Behind the scenes: Morgan native reflects on independent film made in North Alabama
By Jacob Hatcher
Photos by Tristan Holmes and contributed
Being raised by a cinematographer father and a mother who helped run a photography studio, it should be no surprise that Morgan County native Brandon McLemore went on to be interested in film.
“There was always something related to film around,” McLemore says, “and around the age of seven I got involved in community theater. Around 2009, when I was thirteen, I got the idea that I wanted to start making movies.” With that initial spark of an idea, McLemore and some friends made a small home movie that was a spoof of The Wizard of Oz. While many did not see that first effort, McLemore said it did inspire him to begin working on a script of his own for a short suspense film.
After the script was complete, McLemore decided it was worth attempting to actually do something with his newest creative endeavor.
“We approached the acting studio in Huntsville to get the actors for it and we filmed it over the course of that year and premiered it at the Princess Theater in Decatur in the spring of 2010.”
Over the course of the next few years, McLemore and his father did several short films, one of which was shown on a local North Alabama television station. He also reinterpreted Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, which came in second place in the student film category of the River City Film Festival.
After a short detour into theater in high school, McLemore then went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he studied broadcasting. He credits his time at UAB for teaching him the necessary technical aspects of filmmaking that have been invaluable to him.
Also while in college, McLemore came up with an idea for a film about a ghost being unleashed from a box and the impact that event would have on the characters within the story.
“I never fully went after that idea but it was always kind of sitting in the back of my mind. I knew that if I ever wanted to sit down and write another script, I already had an idea to work with.” Around 2015, not knowing if it would ever actually get filmed, he decided to get to work on the script that would one day become his first feature film, Dark Entities.
In early 2020 McLemore decided to pursue filming Dark Entities, with no way of knowing the roadblock that the Covid-19 pandemic would present. Deciding it would still be possible to complete the project with a limited cast and crew, McLemore and his friends went forward cautiously.
“We filmed most of it on a farm way out in Somerville. We also went to downtown Hartselle and filmed in what was then the Hartselle Antique Mall. Everyone involved was great and excited to have us there.”
After filming was complete in the fall of 2020, McLemore began the arduous job of editing the three-hour rough cut down the just shy of two hours, as well as adding color grading to emphasize specific hues, fixing audio issues and adding a score provided by renowned musician David Vest.
“We declared the movie finished in about April 2022. In May we sat down and planned our first premier at the Cinemark in Bridge Street in Huntsville.” Within four days of putting tickets up for sale, the 150-seat theater had sold out, prompting McLemore to plan yet another viewing for the end of July that sold out within four hours.
“It seemed the movie had grown in popularity, so we decided to do one final viewing in Madison, which we still had an amazing turn out for despite it being in the middle of football season.”
Around the time of the first premier McLemore started approaching distribution companies, eventually landing with Terror Films, which is a distribution company with an emphasis on promoting independent horror films. Working with Terror Films, Dark Entities will now be more widely distributed on April 14, 2023.
While McLemore is excited about the future of Dark Entities and his own future projects, he says he also thinks that the work he and his collaborators have done is also great for North Alabama at large.
“I think it’s a big deal for North Alabama to have a film not only made here but also picked up by a major distribution company in Hollywood and to have it going out all over the world. This was all made in North Alabama with local talent both on and behind the camera. It’s a homegrown film and I hope it’s something that people of the area can be proud of.”