Bit by the filmmaking bug at the age of 19, director/writer Courtney Solomon said there is nothing else in this world he would rather do than be on a movie set. His first experience with the film industry came when he was 14 when his mother, Fran, began working as a production coordinator while living in their hometown of Toronto, Canada. After releasing his first film “Dungeons & Dragons” in 2000 under Sweetpea Entertainment, the production company he founded, Solomon is now campaigning for his second. In “An American Haunting,” Solomon adapts the novel “The Bell Witch” to tell the story of the only documented case in U.S. history in which a poltergeist caused the death. Taking time out to speak to me via phone from New York City, Solomon talked about his research for the film, working with author Brent Monahan and whether or not he believes in ghosts.
How did you come to find the story of the Bell Witch?
I actually found it on amazon.com in 1998. I did more research on the Bell Witch. I was looking for something to adapt in this supernatural thriller.
What resonated with you about this story?
It was pretty freaky stuff. It was scary that this story actually happened and that it could happen to somebody. Then I went down to the town itself and spoke to the people that believed in the legend. That is what finally sold me.
There has been over 20 books written on the subject of the Bell Witch. Were you surprised a film had not been made yet?
Yeah, I was. I was kind of happy actually. (Laughs) I thought to myself that maybe no one had made it because nobody really knows about the Bell Witch since it is a southern story. I think that it probably slipped under the radar. I didn’t know about it until I read the book.
Were you able to speak with Brent Monahan, author of “The Bell Witch,” for this project?
Absolutely. Once I did my research and decided that I wanted to do it, I got in touch with him directly and we got along really well. He agreed to give me the option on the book. I involved him in the screenplay process. I would send him copies of the script. I would get his input as to what he thought, which is not usually the way things are done. It was big benefit.
What are your personal thoughts on ghosts and other entities? Are you a believer?
Absolutely. I think there is something out there that comes in various different forms of energy. I certain believe that something happened in Adams, Tenn. (the setting of “An American Haunting”), which is one of the things that made me interested in the story. You see so many of these movies that say they are ‘Based on a true story’ but it’s just a marketing ploy. The fact that something did happen here, to me that just makes it evermore scary and makes me think about what else can happen. What could happen in present day if something were to come into our houses?
Have you ever seen a ghost? If not, would you like to?
I think I would like to see one. I would like to have what I believe confirmed. I wouldn’t like it to do to me what it did to Betsy Bell but I certainly would like to see one. I better be careful of what I ask for but I would. Donald [Sutherland] told me a story that he actually lived with a ghost that would play the piano and did all these strange things. And he swears it was there.
What have you learned about the supernatural that you didn’t know before making this film?
That it can operate in all sorts of ways and the causes of it can be the things that we at least suspect. The supernatural is engrained from our real lives and our past lives. I sort of learned the way all that stuff plays off itself and off of each other. It does originate from some real energy to begin with.