A chat with Faryl Amadeus, writer, director and star of Mary Meet Grace

(CREDIT: Cameron Jordan)

In Faryl Amadeus’ dramatic new short film, which moves quickly and fluidly from drama to thriller, Mary Meet Grace tells the story of a troubled young woman who gets a phone call from a stranger saying that the birth mother she never knew has died. She impulsively accompanies him into the desert to spread her mother’s ashes.

Along the way, Grace discovers dangerous truths and fights to untangle herself from a sinister plan.

The film stars and was written and directed by the promising young female director New Yorker, Faryl Amadeus. According to her, the story is inspired by Faryl’s own experience reuniting with her birth mother with the seed of this story lies in the intense yearning of an adoptee to know more about their past.

On a deeper level Dom, the surprise antagonist, represents dominant patriarchy that seeks to undermine and nullify a creative, independent life. Mary, Grace’s elusive birth mother, represents freedom and a life dedicated to art. Dom informs Grace that Mary is dead and we watch her fight to uncover the truth. Take a look at the trailer below:

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Originally a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, Faryl switched direction after being accepted into the famed LaGuardia High School, majoring in Visual Art and Drama. While still in school, she originated the role of Bill Gates in the musical Nerds, and following a collaboration with performance artist David Cale, she originated the role of Clea in the world premiere of Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. Faryl has worked alongside legends like Julie Taymor, Lynne Ramsay and Kathleen Turner.

Reel 360 had a chance to speak with the filmmaker about her gorgeous film.

Colin meet Faryl. Really nice job on Mary Meet Grace. What was your inspiration for the film? 

Thank you! The inspiration for Mary Meet Grace comes from my personal experience as an adoptee, who grew up with the intense yearning to know more about who and where I came from.

How was the production? Any hiccups that you can share with our readers?

Hiccups! Yes, that’s part of filmmaking. Puzzles and puzzles and puzzles to solve. We lost two essential crew members halfway through a 3-day shoot (positive covid case on their last set) and lost our location simultaneously. But if you can’t ride a wave then maybe don’t be a surfer. Filmmakers are 100% cowabunga dude.

From writing Mary Meet Grace, through fundraising, pre-production, production, post, and now sharing the film with audiences- I have loved every minute of it. 

It feels like a very intimate character study along the lines of Nomadland then boom we’re in a thriller. How did you decide on that? 

I just followed the story in my head and let it go where it wanted to. The story evolved over time. got cleaner etc, but I think in every version it ended with (#Spoiler) Dom taking a dark turn. 

Faryl Amadeus and Julia Swain create magic

Mary Meets Grace is gorgeous. It invokes memories of Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. What inspired the overall aesthetic of the film?

Thank you! The colors and textures were immediately present from the initial spark of the idea. Having been a visual artist I pay special attention to design and detail because they were of the utmost importance when creating the world.

How was it acting and directing yourself? Any advice to offer? 

Rehearsal is essential. Clint and I needed to be crystal clear on every line. Every moment. When cameras are rolling the work needs to be there, and many times on this film we got the shot in one take. I trusted Julia, our DP, and Nell and Elizabeth our producers. They had eyes on the monitor. If Nell says we got it, we got it. We rarely watched playback. A 12-page script on a 3 day shoot you don’t have time.

Any plans to turn Mary Meets Grace into a Feature?  

Absolutely. The feature adaptation is called THE HUNT FOR GRACE. It’s a double cat and mouse thriller. In this version, Mary, the birth mother, becomes our savage protagonist. She chases Dom, who chases Grace. It’s such a fun script, I can’t wait to make it.

How did you get Lucinda Williams to let you use her beautiful song?

I was introduced to Lucinda back in 2005. My birth mother, who I had just met a few months prior, reached out to her team, told them the story of us reconnecting, and said I was a big fan. They sent us both her entire discography, gave us tickets to a concert, and invited us to meet her backstage. Using a Lucinda Williams’ song meant so much to me and when Mama You Sweet plays at the end of the movie it makes me cry every time. 

Did you really pee in an urn? Hopefully, it was empty?

Gosh, I hope it’s ok to tell this story. NOBODY knows this.

Well, we’re Reel 360 News. We get to the bottom of these things.

As our crew was driving from LA to the desert on our first day of filming, I had to pee like crazy. We had no time to stop, having to film a scene before the sunset. I grabbed the urn, crawled into the back seat, and quickly filled it to the brim. But I wasn’t done peeing! I had to open the car door and dump out the piss as we were racing down the highway. Let’s file this moment under one of the many “puzzles to solve”.

We heard your birth mother is in Mary Meet Grace. Can you talk about that?

Yes! I asked her to be in it. And she flew in and did a great job! I said “Let’s just look at each other like it’s the first time.” And we did! 

Is the film screening in any other festivals?

We JUST started submitting to festivals. Having our world premiere at the 17th annual Oscar qualifying HollyShorts film festival has been an absolute dream. I look forward to seeing where we go!

This gorgeously shot film just screened at Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts. We’re sure there will be ample opportunities to see it again, as it’s a film that deserves to own the fest circuit. That can be attributed to co-star Clint Jordan (Cougartown, This is Us, People vs. OJ Simpson), cinematographer Julia Swain and of course, Faryl Amadeus.

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1