Ethan Paisley and Chadd Alciati are having a moment. Both teenagers are about to graduate High School but have been working in the film industry for many years. Not bad for seventeen-years-old teens. Not to mention, Ethan Paisley is nominated for Best Young Director for The Young Entertainer Awards. Chadd’s Alciati’s directorial debut of the short film, Wilted, (which Paisley produced), will screen at the Cannes Film Festival’s Court Métrage 2018, where it will have its world premiere. Molly Ratterman is the lead actress in the film and is exceptional. I was honored to speak to all three about bringing “Wilted” to life and their separate film industry experiences.
Ethan Paisley has immense passion and talent. He loves to bring underrepresented stories to life through filmmaking and is very successful at it. Paisley became a theatre veteran by age 12 with over 25 plays and musicals on his resume. His early on-camera work inspired a YouTube channel titled “ethanpaisley” that experienced viral success in 2013. The channel grossed over half-a-million views in less than a year, allowing Paisley to recognize his passion for filmmaking according to IMBD (www.imbd.com).
In 2016, Ethan started Take18 Entertainment (http://take18entertainment.wixsite.com/site), a production company with the mission of using commercial work to yield funds for narrative content for teens by teens. Most recently, Paisley directed and produced “Playing the Game” (2016) and “Indelible” (2017) which stars Jackie Dallas from “Stranger Things.” “Indelible” played at the Mill Valley Film Festival and won Paisley the title ‘Best Young Filmmaker’ at the prestigious LA Film Awards.
As of January 2018, the growing company locked the edit on Wilted, a short film about the painful aftermath of a miscarriage. Paisley is the producer and director status goes to the 17-year-old filmmaker, Chadd Alciati. Chadd wrote and directed Wilted, which marks Alciati ’s first film as a director, but it is not the first screenplay he has successfully produced. He has also made quarterfinalists for the BlueCat Screenplay Competition for his short script “A Eulogy.”
Personally, I loved the short film. It takes you to a different place within yourself. Though Wilted has a socially relevant message, much like most of Alciati’s scripts; it is exceptionally unique in its use of color, symbolism, and above all, quietness. For a young filmmaker, Alciati delivers quality overtone that sinks you into the experience of his protagonist, played brilliantly by Molly Ratermann (as the young, expectant mom Sarah). Chris Ginesi plays her husband. The audience experiences her emotional reactions and will only be granted the sight of what she can see, almost placing the viewer in her shoes.” Alciati certainly lives up to his artistic promise, as he capitalizes on Ratermann’s bold performance through a calmed and almost dreamlike aesthetic. It makes the audience feel as if they are in the room with Sarah. Creative standouts include Evan Weidenkeller who shot the film on a RED Epic Dragon, and production designer Gigi D’Elia who crafted an unforgettable atmosphere. Chadd’s vision for the film was the absence of forced drama, yet everything is implied, and it works.
Wilted is important, because it takes viewers on a personal journey through a woman’s life, not just as an expecting mother, but as a wife and a daughter. Sarah is young, happy and recently married She is thrilled to be expecting a child. Then a horrible turn takes place. The film shows the reality of this tragic event and just how unexpected and abrupt it can be. We see Sarah’s life before as a happy and hopeful expectant mom. Then we witness Sarah’s life after with the heartbreak and misery that the loss of a child invokes (especially at seven months into the pregnancy). The aftermath is raw and Sarah tries to move forward — with something always left behind.
Chadd’s symbolism using the slowly deteriorating rose represents what the lead character and her child are going through. Watching Sarah go through so many emotions and shock makes the audience think. In the majority of most situations, family and friends do not realize the real loss that a miscarriage is. Wilted portrays that story and opens up an opportunity for real discussion in a realistic manner. All of these cinematic elements produce a powerful and realistic message: Miscarrying is devastating. From the moment a woman finds out she is pregnant, there are feelings of pride, hope and an intense sense of protection for the baby. If the experience takes a tragic turn, it can be quite common for many women to feel like a failure as well as dealing with such an intimate loss.
Since I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ethan Paisley, Chadd Alciati, and Molly Ratermann about “Wilted” and their experience filming the short from a Producer/Director/Actress point of view, I was looking forward to their insight. They are all very talented and passionate.
Ethan Paisley: Producer
You are only 17?!! Did you know that you always wanted to be in the arts? You have accomplished so much for someone your age. I am sure you get this question a lot. I also read that your parents are not affiliated with the industry and you are the “classic millennial”. Is this correct?
Correct, my parents do not work in the film industry but they’re still amazing artists! My dad is a musician and my mom is a block print designer. My grandma is a published author. I naturally fell in love with filmmaking because, yes, I was born into a world where making movies are easier than making your bed. My first love was storytelling for the stage, but I found filmmaking to be a more accessible method of living my passion. I got started filming myself in yarn wigs on my mom’s old Blackberry phone and posting those videos to YouTube. Now I’m here.
What drew you to the subject matter of Wilted? It’s mature material and being a mom myself, I applaud you and Chadd for taking this on.
Wilted was one of many short film projects I was reviewing for production in 2017. It hit me hard because it depicted an extremely common female conflict from a very mature perspective. Chadd really built up the pressures of new motherhood in his script to make the event of miscarriage even more devastating for the audience to understand. He did this with a very strong level of nuance, minimalism, and symbolism. Because of this, the script felt like a fully human story rather than a brief and forgettable drama. It’s really a film that evokes thought. Once you get thinking, you’re able to empathize. So many movies spoon feed the drama, to the point where you barely care about what the characters are going through. But Wilted connected with me on a profound level.
You and Chadd are currently finishing up High School together. This is also his directorial debut. Did he approach you with the idea?
He originally reached out to me for casting advice, but once I read his script I asked if I could take on the role of a producer. It was about five months of development on the story until we began pre-production in October 2017.Chadd was a very easy director to work with. He knew exactly what I was looking for. I remember asking if he wanted to do director outreach, but he was very firm in his vision and intentions as a creative force behind the film. I trusted him and really let him take the wheel during production. I pretty much just handled all of the paperwork – but that’s sorta my favorite part of producing. And of course, every production has its share of challenges. Together, we struggled a bit in post-production since the meat of the film is so grounded in its visual aesthetic. We conversed a lot about what looked right and wrong, and this elongated the process. You have to connect the art Chadd sets up with the raw and nuanced moments of life we see the protagonist endure. This makes for a universally appealing story that evenly combines an arthouse style with cinema verité. I’m in love with how it came out.
I thought Molly Ratermann was great as Sarah. Did you and Chadd both cast her? She has an incredible range and versatility of emotions. Can you expand?
I first saw Molly in her short film “Suicide” and thought she was incredible. After reviewing her work, Chadd couldn’t see anyone else for the role. It was cool because Molly and I had met at a film festival after party in like 2015 and always had plans to work together. This was our first time working together and it was great! I think she brings something really special because she’s so young and experienced in all aspects of entertainment – she’s worked as a model, director, producer, writer… she’s a great mentor and I’m grateful for our friendship off-set.
“I’m just trying to do the next right thing every day. However, I am very passionate about bringing underrepresented stories to life through film. Again, films are instantly available worldwide and therefore extremely influential tools for social change. As a filmmaker, it’s my duty to tell the stories that others can’t. This requires lots of patience, hard work, and above all, compassion. I will continue endlessly spreading my passion and pushing the boundaries of media with today’s most important stories.” (Ethan Paisley)
Congrats on “Wilted” be nominated for Best Short Corner for Cannes! Will you be attending?
Unfortunately, I can’t go! I’ll be in NYC for other work that week. I went last year for the premiere of my feature film “Point 453,” and it blew my mind!!! I plan to be in Cannes during June for the Lions festival. I’m hoping to book a talk there!
What filmmakers inspire you?
I’m inspired by filmmakers with rough edges that stop at nothing to be able to create. To put it simply, I’m motivated by resilience. Usually, resilient creatives aren’t innately talented visionaries, but they’re hard workers with lots of integrity about what they do. That’s what most important to being successful in this game – your emotional endurance and self-honesty.
What would your advice be to someone your age who wants to make a film but feels hesitant?
I think as artists we’re all afraid of undermining our creativity. To anyone scared of creating, you’ll always be dissatisfied with what you make in the end. That’s why you have to just make some something. You also have to crave community and love what you do endlessly. You can’t make a movie without amazing collaborators and loads of passion. So put yourself out there, talk to anyone and everyone, and really embrace who you are.
Chadd Alciati: Director
Hi Chadd! Thanks for joining our interview at Gemma Magazine. Did you know that you always wanted to be in the arts?
Ever since seventh grade, I’ve had an interest in filmmaking. My main focus throughout high school and for my future is screenwriting, but I wanted to be able to have a stronger influence as a director for the short film Wilted. As it was my first time directing, I had to work through some of the difficulties quickly in order to stay on track, which became a major learning process.
Why were you drawn to Wilted I think it’s wonderful to bring awareness to this issue.
I decided to write “Wilted,” because my family has had personal experiences with the topic. I was very interested in this current issue and wanted to find a unique way to express this story in a very intimate and emotional narrative. I wanted it to be able to shed light on miscarriages, as they are underrepresented in our media and often a taboo subject.
Did you and Ethan ever work together during school hours? It’s an immense amount of work and yet, your both still in school.
Ethan and I attend The Marin School of the Arts. We had the chance to work and collaborate during class, since we saw each other daily, making it easier to organize and plan our shooting schedule. Ethan is very experienced with producing, and he definitely helped me with problems that were troubling me.
“The cinematic style of close-ups and P.O.V.s only will further the intimacy of our relationship with this woman. The audience will experience her emotional reactions and will only be granted the sight of what she can see, almost placing the viewer in her shoes. I hope that Wilted will stimulate conversation and feelings that will no longer be forbidden and hushed.” (Chadd Alciati)
I want the audience to leave with a new understanding of miscarriages, but the entire message of this film is definitely up to interpretation. We’ve shown it to many of our peers and other filmmakers, and it is up to the audience to leave with their individual opinion. The film is unconventional, solely focusing on our main actress, as we wanted to make the story as personal as possible, so the audience felt all the pain that she felt.
What was it like working with Molly Ratermann? She was great in the film.
Molly was amazing to work with, as she has such remarkable talent. She knew exactly what I wanted for each scene and was very cooperative. While filming the hospital scene, her ability to convey the anguish and heartbreak of her character made even the crew have to turn away because they were so uncomfortable.
Congratulating on the film being selected to debut at Cannes 2018. How does that make you feel?
I am very excited to have our film show at Cannes, as it will definitely be a platform for opening up more doors for myself and our crew. It is relieving knowing that our hard work paid off and that we will be recognized for our piece at a very prestigious event.
Molly Ratermann: Lead Actress
Thank you for joining Gemma Magazine! You have worked in the entertainment industry most of your life. What was your first audition like?
You are welcome! I auditioned for a play by accident in 4th grade. I was hanging out in the multipurpose room where they were holding auditions for the school play while waiting for my mom to pick me up. A friend’s parent suggested I give auditioning a shot, and I loved being in front of a crowd, so I figured why not. They ended up offering me one of the lead parts which was neat. From then on I wanted to be an actor, it just clicked.
I saw your reel, which is very good. I know you have your own production company. Therefore, you are involved in directing and producing as well? Or mainly acting?
Thanks for the kind words. I started writing, producing and directing my work for my acting career. I was frustrated with the roles I was getting and the lack of control I had over my career, so I started doing my own projects to fulfill it. Now I love every aspect of filmmaking from script to onset to post-production.
Did Chadd reach out to you personally for Wilted? What was the experience like working with him?
I knew the producer, Ethan Paisley and we had tried working together on other projects but schedules never aligned. He reached out to me on this one, and it finally worked out. Chadd was such a pleasure to work with.
The material is intense but so necessary to address: How did you prepare for this mentally?
Even without experiencing this personally, I think you can imagine the weight of going through something like that. I was given excellent backstory and prep by Chadd as well, and I think just taking a walk in the character’s shoes is the best you can do.
Was Ethan on set a lot and what was it like to work with him?
Ethan was on set the entire time, yes. He’s always great. Ethan keeps the energy up and wants to make sure production stays on schedule, but also that everyone is comfortable and things are running smoothly. He’s a very involved producer, and I loved working with him.
What do you hope the audience takes from Wilted.
Thank you very much! I just hope the audience can go on the journey with my character. That in the end, they can feel empathy for the experiences of women all over who go through miscarrying and trying to cope with starting over again, physically and emotionally.
I congratulate the entire cast and crew of Wilted for producing a beautiful short film. Many more projects are upcoming for Paisley, Alciati, and Ratermann and I cannot wait!
To follow and keep up www.ethanpaisley.com IG: @ethanbpaisley
Chadd Alciati: @chadd_alciati
Molly Ratermann: @mollykinsale37