BWW Interviews: Denver Actress and Filmmaker Katharyn Grant and her new film, THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU, currently featured at the STARZ Denver Film Festival!
Katharyn Grant, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me and BroadwayWorld today!
You're so welcome! I'm thrilled to share a little with you and your audience of readers!
Congrats on having your film featured in the STARZ Denver Film Festival. Can you tell me a little bit about the plot of this film?
In 1974, Gloria Bethune returns to her small hometown in the South after failing as a singer in New York, where she meets a conman who tells her he used to manage a famous singer. Though he lacks a moral compass, this man's belief in her dream renews Gloria's belief in herself, but it also pushes her into unknown territory.
Now I know that this is a labor of love, talk to me about the process of making this film.
It was a long process, because we were recreating the look of the 1970's, and we were also incorporating some scenes that required us to pre-record music in a studio, which was an adventure in itself. I also learned to play the guitar, studied with a vocal coach, and did much of my own production design and location scouting. So especially during the first year when others were still a little reserved or skeptical, I was the die hard and the glue holding things together. I was the one willing to spend three months tracking down a vintage bus, or talking the local public school costume warehouse into letting me borrow dozens of costumes.
When you work with such a low budget, much of what you're doing, especially in our case with a period hat had musical numbers, it's about creating, essentially, miracles. And this takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, and then you run into these situations where some people are just incredibly generous. For example, the management at Elitche's worked with us and let us have the run of the park for free, where we focused on the older rides that date back to that era. Another example of this was when an old school friend who runs a pizza parlor in Wheat Ridge let us film in his restaurant on his dark day, when it would normally be closed, and he even made pizza for all the extras! It was incredible, and so generous! I was really knocked out by the kind gesture. Other times it's really slow going and people are not so generous.
Once I had certain goals in mind, like the parts to cast, locations, and props, then it was just a matter of maintaining dogged determination, grit, creativity, and fearlessness in asking people for what we needed. And be prepared to shrug off rejection and just keeping flexible-minded and positive, because there are so many road blocks, so many pitfalls, so many opportunities to give up. For example, we were about to film a scene where a band is playing live, and I was figuring out what we needed-- an on-site audio engineer to record studio quality tracks we could play back over and over so the takes would be consistent, and then finding the band, which I did, but then they backed out just days before the scheduled shoot, so it was back to square one, calling everyone I could think of, relying on friends, doing everything I could think of to come up with a solution, and the people who came through and ended up playing the band were actual musicians and they were excellent.
Once the DP and I went to do a shotlist at a location for the following day and found a poster there advertising an all-day concert the next day, another road block, another instance of having to regroup and reschedule-- and I was doing all this administrative scheduling stuff, too. Sometimes we were similarly dependant on the weather, and this required rescheduling a scene or a shot. Other times we'd be shooting a winter scene in mid July, wearing coats in 90 degree weather. It was very challenging.
For couple of years I had a big pile of polyester clothes in the livingroom, and everywhere I went I was on the look-out for the next location or prop, thinking 'wow! how can I get my hands on that ugly 1970's wall-hanging, or rotary phone.' Mind you, these are things you'd normally set out for Goodwill pick-up, but to us, they were solid gold. So when the challenges come up, that's when you really have to dig your heels in and call on the resources deep inside and just keep going. Because this process is so difficult it's really key to have a script that you love so much, a project that somehow stokes your inner fire to the point where you can give it that kind of die-hard focus. I'll also say it's a blessing I didn't know how difficult it would be, or else I never would've attempted it. Ignorance can give you a lot of courage. Sometimes it's a real plus when you don't know what you don't know.
I also know that this movie features a lot of local talent here in Colorado, can you tell me a little bit about that?
Absolutely! We found some incredibly talented actors, many of whom I'd known for years through the local theater scene. Local favorites include Rhonda Brown (Red, Hot Patriot), Candy Brown (The Denver Project, original cast of Chicago on Broadway), James O'Hagen Murphy (RFK), Megan Heffernan (Motherhood Outloud), Donnie Betts, Judy Phelan-Hill (Dearly Departed), Martha Harmon-Pardee, Deb Persof, Jordan Leigh, Tyee Tilman... these names should ring some bells with local Denver theater goers!
How has it been received?
Over-all, it's been really wonderfully received! We've been in five festivals so far. It was slow going at first, though. We were submitting to top tier festivals, because we just didn't know then what we do now, which is that it's okay to start at smaller and medium-sized fests and build momentum, so that's what we've been doing. At Red Dirt International Film Festival in Ok we were nominated for 4 awards, and at Twin Cities Film Festival in Minneapolis they awarded me an honorable mention for their breakthrough achievement award, which was incredibly validating! So little by little we're making inroads, and, of course, to be at Starz Denver is a huge honor, as it's one of the top ten festivals in the country right now, they treat filmmakers incredibly well, and they offer such a stunning array of films from the states and abroad. I'm really proud to be a part of such a wonderful festival.
What do you hope that audiences take from this film?
First, just to be steeped in this other world of the early seventies that we've painstakingly recreated, it's like stepping into an alternate universe. Some people have told us that they want to watch it over and over just for this experience! Also, for me, the take-away is a sense of hope, and a feeling that adversity is there to make us more focused and stronger, not to defeat us, and that dreaming and having goals isn't just nonsense, it's how we create what we want in our life. The lead character is a singer, so in this case it's about a girl who wants to be a singer, but in a broader sense it's about any artist who struggles to create their art, or any person who preservers even when the world says that they've failed.
Also the film raises moral questions, and the take-away there, I think, is that bad people can do good things, and people's behavior is not all black and white. There are many shades of gray and we all do the best we can, given what we know and who we are. None of us are perfect.
So if you were not doing theater in a parallel universe, what would you be doing?
Documentary filmmaking, painting or writing.
Is there a play or musical that you absolutely adore and would direct or perform in over and over again?
I performed one of the leads in an incredible production of Tennessee William's Suddenly Last Summer directed in the style of Japanese Noh theater, and I sometimes think how much I would love to do this production again, because it was like a walking meditation, mesmerizing, and really sublime. It was over ten years ago, and people still talk about it as one of the best plays in Germinal Stage Denver's 30+ year history.
What's next for you, any new film projects in the works?
I've started to work on a documentary film project that I'm pretty excited about, but it's still in the formative stages. My One Who Loves You co-producer, Beaty Reynolds, and I also are starting work work on a comedy script called "We Lost Bob in the Sink Hole." But I'm hoping for a bigger budget that would allow for a little less struggle the next time around.
Again thank you so much for speaking with me and BroadwayWorld today and I look forward to see THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU at the STARZ Denver Film Festival!
Don't forget we play Monday the 11th at 4:45 and Tuesday the 12th at 9pm... both at United Artist Theater on the third level of Pavilions in downtown Denver! Hope to see you there!
For more information of Katharyn Grant or her film, THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU - click online at