Richmond is proving a fertile ground for filmmakers.
Eastern Kentucky University graduate, Adam Sergent, has recently released a feature length horror film called “The Devil’s Instrument.”
Streaming worldwide, “The Devil’s Instrument” tells the story of a famous novelist attempting to get out of a deal with the devil.
Sergent describes the film as a horror comedy and said his production company (Bad Image Productions) produced the film entirely in Kentucky with a cast and crew of Kentuckians. The films stars Austin Fletcher, Cory Spalding, Jordan Bryant, Ally Ledford, and Chris Olds.
Filming at “an undisclosed location” in Nicholasville, the set is a stand-in for a space between earth and hell. It is the first feature film from Bad Image Productions.
“It’s a company I started after I decided that I wanted to make films. 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 films that I watched when I was growing up and wanting to make feature films,” Sergent said.
Bad Image has a mission to work exclusively with Kentucky actors and crew members. According to Sergent, the emphasis on keeping things local goes back to his childhood dream of making movies and also showcasing the talented and overlooked filmmakers in the state.
“When I was growing up in Kentucky, I kind of wanted to go into film, but growing up in a small town; I didn’t think it was a feasible option. But I think there is a lot of talent here in Kentucky,” Sergent said. “It’s not really known as a film capital. But the more people that do it, the more people will come see it. So I really wanted to showcase that right here in Kentucky.”
As independent films do not have the gargantuan budget and studio backing as blockbusters on the big screen; they often have limited options to work with. For “The Devil’s Instrument,” Sergent had to come up with a way to use a micro budget, while also tackling a high concept. He echoed celebrated filmmakers Sam Raimi and John Carpenter as influences regarding making quality films on a tight budget.
“It’s kind of my ode to the horror genre. Horror – this being my first feature film – I really wanted to get something I could finish. In order to get the budget down, I said I’m probably only gonna shoot in one location and I’m only gonna have one camera,” Sergent said. “What could I shoot to be as cheap as, but still have a high concept, to have commercial value? So I came to two people sitting at a table and talking to each other. That’s not exactly high concept, but then I made one of those characters the devil and things got a whole lot more interesting after that… I completely blacked out all the windows. I put black curtains on a 360 degree area around this room and put the table right in the middle with a light shining on it and they’re out there in the middle of this black void.”
Like “Faust” meets Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”, the author protagonist of “The Devil’s Instrument” finds himself in a particularly uncomfortable conversation with the devil in order to win back his soul. Sergent said that characterization is an important part of the story — something that intimate “void” setting is very helpful with. While it is a dark story, the man behind “The Devil’s Instrument” said the story is ultimately one of sacrifice and hope.
It used to be a much more strenuous process to make a movie. 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 film and independent filmmakers. There’s a lot more opportunity out there 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 didn’t have any other options,” Sergent said. “Now, with the advent of the internet and all of the new digital tools – you went from using cassette tapes for your sound and 35mm film for your video – now you can shoot digitally with the 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 heads 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’s at. I’m so thankful that this is the world we’re living in. Ten years ago, it would have been network-or-bust or YouTube. Now there are so many outlets and so much potential for these kind of shows to have a home, no pun intended,” Zancan said.
Sergent did not take any video classes at EKU, nor did he have any kind of traditional training. What he does have is a passion for film which has gripped him since childhood. He initially made short films with his parent’s camcorder at a young age.
“I have absolutely no background in film, whatsoever,” Sergent said. “I grew up in Harlan. Basically, the only thing that we had in Harlan was the movie theater and the video store… I essentially grew up being a fan of movies my whole life. I knew I wanted to make movies for some reason. Luckily, my parents had a consumer camcorder and I started getting my cousins, my sister, and anyone that I could and we started making movies together. I think I made my first one in third grade.”
Whether you’ve been professionally trained or not, Sergent said the opportunities for aspiring filmmakers are boundless.
“If you have the means and the desire to go to film school or broadcasting that would definitely be a tremendous opportunity. The need for content is only increasing, not decreasing. There’s a lot of opportunities, not just in film and tv, but streaming and all this online stuff,” Sergent said. “But then, if you are just someone who doesn’t have the means to go to these institutions; you have the tools available to you now to learn how to do filmmaking yourself. Because that’s exactly what I did.”