Excessively recording and sharing everyday occurrences on social media has become so routine to so many people that it has restricted their intuition of how to react in emergency situations. That’s certainly the case for the main characters in versatile filmmaker Mathieu Ratthe‘s new found-footage horror film, ‘The Gracefield Incident.’ The protagonists have grown so accustomed to living their lives behind a lens that they often lack the capability to defend themselves in times of crisis.
Ratthe made his feature film writing, directorial, acting, camera operating and editing debuts on the thriller. He also served as a producer on ‘The Gracefield Incident,’ which Momentum Pictures is set to release tomorrow in select theaters and On Demand and Digital HD.
‘The Gracefield Incident’ follows a video game editor, Matthew (Ratthe) and his pregnant wife, Jessica (Kimberly Laferriere), who become involved in a car accident. As a result, Jessica loses the baby, and Matthew loses one of his eyes. Then several months later, Matthew is trying to make the best out of the devastation that occurred from the accident. So he designs an artificial eye that features a secret video camera that records everything he sees.
Matthew and his wife then decide to take a much-needed vacation with two other couples. The group decides to travel to a remote cabin in the Quebec woods. Not only is Matthew recording the whole trip with his hidden camera, but he and Jessica’s friends are also capturing their adventures on their cell phones.
Once the friends settle in, they witness a fiery meteorite fall from the sky. The group is shocked to discover that the rock is cool to the touch. But the meteorite ultimately turns out to be the least of the group’s worries, as they then realize that they’re being pursued. Strange phenomena begins happening in their cabin, which forces the friends to confront their biggest fears in life as they fight to save themselves.
Ratthe generously took the time recently to talk about making, particularly writing, directing and starring in, ‘The Gracefield Incident’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed how the initial idea for the drama’s plot was inspired by a road trip he had taken with some of his friends, during which time they witnessed a meteorite fall from the sky, and he wondered where it came from. The filmmaker also mentioned how his close collaboration with his Director of Photography, Yan Savard, helped him manage his acting, directorial, producing and camera operating duties while he was on the set shooting the found-footage horror movie.
The conversation began with Ratthe revealing why he was inspired to write ‘The Gracefield Incident,’ and what the scribing process was like while he was developing the story. He shared that the main idea “developed a couple of years ago, before I started writing the film. I saw a meteorite around 4 in the morning as I was traveling with some friends back up north to where I’m from, near Montreal. We tried to find (where it landed), but we never did. So I always ask myself, what was that? So that’s where the first idea of exploring where things come from,” Ratthe explained.
“When I then started writing the script, I knew we weren’t going to have a lot of time or money to shoot the film. So that’s were the conceptional idea of the camera being integrated into the prosthetic eye came from, and we came up with the full story,” the writer further divulged.
When he then began discussing the experience of making his feature film directorial debut with the thriller, Ratthe admitted that “directing this movie is completely different than everything I’ve worked on before. I’ve shot many short films since I was 10-years-old. I’ve worked with the same DP (Director of Photography) on all of my projects.He was crucial to the success of this movie.”
Making ‘The Gracefield Incident’ was a true experiment for Ratthe, due to “the camera angles, and the fact that I was operating my own camera as I was directing, acting and producing. There was a lot on my shoulders. We shot his film in about 13 days, so we didn’t have a lot of time.”
The helmer added that making his feature film directorial debut on the drama was completely different than his earlier short films. “I usually come in extremely prepared. I’m an editor, as well, so I use storyboards for the entire film. I know which image will come first in every scene.” But with ‘The Gracefield Incident,’ Ratthe “knew where I was going, but I didn’t have the chance to prepare as much. So the directing was definitely different on this movie.”
Like Ratthe mentioned, in addition to being the lead actor, writer and director, he’s also received the camera operator credit on the horror movie, as the story is largely shot through his character’s first-person point-of-view. The filmmaker then delved into what the process of shooting the thriller through his characters’ perspective was like, as both an actor and camera operator.
“I have to say, it was kind of crazy,” Ratthe revealed with a laugh. He also noted that “I was spending 12 hours with a camera on my shoulder, and I had to run my lines with the other actors, who were phenomenal. They had to act with, and look straight into, the lens, because they couldn’t look at me.
“During pre-production, my DP and I were trying to find a way to make the camera as light as possible, because I couldn’t all of its weight on my shoulder for 12 hours,” the actor disclosed. “So Yan came up with the idea that we would put all of the focus behind me. So during the entire shoot, I had him following me, whether I was running through the woods or falling. He was unbelievable during that process.”
Ratthe added that “we didn’t have any specific marks for any of the actors, and we just had to go with the flow…I consulted Yan a lot, and told him, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’ and he worked on the light and focus. So it was a really interesting and fun shoot, but it isn’t something I’m going to do again soon,” the filmmaker admitted.
Further speaking about the rest of the cast, Ritthe then delved into discussing how ‘The Gracefield Incident’ features a diverse ensemble group of performers, including Laferriere, Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles, Juliette Gosselin, Alexandre Nachi and Laurence Dauphinais. When he began looking for the actors he wanted to feature in the horror movie, he worked with “an unbelievable casting director, Lucie Robitaille, in Montreal.”
As the duo began the process of finding the performers that Ritthe wanted to work with on the film, he revealed that “I cast many of the actors individually first, but I then cast the three women (Laferriere, Gosselin and Dauphinais) together…they were laughing together in the waiting room during the auditions, and Lucie told me, ‘I don’t see this very often.’ This film is all about friendship, so I wanted the relationships on screen to feel natural.”
The director and actors were able to rehearse a little bit, and have a a table read, before filming began, in order to help build the feeling of friendship between everyone. But the cast initially had an organic bond between them, Ritthe added.
With ‘The Gracefield Incident’ being released in select theaters and On Demand and Digital HD tomorrow, the filmmaker then explained why he has embraced the platform, especially for independent movies like this one. The VOD distribution model “helps people find and look at these types of indie films. There isn’t a big star in this film, as I play the main character. So VOD helps this type of genre film reach audiences around the world. I’m really grateful that I was able to make something that appeals to, and can reach, such a wide audience…I’m really proud of what I, as well as my team, have done. I’m really grateful that the movie’s going to be out there for everyone to watch, and I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction.”