Sean Kirkpatrick sat in the Relativity Media offices in Los Angeles, knowing that a group of suits had the fate of his Philadelphia-shot film, "Cost of a Soul," in their hands.
Kirkpatrick had entered the picture in the Big Break Movie Contest, a partnership between Rogue and AMC Theatres that gives a filmmaker the opportunity to screen his film in 50 AMC theaters, including affiliated theaters in Cherry Hill, Franklin Mills and Hamilton, N.J. Kirkpatrick already had screened "Cost of a Soul" at festivals (including Philadelphia's Cinefest in April), but this would magnify the movie's exposure.
The suits told the Norristown-born Kirkpatrick that he had won. He sat quietly while they explained details and then he calmly walked to the elevator.
"As soon as I got to the elevator," Kirkpatrick said, "I jumped up and down." The film Kirkpatrick made is no heartwarming crowd-pleaser.
"Cost of a Soul" follows two Iraq veterans - Tommy (Chris Kerson) and DD (Will Blagrove) - who return to their North Philly home to find that they have left one war zone for another. Made for a scant $100,000, "Cost of a Soul" is heavily influenced by film noir, not only with its stark, dark palette but also in its themes.
"['Cost of a Soul'] is about the city of Philadelphia and our war zone," Kirkpatrick said. "You have veterans coming home to urban areas and they're stuck in the same positions as when they left," he said. "They're told they're going to have all of these opportunities and they're going to see the world. Years later, they come home and, especially now, there's not a lot of opportunities for them. There are occasions where they get right back into the situations they tried to escape."
Kirkpatrick said that the script was inspired by time he spent in North Philly working at a junk removal service to finance his move to Los Angeles. That's where he now lives, working production - from special effects to props - on movies. "I just wanted to write about the people affected in these neighborhoods - the good, the bad and the ugly," he said. "I wanted to tell their stories as truthful and honest as possible. That was really the motivation of the movie, as an outrage to violence."
While the film is violent, Kirkpatrick didn't seek to glorify the atrocities. Instead, he focuses on the ripple effect of violence. "It all spirals, it's all connected," Eberwine said. "One murder begets another begets another."
Kirkpatrick said that "Cost of a Soul" wouldn't have worked without Philadelphians opening their arms to the production. "We shot in some of the roughest neighborhoods," Kirkpatrick said - locations such as Second and Tioga streets, and Westmoreland and D streets. There were drug-related homicides at three of their production locations just days before or after they shot there.
Actor Kerson said that locals who showed him the area and talked about their experiences were integral to developing his character.
"They really just took us in," Blagrove said, adding that it reminded him of his hometown of Jamaica, Queens, N.Y. "It was just something about the community and them bringing us in that really made me feel a part of it."
But without the Big Break contest, few outside the film festival circuit would have seen "Cost of a Soul."
"It just goes to show to all the other filmmakers out there that if you get creative and put your mind to it and just put your heart and soul into it you can find a way to do whatever you want," Kirkpatrick said. "I'm living proof of that."
"There's a little luck involved," Eberwine added with a laugh.
"A lot of luck," Kirkpatrick agreed.