I recently got the chance to talk to Juan Riedinger about his role in ‘Grave Encounters’. Here, Juan talks about how he got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Juan. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Grave Encounters’.
I’m happy to.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The story revolves around a group of paranormal investigators who were a part of a television show called ‘Grave Encounters’. The team consists of a host, a tech guy, a paranormal expert, a camera guy, and a psychic. For one particular episode, they decided to lock themselves inside an abandoned (and supposedly haunted) psychiatric hospital. Although the team wasn’t really taking anything too seriously at first – even faking some “scares” just to get some good material for the show – things got serious very quickly.
They’re eventually trapped in the hospital with no escape, and horrible things begin to happen to each one of them. The film ’Grave Encounters’ is supposed to be a collection of footage of what later became the TV show’s “final episode,” as well as a number of interviews by key witnesses.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play Matt White, who is the “tech guru” of the group. He’s the one in charge of all the sound/camera gear and the ghost hunting apparatus (Geiger counters, EMF meters, etc.). Matt’s a pretty happy-go-lucky, chain-smoking dude who tends to get along with everyone in the group, and who really likes his job. In the beginning, he’s probably the one who actually believes in the paranormal more than the rest of the group. By the end, they’re all believers.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I’d worked with the casting director before, and she pitched me to the Vicious Brothers for the role. They liked my demo reel, and I was offered the part. I jumped at the opportunity of working on it, as I’d never worked in the “found footage” format and wanted to experience that. It was one of those rare and wonderful instances where I didn’t have to audition.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
Although the “found footage” format is not a new thing in the horror genre, I think this film approaches it differently. A lot of found footage films I’ve seen don’t really show you any of the scary elements. Everything is “implied” and if you do see anything, it’s usually very brief, which can be somewhat unsatisfying. ’Grave Encounters’ doesn’t hold anything back. You get to actually see all the scary stuff, and trust me – it’s scary! Also, I don’t think there’s been a found footage film which is based around paranormal investigators. Although ’Grave Encounters’ includes homages to other horror films which have paved the way, I think it is definitely unique, and has many new things to offer.
The film stars Sean Rogerson, your good self, Ashleigh Gryzko, Mackenzie Gray and Merwin Mondesir – with The Vicious Brothers onboard as directors – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
It was a solid group of people and I had a great time with these guys. Getting along with the rest of the cast was really important, since we were mainly doing long night shoots in a creepy hospital. It was a challenging environment, so it was important to keep the morale high on set. Luckily we didn’t have any divas, and everyone was super easy to get along with.
Working with the Vicious Brothers was also a blast. Those are a couple of talented dudes, and I think they’re definitely going places. It’s been a while since we shot the film, but I do remember going off to explore the hospital we were shooting in during breaks between scenes, either with other cast mates or by myself. It was a really spooky place, and we’d all heard countless stories from past film crews who shot there claiming that the place was truly haunted. I definitely sensed a presence while walking around those dark corridors by myself, and certain people from our own crew said they actually saw strange apparitions. I also remember that the woman who was hired to supervise us during shooting was actually a practicing witch. In her opinion, she was protecting us from the sinister spirits which supposedly haunted the place. I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but after working on this film, I’m definitely more open to the possibility. Let’s just say it didn’t take much to get into character.
Let’s talk a bit about you Juan. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I took an acting class in my third year of university just to fill an elective while studying Biology and English. I’d never done it before in my life, and I fell in love with it immediately. I had a very supportive teacher who basically convinced me that acting was something I could really do well at, as long as I committed to it with all my heart. So I did. The next thing I knew, I was living in Vancouver pursuing an acting career, and I haven’t looked back since. I’m thankful to have found it too, as I can’t really imagine doing anything else. I definitely had to pay my dues at first, and I feel really lucky to now be splitting my time between acting and directing.
You’ve had a number of roles in different TV and film projects – who have been your favourite actors/actresses to work with so far and why? Any good stories?
I’ve worked with a ton of great Canadian actors who (unfortunately) most people probably haven’t heard of.
In terms of people you would know, Amanda Seyfried was a treat to work with on ’Jennifer’s Body’. She’s insanely talented and completely down to earth. Cuba Gooding Jr. (‘Hardwired’) was also a class act and very generous as an actor. I also got my ass kicked by Joshua Jackson in ’Fringe’…literally. We did a fight scene together and I got to do my own stunts on that one. He was a good man. Although it wasn’t really with an “actor,” getting my head blown off by a predator in ‘AVP2′ was a highlight too.
I think one of my most memorable acting experiences was working on ‘Jennifer’s Body’ though. I played the bassist in the band Low Shoulder, who perform a satanic ritual on Megan Fox’s character to gain fame, and who appear multiple times throughout the film. Other members of our band included Adam Brody as the lead singer, and various members of an actual band called “Test Your Reflex”. We actually got to rehearse our instruments in a real band practice setting. I’d never touched a bass before, so there was a bit of a learning curve there. Needless to say, I had a lot of fun on that one.
What is currently on your I-Pod?
Johnny Cash, Eminem, Radiohead, and Weezer. Quite an eclectic mix. I’ve also been listening to a lot by a musician named Alexander.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
- Marlon Brando – he’s a legend and I’d love to pick his brain about his process as an actor.
- Aldous Huxley – my favourite author and probably a great conversationalist.
- Daniel Negreanu – (professional poker player). I’d say he’s my favourite player and I could learn a few things from him to improve my own game. I’m assuming we could also get a quick game in after the dinner.
If you were stranded on a desert island – which three ‘personal’ things could you not live without?
I think just having my iPhone would probably cover all the bases. Keeping it charged could be a problem though. What is your favourite food and drink and why? Chicken and chocolate are two foods I couldn’t see myself living without. For drinks, I’d say coffee and coconut water. I guess I have a thing for things that start with the letter ‘C’
What is your favourite word?
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I just wrapped up on a feature film called ’Havana 57′ which was a period police drama shot entirely on location in Cuba. I played the lead role of Homicide Detective Ruben Velez. I had a wonderful experience on that project, and it should be coming out later this year. I’m also currently in the midst of shooting another feature called ‘Drawing Home’ which is actually being filmed both in my hometown of Banff, Alberta and in Montreal, Quebec. I’m playing Peter Whyte, who was an artist from the Rocky Mountains I learned about growing up in school and who lived a fascinating life. It really is a dream role for me. He was an incredibly profound and passionate individual, and I get to play him from his 20s all the way through his 60s. That film should also be coming out at the end of this year. In the TV world, I’ll soon be appearing in both ’Hannah’s Law’ and ‘Continuumas’, as a gun-slinging gambler from the Old West and as the leader of an anarchist movement, respectively. Also, in the next few months, I’ll be doing a web series entitled ‘Breakers’ as well as a short film called ‘Solace’. It’s been a busy year so far
Thanks for the interview!