy to move forward with. Andrew was privy to the entire journey. If you ask him, he would tell you how little there was to recognize from the first draft to the final.
HC: What category would you place the movie in as it's pretty original?
CS: For me, I always felt I was making a psychological thriller. We did recognize part way through that it was an original idea. We couldn't find any movies like it. Which was exciting! But I didn't feel I was trying to make it original. And if it is, then it's a byproduct of making it personal and taking time with it. Letting the story distill and find its way to the surface. I love Stephen King's analogy of uncovering the story like uncovering a fossil. It was a slow process of discovery.
HC: The story deals with some heavy subjects, what was the atmosphere like on set?
CS: The irony is that we worked hard with our producers Lori Triolo and David Angelski to make our set very comfortable and relaxed. Everyone involved was there because they believed in the script, believed in the project. Out of that comes a sort of passion to serve the story. It meant a lot to hear from our key crew members and cast that it was one of their favorite shows to work on. That being said, the subject matter was very intense. Lori looked to me on day three and asked "Did you even consider what this script would be like to shoot?" It was a very challenging show creatively. By the end, we were all emotionally drained.
HC: How did the cast prepare for such deep roles?
CS: I worked with each actor individually before the shoot to ensure they were coming from the right place, which for me is always a place of truthfulness. I'd been studying Meisner for a few years under Lori Triolo. We were fortunate to have her come on board. She's a respected force in the film community here, and her expertise and influence in the work is very inspiring. She also functioned as our casting director. We worked hard to find actors in Vancouver who not only wanted to, but were capable of doing the work we wanted to capture. After I'd had some time with them, the actors sank into their individual processes. I know that Andrew spent about six weeks before production spending a lot of time alone, exploring Spence's psychopathy, and also his metamorphosis. Watching the results of his work is f*****g awesome. His performance in the film is evidence of that. I gotta say, that for both of us, being best buds and having the short hand we did was great. It's an experience I'll hold onto dearly. And for both of us, the film literally changed our lives.
HC: It effortlessly moves between states of mind with some subtle yet effective scenes such as the painted sky moments, how hard were these to realise?
CS: My DP Thomas Billingsley and I brainstormed for about two months before we found a way to shoot to take us 'inside' Spence's experience. We were stubborn to realize the vision with practical in-camera techniques, which most of it is. My brother Matthew co-edited the film with me, and he seemed to find a way to utilize jump cuts and frenetic editing to accentuate how we had shot the episodes Spence was having. The sky became a character and a metaphor for Spence's transformation during script development. Our production designer Moe Curtin and visual effects maestro Geoff Hunt executed the effects brilliantly. As you can see, it all came down to having a great team. And I mean GREAT!
HC: The film is getting its European premiere at FrightFest, are you nervous at all?
CS: We are thrilled by the invite to Frightfest I'm so excited to visit London for the first time. Naturally, the nerves will probably kick in moments before the show... and perhaps after I introduce myself to the audience, I'll pop out for a quick drink to quell the nerves. For me, it's always hard to sit through the film with a new audience.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
CS: I have several screenplays at the ready. I am currently moving forward on one of them as we speak. It's a throwback to where I grew up in the raging oil fields of southern Alberta, Canada. It's a terrifying script because it's so unflinchingly personal. But what the Hell, you live once.
HC: Chris Scheuerman, thank you very much.
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