”It was mission impossible…”

Interview with Souls Of Totality director Richard Raymond!

Check out our review if you haven’t read it already!

By: Fleur Snijders

We are so excited as we had the chance to interview Richard Raymond, director of short-film Souls Of Totality. Souls Of Totality takes place during an actual solar eclipse. Richard Raymond is known for Desert Dancer, Heartless, The Bridge and The First Day. His short, Souls of Totality, contains a single-take sequence shot during a solar eclipse, a first in cinema history.
See below the full interview:
1. Could you tell me what inspired you to make this movie? How did you come up with the idea?
Last year, my better half and I had our first baby. Our nanny was from Oregon — and she mentioned to us that in a few months there would be a solar eclipse and we should all go camping at her family house, where we could view the eclipse right in the path of totality. We told our friends, Kate Trefry and Ben Bolea, (who are writers) and they planned to join us to travel up and see the eclipse. A week later we had dinner with Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen — we mentioned the trip and they also wanted to come up. I had a sudden epiphany. Actors, writers and I am a director…. we should make a movie!  The problem was it was only about 4 weeks to go until the eclipse — so we were at the mercy of an impending deadline set by the universe. It was mission impossible. 
2. Shooting during a solar eclipse you have a very limited time to use the actual solar eclipse. How did you prepare for the shoot during the eclipse to make it as smooth as possible?
We rehearsed the sequence for 3 days before the eclipse, using NASA data and GPS coordinates to precisely time the performances to the exact beginning and end of totality. There was only one chance to capture this and there wasn’t going to be a second take…. It was like a high wire act with no safety net. 
3. Was it difficult to film while the solar eclipse was happening?
It was a very surreal experience.  When I called cut, the cast and crew were overcome by the alchemy of what we’d just all been a part of.  It was a powerful moment and something I’d never really experienced before – a spontaneous outpouring of emotion by a group of people…   Souls of Totality was a family-made film – among us were six married couples, four sets of siblings, and three complete family units, who’d all spent a week sleeping in tents, cooking, cleaning, & working 18 hour days together — the eclipse shot was the accumulation of that… it was such a profound and beautiful experience for everyone involved. I feel very privileged to have a been a part of it. And I think it’s something that none of us will ever forget.  
4. What was the most challenging scene to shoot?
Just getting everything together in 2 weeks, the crew, the cast, the costumes, the cameras, the script(!) it was an almost impossible task. But I was blessed with an incredible team of collaborators who gave everything. Everyone did multiple jobs, the actors were picking up track and dolly between takes and carrying them to the next location, the writers were on production design, the crew all stepped in front of the camera to bring the film to life. Their dedication, experience, and focus literally made the impossible possible.
5. How did you come up with an idea to connect solar eclipse with paradise?
That’s all the creative wisdom of the two writers Kate Trefry and Ben Bolea, who are also married. They are both so creatively gifted and talented – we were all so blessed that they took the time to dive into this crazy concept and create such a rich story. The path to “Souls of Totality” was paved with a desire to make a film shot during a solar eclipse. That’s how it began. But as Ben and Kate’s script was born everything changed. Their incredible story, like a magnet, pulled together a group of passionate, like-minded, like-hearted souls. In doing so the eclipse became a footnote to a story I had to tell.    
6. There are a lot of tribes and cultures in the world that believe a certain death may lead them to paradise. Have you researched and/or been inspired by some of them?
The initial inspiration came from the Heaven’s Gate cult based in San Diego, California.  That group participated in a mass suicide in order to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following the Hale–Bopp Comet. But at the same time, we were telling a different story – one that isn’t so dark— Souls of Totality is about the sacrifices we make for love and the intensity of a looming moment that can change everything. As a director, I was really interested in capturing a never repeatable, cant turn back event that forces a person to find the most real, honest part of them self to help determine how they will handle it. 
7. Is it challenging to tell the whole story in only 18 min?
It’s challenging to create a three-act structure in a short space of time. Pacing is also key – one of the things I’m most proud of about Souls of Totality is the pace, it’s an 18 min film – but it flies… audiences are so caught up in the story it feels like only 5 mins have gone by!
8. What projects are you working on now?
Souls of Totality has opened up some amazing doors for me. I’m really excited for what’s going to come next. Watch this space!
9. Is there someone you like to work within the future?
My better half, Nousha! I loved working with her. Looking back on it Souls of Totality was made exclusively by couples who are passionately in love! The two lead actors, the director, and producer, the two writers, some of the crew and even the investors. Multiple couples in love, working to seize a never repeatable moment and relying on their authentic partnerships to help see it though. I really think this is felt in the movie — this certainly couldn’t have been pulled off by strangers in such a small amount of time.  I’d love to experience that again. 
10. If you had a chance to do something different regarding Souls Of Totality, would you change anything and if so what and why?
Yup. I wouldn’t have gone to the gym and done dumbbell squats which did in my back the day before shooting began! Such is life!

‘Souls of Totality’ was selected for Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018.
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