By the Grace of... is an autobiographical film about the director testing positive for Huntington’s disease. It was our pleasure to speak to Dylan Reid.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
The first film I made was a short for my senior project at Oberlin College. It was a silent slapstick zombie movie that also addressing my Mom's illness. This was before my diagnosis with the same disease. It was definitely a lighter affair than "By the Grace of...", but I like how different my two projects have been. I don't really want to make the same movie twice, or even to work in similar styles.
What was the inspiration behind the making of "By the Grace of--"?
Once I was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, I got a real kick in the pants of motivation. I had always been in love with film and had considered the possibility of making a film one day, but I found it difficult to write anything that I thought was any good. Once I decided to write about my own experiences with the disease, I came up with a script I actually liked. I think just throwing out all pretense and just explicitly writing an autobiographical work was my best decision. I would also say that was inspired by other artists telling clearly personal stories, specifically Fellini, Truffaut, Satyajit Ray and Proust.
Of course, the biggest inspiration of all was just a sense that I had to do something I was proud of in my shortened life.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker in the film industry?
The biggest problem is just time on set. It's both the most expensive thing and the most important thing. Trying to get good performances, sound, lighting and cinematography in half the time and with half the people as that of a professional shoot, is absolutely crazily difficult. Frankly, priorities have to be set and compromises made.
How difficult is it to fund independent feature films?
It's not easy. We went with a combination of Kickstarter and self-funding. The most important thing ended up being friends willing to help out on the project for free or for less than their work was worth. No way we could have gotten it done without their generosity.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work? Um... I can think of like 40, but I'll just focus on the director's that I most thought of when making this film. First off Cassavettes was an obvious inspiration for the shooting style and editing, I love most of all his focus on naturalistic performances that are emphasized by these uncomfortable and sometimes overwhelming close-ups, I took a lot from that style. Next, it would be Tarkovsky, who is to me the greatest aesthetician in cinema, and he was who I was thinking of when I worked on some of the dream and memory scenes. Finally, I'd say the Fellini, whose 8 1/2 was an inspiration for the story and structure of the film. How did your film go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew? It was a pretty quick process, we always knew the cast would be partially made up of my friends, and we found the rest via a casting website. The crew was also mostly made up of friends or their friends.
How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film? It's gone well, we've been accepted to about 11 festivals at this point, and won best feature film and two of them. Covid has robbed the process of a lot of fun, I wish I could travel to the festivals and go to screenings, but I can't complain about the responses we have been getting. In terms of distribution, we’ve gotten a ton of advice from people far more experienced than us. The main issue is that knowing someone personally is hands down the biggest leg up in the process. Our approach so far has been to hit the festival circuit hard and see what we come up with by way of awards and then use that to try and make some introductions happen. If all else fails we will likely contact a sales agent, but that’s kind of our last resort. What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent feature films? You're going to be relying on other people's help a lot! You need to embrace this and not be too insular, take their advice seriously and make sure they know you appreciate the help. As to distribution, I don't know! We just submitted to a bunch of festivals and are hoping that will lead to good things. What is your next film project and what are you currently working on? I'm working on the script for the next film, which will be the story of a married woman who is diagnosed with Huntington's. We will follow her memories of her life and marriage from her nursing home. It will incorporate a good deal of music and dance as well. Why do you make films? I have a short life, and I want to make pretty things.