Each movie is a tremendous faith walk. Pilgrim’s Progress: Journey to Heaven took me two and half years to produce. When it was finally released on May 24, 2008 on DVD, I barely had enough money to make payroll and I was dating my future wife. Life looked uncertain for me financially, but my faith was in God.
The movie found an audience immediately. God used it for His glory and honor. I got married in August of 2008 and we decided to move from Lynchburg, Virginia to Round Rock, Texas (in 2009), to be closer to our family.
Although our financial situation was decent, I didn’t have enough funds to produce the next movie, which was tentatively titled, Out of the Darkness, a supernatural thriller about spiritual warfare. I’ve always been fascinated by the unseen battle between angels and demons and it was another subject I wanted to scratch off my bucket list of movie ideas.
While finding my footing in the film world in the Austin/Round Rock Texas area, I met a group of talented filmmakers (via a mutual friend) that were working for the Celebration Church media ministry: Kip Farrar, Matt Garner and James Burniston. Kip and Matt eventually ended up becoming co-producers (in addition to other credits) and James ended up with additional cinematography work (in addition to other credits) on Beyond the Darkness.
When the script was finally finished, I had enough money in the bank to begin production in 2011. Little did I know that Beyond the Darkness would be far bigger and far more expensive than I imagined. It took over four years to produce with over 970 visual effects shots.
The big question I’m asked is the following: If I knew how hard it would be to make Beyond the Darkness, would I still have produced it? Good question.
Here is a peek into how the production process began:
Since Matt, Kip and James were busy with full time work at Celebration Church, I was seriously considering bringing in a film crew from Virginia, until Donny Boaz, the actor who plays Gabriel, suggested that I hire producer, Derek Nixon, out of San Antonio, TX. Derek was making a name for himself producing independent films on modest budgets.
Derek pulled together a solid crew from both the San Antonio and Austin area. The plan was to shoot for thirty days with the “A” crew. Then, a rough edit would determine what additional scenes and pickup shots would be needed with the “B” crew (which would be named later).
After auditioning hundreds of potential actors, I finally cast the film with possible backups, should an actor or actress have to pull out. I felt my leads and supporting cast were pretty strong. A solid cast is almost half the battle in a film production. You don’t start a movie without a good cast.
There were over 60 different individual characters used in the movie, including those with and without dialogue. This is our biggest and most ambitious project to date for casting.
A stunt team was used to play both angels and demons for the fight sequences in the spiritual world. Since there were limited stunt players in the area, a number of them had to play both angels and demons, hence the use of smoke and masks to disguise the faces of some of the demons.
In addition, there were a lot minor roles for the FBI scenes, flashbacks, visions, heaven, hell and many additional sequences.
The script called for numerous locations. With the use of wonderful Washington DC stock footage, the Austin area was able to double for our nation’s capital.
A large church lobby was used for the capitol lobby. Our set designers did a great job adding just the right props to pull off the illusion.
Pedernales Falls State Park was an awesome location for a number of the fight sequences between angels and demons. The rock formations, streams and river were great backdrops for the supernatural world. However, shooting there was not easy. Cast and crew had to be put up in hotel rooms and special vehicles were rented to haul equipment and personnel to and from the sets.
The most difficult location to find was for the hotel sequences, because the location had to work for both pre-explosion and post explosion scenes. In the end, we rented an old airplane hanger to build the hotel sets.
Stephen Faye, our production designer, did a great job creating the hotel rooms from scratch. His team built the hallways, bedrooms and meeting rooms with working lights and wall plugs. We only had one small ceiling section for low angle shots, that we used sparingly, because it was difficult to move.
Shooting in the hanger was a bit problematic, because it did not have air conditioning, which gets pretty hot with additional lights and the Texas heat. However, there were a number of office rooms near the hanger that offered some comfort for the actors and actresses between long lighting setups.
The office rooms were also used for basecamp for assistant directors, production assistants and line producers to make phone calls.
There was enough space in the hanger to shoot the tons of green screen scenes. A large wall and floor were painted green for the visual effects shots for the hell, heaven, and throne room segments.
MORE TO COME...