Between Heaven and Hell–The Press Tour


By Gary Murray

The path to make an independent motion picture is serpentine at best. While there are grand plans that take place between the driven individuals who want to communicate cinematic truths to the masses, it takes different miracles to make the dream a reality.

Take the case of the new DVD release Between Heaven and Hell. The film was written years ago by Marvin Faulkner a double board certified physician as a way to deal with the emotions behind losing his wife. Once it was finished, it went on a dusty shelf.

Years later Marvin was waiting for his daughter to get off from work. His daughter was helping a customer who was a photographer. The photographer, Jason Ward, asked her if she would be interested in posing for him. Jeff is the owner of Storm The Beach, a creative work-shop. The reluctant dad wanted to tag along just to make sure everything was legitimate for his daughter's sake.

At the shoot, the two men began to talking, finding out that they had much in common from similar backgrounds to similar views. Jason mentioned that even though he was a photographer, he wanted to direct motion pictures and the only thing stopping him was the equipment. Marvin bought a camera and Jason offered to shoot a music video for Marvin's daughter.

Later, Marvin mentioned that he had a script. After Jason read the work, he knew he wanted to make the film. The two began to work together to make it a reality. Two years of weekend shooting later they had Between Heaven to Hell in the can, a first-time feature from a first-time director.

Then came the part of crafting fifty hours of footage and putting it into a narrative whole. Marvin and Jason kept trying but were becoming overwhelmed by the process. They were about to give up on the entire project when fate made another serpentine path toward them.

Marvin was getting quotes on insurance from a new agent. During their talk, Marvin mentioned the problems he was having with editing the film. The agent, Johnn Hudson, used to teach the Apple editing software the team was using. Soon, they had their editor for Between Heaven and Hell.

Now a scant two years later and a few hundred thousand spent, they have their film which has had a few special preview showings and makes its debut on DVD this November.

The film is of Mike Taylor played by Marvin. He's a former Golden Gloves fighter who is having his faith tested He goes to a seedy bar and gets drunk while making the acquaintance of two ladies of questionable reputation. After a night of hard drinking, Mike passes out behind a dumpster. In his alcoholic haze, he thinks he sees a man kill one of the ladies. The next morning, he finds the necklace that belonged to the woman beside the dumpster.

Mike takes the evidence to the local police detective. Unknown to Mike, the detective McGill (Jeff Wallin) is the murderer. In trying to help his brother, McGill accidently killed the woman. Though there are some deeper reasons he is involved with protecting the family.

As the film twists and turns in a film noir gritty realism, it also finds a moral Job-like center. It is a religious film without being a 'G' rated family flick. It is very real, with coarse language and adult themes. Jason refers to the film as a conservative film with F-bombs. The element of murder, redemption, lust and forgiveness blend together in a tale not easily forgotten.

When talking to the filmmakers, one can feel the abject pride on delivering this film. Marvin called the process "entertaining this insanity." He added, "Two years later, we had accomplished the impossible. We had shot a full-feature film."

"The screenplay had been shelved and it was not perfect," said Marvin. "I started off writing a novel and I never thought a movie would be made from it." He admits that it was 75% sound and 25% in need of help. "It needed to have a few loose ends tied-up."

Johnn added, "As we went further and further along, the story started to line up. As an editor you think what parts are the meat and what are the fat."

The filmmakers never had a set budget and paid for the film as they shot it. Jason said, "We went through it with a completely novice approach, the backwards wrong approach."

But because they were a little independent film, the locals would get free-reign to locations which included a police station. "Half the time we would have three weeks getting ready for a scene in getting the props figured out. It is amazing how it all just came together."

"Every single time we came up against a hurtle, something we could not overcome, the solution would land in our laps like a gift from God." Johnn said, "We all have a degree of pride about how we were able to pull it off without putting a mortgage on the house."

They wanted it to be real, the way real people talk, which included very adult language. The tone of the scene remains the same and as Marvin said, "The moments of heaven seem to be shorter than the moments of hell. We have more hell in this movie than heaven."

Economic considerations were the main reason for making Marvin the lead. "This story was testified as 'based on a true story' and we did feel that there was enough in there to be inspired by true events. I lived it. It came down to a matter of realistic opportunities."

"We didn't know how far we were going to take the project," said Jason, "we were stubborn and we were going to get this thing done. We really never even questioned who was going to play Mike Taylor. We have to rise to the occasion and make sure that this film gets done or it is all for nothing." Marvin summed up the crew of Between Heaven and Hell by saying, "Without everyone who is here we would not have accomplished this."

Jason, an accomplished musician, scored the film but it also incorporated the music of Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Kris Kristopherson and Leonard Cohen. It was a major challenge to get the rights to the songs. They are very proud of convincing the artists to grant them rights to the soundtrack that they wanted for Between Heaven and Hell.

The other challenge of the film was the dramatic climax. According to Johnn, "The stand-off at the end of the film is dialogue heavy. You gotta keep the audience's attention and you gotta keep the tension. I think the final scene is a movie on it's own. So many things are being said behind the dialogue and the actors just sell the underlying current. It is a very heavy scene and it still keeps my attention to this day."

Jason added, "We were most intimidated by that scene so we saved it for the end. As filmmakers we would almost arrange our shoot on our experience level. We spent extra time on music and camera work. We wanted it to feel like a little 'big' film We set our mark as filmmakers where we can bring in all these elements and make this seem like a bigger budget film than it is."

Marvin chimed in by stating, "As the movie grew into what it is, each scene got better." Marvin said that the reason for the betterment was the quality of the professional actors used in the scenes. "As they stepped up their game, we stepped up our game." Jason said that making the film was a crash course of film school. Johnn finished by saying, "We made the audience wait 90 minutes to get here and lets give them something."

They showed the film first at the Studio Movie Grill in Arlington just to see if they had done the movie right. "There were three hundred people there and I was in shock," said Marvin. When it was over he realized that they had done something.

At the moment, the creators of Between Heaven and Hell are working on their various day jobs. They have four separate scripts in development in different genres. They are now waiting for the DVD public to vote for their film with their dollars. Between Heaven and Hell is available in just about every way one can get the film on the Internet. These gentlemen know that just getting to this point is a major accomplishment.

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