Breanna Lucci chats with Los Angeles native Vincent Grashaw about his latest directorial feature and Shudder Original, What Josiah Saw.
Vincent Grashaw, known for his directorial work on And Then I Go (2017) and Coldwater (2013), is a lifelong film lover. With an impressive portfolio of filmmaking accomplishments, he has a plethora of experience and expertise. Unsurprisingly, What Josiah Saw is such a captivating thriller.
What Josiah Saw depicts a haunting world where the only thing scarier than the dead is the living. When a young mother of three commits suicide outside her family’s idyllic farmhouse, everyone is left with devastating questions. Her twins Eli (Nick Stahl) and Mary (Kelli Garner) and youngest son Tommy (Scott Haze) struggle to cope for many years to come. As time passes, the neighborhood whispers of her ghost haunting the house become a fixture in the community. For the three estranged siblings, decades of hard-kept family secrets bubble to the surface when an oil tycoon seeks to purchase the land beneath their family home.
Grashaw chatted with Breanna Lucci about his beginnings in the film industry and his latest feature. Grashaw takes great pride in it and said, "He learned a lot from his talented cast and crew and is proud of their work."
Breanna Lucci: Tell us about how you grew up and got into the film business.
Grashaw: I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. Around junior high and high school, I started pursuing writing, producing, and directing–at the time, I didn't know if I wanted to make a career. I just liked doing it, and the more I did it, the more serious I got. I made this WWII feature in high school, which was kind of a rip-off of Saving Private Ryan, but, you know.
I didn't have any contacts or relationships to enter the industry, but I didn't go to college–I wanted to pursue this. I had a script in the first Project: Greenlight ever, and it actually did pretty well. It made the top 30, and that fueled my drive so that I could be taken seriously. Creatively, I was excited about that. In my twenties, I learned a lot–and got screwed over a lot. By the time I was 29 or 30, a movie I'd produced did pretty well at Sundance and got a lot of acclaim. From there, I could get many of my films moving.
Breanna Lucci: Regarding What Josiah Saw itself, how did it come about?
Grashaw: As the writer, Robert Alan Dilts, wrote the screenplay, he would send over the script while he worked on it. I just loved where it was going, I was rattled by it. Once he finished the first chapter, he didn’t really intend to continue. But I kept pushing him to write because as much as the conclusion of the first chapter unsettled me, I wanted to know more. Its themes were fascinating, and it was so original and unsettling. This was in 2013, so it was before all these modern A24-type films: psychological, thriller, and horror-type films. So–as I was trying to get this made, I knew we were on the right track because the genre was going this way, too.
Breanna Lucci: Did you have a hand in the cinematography? I found it captivating.
Grashaw: As a director, I feel that you need to know what you want and how to communicate it. Whenever I first read a script, I put my brain to paper so I could talk to the cinematographer. When we brought Carlos Ritter (the cinematographer) on board, his stuff was so perfect for this film. When you’re over-prepared, you’re more willing to listen to other people’s ideas and be more malleable to them, so he and I storyboarded all the different colors and tones during pre-production. Through that, I learned a ton about how many things go into cinematography to make it as cohesive as it is.
Breanna Lucci: I’m sure it’s a lot, and it truly shined through in the film. What Josiah Saw has won numerous awards. What do you think is so compelling about this film to critics and audiences?
Grashaw: I don’t know. Whether you love it or hate it, the thing about this film is that you will walk away with intense feelings. That’s hard to do these days. For me, I just wanted the movie to work. I feel the actors, like Scott Haze playing Thomas, did a great job developing their characters. Anyone else playing Thomas would have been a disaster. So many people stepped up in our cast that gave these characters such credibility–like Nick Stahl playing Eli. Nick added a lot to Eli that wasn’t in the script, which helped you join his ride and get through it. He’s a tough character to like, but Nick brings a gentle quality that helps people take Eli’s ride.
This film requires the audience to invest in it. It’s not a film you can turn on while cooking some food because if you do that, you probably won’t like it. But, if you take that ride, the payoff is so worth it.
Breanna Lucci: That makes sense. What does the future look like for you? Are there any projects you’re currently working on?
Grashaw: What Josiah Saw was Randomix Productions’ first film. They’re the most amazing people I’ve partnered with—it’s like family. So, we’re going straight into our next film. We’ll be doing pre-production shooting in Kentucky. It will be a comedy-drama with a lot of heart, and I really love the script. And next year, I’m doing a movie about Jonestown and that subject matter.