Interview: Mathieu Ratthe (The Gracefield Incident)

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Jay Kay sits down and speaks with “The Gracefield Incident” Filmmaker Mathieu Ratthe about his first feature film and a variety aspects surrounding this found footage thriller focusing on a group of close friends who during a getaway to the woods, comes into contact with an alien item that turns the friends into hunted prey by a mysterious creature. Ratthe talks pre-production, POV influence, the true monster of the film and a connecting fear and sense of dread for “The FDTC Network.”

 

Jay Kay: Thank you Mathieu for taking the time to answer some questions on “The Gracefield Incident”. As we see with the film, it has a very circular story about loss, irresponsibility and redemption. Those themes are wrapped up in an “In Search Of…” style POV horror experience. Where did the conceptual idea come from and was the focus to be more of horror film or a drama or perhaps a hybrid of both?

 

Mathieu Ratthe: First of all, thanks Jay for your interest in our film. The conceptual idea (or I liked to call it the “technique”) came after I realized how many days I was given to shoot our film with the budget that I had. I shot this film in 13 days and the only possible way to be able to do so, with all the set up required for our story, was to operate my own camera as I was acting at the same time in it. I didn’t want to be a typical “found footage technique” movie, so this is how I came up with the cellphone camera integrated into a prosthetic eye. I thought it would be really interesting for the audience to follow a subjective POV and be able to live this suspenseful story in the eye of the main character.

 

I wanted to create a suspenseful story that scared the crap out of the audience but also that make them emotionally involve, which is really tough to do in this kind of movie, but I think we achieved pretty well in our film.

 

JK: How long was pre-production on the film? Was that the most crucial phase of this film with the design, location scouting, casting, and more?

 

MR: Pre-production was 3 weeks. Everything happened quick for the making of this film. I think it is typical for independent filmmaking. I would say that usually the pre-production or/and the preparation is the crucial phase in anything, but with this film it was different. I think because everything happened so quickly, I would say that the post-production was crucial. I really took the time to edit this film and be creative in the editing room.

 

JK: You keep “The Gracefield Incident” basically on one large location throughout the running time of the film. Can you talk about the Montreal location, scouting for them and the challenges they brought?

 

MR: Again, because of the time frame that we had, 13 days to shoot this film, I wrote the story where we were basically in one location for the whole shoot. I rented out an entire domain up North Montreal where my entire cast and crew stayed for the entire shoot. It was amazing experience.

 

 

 

 

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JK: You open the film with a balance of horror and hope. What was the thinking and experiences that molded that opening?

 

MR: I think everyone can relate to losing someone they loved and the grieving experience is different for everyone. I wanted to make sure that I had the audience hook right away to this couple and their story, by having the audience related to their own experience. I lost of people that I loved in my life and I think it’s a theme that comes back often in my story.

 

JK: Why do we go ten months into the future and not see the impact right away of the opening events?

 

MR: I didn’t want to get into heavy drama into the first few minutes of the story. This is not what the story is about. I thought seeing them during their first steps of their grieving was irrelevant for this story.

 

JK: How was casting and how long in the process did it take for you to fill each role?

 

MR: Casting was great. It took me about 2 weeks with an amazing casting director in Montreal named Lucie Robitaille. The chemistry between the actors was amazing right from the beginning and this was important has it serves the story in this case. For many directors I speak with, it is too much of a challenge to be on both sides of the camera for scheduling, focus and organization.

 

JK: Why take on so many roles including lead actor, editor, producer and creator? How crucial were the first and second assistant directors?

 

MR: Again, I think it was just a question of time. As an independent filmmaker, you have to do everything you can to get your film done. I shot my first film when I was 10 years old. On July 29th, as the movie comes out, it will be 25 years since I shot my first film, so I think it was just natural for me to do all those things. Don’t get me wrong, it was crazy load of work, but I would do again if I had too. I think the most important person in the process was Yan Savard (my DP/focus puller, online editor, colorist, cameraman, etc..)

 

Yan shot my first film when I was 10 and we always been together since then, so the chemistry between us is hard to explain and Yan’s role was crucial for this film.

 

JK: Films like “Slither” and “Cloverfield” show humans as selfish and deserving of the horror coming their way. In “The Gracefield Incident”, we watch that also with your character taking possession of something that is not his for various reasons. Were the aliens or humans more of the monsters in the film?

 

MR: I would say the humans were without their knowledge. Everyone in their situation would have done the same I think. A rock coming down the sky is no one possession I guess, so their intentions were good and inoffensive.

 

JK: How key was it to effectively build the fear and paranoia for both the characters and the viewers watching?

 

MR: Because the POV technique, I think the character and the audience were the same. The audience didn’t watch the character go through an experience they went through that experience at the same time as the character.

 

 

 

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JK: What effect did it have on the action and movement of the film?

 

MR: I needed to stay true to the story, If the character was running or getting chase I needed to make them feel they were too. But again, I needed to be careful not to have too much movement with the camera for the audience to get a headache which often happens “found footage technique” movie.

 

JK: What was the planning like in creating the alien influenced haunted house and cornfield style sequences? How much fun was it? Talk about the lighting on that large location?

 

MR: A LOT of fun. Yan, our DP, didn’t amazing job to keep the feeling realistic in his lighting. Again, shooting in one location help a lot. Natural light was key as well for the day sequences.

 

JK: How important was post-production including the sound mix, digital FX and color grading?

 

MR: The post-production was the most important part of this film. And that’s what took time. The sound, VFX, editing, color grading was crucial to make this film believable to the audience.

 

JK: What pitfalls did you not want to fall into with the aliens?

 

MR: I think why the aliens were here. What was their desire. I didn’t want to be the same as every aliens’ movie you watch, that’s why the ending was crucial.

 

JK: Was it the original thought and planning to use so much technology to reinforce the alien presence and immerse the viewer?

 

MR: To make believable for the target audience, I would say yes.

 

JK: Whose idea was the eyeball cam and the constantly recording smart phones? Was that part of planning or did that develop more as filming went on?

 

MR: Same answer has question 1.

 

JK: Did DP Yan Savard perspective and experience reflect every aspect of filming technology?

 

MR: Oh yes. His experience was a key in every aspects of this film.

 

JK: Was the ending meant to be so ambiguous?

 

MR: Oh yes. I wanted to shock the audience of their own perception of the story and their perception of the “cliché” alien. I wanted to a surprise and happy ending after all.

 

JK: Where can we find out more about “The Gracefield Incident”?

 

MR: More details will come out in the next few weeks. Also, my Fb page, Mathieu Ratthe or “The Gracefield Incident” FB page.

 

(Images Found on Yahoo)

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