By Bianca Garner
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it seems like the apporitate time for people to seek out Jared Douglas‘ film, “The Sound of the Wind”. This is a well-crafted, and emotional charged film, which tells the story of Lucio, a young man whose paranoia has him torn between the pain of abandoning his daughter and the safety of his own life. When Lucio comes across a bag of money, it seems like a dream come true, but the reality of the situation quickly becomes a waking nightmare. You can read my full review here.
I was delighted to discuss the film in further details with Jared, and the two leading actors, Christian Gnecco Quintero, and Stefanie Rons. In this interview, we discuss how Christian and Stephanine became attached to the project, what inspired Jared to tell this story and the challenges they all faced with shooting this picture. We cannot recommend “The Sound of the Wind” enough so we would encourage people to seek it out if they can.
Bianca: Thank you all for joining me, I just want to say how much I enjoyed “The Sound of the Wind” and how much it moved me. Jared, would you mind introducing the film to our readers? And for Christian and Stephanie, would you mind explaining how you became attached to the film?
Jared: “The Sound of the Wind” is a suspenseful, slow burning psychological thriller that follows this young man who finds a bag of money, which sends him on the run for his life. As we follow him we really see how his paranoia has in between the pain of what he thinks is the safety of his life and abandoning his daughter and his wife. With the film, we wanted to bring the audience into the mindset of someone suffering from a mental illness and trying to deal with this world that was far greater than them and try to find his footing in it. We really wanted to place the audience in that mindset and really show them what that suffering was really like.
Stefanie: My journey into the film was a little more unorthodox. Christian and I are actually good friends from acting school, and he actually reached out to me and asked me to come and help as a reader for an audition of a film he was gearing up for. Initially, I wasn’t someone they had in mind for the role of Vanessa. So, I came in and I was a reader for the role of Lucio and Vanessa. Jared had sent me over the sides the night before, and I was reading these and I was captivated by the writing. We were working all day, a few different actresses were brought in for the role but I quickly began falling in love with the role of Vanessa. By the end of the day, Jared actually asked me if I would like to audition for the role so we did a impontru audition right there. I was just so thrilled to get the chance to play her for just twenty minutes and I didn’t think I would get the chance to play her for much longer than that!
Christian: I remember after the day was over and Stefanie had auditioned, Jared turned to me and said “Wow, how do you feel?” and I replied, “Yeah, I think she’s great.” We had already arranged some callbacks of the other actresses, and we were thinking of seeing those first. But, even during the callbacks, Stephanie was always in the back of our minds. And, Jared was like should we just do it, and it turned out to be one of those fun stories you get to tell.
Stefanie: Yeah, it turned out to be one of those weird Hollywood moments. Christain and I had worked together so many times before so we didn’t have to break that barrier and get comfortable together because we immediately knew how to dig into it.
Jared: From my perspective, even though Stefanie was what we were looking for, the second I started to hear her read and the more I heard her read and act, I knew by the end of the day that’s who Vanessa was.
Bianca: And Christian, how did you get attached to the project?
Christian: My relationship with Jared started when we were in college. He would just do these directing exercises in class, and one day I auditioned for one of those exercises and we ended up working together. We just clicked straight away. We had that chemistry, and that curiosity to explore scenes together, as well being able to push each other. We developed a way of working together, and explored the craft together as well. We then started doing some short films, then he moved to New York and I stayed behind in L.A. to do my bachelors.
Then after we graduated, Jared started writing this film that was very personal to him and he talked to me about the film. It sounded like a ‘monster’ but knowing Jared he wouldn’t take the easy way out. He sent me scripts and updates for months and I along with Neeraj Jain (the cinematographer) we gave feedback. Then one day, Jared just made it happen and said “Let’s just do this. If we don’t do this film then who else is going to do it for us?”. He offered me the role, and from then on we just began prepping.
Bianca: Would Jared mind discussing what inspired him to write ‘The Sound of the Wind’?
Jared: Mental Health is something I witnessed first hand growing up, and it’s always been a subject that has been very personal to me. I knew I wanted to do a story that I hoped would provide better understanding of Mental Health conditions, in a way that I hadn’t seen before. When it came to writing the film I knew what I wanted to tell, it was the matter of trying to figure out how to tell it.
So, the process of writing was over a year working with Christian and with Neeraji. The first image of the film that I had in my mind was this man on the run and we didn’t exactly know what was going on and what was happening. It was a lot of trial and error as we tried to figure out the reason why he was running. I kept going back to think how do we make this as real as possible and how do we ground his struggle and his mental illness. Over the course of time workshopping these ideas, we got to a place to where it is now.
Bianca: What I loved about your film was that you didn’t know exactly where Lucio would end up. It left me on the edge of my seat and left me wanting more, which is always the sign of a good movie.
Jared: One of the things we always wanted to do, and one of the reasons the thriller genre worked for this film, was to show that when someone is suffering, they don’t always know they’re suffering. That’s their reality, so we wanted to place the audience in that reality and in the line of what we think is real and what’s not is blurred. Often for people suffering with this condition there are triggers and the things they see are real but it’s just their misperception of those things that comes into play.
Bianca: How did you develop the character of Lucio and did you conduct research into Lucio’s condition?
Jared: We really did a lot of research into mental illness and the specifics of it. For this film, Lucio suffers from delusional disorder but we didn’t want to explicitly say that so people who suffer from other mental health illnesses can find the commonalities in it. However, for us it was all about researching that specific illness and figuring out how the triggers work, and really bringing the audience into that world.
Christain: From my side, I was reading and researching books to prepare for the challenge of playing someone that has a mental illness. As an actor, it’s almost impossible to really feel that someone is after you and to believe you have a mental illness when you don’t suffer from one yourself. For my research I looked into how individuals suffering from this condition process triggers mentally. Someone with this condition, their mental process works completely differently, they’re in fight or flight mode the entire time. Everything that happens in their surroundings, they could see as a threat. With Jared, we would sometimes explore a character and we wouldn’t always know whether it will work but we just give it a shot anyway.
We started developing mental exercises for me, so I could be more aware of my surroundings and the sounds. TIf you truly believe someone is after you 24/7 then everything has meaning now. If you pay attention to your surroundings right now, you can hear a car, or the wind, my cat is here right now…so, all of the sudden you have this hyper-awareness. I think those mental exercises helped me understand where Lucio was coming from.
Also, regarding the story, all the plot points and twists happen inside Lucio’s head, they’re 100% psychological. It was certainly a fun challenge, but we had to do our best to understand the character. People who have seen the film twice start to pick up on these things, you’re not spoon fed this information. Another factor I found out in my research, is that people with this condition can also be underweight so this was the other challenge. We have never done anything like that in our creative process. The weight loss was done in a healthy way with a nutritionist, as I didn’t want to faint during the middle of filming.
Bianca: It does sound like it was quite a challenging shoot, were there any particular scenes that proved difficult to shoot, and did you encounter any particular problems?
Jared: Across the board, it was a very challenging shoot. 85% of the time, if not more, we were shooting at night. We were filming a night shoot that went from 8PM to 8AM every night and when you do that day after day, you almost lose a sense of time and reality, especially when you’re travelling so much and you’re on location. I think that aspect in itself became a challenge. Just the subject matter, and knowing that we wanted to depict it in the most authentic way possible, we knew would push ourselves to get the right emotion. Pushing ourselves to where we knew we could go, was the biggest challenge. Doing that over twenty one days was the toughest part.
Stefanie: This was a really unique shoot for me, 99% of my work in the film is voiceover and I only had one day when I was on camera. Jared is such a generous filmmaker. He could have just stuck me inside a recording booth for one day and been like “just go for it”, but he brought me on location with the team so I was recording my dialogue exactly where the crew were. My personal challenge of building up Vanessa and her life, was doing it in a make-shift recording studio we created in Jared’s car. These phone calls between Vanessa and Lucio only really last a few minutes but when we were shooting it, we would be recording for an hour at a time per call.
I was lucky that I had two storytellers that were so generous with their time that they donated to me, so I could flesh out the entire arc of the characters. There’s a dance of death that Vanessa’s balancing on this tightrope between pulling Lucio back from over the edge with every phone call and protecting their child from her father’s mental demise. It was pretty suffocating to push those limits in a pitch black car, but I think it mirrored Vanessa’s reality in a beautiful metaphorical way. With every phone call life was leaving her, and between the calls she was left in the darkness, not knowing when and if another phone call would come in to her.
Bianca: Christain, it must have been a real challenge for you. You had to shave your own head in what is perhaps one of the most emotional moments of the film, correct? Was that the most challenging scene for you to perform?
Christain: It was challenging because of what it meant for the character’s process. I can’t recall the exact day that we filmed that scene, as we had already been travelling on the road, so we were all tired and a little hungry too. We all knew that for obvious reasons I could only shave my head once. I thought it was going to be quick, usually in films you see the character shaving their head and it’s done in two minutes. Jared and Neeraj were great, they would set up the scene with lights and the camera, and they would give me the freedom to basically do whatever happened in the moment. This scene was shot in one long take, so they said “Just do it”.
For any person to shave their entire head in front of a mirror, you see yourself changing in the moment. It became so emotional for me. I had also seen myself lose about thirty pounds for the film too. So, this scene became very cathrotic but also very beautiful at the same time. Once we started rolling it was all about being in the moment. The entire film shoot was challenging, but Jared was making the right decisions in the moment. The entire team was behind telling this story and it was beautiful how we all worked together to tell it.
Bianca: Lastly, what has been the response to the film especially in terms of spreading awareness about mental health?
Jared: What I find interesting about the response to the film is that everyone has something new to say. In every conversation I have had with viewers (which I love by the way), is that everyone brings their life experiences to it. I was speaking to a friend the other night and it was the first time they really opened up to me because the film resonated to their anxiety and the things they go through on a daily basis. From that standpoint with people really connecting with it and seeing it as a representation of their struggles or helping them understand other people’s struggles, it’s been very good in that regard. We are a smaller film but we are doing our best to keep pushing and keep spreading the awareness, and also getting people to watch the film in this crowded landscape of entertainment.