By DAKOTA DAHL
A weird psychosexual thriller recently reared its ugly head on VOD and other digital sources, a film going by the innocuous title of PAINTER. It follows an aspiring artist, Aldis (Eric Ladin, American Sniper, The Killing) with serious unresolved childhood trauma who enters into an Oedipal relationship with a manipulative older art collector named Joanne (Betsy Randle, Boy Meets World, The Nightmare Room.) There’s sex, shame, murder, and art critics hanging from the rafters aplenty in this one, and if you follow the trail of bleeding paint to its source, you’ll find writer and director Cory Wexler Grant. He took time away from penning more mad scribblings to tell us what exactly inspires someone to create a film like PAINTER.
What inspired you to write PAINTER?
PAINTER kind of came in reverse. I wanted to make my first feature film. And I knew the budget would be small, and the shooting schedule would be short. So, I picked one of the very fucked up stories I had floating around in my head that I knew would allow for such tight limitations.
I’m hoping the answer is no, but have you ever been in the sort of unhealthy relationship that Aldis and Joanne have?
No, I wish! Really! I searched for years. No one was interested. Maybe, one day, I’ll be the Joanne.
PAINTER takes some subtle jabs at art critics and pseudo-intellectual analysis. To avoid falling into that very trap, why don’t you tell us exactly what you want audiences to come away with after seeing your film?
I want the audience to feel rocked, uncomfortable, and titillated – like when you’ve done something sexually for the first time, and you don’t know if you’re disgusted or proud. I also want the audience to want to see more of my work. Also, to be clear, I love intellectual discussions about art. But I love stories about complicated people and relationships more than anything.
Do you have a “Ryan West” (Aldis’ childhood rival) in your life?
You are an actor, writer, director, and producer. What advice do you have for aspiring artists who want to become multi-hyphenates?
Do not take advice from me. That being said, if by some cruel fate my kid wanted to be an artist, I would say: learn to do as much as you can in your field as you can, because no one is going to care about your work being good more than you.
“StockingFace,” a character who always wears a stocking on her face, seems almost stranger than fiction. Is she inspired by someone you’ve met in real life?
I cannot tell you HOW MANY StockingFace’s there are in the world. I am not bullshitting: at the last event I went to at a museum, there was a StockingFace – a good one! But none as good as my StockingFace.
What are some stories behind the paintings featured in the film?
In the film, the character of “The Gardener” paints secretly in his bedroom. He paints tiny, abstract oil paintings, only 2”x3”. I took it upon myself to paint those paintings before we started shooting. I painted around thirty tiny, little paintings over the course of two months. Sadly, you only see three of them in the film. They were cute.
Which painting is your favorite?
My favourite painting is the pink, grey, brown abstract. It’s in my daughter’s room now. But, also that painting of “Bruce.” I’d describe the painting, but then I’d give up a precious little nugget of information in the film.
PAINTER seems morally critical of every level of the art industry. What do you think is the best way to maintain your artistic integrity while also keeping a clean conscience?
This is my first film, so I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I don’t think I can. It’s a permanent and constant war, right? Every fucking moment of making a movie is compromise. I am trying to recreate a thing that lives in my head. I am going to fail and succeed at bringing that vision to fruition. The compromise can be thrilling. Separately, I don’t think good art comes from a clean conscience. I don’t think my film is morally critical. I’m just telling you a story about a group of people. They all have huge dreams, and glaring flaws. Me too.
As always, what projects of yours can we look forward to in the future?
I‘ve written 8 screenplays and a stage play since I finished production on PAINTER. I want to make them all. Please help.
PAINTER is now available on VOD.