Once at the fabled Soho House in West Hollywood, I walked up the stairs to find a relaxed Katharine Lee McEwan. I was thrilled to meet her and find out all I could about the film, Solitary, which had me riveted, and has continued to stay with me long after I'd first seen it.
In the movie, Nora’s life is spiraling out of control. At the time she needs to return home, she is haunted by a past that has to be dealt with, before she can heal and move forward. The unthinkable happens, forcing her to confront her family and set things right.
I had some prepared questions which we will get to in a moment, but first I want to say that meeting an impresario such as Katharine, was an immense honor. The blood, sweat and tears that went into this project, many of them hers, are astounding. The multi-talented Katharine, wrote, acted in, and produced the film alongside her co-star Sarina Taylor, not an easy undertaking.
We met in Soho House, which if you are not familiar with, is a members club cornucopia of massively driven, talented and vibrant human beings, all under one roof, creating a steady hum of creative electricity. The sun shone in, and the couch was cozy. The tone was set for a safe and private discussion of some of the most difficult subjects you can tackle in life-let alone for the big screen.
Michelle Williams: In the juggling of Actress, Writer, and Producer, and wearing all three hats simultaneously, what is something you would have changed, and what worked well about that?
Katharine Lee McEwan: Knowing Nora so intimately really helped with the acting. Also, having written the script, I had an unconditional love for all the characters, just like Nora loved her family, no matter what happened between them.
The challenge of being the producer was that I really struggled with maintaining the vulnerability I needed as an actor. I didn’t know how to produce from that space.
To be a good actor, you have to be able to feel deeply, and take everything personally. As a producer, it’s the opposite-you need a really thick skin. Trying to juggle the two roles was definitely challenging. Thankfully Sarina Taylor - who produced the film with me and also played my sister - is one of my oldest friends, so despite the difficulties I never felt alone.
MW: Were you met with resistance by anyone who thought the subject matter too touchy, or those who challenged your vision of the film?
KLM: All the time! Fortunately for us, among our strong core team, we had, Ashley J. Hillard, our Co-Producer, who stood by the script from the very beginning, and wouldn’t let me compromise. But yes, we’d hear, “the lead character is too unlikeable,” a lot.
Nora didn’t really do anything I hadn’t seen male protagonists do countless times in movies though, so we felt we shouldn’t have to sanitize her or make her more ‘likeable’ just because she’s female.
MW: Did you have difficulties in shooting the film in the (short) timeframe you had in terms of keeping the characters as raw and as authentic as possible?
KLM: It was very tough to do in 16 days! That was all the director, Sasha Krane. He did an incredible job, making time to talk with each of the actors about their characters. Keeping everything grounded in reality was very important to him. He pulled the camera away during the more emotional scenes to let the moments breathe. I think this helped with authenticity a great deal.
MW: I can imagine Solitary being cathartic for many, if not all of the actors, and as it sometimes happens, other crew can be affected (this can be a good thing). Did you have a sense of this, and if so, did it contribute to the energy?
KLM: Sasha was the only American on set, so at first it was challenging connecting with a British crew. But after two weeks, there was a lot of sharing about personal experiences. Sasha created an atmosphere of service on set, and would remind us what this was all for, that it was something bigger than us.
The most rewarding thing is the responses we’ve had from people who have related to the film, and hopefully felt a little less alone. I’m interested in people’s reactions, I’m interested in what’s in their hearts.
This was evident to me about Katharine, just in sharing a bite while in deep discussion. Katharine expressed that the stakes were as high as they could be to get it right. She remarked, “No one grows up wanting to feel like Nora, it’s not to excuse the behavior, as to try to understand it.” She wanted people to to be freed of lies and secrecy, and allow victims to really be heard. “Truth doesn’t destroy families, secrets destroy families.”
Solitary is triumphant, emotional, and champions revealing the truth, even risking everything to get it. “People asked me why I would want to make a film about that?” says McEwan, “And, I’ve had many moments of self-doubt. I definitely doubted whether anyone would accept the film, but I never doubted the value of trying.”
And neither has the rest of the world, with an array of film festival awards, including: London Film Festival, Idyllwild, and the complete list of 12 wins and 13 nominations prove the acceptance and embrace of this wild, heart-felt masterpiece.
Solitary is having its worldwide digital release on iTunes, Amazon and IndieFlix on November 1st.
Solitary Website here
Thanks to Katharine Lee McEwan, and Soho House West Hollywood https://www.sohohousewh.com/