Currently in theaters, and coming to Amazon Prime Video later this year, Shelter in Solitude is that unlikeliest of things -- an original script that not only got financed and made but distributed.
It's also pretty Catholic, and there isn't even an exorcism in sight.
It does help that the writer/producer/star behind it is not exactly a showbiz newbie. Even if you don’t recognize Siobhan Fallon Hogan's name, you probably have seen her before, in roles in Men in Black, Forrest Gump, Seinfeld and Saturday Night Live.
What Is Shelter in Solitude About?
This is her second movie as a triple threat through her family company, Emerald Caz Productions, the first being 2021's Rushed.
In that, Fallon Hogan plays an Irish Catholic mother -- Fallon Hogan is all of those in real life -- seeking truth about her son's hazing death (you can watch it here).
In Shelter in Solitude, directed by Vibeke Muasya, she plays another Catholic character, Val, a wannabe country singer who had one shining moment in Nashville. Now, she runs a bar, not far from the prison where her brother (Robert Patrick, who was also in Rushed) is warden.
COVID-19 hits, and through a variety of circumstances, Val winds up working as a death-row prison guard.
There, she develops an unconventional relationship with death-row prisoner Jackson Marcus (Peter Macon), who has 10 days to live.
Dan Castellaneta also stars.
In addition, in Nashville, Fallon Hogan recorded the song Soul in These Boots with Todd Cameron, and Heartache Rodeo, written by Justin Biltonen from 3 Doors Down.
NOTE ON CONTENT: Shelter in Solitude doesn't carry an official rating, but there is language and adult content. It's a worthy film with a Catholic heart, but definitely for older teens and up.
11 Questions With Siobhan
Fallon Hogan was kind enough to answer email questions about Shelter in Solitude. Read on ...
I heard that this story came to you all of a sudden -- but why tell a COVID story? I would think that would make a lot of folks nervous.
The story came to me in the middle of the night, just as I had finished a long 6-month edit on my first film RUSHED.
I had planned on taking some time off and woke up in the middle of the night, and this idea just came to me, What if a washed-up wannabe country singer was the prison guard for a prisoner on death row?
My father was an attorney, and I was the second of five. He would sometimes tell us about some of his clients who were incarcerated, The stories scared me but fascinated me.
We would visit our cousins every Sunday after church and would have to pass the penitentiary to get there. I wondered what life was like in that prison and did the prisoners ever form friendships with the guards.
My dad also wanted me to be a country singer, so these two worlds collided. I knew I needed a tough warden, and Robert Patrick was the perfect choice. We had worked together many times, and he had just played my husband in RUSHED.
The reason it was told during COVID was because it came to me during COVID, and I was feeling very isolated and lonely.
I had my daughter home from college and my husband and cats and dog. I thought, if I feel lonely, what must a single woman, whose job is to entertain. but no longer can, feel --or even worse, a prisoner in isolation on death row.
There was no intention of making people nervous ,as it is told from the POV of a woman at the start of COVID.
As my character Val sings her last song before she shuts down her bar, she says, "Two week shut-down isn't that a little excessive?”
Because like most of us, we thought it was very temporary, and it was just going to be a quick fix after a short break from our normal routine.
You're back with Robert Patrick, who played your husband in your first movie. What makes it work between the two of you onscreen?
Robert is a superb actor, who I have a great respect for both as an artist and a person, He is a great American and is very generous with his time with the vets.
He is a family man and has a great moral compass. He has a great sense of humor and a very serious man's-man attitude, which is what I needed for his role as the warden and as my husband in RUSHED.
We have worked together for years and understand and respect one another, so it is very easy to work together. He likes to improvise, as do I, which makes for a great working relationship. He is superb in this role as the warden.
What has being an actress brought to your screenwriting?
I immerse myself in the role as I write. so when it comes to play the role, I am very familiar with the character, as I have spent so much time with her. I then go through and concentrate on each character to make sure each character is fleshed out and has a very specific voice.
Your family is involved in this, what are the details of that?
My husband Peter is producer; my son Peter is producer, music supervisor and plays the role of Chris, the hilarious rookie cop.
Peter found Nashville's Justin Biltonen of 3 Doors Down, and soloist Todd Cameron for me. I went out to Nashville and recorded their songs with them for the film.
He also found famous rappers Fat Nick and Robb Banks$ for me, who are fantastic actors. [My daughter and production designer] Sinead spent months shopping in thrift shop finding the perfect items, knick-knacks, to make each location authentic.
How has being a Catholic helped your acting and writing careers -- and has it hampered them?
It is just who I am at the core, so when I write it is part of the roles I write, as it is so familiar to me. My character Val is very flawed.
She is not an exemplary woman, being a washed-up country singer working in a bar. But at her core, she is good and faithful and full of charity for those less fortunate than her -- and there aren’t too many less fortunate.
But when she finds someone, like the prisoner, who is - she makes it her purpose to be kind and better their lives, with small acts of kindness, making her, in fact, exemplary.
I've long wondered if there is a kind of storytelling particular to Catholics, with our sacramental imagination (and our tolerance for human failings). What does that mean to you?
I know that coming from an Irish Catholic family, there is a great humor and storytelling, so that was a great part of my upbringing, and the way I then raised my three kids.
The emphasis was other-directed -- my mother always said, "Don't be looking in the mirror too much -- get out there and do good for others."
Also, I wanted to write stories that have a good message. as I feel it is my turn to give back after having the good fortune of having a family and the opportunity to act all these years.
You've deftly woven Catholicism into the film, giving your character strong faith despite all of her flaws. What was the thought process of creating her?
I wanted to show that flawed people like Val -- a cougar wannabe who is always scorned, never lucky in love, failed at her one shot at Nashville, dresses inappropriately and drinks a little too much -- should not be judged at face value.
She, like so many that we rush to judge, have a lot more to them than meets the eye, and we shouldn't be so quick to judge others who don't appear good.
Often a straight-laced, pious person isn't half as good deep down as a rough-around-the-edges character, when they are put to the test, as Val is, guarding a man facing death,
So, don't judge, because people deserve second chances. This is a story of redemption -- something we all need at this divisive time in our country.
You made a film from an original script -- which some folks think can't happen anymore. What did it take to make this happen?
A miracle -- it came to me in the middle of the night. I think my father sent it to me like my guardian angel, as if to say, "Hey, I told you I wanted you to be a country singer, and get out there and tell a story of hope and redemption -- people need it."
When's the soundtrack coming out?
What would you like to say to other Catholics who'd love to write mainstream movies and TV, but still make sure their beliefs are in there.
Go for it and be true to yourself. Don't be afraid. There is room for all of us in this field.
Don't believe all the negative press -- there is room for everyone, and there is an audience that is dying for a good story.
Lastly, is there any secret to keeping a career going over the years, especially for an actress?
I think it is important to choose roles you will be proud of in the long run, and when there are dry spells, pick up a pen and write.
Every time there was a lull in my career, I wrote one-person shows. Now it's movies. If you write, you take the control back.
Reprinted with permission from Kate O'Hare's Pax Culturati blog at Patheos.com. Edited from the original.
Image: Siobhan Fallon Hogan/EMFILM Distribution
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.