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An Interview with Steven Grayhm, Director and Star of The Secret of Sinchanee

by Michael Haberfelner

October 2021

Steven Grayhm on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie The Secret of Sinchanee - in a few words, what is it about?

 

It is about discovering what makes you – you. Who you truly are and why you may be the way you are.

 

How did you come across the Native American legend The Secret of Sinchanee is partly based on - or was it just made up? And what kind of research did you do regarding this aspect of your movie?

 

The Sinchanee are a peaceful, mixed race tribe who, though fictional in our story, represent the centuries long atrocities committed against indigenous peoples in Western Massachusetts. I dug deep in my research to uncover historically what occurred durng the Deerfield Massacre in 1704, even to what is happening now locally in Turners Falls, MA which has led to a petition of 2,500+ signatures on change.org to officially change the village's name (which was named after Captain William Turner who committed unspeakable atrocities against indigenous people). I wanted to tell a more meaningful story outside of the confines of the horror/thriller genre. A large influence in my storytelling also comes from reconnecting with my own heritage.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing The Secret of Sinchanee?

 

Western Massachusetts as a setting plays a central role in the film. This is arguably one of the most beautiful places in New England, if not the country. The stunning fall foliage leads to some of the most picturesque winters – which through the lens of my DP Logan Fulton can also be hauntingly beautiful!

 

What can you tell us about The Secret of Sinchanee's approach to horror?

 

Aside from the thrills and chills you would expect from a horror film with paranormal elements, there is definitely a thriller aspect that involves an in-depth police investigation. The film also deals with challenging themes such as xenophobia, childhood trauma, and mental illness.

 

I think the snowy rural backdrops used in The Secret of Sinchanee definitely add to its atmosphere - so do talk about your locations for a bit, and what was it like filming there?

 

As I mentioned above, Western Massachussetts  plays a huge part in the film. In the winter, the snowscapes and dense coniferous forests can be stunning but often can feel ominous. Perfect for someone who spends their time alone like Will in the story. Short days with limited daylight that turn dark and brutally cold. We filmed a lot at my father-in-law’s tow shop where my character in the film works, and where I job-shadowed the mechanics there for the role. We also utilize stunning drone shots along the frozen Connecticut River.

 

A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I try to do a lot of prep before going to camera. I am relentless with script revisions and try to refine story elements and dialogue through notes and rehearsal before shooting a single frame. Once on set, I like to remain flexible within my environment in all aspects of the filmmaking.

 

You also play one of the leads in The Secret of Sinchanee - so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you written Will with yourself in mind from the get-go?

 

They say to write what you know. And though I did a lot of historical research, I felt very emotionally connected to Will’s journey. From an early age, whether I knew it or not, I often felt like an outsider like Will, and I too have experienced trauma throughout my life dating back to childhood.

 

Do talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Tamara Austin and Nate Boyer play Boston Homicide Detectives who approach their CSI work from such different angles in the film, but ultimately work together as a unified team. They give such beautifully nuanced performances as we follow their journey to uncover the Stark Murders. I also hired many non-actors as I wanted the film to feel authentic to its environment. Everyone gave such visceral, stirring performances.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

It was cold. It was haunting. But most importantly it was collaborative!

 

The $64-question of course, where can The Secret of Sinchanee be seen?

 

In select theaters and on all digital and VOD platforms Oct/8 including AppleTV, Amazon Prime Video, Comcast, Spectrum and Vudu.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Secret of Sinchanee?

 

Be patient. This a slow burn that ultimately leads to a heart-pounding crescendo into the second and third acts. It will be worth the journey. I promise. I wanted to afford the audience the time to live with the characters until things begin to fully unravel. Even to a point where the protagonist becomes the antagonist. This was all intentional in my filmmaking and in my overall storytelling.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

I am in prep on my next project which is a heist film that we are aiming to shoot in West Texas early next year. It’s Hell or High Water meets The Departed. Then, I am returning to the very first screenplay I wrote, Sheepdog, which follows the plight of our military veterans as they assimilate into society, which will likely shoot back in Western Massachussetts.

 

From what I know, you've first entered the filmworld as an actor - so what made you want to become an actor, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?

 

Sunday school plays at church and discovering my parents trunk full of past Halloween costumes was my first foray into performance theater. In my teens I wanted to take it more seriously, which led to dropping out of college on an academic scholarship to audition to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which I attended in London, England. I actually started off on the stage, playing Hamlet multiple times, before I made the transition to film/TV.

 

What made you want to branch out into writing, producing and directing later on?

 

I like to be involved in all aspects of the process. From pen to paper writing the script, to doing this interview with you now. I feel like I thrive most in a collaborative environment working with other passionate artists and individuals alike.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Secret of Sinchanee, in whatever position?

 

I actually started out as a filmmaker after 2 years professionally working as an actor. I was fortunate to be nominated for a Hollywood Film Award for Vodka, Winter, and The Cry of Violin based on my grandparents' experience as prisoners of war in Nazi Germany during WWII.

 

How would you describe yourself as an actor, and how as a director?

 

With both, I like a lot of prep and rehearsal. You want to be so prepared that you have the luxury to ‘make trouble for yourself’ and be flexible. Less is always more. Give your audience credit!

 

Actors, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?

 

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I have been fortunate throughout my acting career to have worked opposite some of the greats. Al Pacino, Jessica Chastain, Jon Voight. I love anything Viola Davis does. Some of my favourite filmmakers are early Spielberg, Denis Villeneuve, David Fincher, Spike Lee and I’m loving Olivia Wilde’s recent turn as a director with Booksmart!

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Good Will Hunting, Once, The English Patient, Schindler’s List, Dog Day Afternoon, Do The Right Thing, Juice, The Shining, Reality Bites, Before Sunrise/Sunset trilogy, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Dumb & Dumber… I can go on and on…

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

I think there is always something to learn from any film. Even the ones I may not enjoy.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Instagram: @TheSecretofSinchanee @TeamHouseStudios @sgrayhm 

Twitter: @SinchaneeMovie

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Be fearless in your storytelling. Life is fragile and tomorrow is never promised. Go out there and be bold!

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Michael Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

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directed by
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