Asheville-based filmmaker Paul Schattel‘s indie noir Quiet River makes its local debut Thursday, Aug. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Fine Arts Theatre. The director’s fourth feature film began out of a desire to work with actress Rebecca Morris. Together they crafted the story of Daniel, a brilliant but odd recluse with borderline autism, and his sister Claire, who investigates whether he’s guilty of eco-terrorism.
Schattel was originally lobbying for a sister character to play opposite Morris, but she convinced him a brother would be better. The two molded Daniel in part after Ted “The Unabomber” Kaczynski. Willie Repoley, Schattel’s first choice for the role, initially had scheduling conflicts but found a way to make it work.
Much like Mike Leigh, Schattel improvised the film with his cast. The process involved him coming up with the bones of the story, which the actors then fleshed out under his guidance, allowing their innate instincts and talent to shape each scene.
“Lots of times, when you work with the right people, what ends up in the movie is better than what you originally intended. They come up with better lines than I could have written, and it creates a more human moment,” Schattel says. “It’s more natural than highly scripted, superrealistic film dialogue — which is not realistic at all.”
The winter production lasted two-and-a-half weeks, after which Schattel spent a year editing the footage. Upon completion, he submitted Quiet River to film festivals — including Sundance and SXSW, from which he expected rejections — before accepting offers from a pair of respected ones. Schattel attended the 2015 Orlando Film Festival, where Morris was nominated for best lead performer and Repoley received a nod for best supporting performer. He was not able to make the 2016 Madrid International Film Festival in early July, where the film was nominated for best feature, best cinematography and best actress.
In Orlando, Schattel received distribution offers for Quiet River, but has turned most of them down. He says film is similar to the music industry in that filmmakers of smaller projects can often make more money releasing work on their own and don’t have to risk the distribution company going out of business, putting the rights in limbo.
As for planning Quiet River’s Asheville debut, Schattel says the timing simply feels right. Neal Reed of the Fine Arts Theatre has been asking Schattel to do a screening for a year, and with the world premiere in Orlando out of the way, local audiences will get their first look. “I’m more proud of the performances than anything else,” Schattel says. “I’m excited for people to see how finely attuned these characters are.”
Schattel, Morris, Repoley, producer Shane Meador and director of photography Shane Peters are all likely to participate in the post-film Q&A session. Tickets are $8. fineartstheatre.com