Ask a lot of actors what they really want to do and the
cliché answer is “I want to direct”. However, Minnesota
based actress, writer and director Rachel Grubb is no
cliché. Rachel and her partners
Heather Amos and
Brooke Lemke founded Silent-But-Deadly Productions. a
non-profit organization designed to help women in the film
business. Now Rachel is directing Silent-But-Deadly’s first
feature film: Why Am I In A Box? and, as if that
wasn’t enough, Rachel also wrote and is starring in the
film! Despite her hectic production schedule, Rachel found
some time to talk about her work and Silent-But-Deadly
Rachel Grubb, actress, model, director, and
co-founder of Silent-But-Deadly Productions
Nic-- Rachel, you've described yourself as an
actress and a model. Which came first for you?
Rachel-- Acting came first. I never really set out to become
an actress or a model. They were both just something I
started doing for fun. I actually went to school for
writing. I somehow ended up taking some acting classes, just
to have something interesting to do. I got really good
feedback from my instructors, so I decided why not audition
for some films here in town? If it turns out I really suck,
and the instructors are only telling me I'm good to get me
to pay for more classes, I'll be no worse off than I already
am. So, with nothing to lose, I went in to audition for some
indie shorts. I think it helped that I was only doing it for
fun in the beginning, because I didn't get nervous. If I
didn't get the part, it didn't bother me. But it didn't take
long for me to start getting some roles, and I decided to
take it more seriously.
I didn't start modeling until I had done a fair amount of
work as an actress. I wanted to get some good photos of
myself to use for promotional purposes, so I started
networking with photographers in my area. At first I just
wanted a few new pictures, but modeling has become
addictive! Every time I do a photo shoot, I come up with
about 5 more ideas for photo shoots I want to do in the
future. I like modeling for artistic photography. It feels
like a collaboration between the photographer and the model.
Before I got into it, I didn't realize what a wonderful
creative outlet it could be. I especially like doing horror
themes and vintage pin-up.
Nic-- I understand that in addition to starring
in the film Why Am I In A Box? you also wrote and
are directing this film. Is this your first turn at the
Rachel-- Yes, it is! It's been very rewarding, and
I have learned so much. When I graduated from college, I had
written a screenplay, which won the Best Breakthrough
Screenplay Award at the New York International Independent
Film & Video Festival. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do
with it, but people kept telling me I should direct it
myself. I didn't have the first clue about directing a
movie, and at the time, I thought it was completely outside
the realm of possibility.
Then one day, I became an actress. All of a sudden,
everything I would need to learn about film was all around
me. That was how I learned everything about pre-production,
and how to work with actors, and how to put a crew together.
I just watched other independent filmmakers. When it came
time for me to direct my film, I had worked on so many
projects and knew so many people that it wasn't hard to find
people who were willing to help me out.
Nic-- Rachel, since you are both writer and director
for Why Am I In A Box? which do you think is more
challenging: writing a screenplay, or as the director,
bringing the written word to life in the film?
Rachel-- In order to answer that, I would have to
divide directing into two separate tasks: mapping out the
shots, and working with the actors. When I write a script, I
usually have it in my head how each shot is going to look.
If you're directing the film yourself, you can include some
of that in the description. I wrote out a full shot list for
the whole film, before I even had all the locations picked
out. We have been filming on weekends, so I've been going
over the shot list during the week to make it more precise.
I can't draw very well, so instead of story boards, I've
been writing a more detailed shot list to explain to our
Director of Photography, Jason P. Schumacher, what I have in
mind. The first shot list I wrote has one line descriptions
for each shot. I go back in and write out exactly what I
want, how it will look, and what will happen with camera
movement and blocking. Since I already had all the shots in
my head for, Why Am I In A Box? there wasn't much
creativity involved in making the shot list. There was some,
however, because in many cases, we got a location that
didn't look how I had initially imagined it, and I had to
work around that. But for the most part, the creative work
was already done with the screenplay.
Filming Why Am I In A Box?
As for working with actors, I am having a great time with
that! I have Matthew Feeney as Detective Lydecker, and he
has some great scenes with Derek Dirlam and Mike Rylander.
Some of my script is pretty dialog heavy, because I like
dialog, watching it, reading it, writing it, or reciting it.
But the danger is that you're going to have a long boring
scene where people keep talking, and it just keeps flipping
back and forth between over the shoulder shots and a master.
But Jason was able to keep changing it up enough that it
didn't get stale, and my actors made it interesting
throughout. One night we were filming with Derek, and I kept
telling Jason, "get another insert of that line" because
Derek was just cracking me up, and I wanted to see it again!
It was so much fun to see such talented actors performing my
dialog, and sometimes doing it the way I had imagined, and
sometimes coming up with their own way that was better than
When I act, I go through a script and write all over it. I
decide how I want to say each sentence, and I circle words I
want to emphasize, and I add extra commas where I think I
should pause. That's how I find the delivery that's going to
communicate what I think needs to be communicated. That was
how I first approached directing actors, until I realized it
didn't work. If I tell an actor, "don't emphasize that word
so much," or "stretch that vowel out a little more," it
doesn't mean anything to them. I have to tell them what I
want them to communicate, and let them find their own
delivery. I think that being an actor has helped me work
with actors, but there is another side to it that I've
learned since I started this project.
The clapper board says it
Nic-- If I'm not mistaken, you are also the film's lead
character. Is it difficult to direct a film that you are
also starring in?
Rachel-- I didn't plan it this way, but it has worked out
that the character I play has been kidnapped, and spends
most of the film inside one room with my co-producer, Brooke
Lemke! We film those scenes this weekend, and I think it's
going to be much easier, since I've been talking with Brooke
about the script from day 1. I have done a few scenes
outside of that room, though, and it's been hard to get used
to! I am used to holding the scene until the director cuts,
but I have to suddenly break character and cut the scene
myself. And any time I'm acting, I always seem to ask my
crew, "Hey, can we do something like this?" and they're
always, like, "You're the director! Hello!" I'm so used to
acting, that I forget I'm still allowed to make decisions
Nic-- You've been involved in a number of
productions in the Minnesota area. Do you think it is harder
finding film work somewhere like Minnesota than it is in
other parts of the country?
Rachel-- If you're interested in working in
independent film, which I am, there is plenty of it in
Minnesota. Last summer, I did a movie called, Cave Women
On Mars from
Studios. Shadow Creek movies are a humorous homage to
1950's drive-in movies. I did another movie with them a
while back, The Monster Of Phantom Lake, and I love
that style of acting! It's so great to be able to relax and
have fun and not take it so seriously all the time. Brittany
Hughes designed my costume as Hagra, and it looks awesome!
Cave Women On Mars should be coming out in April.
I also have a horror movie coming out soon called,
Reunion. It was directed by Ric McCloud, and I
think it should be great when it's done. I play the wife of
a painter who goes mad. Another horror film I'm really
excited about is
13 Hours In A Warehouse. My makeup was pretty
amazing. I can't tell you too much about it, except to say
that it took a few hours for the makeup artist to apply it.
Sometimes, I just slept in it just to save time. The
director has a rough cut done, and it should be available
I'm also very excited for Tales Of The Dead. Tim
and Lisa Rasmussen were so much fun to work with. It's a
feature film made up of 5 short stories in old school style
horror. I played a lead role in the Reckoning Of The
Werewolf segment, and a supporting role in
Productions does some cool effects, and I hope to work
with them more in the future.
Early next year, I'm working with Brooke and Heather on a
film called The Spooner Sisters. I've worked with
director JP Wenner on several shorts, and this is his first
time directing a feature. He made a horror short called
Retina that Heather and I acted in. Another actor,
Joshua LeSuer, enjoyed working on it so much that he asked
JP if he could write a script for him. So he wrote The
Spooner Sisters and Joshua and JP invited back the cast
of Retina to be in it. I love the script. It
reminds me of something like Ginger Snaps or
May. I'm looking forward to working with JP on his
first feature. I'm playing Jacklyn Spooner.
Nic-- Can you tell us a bit about your film company:
Silent-But-Deadly Productions? What inspired you to start a
non-profit film organization such as this?
more from the set of
Why Am I In A Box?
Silent-But-Deadly Productions is an all female
independent production company. It was started by me, and my
friends, Heather Amos, and Brooke Lemke.
The whole thing began little over a year ago. I was cast in
a horror film called, "Tales Of The Dead" from Haunted
Autumn Productions. They were looking for two girls to play
my best friends. I recommended Heather and Brooke. Heather
and I were in a NOFX video together, and Brooke was an extra
with me in a local feature film. They had never met before,
but I thought they were perfect as the characters in the
script. Tim Rasmussen, the director, met with them and said
they were almost exactly how he pictured the characters. So
we went out into the woods in a cold November in the middle
of the night, and we more fun than any of us ever had on a
movie set! No matter how cold it was outside, and no matter
how many times a car drove by and ruined the take, we just
kept laughing and coming back, ready to do it again.
The first night we worked on it, we decided we were
having too much fun not to keep working together. And the
best way to insure we would be working together was to start
our own production company. I told Brooke and Heather that I
had some writings at home that I was thinking about turning
into a screenplay, and Silent-But-Deadly Productions was
We wanted to have an independent production company in which
we could create interesting and challenging female roles for
ourselves, and for other women who want to work in film,
both in front of and behind the camera. Brooke knows a
younger girl who is interested in working in film, and we
would like to have her visit the set and see what it's like.
We're hoping to do more things like that.
Nic-- It sounds like you, Heather and Brooke have
something pretty special going on with Silent-But-Deadly.
What kind of plans do you have for the future of your
production company once Why Am I In A Box? is
Rachel-- Brooke and Heather are both going to write and
direct, too. I just went first because I already had some
writings that were coming together to form a script. We'd
like to do whatever we can to promote women in film. We are
hoping we can get some more young girls interested in film
who would like to visit our sets. Sometimes, the task of
making a film seems so daunting that people feel like they
don't know where to start. I felt like that when I wrote my
first screenplay. But if you learn more about it, then you
have an idea of what you need to do. I learned a lot just
from being on set and talking to filmmakers.
Nic-- What do you think is the biggest challenge
your production company has faced in making Why Am I In
Rachel-- Brooke Lemke was struck with a pretty bad
illness not long before our first shoot date. That was hard,
because Heather Amos and I were worried about Brooke, and
nobody was quite sure what was wrong with her. We were
getting a little behind on preproduction, because Brooke was
too sick to do very much, and we had to postpone her first
scene. It turned out to be nothing serious, and she is
feeling better now. We just had to find a way to deal with
it, and we did. We now have one extra shooting day, and the
crew has been very understanding about that.
Nic-- I’m glad that Brooke has recovered and that
you were able to get the production on track! Now you’ve
talked about the biggest challenge, but what has been the
best part of making your own film company?
Rachel-- I don't know! Everything! I've learned so much
about the filmmaking process that you can't learn from books
or lectures, and that's been amazing. One thing that has
been unexpected is that I've gotten to know Brooke and
Heather better, and in a different way, than I knew them
before after working on such a huge creative project with
them. I'm really enjoying the time I'm spending with the
crew, and I hope I get to work with them all again in some
capacity. It's also been fun meeting and working with new
actors. We had so many great people come to the audition,
and we didn't get to use them all. If I had to choose,
though, I would have to say that seeing actors act out the
dialog that I wrote has been the best part so far. That's a
feeling I can't explain.
Nic-- One last question. You've mentioned that your
first screenplay won the Best Breakthrough Screenplay Award
at the New York International Independent Film & Video
Festival. Have you had the opportunity to do anything with
that piece yet?
Yes, I did, just recently, in fact. I had a role in a
comedy/horror short called Intervention With The Vampire
from Cut, Print Productions. I was talking with Eric Ortiz,
who worked on that film, and I happened to mention that I
had won an award for a screenplay I wrote. He asked me more
about it, and he said he would be interested in directing
it, maybe as a short. Shortly afterward, he started a new
independent production company called Murderapolis Moving
Pictures and asked me to be a part of it. I rewrote the
first scene into a short screenplay, and it became our first
I told him I would let him direct on one condition--that I
got to play the female lead. I remember when I first wrote
the script, I was so attached to it that I couldn't imagine
giving the role over to anyone else, even though I didn't
really know how to act at the time. I was willing to learn
how, just to be in it. Now that I had the opportunity to get
it made, I actually did know how to act, and I knew that I
could do a good job with the role. Eric said okay, and he
agreed to cast me. We auditioned several people for the male
lead, and the guy who ended up getting the role was Derek
Dirlam from Why Am I In A Box? I was so pleased
when he came in, because he was so great to work with on our
set. His audition had this great intensity, and we just had
to cast him.
I wrote that script quite a few years ago, and revisiting it
was like running into an old school friend when you've grown
up, only they haven't. There was a lot I wanted to do
differently, and I think I have grown a lot as a writer
since then. But there was some pretty interesting stuff in
it. It's very character driven, so there is a lot to work
with as an actor. Derek and I had a great time with it.
Shooting could not have gone better. We put together a great
crew, and we finished ahead of schedule.