Best friends Wayne Mitchell and Eduardo Maytorena shared their passion for film as youths, and now their compelling drama Soledad will have its West Coast premiere Sunday, May 31 at the TCL Chinese Theatres.
Inspired by such Los Angeles, nighttime set narratives such as Heat, Collateral, and Drive, Soledad centers on Victor (newcomer Jesse Celedon), a stoic limo driver who simply wants to be left alone (inebriation is his sole comfort) . Raquel (Montanna Gillis), a teen eagerly awaiting her prom, is Victor’s latest client, and what seems like an easy job devolves into a nightmarish evening thanks to Raquel’s over aggressive date (Chase Austin, very believable as an over compensating a**hole).
Though it isn’t blessed with a budget afforded to a Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice) directed picture, Soledad offers up a mesmerizing marriage of sight and sound, buoyed by believable and inspired work from Celedon and Gillis. The pair’s ambitious production schedule included fourteen days worth of nighttime shoots, and cinematographer Roger Viloria effectively captured city’s oftentimes suffocating air of desperation and loneliness.
During my interview with the directors, the pair also credited composer Liam Fox O’Brien for infusing their film with its often meditative and melancholic tone.
“Eddie and I had never worked with a composer before, and he was really open” said Mitchell. “We threw a lot of references at him like The Incredible Hulk – “The Lonely Man” theme. We (told him) that we wanted his version of (the score). He was just open to everything and it really was just an amazing experience working with him.”
Since Celedon is a close friend of the filmmakers, crafting a narrative with a compelling male lead wasn’t a problem. Thus, one of Soledad’s biggest finds was the actress to play Raquel. “Montanna just came across beautifully well on her audition tape,” says Maytorena. “And when we met with her (she had) a lot of personality and warmth.”
Another of Soledad’s facets rests on the innate chemistry between the actors. The directors set up Gillis and Celedon on a blind date for their first meeting, and their task was to find each other at a West Hollywood area Coffee Bean and get acquainted with one another. What transpired was a two and a half month friendship that was already forged by the first day of Soledad’s shoot.
Inevitably the film’s success rests on the broad shoulders on Jesse Celedon, and he simply delivers the goods. “Along with rehearsing with Montanna before the film, I consulted with men who did real time in prisons and did time solitary confinement for 72 days” says Celedon. “They shared their experiences with me and their opinions and views on solitude and how it affects them. All those things, coupled with knowing my lines and rehearsing, brings me to that moment when the director says, ‘Are you ready, okay let’s roll.”
A compelling look at unexpected connections and tragedies that blanket the City of Angels, Soledad is a gripping narrative that’s definitely worth a look.
***A Q&A with writers/directors/producers Eduardo Maytorena and Wayne Mitchell, executive producer Douglas Bravo, and actors Jesse Celedon, Montanna Gillis, Chase Austin, Chris Petrovski, and Nat Leone takes place following Sunday night’s screening.
For more info, check out Soledad’s official Facebook page.