Director Sean Kirkpatrick was born and raised just outside of Philadelphia, PA. A Film Graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, this up-and-coming filmmaker is a true artist in every sense. Although ‘Cost of a Soul’ is his feature film writing/directorial debut, he is no stranger to the film industry. In 2007, Sean moved to Los Angeles, Ca to pursue his dream of being a filmmaker. For years he worked tirelessly to learn and climb the industry ladder. Having decided to take his destiny into his own hands, Sean wrote the screenplay for ‘Cost of a Soul’ in 2008. In 2009, he assembled a cast and crew back in his hometown of Philadelphia and set out to create nothing less than a cinematic masterpiece. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Sean Kirkpatrick to discuss the wild ride that he has taken as the winner of Rogue and AMC Independent’s Big Break Movie Contest, the process of creating his film and much more!
The entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart. When did you decide to pursue a career as a filmmaker as opposed to going in a different direction?
I think the quintessential moment in my life that helped me arrive at that decision was seeing Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ and learning what went into making that masterpiece. The hardships and struggles that he endured while making that film were amazing. Many said making that movie was going to be impossible and thought that it would never get made. It was an important lesson for me in terms of being able to conquer the impossible. It really set the bar for my own mentality of not giving up even with all the hardship that I have faced over the past couple of years, from getting this film off the ground to making it with almost no money, it is really all about not giving up and to keep pursuing your dream.
For the uninitiated, what initially sparked the idea for ‘Cost of A Soul’?
The idea was essentially created by two things. One, I am a huge film noir fan. Film noir is some of my favorite cinema of all time, particularly 1940s noir. So I new I wanted to make a film noir. Secondly, I was born and raised in Philadelphia. While I was writing, Philadelphia had one of the highest murder rates in the United States. There were more bodies in the streets than there are days in the year. The film was ultimately conceived out of an outrage to the violence that was occurring in my city and the desire to tell the story of the people who live in those neighborhoods and are effected by the violence as truthfully and honestly as possible.
This film was shot in Philadelphia, in those neighborhoods that you just mentioned. What can you tell us about that experience?
It was an amazing experience but at the same time it was a horrific experience. The neighborhoods that we were shooting in, just to give you an idea, had four drug related homicides within days of us filming. These are neighborhoods that camera crews rarely dare to enter. We didn’t have money for police escorts and that probably would have just caused more conflict in the neighborhoods anyway. What we did was build community relations with the people living in the neighborhoods. We had a group of people who are well respected in the community, who used to be “former knuckleheads” for lack of a better term, but have seen the error in their ways. Now they are dedicated to keeping kids off the streets and out of selling drugs. The do a lot of charity work and are very respected in their community. These guys kept us safe. What ended up happening was that the neighborhoods ended up embracing us. The saw the integrity in what we were doing and embraced us. It was an incredible experience. For all the what could be said about what happens in these neighborhoods, the amount of charity that we were met with from the community was just incredible. We didn’t have a single incident while we were there. I mean, the neighborhoods were still the neighborhoods and our sets would get interrupted by gunshots or police chases or the general stuff that goes on in the streets of North Philadelphia but we were protected and embraced by the people.
What can you tell us about your leading men in the film and what they brought to the table on this project?
Chris Kerson is just an incredible actor. He has an amazing ability to become the character. He literally transformed into Tommy Donahue, a returning vet who used to be involved with the Irish Mob. It is such a complex character but he was able to embody every detail and aspect of the life of this character. He put on 25 pounds in three weeks. He literally became the character. He is a method actor and was in character for the entire time of production, from rehearsal to when we wrapped. Will Blagrove, he is the next Denzel Washington! He has an incredible power and charisma about himself that he is able to put into his character. The amount of research that he was able to put into becoming a returning veteran and the subtleties that he was able to embrace in general was just incredible. He is a guy you are going to want to see in almost every movie. He is just has an incredible star quality!
That is a pretty good endorsement!
Yeah, they are both incredible talents.
What was the biggest lesson that you learned on this project?
The biggest lesson that I learned was that nothing is impossible. That and that failure is not an option. If you believe that you can’t fail and you refuse to give up, with hard work and doing whatever it takes to put out the best work that you can, nothing is impossible. It has been an incredible struggle. All the doors that have been slammed shut in my face and every disheartening event that has taken place over the past few years has been an incredible learning experience for me. All the negative things, in addition to all the positive things, have help to build and guide me as a director.
How did you get involved with the AMC and ROGUE presents: Big Break Movie Contest?
We had finished the film and had been doing film festivals for the past year and have had an incredible response. We have won a dozen awards, we have had standing ovations and had been struggling to get distribution. It was almost at the down point of the entire process where hope seemed to be dwindling when we got this big ray of sunshine that was the Big Break Movie Contest! We were announced as finalists and Relativity Media, AMC Theaters and Rogue decided that they wanted to put our movie on 50 screens across the country! Which is one of the substantial releases of all time for a film with our budget. It has been incredible and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. I feel blessed that we had this opportunity to show the film to the world. It is such a rare situation and a credit to Relativity Media, AMC Theaters and Rogue that you have these industry powerhouses, willing to go out on a limb and look for independent cinema because they are good, quality movies that they want to put out to the people.
Thank you very much for your time, Sean. We will be spreading the word and are looking forward to your next project!