The Innovators #12 with…filmmaker/writer Leah Solmaz

“Everyone has the ability and capability to do anything. It takes self-belief and patience. That goes hand-in-hand with living your truth. Always create with yourself in mind. Create what you want then if people resonate with it… bonus!”

Introduce yourself.

Hello guys, girls, non-bines, I am Leah Solmaz. I’m primarily an actress, filmmaker, and writer, but I dabble in a lot of other creative activities too. I am currently based in Lichfield, Staffordshire but I’m originally from Birmingham, West Midlands, UK. I lived in County Cavan, Ireland for 9 years and completed the majority of my schooling there. Having lived in both a large, bustling city and a small, country village seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it has definitely given me a broad perspective on life. I’ve definitely experienced the best of both worlds, so to speak and I think it’s helped ground me as a person.

Tell me about your Theosight digital series.

‘Theosight’ is a UK based, comedy, horror, web series that we hope to make sometime next year. I’m the writer, producer, and I also act in it. 

The logline: “Theo’s a skeptic. Riley’s optimistic. Shaun’s dead.”

We released the pilot episode on Halloween which sets up the premise for the series. It was directed and shot by my good friend, Matthew Wood, and stars the amazing Kiah Reeves (The House of Screaming Death, 2017) as Riley, Alex Bourne (writer and director of Clownface, 2019) as Shaun, and myself as Theo. The cast of the pilot also features Lewis Clift (BBC’s Doctors), Craig Godwin aka Fingaz MC, Roger David Francis (The House of Screaming Death), and the very lovely Debbie Brannon as Peg … my favourite characters, in all honesty. Behind the scenes, we had Farhaan S. Sadiq on sound, the brilliant Hans Michael Anselmo Hess composed the music, and we were very lucky to feature the song ‘My Reflection’ by the American/Canadian rock band DeBendetta.

The premise is very much this … Theo, is a grouchy, skeptical woman who discovers she is, in fact, psychic after a strange man follows her home from work one night. That man is Shaun. Shaun is dead. Theo’s charmingly optimistic, roommate, Riley, then comes up with the bright idea to set up a Supernatural Private Investigation service. With the help of a rag-tag bunch of friends they do just that and open themselves up to a world of monsters, ghouls, and demons.
It is very much an ode to one of my favourite, childhood films, ‘The Monster Squad’, and also pays homage to TV shows such as ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, ‘Charmed’, and ‘Scooby Doo’ … believe it or not. I love the fact that in each of those, the main character could never have succeeded without the help of their comrades. 
We genuinely hope people will enjoy it once it’s made and we’ve already received some great feedback from the pilot which you can totally check out for free here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAJCND9EcLw
You can also find and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Where did the idea for your novel Nexus: Book One come from? Any plans for Book Two (or another novel)?

So 5 years ago, or it could be 6, in all honesty, but we’ll stick to 5, I had this crazy idea to write and illustrate a dark-fantasy graphic novel. I’m a huge lover of comic books and graphic novels and being in my naïve, mid-twenties I thought to myself … I can do that. Throw in work and other commitments, I found it hard to find time to sit down and actually draw. I’d written half a script for it and planned out thirty to forty pages’ worth of panels but that’s as far as I ever got with it.
The story, as it is now, is very different from how I intended for the graphic novel. Initially, the character of Brianna, was going to be a police detective and Dax, was an unlucky guy who had found himself entangled with some dark characters. There was going to inevitably be a splash of the supernatural in there, but yeah it’s definitely not the same story as I originally planned.
So, having realized just how much time a graphic novel was going to take, and taking from my primary love of filmmaking I then (again rather naively) thought I could turn it into a feature film. I got halfway with the script and realized in order to make it, I’d need a ridiculous budget and I wasn’t willing to change any of it to ensure it could be made cost-effectively.
It was very much put on the back burner until the summer of 2018 which is coincidentally the same time that I came up with the idea for ‘Theosight’. I’d sustained a back injury that meant I actually couldn’t work for 5 months. In being such a creative person, I needed something to take my mind off of the fact that I could barely hobble from my bed to the lounge and back again. 
I stumbled (maybe literally) upon a lot of my old notebooks and came across the graphic novel script for Nexus. I bought a new notebook and whether or not it was painkiller induced, I decided to change everything about the story. I’d always written short stories growing up and I’d always had the itch to write a book so it just clicked. It meant I could tell the story I wanted to without compromising elements for a feature film and the words seemed to flow easier and quicker than sitting down and drawing. It was gloriously serendipitous. I just started writing. Chapter one. Chapter two … three, four … before I knew it I’d made my way to chapter seven.
I was feeling extremely nostalgic being holed up in a small, city apartment and the physical limitations I was experiencing at the time, I’d sort of found myself longing for the open countryside of Ireland so that greatly influenced the world-building side of things and definitely shaped the premise of transporting Brianna from the mundane to the fantastical. For those months, I very much lived vicariously through Brianna, hence turning her into a waitress … I have that on my work resume. 
For anyone with a keen eye, you can very much identify the influences of the book. I definitely drew from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and also from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ but I also have a fascination with the occult and demonology and the concept of angels and devils battling each other for our immortal souls. Nexus is very much an amalgamation of those elements.
It wasn’t until meeting the fantastic, horror writing twins C L Raven, who worked on a feature film I was acting in, Clownface, that I decided to self-publish and they played a huge part in getting Nexus: Book One made. I will forever love them for that. 
I am currently working on the sequel and can honestly say that it’ll be bigger, better, and darker than the first book. 

What challenges do you face as both an indie author and filmmaker?  What specific advantages do you have being involved in both creative realms?

My biggest challenge being indie in both fields is and has been working a day job. I would love to get to the point of replacing the day job with either field. That is definitely the goal but I guess the pros of my current circumstances is valuing time. 
Another pro of being indie is also having creative control. Especially in regards to the writing side of things. With film, if we’re looking at the behind the scenes side of things, you haven’t got to jump through massive hoops in order to make a film, which if you were looking for a larger, more mainstream studio or production company to get a film made, you certainly would which runs the risk of changing the initial story you want to tell. The downside of that is the scheduling side of things, and organizing shoot days to suit everyone involved but it makes it so much easier to have a great cast and crew. So far, I’ve been lucky in the fact that everyone I’ve worked with, in front of or behind the camera has been truly amazing. 
The same applies for self-publishing I’ve found. It’s always good to run your manuscript past an editor to see if there are elements that don’t work but ultimately, it’s your call at the end of the day. With writing a book, bar working with an editor or artist, I do enjoy the working alone aspect which makes the whole process of it very therapeutic. The final product is definitely rewarding. It’s almost an extension of yourself and I think most authors feel a sense of pride and ecstasy in realizing that. 
Working in film, you learn the show don’t tell aspect which has helped in writing Nexus and as an actor, its helped me hone dialogue that is supposed to be spoken. I do tend to read aloud a piece of dialogue to make sure it sounds authentic to a character. Authentic dialogue makes it easier for the audience, film or book, to relate to a character. 

Who or what inspires your creativity?

Life inspires me, as cliche as that sounds. People, places, and very much the unknown of it all too. I’m big into spiritualism, philosophy, psychology, and I enjoy learning about ancient cultures. Literally anything and everything. As gloomy as life may seem at times it’s also so awesome. I think we just have to look a bit harder at times but it’s there. Magic is everywhere. 

Twenty years down the road, what do you want people to take away from your body of creative work? 

I’d like to inspire others to take up whatever creative field they want to pursue. Nothing is impossible. Everyone has the ability and capability to do anything. It takes self-belief and patience. That goes hand in hand with living your truth. Always create with yourself in mind. Create what you want then if people resonate with it… bonus! The fun is very much in the creative stage. Another thing I’d like to inspire in people is to support and promote each other. Creativity is not a competition. It’s a game and like most games the more people the more fun there is to be had. Right? Can I trademark that line? 

What are your upcoming projects?

I have a few feature films lined up, in front of and behind the camera. Advent: A Christmas Anthology, in which I act and I believe it’ll be released around this time next year. Shock Value: Body Horror which is another anthology-style film. I’ll be teaming up with Alex Bourne for one of the stories in that. We are also collaborating on a separate feature and hopefully begin the pre-production stage sometime next year. 
We will be launching a crowd funder sometime in the spring to help get Theosight made. 
I have a couple of short films, acting-wise too. The Other, which is a dramatic piece directed by Will Bradshaw. The second short, I don’t think I can reveal too much about it as of yet but I’m looking forward to working with some familiar faces on that one, from Advent and Clownface. 
In between all of that I’d really like to focus more on my store and fingers crossed, design an awesome collection. I’ll also be finishing Nexus: Book Two and hopefully publishing it mid to late next year.
I say hopefully and fingers crossed to all of that considering this year’s unprecedented guest. 

Where can readers/viewers find you and your work?

Well if anyone is looking for an off-the-wall, dark-fantasy, adventure book then they can find Nexus: Book One here: https://www.azonlinks.com/1656109433

Or follow me on social media

Twitter … https://www.twitter.com/leahsolmaz

 Instagram … https://www.instagram.com/leahsolmaz

Facebook … https://www.facebook.com/theonly.leah...

LinkedIn … https://www.linkedin.com/in/leah-solmaz-4844121aa/

For everything else check out my website…https://www.leahsolmaz.com/

Thank you, Leah!! Be sure to check out her work AND her Author/Filmmaker Series of interviews (which I was honoured to be a part of and then, in turn, was inspired to start The Innovators!)