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FUTURES | Rogue & AMC's Big Break Movie Contest Winner Sean Kirkpatrick

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire May 20, 2011 at 2:48AM

Age: 28Hometown: Norristown, PA (in the outskirts of Philadelphia)
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Age: 28
Hometown: Norristown, PA (in the outskirts of Philadelphia)

Why He's On Our Radar: Kirkpatrick wrote and directed the gritty, micro-budgeted indie "Cost of Soul," winner of Relativity Media's Rogue and AMC Theaters' Big Break Movie Contest. The prize? His first feature film gets on-screen distribution courtesy of AMC through the U.S., starting May 20th. The drama tracks two soldiers who return home from Iraq to the slum neighborhood they grew up in. Once back, they find themselves stuck in the same rut they joined the military to escape.

More About Him: Born and raised just outside Philadelphia, PA, Kirkpatrick studied film at the Pennsylvania State University. Upon graduating, he moved out to Los Angeles, landing production assistant jobs on a slew of flicks, including "G-Force," "Seven Pounds" and "The Soloist." He wrote the script for "Cost of a Soul" in 2008, and shot the film in his hometown of Philadelphia in 2009.

What's Next: Two projects. "One has several A-list actors possibly attached," he shared with indieWIRE. "It's about New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1970s and 80s. The other one is a dramatic cable series that I wrote. It's sort of along the lines of an HBO, Showtime show. It's about corporate corruption through the eyes of a young millionaire. As he gets more successful, his world comes crashing down."

indieWIRE Asks: How did you become aware of the contest in the first place?

We had been screening the film in the festival circuit for about the last year. It played in about ten festivals. We were coming to the end of it looking for distribution. My co-producer, Jonathan Risinger walked into an AMC and saw the poster. We submitted the film and the rest is history.

How's the process been since signing on with them? Did they make any cuts?

Unbelievably no. It's been incredible because, as a first time filmmaker, it's so rare that the film gets out there without being chopped or cut. It's in the distribution contract that they have final cut. I said, "What are you guys going to change?" And they said, "Nothing. Your movie's staying intact."

It's been amazing because they've let me maintain creative control throughout. Everything, even the design of the movie poster, was approved by me. They're kept me in the loop on every creative decision possible. Such a rare thing for a studio like Relativity to give a first timer this vote of confidence.

The film's set in your hometown. Are any of the characters based on people you know?

I have a lot of friends that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. My brother is actually stationed in Japan right now. But in terms of actually coming home to the other war at home, I don't know any one per se. But I know it's an issue. It seemed like everywhere we shot, we met people who had family or friends that went through similar situations.

How long has this script been gestating in the back of your mind?

I guess really ever since I took a film noir class. I fell in love with film noir. Ever since then I knew I wanted to make a film noir, but bring it to the modern context of today's cinema.

What are some of your favorites?

"Crossfire," "Murder, My Sweet," "Double Indemnity," and "Touch of Evil," which was a little more baroque.

Now to shooting the film. You shot in some dangerous places...

Just to give you an idea of the neighborhoods we were going into: I believe there were four drug related homicides within a day or two before we shot in some of these locations. We really didn't have any money. We certainly didn't have any money to bring police escorts in. Not only that, it could cause conflict. So we built relationships within the community. Particularity there was this group of guys who used to be former knuckleheads that now have seen the error of the ways. Their goal now is to keep kids off the street. They were on our sets. Anytime there was any conflict they'd step in.

The communities starting supporting us throughout the process. Once they started hearing what the film was about, they were happy to have their story told. The cast and crew got to experience the communities and understand what they're all about. It gave us a feeling of obligation to portray their stories. While it's a fictional story, a lot of these things are happening to these people on a daily basis.

Did the cast ever express any reservations?

No. We didn't have a single incident. They really had the guts to do what it takes. A lot of them even exposed themselves to the underbellies of these neighborhood in their off times to really get into character.

This article is related to: Interviews, Futures, Cost of a Soul







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