Vincent Grashaw produced, edited and acted in SXSW’s 2010 hit “Bellflower,” written, directed and starring his fellow Coatwolf Productions pal Evan Glodell. Now he’s back in Austin with “Coldwater,” his feature directorial debut, which he also co-wrote.
The testosterone-fueled drama centers on a teenage boy (Ryan Gosling look-a-like PJ Boudousque) sent to a privately run reform boot camp for misbehaving youth. Things go downhill fast–and with a lot of violence. Grashaw uses an unknown cast to weave the tale, bringing attention to real-life cases that inspired the story of guidance gone wrong.
Sophia Savage: How did making ‘Coldwater’ compare with ‘Bellflower’?
Vincent Grashaw: ‘Bellflower’ and ‘Coldwater’ were two different beasts. ‘Bellflower’ was an example of getting a film made at all costs, with zero money. I threw myself into something that took almost three years of my life to complete. It forced us to think out of the box… We had the luxury of time because it essentially didn’t cost us a dime. A movie can really mold into what it needs to be if you make it that way. It’s completely raw, down and dirty. You have to be obsessed for this to work. Sometimes the payoff is magic. Sometimes it’s not.
On ‘Coldwater’ we actually had a budget to work with. We were fed and we paid crew. It put me in a very comfortable environment. Things were organized and timed properly. As nice as that is, it scared the shit out of me though, because I was now dealing with serious deadlines. You’re forced into running a tight ship because it’s your ass for ‘not making your days’… The pressure is doubled if you go even 15 minutes over your scheduled wrap time. It seemed insane to me at first, but I feel like I operate well under those conditions. There’s a lot of money at stake sometimes, so it’s important to be buttoned up and over-prepared… but ultimately I feel like the purpose is to make the best movie, not the best schedule/budget.
I feel like someone can thrive creatively both ways in different aspects.
SS: Do you consider your films works of fiction, or are they inspired by your own experiences?
VG: I would definitely consider my films works of fiction. I didn’t come from a broken home, I have great parents who were always supportive of my dreams. I had a full, happy childhood. I made movies with friends early in high school and discovered I loved doing it. I guess my enjoyment for films with a darker tone just signifies that making movies is just a form of expression that doesn’t need to resonate from a familiar place.
What were your key influences for ‘Coldwater”s story and tone?
Well ‘Coldwater’ for me began a long time ago, pretty much right out of high school. I had written the script in 1999 and since then it has basically evolved into what it is today. The story stems from a lot of research I’ve done over time on the reality behind private wilderness juvenile modification centers. I had friends who were actually taken to places like this growing up. It’s a sad reality that most people don’t know exists. I think that was the key influence for me, especially after speaking to actual families who lost children in these types of places. I think they felt it was in vain and that no one cared.
When you cast a film, what are you looking for in actors? And how did you manage to find a Ryan Gosling lookalike?
Casting ‘Coldwater’ posed a bold task because my goal was to cast all unknowns and it is a pretty large cast. I had lived with these characters for so long, so I felt like these characters after 13 years or so actually existed in some distorted reality for me. It made the casting process pretty simple because it was easier to distinguish who was right and who wasn’t.
P.J. Boudousqué was a rare find. He came into the casting room like some drifter in a Sergio Leone film. No one knew who the hell he was but he had such a presence. We were lucky he showed up for the audition because he was gearing up to move to NY and apparently the only reason he came to the audition was because it was walking distance from where he was staying at the time. We cast him off of two scenes he read in the first audition. No callbacks. Totally insane. But I think we just had a gut feeling he was the guy.
What was your biggest challenge getting this film made?
Like always, finding the money. Over the course of 13 years, this film had several false starts and failed attempts… It never seemed like it was going to become a reality to me and I had come to terms with it many times that I would just be revising this script forever. It was hard to find funds for a gritty drama with an all unknown cast. Shit, at one point we had Ron Perlman and Lucas Black attached to play the two leads, but things still fell apart. But Joe Bilotta at Flying Pig Productions gave me a shot after falling in love with the story.
What was your length of shoot?
We shot for approximately 25 days, mainly in Malibu and Ventura.
Do you want to continue to make independent films, or are you hungry to work with bigger budgets in the studio system?
I hope to continue making independent films where filmmakers get to retain full creative control. On ‘Coldwater,” all of us went through something very rare together. Supporting each other from here on out is something I know all of us in intend to do. We want to see each other succeed and achieve our goals. I would totally be open to doing a bigger budget film in the studio system, but it depends on the script. That’s everything to me.
How do you think “indie” filmmaking has evolved over the past five years? The festival scene? And do you think those changes are positive?
The indie world is changing so much and so fast, I feel like people are still scrambling to see where everything lands. It’s really exciting to be a filmmaker during this time because the path is still relatively unknown. I do know there’s lots of opportunity! I am still fairly new to the festival scene, but over the last couple years I have made a lot of friends and I feel like festivals are a great place to connect with everyone year round to showcase your work. I think the biggest part of the indie film world that is just starting to evolve is self-distribution and crowd funding. It’s seems like it may still be in its infant stage, but I’m definitely curious where it leads us. Seems very positive!
If you could only watch one movie over and over again for the rest of your life, which would it be?
“What About Bob.”
You’re directing a silent black and white film; which two living actors do you cast?
Anthony Hopkins and Laura Dern.
Best advice you’ve ever received? And the worst?
WORST ADVICE: Someone once told me prior to Sundance accepting the film that I should think of taking my name off of ‘Bellflower.’
BEST ADVICE: Another person whispering in my ear that I should tell that other person to go !@#$ himself.