The Other One is a unique film that is currently making the rounds in the film festival circuit. The film deals with several key issues including school violence and dealing with dementia. Executive producer Grace McPhillips explains the process that went into the making of the movie.
Born and raised in the Bible belt of Montgomery, Alabama, my first acting experience was playing the role of Mary in my pre-school Christmas Pageant. Perhaps that’s what spurred me into acting, but I have always known I wanted to perform and be a part of storytelling. My Parents helped co-found an Episcopal Church called Christ the Redeemer, and literally signed official paperwork, the day my mother gave birth to me, so as one can imagine, there were many more performance opportunities in the church ahead of me.
Naturally loving singing and dancing from a very early age, I followed the path of a musical theater performer, graduating from Elon University, but quickly realizing I loved putting the shows together more than performing them night after night. I wasn’t sure how to make a career out of that, but after a few years in Chicago I realized that filmmaking was essentially that- putting a show together. At the time I was coming to this realization, I was also feeling more inclined to take my career into my own hands and find or create roles of worth to play. I wanted to create “media that matters” and not be limited to the stereotypical stories and roles that, I think, people feel they need to write, create, or play in order to succeed and get noticed in Hollywood, or to sell their films. I believe faith, critical thinking, and positive messages can be woven into secular stories and music, and it’s up to the audience member to be open to the many levels a story can embody.
This is how I came to start Sterling Rock Productions, create films, and ultimately be the Lead Actress, Co-Creator, and Executive Producer of The Other One.
I didn’t go to film school, but I did work with lots of film students when I began to explore acting for the camera in 2005. Through those projects I came to know professors and found myself acting in their projects as well. By 2008 I had networked with enough people to call in favors and assemble my first short film project, a silent love story your ears will love called The Miss.
I conceived the screenplay, starred in, and produced this film, serving in that wonderful capacity of almost every production role on a tiny budget and even tinier crew shooting the freezing weekend of the Superbowl. The Miss was a terrific learning experience and probably the most valuable lesson in shooting this twelve page script was cutting eight pages of it in the editing room. What I hadn’t realized until I saw it on screen was that I had repeated the story in the script!
My husband and I write and sing music together under the band name Mysteriam, and we felt we had a the perfect song for the film called “Everywhere.” When we played it with the first edit, the end of the story lined up perfectly with the song and the whole team, agreed, that was it. As an actress, it was tough to cut the performance of myself and the other actors in the film, but at the end of the day, it didn’t serve in the story telling. The goal was to leave the audience satisfied, with an anticipation of more to come, rather than a feeling of “didn’t that just happen, but now we’re seeing it with words?”
So this continued to be my film education, working as an actress in other people’s films and producing my own along the way. In 2010, I created another short film called Fitting, available on Indieflix (please note sexual conversation occurs) and then after trying to raise private equity for a larger passion project of mine, entitled Beautiful Little Fools, I realized I needed to produce and star in a feature of my own on a smaller scale first, as a career stepping stone. And while that was the intent, it has grown to be so much more.
At Sundance 2013 I was inspired by a few things, namely the HP Z820 RED Edition Workstation and the concept of Fiscal Sponsorship and when I returned to Chicago I pitched the concept of expanding a short I had been cast in years earlier. That film hadn’t been made, but the Director Joseph Steiff, who is also a professor at Columbia College, liked the idea and that is how The Other One came to be in conceived in February of 2013. By March HP had jumped on board and we had raised enough funding through a crowd fund and Angel Donor to film by April.
This, by the way, is super unusual and films typically are never made at that speed. I have since gone on to present on this unusual factor at both Sundance 2014 and Cannes 2014 International Film Festivals with Hewlett Packard. I must give a special thanks to HP for taking a chance on this film and helping share the message of it as well as innovative filmmaking.
Tell us about Eclipse and The Other One and how they’re related.
Eclipse is a short film that is meant to act as a prequel to The Other One however, the footage from the short was incorporated into the feature. Both, however, are stand alone works serving different entertainment, as well as, educational purposes.
In the 98 minute feature length film, a teacher survives a school shooting and returns to her remote childhood home to care for her mother. As her mother’s dementia deepens and secrets come tumbling out, she discovers her entire life is a lie. Ultimately a story of acceptance and redemption, The Other One is a beautiful and serene film haunted like each of us is- by the pasts that we embrace, hide from, lie about, and make peace with.
The film World Premiered at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in April 2014, and since then it has also won 4 awards from the Indie Fest, and Honorable Mention from The Indie Gathering, plus screened at The Dubuque International Film Festival and was a special screening at the Peace on Earth Film Festival. We are crossing our fingers for many more festival screenings throughout the rest of the year, too.
One powerful and unexpected feedback we kept receiving from audience members was how therapeutic they felt the film to be. With this audience encouragement and opportunity to help people heal, this summer we are lining up a fall exhibition through churches, synagogues, temples, and other community centers in a tour we are calling “The Forgiveness Tour.” While the film isn’t overtly Christian, Jewish, or any particular religious affiliation, it does focus on the faith testing tenant of forgiveness and the film has been certified by the DOVE Foundation for families 12 and up.
Eclipse is a 6 minute short film and World Premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival Short Film Corner. This film follows the moments before the tragic incident of a School Shooting occurs. Centered around the two teachers, who have the immediate responsibility of protecting their students as well as working to prevent the violence, the short not only serves as a prequel because the feature picks up three years later and follows the surviving school teacher, but has a great potential to be an educational conversation starter about such a difficult topic of discussion. Also certified by the DOVE Foundation, we received their highest rating of five Doves for the film.
As violence in schools continues to grow at an alarming rate, we will also be touring this short and licensing it to education institutions to promote the non-violence movement and stress the importance of forgiveness. Many organizations are actively pushing for gun legislation and mental health awareness, but we strongly feel many people are still suffering, sometimes even subconsciously, and we hope that both of these films can help foster more peace inside ourselves and in the world around us.
What was the greatest challenge you faced while filming?
The easy answer would be money, but that seems to be a problem for every independent film producer. A quick note to anyone interested in funding films, do check out Slated.com which is like a sophisticated platform for independent filmmakers and financiers.
So back to your question, while filming, our biggest challenge was learning to work with what we had because we filmed three and a half hours outside of Chicago, in Galena, IL, and thus were limited in some aspects. We probably could have a had a few more producers. There were three of us, but during filming, I was also playing the lead role, which really left all the many questions, finances, and around the clock details up to Elizabeth Theiss and Erica Lynn Schmeck, who undaunted, handled the tasks well, but were certainly over tasked. We also had many recent grads who had worked on many shorts, but the intensity of a feature was a bit more than a few of crew was really equipped to handle. Again being so far away it wasn’t really possible to bring in more crew, and with housing and finances already stretched we simply had to adapt and learn to work with what we had available.
What are your goals for The Other One?
As mentioned above, we hope The Other One will help open the doors for Sterling Rock Productions, and serve as a catalyst for other filmmakers to not be discouraged by “Hollywood story ideals” but courageously create more media that matters. If we can take these films to heartland to find audiences who can relate and have a medium to continue the conversation after the credits role.
What has been the reaction so far?
Here are a few direct quotes from current reviews at our early pre-screeners:
“I am still digesting the introspective, haunting, brooding aura I carry with me. Grace did a memorable performance, focused, intense, and credible; above all persuasive and convincing. Much to savor about the cinematography, performances, and minimalist music.”
“Most surprising was how much I could relate to it on a personal level. I was tuned into it entirely- music perfectly matched to scenes.”
“I was surprised that even though I figured out what happened, the whole movie kept me guessing.”
“Favorite moments were all the details captured in the film, great art shots!”
“I admit the layers of the film frustrated me, but the more I think about the film, the more I like it and want to see it again. I did however find it to be therapeutic, and the more I reflect on the layers of grief and anxiety, I find myself dealing with emotional baggage I wasn’t even aware of.”
How can people get a copy?
The best way to be the first to know about a screening, when the DVD’s go on sale (winter 2015), or The Other One hits VOD, is to subscribe to our mailing list and indicate what you would like to know more about. We’re a small shop, so we actually write people back, answer the phone and enjoy staying in touch with our supporters! The sign up is on our movie’s website www.TheOtherOneMovie.com
Another interesting project that has developed from the films message of forgiveness and promotion of the Non violence movement is our Declare Non-Violence Video Project. On our YouTube Channel you can see all ages and all kinds of people declare their world’s non-violent and discuss little ways that each of them individually can commit to those statements. https://www.youtube.com/user/theotheronemovie
DNVs, as we like to call them, are super easy to make, since everyone has their own videocameras thanks to smart phones! When someone signs-up on our website they can also indicate if they would like to make a DNV. If so, we will send an easy 1,2,3 step guide on how to join the movement and make a DNV. They are a fun and active way to declare your world non violent and show others you are being a part of the solution.
I will say we are out to Distributors and while we are getting strong feedback on the content, the fact that I, nor are any of the actors, “A-Listers,” and because we didn’t open at one of these five festivals: Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, or Toronto, it has caused many companies to pass. I feared this could be the case, but if this trend continues I think it will have serious repercussions for both the film going audience and the independent filmmaker.
How many times can filmmakers go back to their friends and families for a little money here and there, and match it with their own credit cards, to end up being locked out of mainstream distribution? There are some people trying to do something about it and you can certainly self distribute, by making your own DVDs, but if you can’t get your film into faith and family bookstores, Walmarts, and Netflix, which you typically need a distributor to help make this happen, you stand little chance of making any money.
Trust me, NO Independent filmmaker does it for the money, but we do need money to make more movies, to grow our companies, and create worthy content. I certainly feel my faith (in the industry) being tested by these factors. But this is also why our film is a not for profit sponsored project. Anyone reading this can click on the donate link on our website http://www.TheOtherOneMovie.com and make a tax deductible donation to the film. We also hope The Forgiveness Tour can be our theatrical distribution. Today many places have superior projection capabilities, not just the theaters.
Indie filmmakers are thinking outside the box out of necessity, but we must be met by equally creative and excited outside the box audiences to make it work. If you like indie film and already have a habit of watching Netflix, then spend a little bit more or alternate for a while, and subscribe to IndieFlix or Fandor, there are lots of interesting new tactics to see indie films, but for us to see any profits, these platforms must get more support. If you are interested in films focusing on topics of faith or are DOVE approved, ask these platforms to create that selection opportunity, just like searching for documentaries. We always have more say that we realize, and perhaps can just be too distracted by life sometimes, but I urge your readers to become more active film audiences.