THE MAKING OF "SOLSTICE"
When Jerry Vasilatos wrote "Solstice" during the Christmas of '91 to "work out a few personal issues", he never expected he would actually have the opportunity to produce his 30-page screenplay as a 48-minute short feature. Having suffered from a near fatal accident in 1986 in which he lost his right leg, the winter of 1992 found Vasilatos inadvertently coming upon the financial resources needed to produce the Christmas time drama. "Some films cost an arm and a leg to produce... mine just cost a leg" he often jokes. In retrospect however, the out-of-court settlement afforded Vasilatos the opportunity to set out and meet the personal challenge of making a film after having spent so many years just "talking about it"; the ironic "good" coming out of a bad thing.
Pre-Production & Casting
Assembling a talented crew made up of friends from the local film community and underclassmen from his alma matter Columbia College, Vasilatos and his A.D.s began the task at hand by auditioning a series of actors and actresses, looking for the ideal performers to breathe life into the crucial roles of Nick and Kristine. "We found the perfect couple in Michael Kelley and Mary McCloud, both of whom ended up testing together by reading through the apartment scene" he says. "We had seen a lot of actors, many of whom gave us really good monologues. But there was a quality that we couldn't quite put our finger on that was missing. We had narrowed our choices down to one other actor for Nick, and two actresses for the part of Kristine. One of the crew members, Karrie Kelley, told me I should have her brother Mike read for it. I'd known Mike from many years ago and he'd read another script I wrote that he really liked. We always fantasized about being able to shoot it, but realistically it would have required a Hollywood budget to be done right. Well, Karrie pointed out to me that the role Mike really liked in that particular script I 'd written so many years ago wasn't that far a stretch from the character of Nick in "Solstice", and being that both characters were drawn from a semi-autobiographical thread, she was right. I sent a script to Mike and a week later he came in during the proverbial "eleventh hour" and nailed the part, immediately making it his own."
"Casting was of tremendous importance in making this story work," Vasilatos continues. "Mike pulled a depth out of the character that was so wonderfully genuine it elevated the story beyond some of the this genre's usual conventions. As I'd written it, the script was a little heavy on the melodrama, but when Mike played it, he was able to walk the fine line and accentuate what was heartfelt. There was a lot of what I wanted Nick to be in Mike, and I think it's why his performance comes across as naturally as it does."
In the case of Kristine, Vasilatos had it in his mind's eye what she should be like. "Red hair, fair skin, resolute yet with an underlying vulnerability, and then into our auditions walked Mary McCloud. The monologue she prepared had to do with relationships, and it was really spooky because it was as if the character of Kristine had literally materialized right there before us. Both Mary and Mike had such good chemistry in their testing against each other that we knew we had our leads."