Love is all encompassing and has the power to drive the decisions we make and ultimately shape the lives we live. Richard Raymond viscerally explores this reality in dramatic short Souls of Totality, whilst also ambitiously filming the short during a live solar eclipse. This is the first time in cinema history that a solar eclipse has ever been captured in a narrative film, Richard shares with us his experience of making film history.
The inspiration behind making the film was the solar eclipse, but how did the themes of sacrifice, love and those things we don’t say come into play? How did you feel those themes intertwined with the eclipse?
As a director, I was really interested in capturing a never repeatable, can’t turn back event that forces a person to find the most real, honest part of themself to help determine how they will handle it. When you watch the film this is very apparent in the love story but it’s also in the making of the film… Souls of Totality was made by couples who are passionately in love! The two lead actors, the director and producer, the two writers, half 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 film — this certainly couldn’t have been pulled off by strangers in such a small amount of time.
You decided you wanted to make Souls of Totality just one month before the solar eclipse, can you talk about the implications of this?
The date of the eclipse (August 21st 2017) was a ticking clock looming large over us all, the script wasn’t written until 2 weeks before the eclipse! We had no money, no equipment or crew — we were at the mercy of an impending deadline set by the universe. It was mission impossible. But luckily enough Producers John Trefry and James Mitchell came on board and gathered up a group of incredibly talented young people who shared in our passion to make the film and have a once in a lifetime experience.
We had no money, no equipment or crew — we were at the mercy of an impending deadline set by the universe.
I knew it was a high wire act with no safety net – it was something that had never been done before in cinema and for good reason – but I had total faith in the cast and crew that we could pull it off. Everyone put in the work and dedication to ensure we were ready. And when the time came the crew were 100% focused and followed what we had rehearsed. I’m most proud of Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen, who gave such incredible performances… for them it was like theatre, there wasn’t ever going to be a second take!
How much time did you spend on location in pre-production?
The film was shot over 4 days. Included in those 4 days was a couple of hours rehearsal each day for the main eclipse shot. But choosing the location itself was a bit of a miracle — My better half (Co-producer Nousha Raymond) had our first baby and our nanny, Makenna Tague has a family house up in Oregan – so Nousha, and I flew up there to meet her father, Mike. He drove us around and introduced us to his friends who are farmers — that’s how we found the main location! The people of central Oregon are some of the most generous people I’ve ever been blessed to meet. Their support was essential to making this film come to life. Also, I ended up casting Makenna’s dad, Mike Tague as the cult leader – he’s so brilliant, such a sweet soul.
Do you feel this experience will change the way you create films in the future?
I loved this experience and I learned to trust my instinct. We had no prep time whatsoever so I let the locations and the performances speak to me and inform how the film wanted to manifest itself. It was a very natural process and that’s something I want to take onto the next film.
You started your career at Pinewood Studios when you were 15 years old, how did that opportunity arise?
I went to school in London, and when I was 15 years old, the headmaster at the school signed me up for work experience in a real company. My assignment was two weeks at British Gas. There was no way I was going to do it. I was always interested in movies, and read that Pinewood Studios – which turned out to be close enough to where I lived – had done so many of them, including the Richard Donner-directed Superman. Hollywood wasn’t so out of reach, after all.
I wrote a number of letters to the studio, but they never replied. So I thought, the hell with it, I had read a story about Steven Spielberg and how he snuck into Universal Studios, and I thought I’d do the same at Pinewood. So my headmaster signed me off for my two weeks, and my Dad drove me to the gate. It’s totally different today, and you wouldn’t be able to do right now what I did then. I walked up to the guard, with an elaborate story, but he just opened it up and waved me through. I couldn’t believe my luck.
I walked around for weeks, and even met American director Blake Edwards when he was filming The Son of Pink Panther. he invited me on that set, and that was it for me. After that, I was on the set of Shadowland, directed by Lord Richard Attenborough, and he took me under his wing for a while. I could never afford to go to film school, but somehow I got into the best film school in the world at the time.
What do you have in-store for us next?
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!