Myles Hughes | About “American Exorcist”

5 years ago, I had a dream. There have been countless films dealing with the concept of exorcisms, in which a devout and noble priest will be summoned to defend the honor of a young girl and purge the devil himself from within her system, thus saving her soul and claiming a small victory in the eternal war of good versus evil. The particulars may change from film to film, but the core elements are almost always the same. Up until this point, it hadn’t been a subgenre I had any interest in tackling myself.

But then I had an epiphany. What if, rather than the pious and virtuous man of the cloth usually depicted in such stories, the priest was a vain and shallow con artist, who was primarily concerned with documenting his exorcisms and posting them online to promote his own personal brand. To this man, the actual success or failure of saving a victim’s soul would be secondary to getting the whole experience on film to be released to the masses as a piece of entertainment. Considering how many exorcist films had already made use of the found footage approach (The Devil Inside and The Last Exorcism come to mind), it surprised me that I’d never seen the genre subverted this way before.

This is what inspired me to write American Exorcist, which tells the story of Father Benjamin O’Reilly, a holy man with dubious credentials and a decidedly non-pious attitude, who arrives at a hotel after Kimberly, the terrified assistant manager, requests that he intervene to save a possessed woman staying in one of her rooms. Upon assessing the victim’s very real and very scary state, O’Reilly calls in “the team”, which consists of a mismanaged film crew who arrives to document the proceedings, and it quickly becomes clear to Kimberly that the group is far more interested in making the experience cinematic than they are with saving her guest. At this point, as they say, hijinks ensue.

Though I wrote the script back in 2015, originally with a completely different cast attached, various scheduling and budgetary concerns set it on the back burner for some time. In the fall of 2019, the time was right to bring it back to life. In addition to helping me produce the film, my regular collaborator Jaron Wallace pulled double-duty on set as our DP and playing the role of lead cameraman Terry. We found the perfect hotel in St. Augustine, the La Quinta Inn & Suites, which was invaluable in helping to facilitate our two-day shooting schedule. We assembled a top-notch crew and got to work bringing this story to life.

One of my greatest joys working on this film was the chance to direct a truly outstanding ensemble cast. Leading the charge was Jas Abramowitz, who gives a commanding and boisterous performance as the titular exorcist. Kate McManus almost singlehandedly lends the film its horror elements in a mostly physical turn as the possessed victim (assisted with some excellent makeup effects courtesy of Hillary Warren and Brad Shier). Kat McLeod brings humanity and vulnerability as the increasingly skeptical Kimberly, while Jaron shares a dynamic chemistry with his on-screen film team (played by Kelly Kates and Jonathon O’Leary), who together provide many of the film’s laughs.

Though it runs just over 8 minutes in length, this film has been a labor of love for almost half a decade. After an extended post-production process, American Exorcist had its first public screening at last summer’s LOL Jax Film Festival, where it ultimately won 13 awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Makeup, and more. I am incredibly grateful to the cast and crew for the chance to work with them on a project I’ve become so proud of, and I am also grateful to Rose Sanchez and Flocally for featuring the film and giving us the opportunity to have it seen by an even wider audience. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the film!

Dare to inspire.

Checkmate

Creative Project Initiative -CPI -What is it?

A yearly collaborative project within the community to provide hope, inspiration and motivation into change. The project allows us the following

  • To think critically, express emotionally and produce a positive tangible idea
  • Help create solutions in our communities existing mental and emotional problems
  • Educate through creative expression

Last year we started with our REBIRTH Project, where we took on the challenge of speaking out about suicide and creating a safe space for that conversation. We were so overwhelmed with support from all over within the community.

What you may not know about that project is we were unable to finish filming a very important scene due to covid. It was a very complex and intricate part of the project and we could not execute. We as a team decided we had enough content to bring the message forward and open the communication. We did and we could not be more proud of us and more powered up to create and help more humans.

That is why we are here with the next CPI called CHECKMATE.

This project is important because even during the worst of the worst times we as a country and the world could be experiencing, we are still coming together through HOPE. All of us are hopeful for something better in 2021 and we want to show our community that when we come together and have a solid plan we can execute, nothing is impossible.

Checkmate is multiple things, but the primary piece of art it is being produced to is a documentary of the start of Project Human Inc., PHInc., a new way to think about mental and emotional health.

This is a story about a girl who has landed in a real life game of chess and she has no idea how to play it. She has to learn the rules and navigate through a minefield of emotional trauma she never knew existed. Over the course of 3 years she learns who she is, what she stands for and how she will stand on those values and morals within. She moves when the time is right and she knows where the move will lead her and why patience has become the most important virtue to master.

She is challenged and is ready to play.

We are creating a conceptual film within the documentary to share with you what expression means to us and how we cope with our own selves.

Source PHINC-ING.org