The devil is in the details | News
Richmond is proving fertile ground for filmmakers.
Eastern Kentucky University graduate Adam Sergent recently released a horror feature called “The Devil’s Instrument.”
Broadcast around the world, “The Devil’s Instrument” tells the story of a famous novelist trying to get out of a pact with the devil.
Sergent describes the film as a comedy-horror and said his production company (Bad Image Productions) produced the film entirely in Kentucky with a cast and crew of Kentuckians. The films star Austin Fletcher, Cory Spalding, Jordan Bryant, Ally Ledford and Chris Olds.
Filmed in “an undisclosed location” in Nicholasville, the setting is a stand-in for a space between earth and hell. This is the first feature film from Bad Image Productions.
“This is a company I started after I decided I wanted to make movies. I started it with the sole purpose of making feature films. Our mission statement is to make engaging films that educate, entertain and inspire others; just like I was inspired by the movies I watched when I was growing up and wanted to make feature films,” said Sergent.
Bad Image is on a mission to work exclusively with Kentucky cast and crew. According to Sergent, his emphasis on keeping things local dates back to his childhood dream of making movies and showcasing the state’s talented and overlooked filmmakers.
“When I was growing up in Kentucky, I kind of wanted to get into acting, but growing up in a small town, I didn’t think that was a doable option. But I think there’s a lot of talent out there. here in Kentucky,” said the sergeant. “It’s not really known as a movie capital. But the more people that do it, the more people will come to see it. So I really wanted to show that right here in Kentucky.”
Since independent films don’t have the gargantuan budget and studio backing like big-screen blockbusters; they often have limited options to work with. For “The Devil’s Instrument”, Sergent had to find a way to use micro-budget, while tackling a high concept. He echoed famous filmmakers Sam Raimi and John Carpenter as influences when it came to making quality movies on a tight budget.
“It’s kind of my ode to the horror genre. Horror – it’s my first feature film – I really wanted to have something I could finish. In order to keep the budget down, I said I was probably only going to shoot in one location and I would only have one camera,” Sergent said. “What could I film to be as cheap as, but still have a high concept, to have commercial value? So I came up with two people sitting at a table and talking to each other. It’s not really a lofty concept but then I made it one of those characters the devil and things got a lot more interesting after that… I completely blacked out all the windows I put black curtains on a 360 degree area around that room and put the table right in the middle with a light shining on it and they’re there in the middle of that black void.”
Like “Faust” meets Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal,” the protagonist author of “The Devil’s Instrument” finds himself in a particularly uncomfortable conversation with the devil in order to win back his soul. Sergent said characterization is an important part of the story — something the intimate setting of the “emptiness” is very helpful for. Although it’s a dark story, the man behind “The Devil’s Instrument” said the story is ultimately one of sacrifice and hope.
Previously, making a film was a much more arduous process. Things are changing, Sergent said, as digital equipment and software have made filmmaking a much more accessible and cheaper process.
“It’s an exciting time for independent films and independent filmmakers. There are a lot more opportunities now. Traditionally, if you couldn’t get your production budget and you couldn’t be part of the studio system and get a theatrical release; then you had no other options,” Sergent said. “Now with the advent of the internet and all the new digital tools – you’ve stopped using tapes to your sound and 35mm film for your video – now you can shoot digitally with video…you can put it all on your own computer.”
“The Devil’s Instrument” is available to stream on Amazon Prime. Streaming has opened up many new possibilities for filmmakers.
Darren Zancan of DMZ Productions runs another Richmond-based film production company. He shared his thoughts on streaming in a previous interview with the Register.
“The streaming world is where it is. I’m so thankful that this is the world we live in. Ten years ago it would have been the network or the meltdown or YouTube. Now there’s so much outlets and so much potential for these kinds of shows to have a home, no pun intended,” Zancan said.
Sergent has not taken any video courses at EKU, nor any traditional training. What he has is a passion for cinema that has gripped him since childhood. He first made short films with his parents’ camcorder at a young age.
“I have absolutely no experience in cinema,” Sergent said. “I grew up in Harlan. Basically the only thing we had in Harlan was the movie theater and the video store…I basically grew up being a movie fan all my life. I knew I wanted to do movies for some Luckily my parents had a consumer camcorder and I started having my cousins and my sister and whoever I could and we started making movies together I think I did my first in third year.
Whether you were professionally trained or not, Sergent said the opportunities for aspiring filmmakers are limitless.
“If you have the means and the desire to go to a film or broadcasting school, this would definitely be a tremendous opportunity. The need for content is only increasing, not decreasing. There are plenty of opportunities, not just in film and TV, but also in streaming and all that online stuff,” Sergent said. “But then if you’re just someone who can’t afford to go to those institutions, you now have the tools at your disposal to learn how to make films on your own. Because that’s exactly what I did.”