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South By Southwest Film Interview – COLDWATER director Vincent Grashaw

by Jason Whyte

“COLDWATER follows a teenager, Brad Lunders, who is forcefully abducted from his home in the middle of the night by his mother’s consent to a harsh wilderness reform facility. As we learn of the tragic events that led to Brad's arrival, unforeseen circumstances threaten to tear the already eroding reform facility apart, forcing Brad to confront not only his fellow inmates and the personnel in charge, but finally his own sense of what right and wrong.” Director Vincent Grashaw on COLDWATER which screens at South By Southwest Film.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience?

This will be my 2nd time attending SXSW.  I attended the festival in 2011 for a film I produced called, ‘BELLFLOWER’. You feel like you can let your guard/hair down in this town. A lot less pressure, especially if you’re a filmmaker.  You’re a bit more at ease than you are at other festivals. That’s the best way I can explain it. It’s not pretentious and I feel like their main focus of SXSW is showcasing solid movies (not gifting suites and some of the other hoopla you can get lost in). I also LOVE The HighBall.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also would love to hear about anything else you have made in the past!

I started writing screenplays that were complete rip-offs back when I was in junior high. I’m talking like 150 page epic feature-length scripts that were clearly inspired by movies I loved. At the time, you don’t realize you’re a hack, but as you learn and harness your creative energy, you start to discover your own voice. I guess I am grateful that I had a colorful imagination at such a young age because it got the wheels turning and I was able to hone in on something I knew I loved to do and felt I understood.

So from there I made a lot of short films and collaborated with a lot of other filmmakers over the years, some which I work with a lot now. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, but had no connections to the industry whatsoever.  I didn’t go to college and it was right out of high school when I dove head first into the madness. I produced the feature film ‘Bellflower’, which premiered at Sundance in 2011 and sold to Oscilloscope Laboratories. I have to say I’ve developed more relationships in these last two years than I had in over a decade prior to that.

What was the biggest challenge, or challenges, in making the film?

I started writing COLDWATER in 1999, right out of high school. It has evolved quite a bit over the years into what it is today. The biggest challenge in making COLDWATER was simply finding an investor willing to take the risk on a controversial drama with an all unknown cast. I knew I was dealing with the possibility that no one may ever want to ante up. Having had this project on my plate for almost 13 years, I was willing to wait it out to make it the right way, or never make it at all. I’m not going to lie, I had all but left this film behind before our executive producer, Joe Bilotta, fell in love with the story and the social relevance behind it. If he hadn’t, this script would still be on the shelf.

What was your single favorite moment out of the entire production?

Since the entire cast and crew lived on location, secluded in the canyons of Malibu for over 3 weeks, we all spent a lot of time by the campfire after a long day of shooting.  My single favorite moment out of the entire production was sitting by a campfire with the entire cast and crew, playing music, eating good food and sipping beers.  We were like a family and I realized that everyone there was present because they believed in what we were doing.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

I have worked with a lot of cinematographers and COLDWATER was my first project with this DP.  I cannot praise Jayson Crothers enough.  You typically get 2 out of 3 in terms of cheap, fast and good… Jayson gave me all three. He goes above and beyond what you’d ever expect from a DP.  He made my life easier, he handles actors with ease and humor, and he was a great problem solver who thought out of the box and seemed to always be a step ahead of me.  I intend to work with this gentleman again. We shot the on a RED EPIC with Panavision Primo lenses.  Initially, we were aiming to shoot on the RED EPIC or the ALEXA with some older super Baltar lenses to help take the edge off.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our hands on enough lenses to make a set worthy enough to shoot the film, so we did a lot of tests at Panavision with filters to achieve what we wanted and ultimately succeeded.  

What do you want audiences to take from the film?

Even though it’s dark and touches on some controversial issues, I want audiences to enjoy the film in terms of an entertaining, thrilling experience.  I feel the film stands on it’s own in terms of an engaging story that will move people, but I’d also love to bring a bit more of an awareness to the issues going on in juvenile rehabilitation in America today.

Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

The Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  My uncle used to take my sisters and I to screenings here growing up and I think a theater’s atmosphere/décor is as important to the movie going experience as popcorn and the movie itself.  

What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film?

If it were happening during a screening at SXSW, I’d look around for Tim League and point to the person talking or texting after I told him.

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Times are changing in the business very quickly and I think the future is very promising for independent filmmakers.  These days the tools are at your disposal for almost no cost.  My advice would be to find a group of people you can trust that have the same level of passion as you and just create… No one is going to come knocking at your door to buy your script and give you money.  Create, create, create.  

And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?

TYRANNOSAUR at Sundance 2011.

This is one of the many films screening at the 2013 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 8-16. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte Facebook: jasonwhyte

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originally posted: 03/06/13 05:38:27
last updated: 03/06/13 05:49:16
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