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MAKING DARKEST SOUL INTO A LOW-BUDGET HIT! PDF Print E-mail
Written by By Doug Ulrich and Chris Irvine   
Jul 04, 2004 at 02:00 AM
We had just finished out first full-length movie, called TALES, when we decided to jump right into our next project, DARKEST SOUL. We shot our first movie on VHS format, but we realized the quality was poor. So we invested in Super VHS equipment, and the quality was a huge improvement!
DARKEST SOUL, which was originally titled GRAVE DIGGERS, started out as a zombie horror film. But after wiriting the script, the only appearance of the zombies were at the very end, and it seemed pretty lame having a horror movie with all the horror at the end of it. We then realized that we had a pretty good story with two strong main characters, so we decided to make it a dark drama with a little sex and nudity thrown in to help make it more marketable.
The basic story eventually developed into this: "Two mismatched wild youths, Tommy and Mark, indulge in the spoils of sex, drugs, and alcohol, all the while bouncing from job to job. Along the way, Tommy meets Heather, a beautiful young woman momentarily blinded by Tommy's cool persona. Eventually, Tommy and Mark land jobs as grave-diggers. But Tommy takes it one illegal step further -- he turns to grave-robbing for a little extra income. And it's here that their lives take a tragic turn for the worse..."
We started filming in September of '93. We shot almost a quarter of the movie when our new camera broke down. We were trying to shoot all of the exterior shots before it got too cold, considering that a generous amount of the film takes place in a cememtary. Then, a week after the camera came back, it broke again, so back in the shop it went.
While waiting on the camera, lead actor Al Darago, who's also my partner in NoBudget Productions, started shooting a short story of his own on our old VHS camera. In the story, the main character, which he plays, fantizes about ways of killing himself because his life sucks. One of the scenes had him stepping in front of a moving car. He planned on jumping on the moving car's hood and rolling off the side, but every time the guy driving came riding down for the shot, he slowed down way too much for Al. So Al, wanting to make it look as real as possible, told the driver not to slow down because he was going to step out of the way at the last second. So the driver comes riding down again, not slowing down figuring Al was going to move out of the way. But he didn't. Instead, he leaped up and cleared the hood and went into the windshield, breaking both it and his shoulder blade. The camera comes back, and he's out of commission for six weeks, which means we're screwed on exterior shots until spring.
When we were finally ready to resume shooting, our other lead actor was no longer available, so we had to recast. But we really lucked out because the new actor, Jeff Witte, fit the part perfectly and brought more depth to the role. This forced us to restart from the beginning, but surprisingly enough, things actually went smoothly the rest of the way.
We were lucky enough to obtain a small cemetary for the cemetary scenes, and were even allowed access to an unused plot. The only problem was that the cemetary was so small that the plots were dug by hand, and we had to dig our own grave. At first, it wasn't too bad, but after the first foot of dirt, we ran into clay. So out came the pick and a hell of a lot of work, which took us about six hours and a case of beer to finish. We only had a small amount of time to shoot the open grave scenes, so we had two all-nighter's and one all day shoot.
We got access to shoot a scene in a fast food restaurant, but the only problem was it was located in another state two hours away, and it had to be done on a Saturday night after 11:00pm. We shot all night, then drove back home to shoot a bar scene that morning, and a park scene that afternoon. And even though we were physically exhausted, we had a great time.
Overall, SOUL was an exciting, enjoyable experience. We felt we had learned a lot from our mistakes on SCARY TALES, and improved greatly with this new movie. And that's the best advice I can think of to give to aspiring movie-makers: Stay true to your vision, and make sure you learn from your mistakes, because everybody makes them once in awhile!

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