Mathieu Ratthe is the writer, star, and director of THE GRACEFIELD INCIDENT, a unique found footage movie about invading creatures that has the twist that the protagonist is outfitted with a prosthetic eye. For a film shot under budget and time constraints, THE GRACEFIELD INCIDENT boasts some eerie creature effects and surprising plot twists showing in the end that human and alien are not as different as one would guess. DAILY GRINDHOUSE got the chance to speak to Mathieu Ratthe. The film is available for release in select theaters and on demand/digital HD July 21, 2017.
DG: What made you come up with the idea of embedding a prosthetic eyeball into your character?
MR: When I started writing the script, in the budget we only had 13 days to shoot the movie–so I could forget about all the toys the director has to play with and just put an Iphone into my eye, because we didn’t have time to shoot it.
DG: How did you distinguish this from other found-footage movies?
MR: Well, it’s a bit confusing for the audience, because when THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT used found footage, it was as a marketing tool. When using the film itself as found footage, the audience is expecting to get scared and wants to have a twist — I wanted to put emotion into the footage, and have the audience really care for the characters — usually you get out, and you don’t really think about it.
DG: What was it like writing, directing, and starring in your own movie?
MR: It was nuts, a crazy idea, but I had no choice. When I was writing and directing my own short, in Montreal there are no actors really. I used to act in front of the camera, this one I had to act with the camera on my shoulder. It was nuts, we only had 13 days to shoot. Actors had to follow me. My DP said I was out of my mind. But it was a good experience. I got it done.
DG: How did you design the central creature in the film?
MR: There were two steps — I worked with a talented concept designer with different ideas and things you’d seen before. On the first draft I worked with many of the most talented, creative people in the business. There’s no way we would have been able to do the creature without Rodeo Effects.
DG: What other sci-fi films were influences on this movie?
MR: Well, E.T., and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, as a kid growing up you’re watching these ones over again. If you watch these two films, there’s a different feeling as well.
DG: What was it like making the move from working on a short film to working on a feature film?
MR: There wasn’t a lot of difference. I’d done 27 short films — some of them I had more time for than the feature film — it was the same team, just a little bigger. The editing was different, there were a few surprises in the editing process.
DG: How did you create the special effects on such a low budget?
MR: The special effects guys are friends of mine, and I knew I needed the quality of the visual effects. We had no budget for effects, but we needed them. What I want is quality, so you have to take the time to do it. They took two and a half years to do the visual effects. They were not big shots, some of them were the last shots of the movie. It took five years from writing the first letter on paper to releasing the film.
DG: Were any legends or lore influences on the creatures in the film?
MR: Not really, they were creatures I wanted to see. It was creation from nothing — how do we do this, make it small, make it big, the eyes are fish eyes. Purely from scratch.
DG: What was it like working with your crew under the time and budget constraints?
MR: It was nuts — the main set was the cabin, and around it were 14 luxury cabins. I asked them to sleep in the entire domain. The main focus was shooting a film, that helped a lot, and sleeping on set to stay on task.
DG: Did you always have the idea in mind to parallel the loss of a child between humans and aliens?
MR: Yeah definitely, that was the main theme, what was happening to the main character is what was happening to who you think is the antagonist.