I think that humanity has reached the point where it has to make a choice: to awake or to extinct. This might sound a bit vague at first, but the most obvious example is Earth’s present condition. It is devastated by humans: by their unstoppable wars, by their unwise use of resources, and their blind arrogance towards nature. All this is not done by some “bad” people as we would like to think, but by what is called “normal” people. It is clear to me that in order for humans to survive, the common order of things on this planet has to change. But initial change has to happen in the human mind. People have to take off their egoic veil and start seeing the reality as it is. As a result of this process, the entertainment industry will change as well. We will see fewer movies that promote dysfunction, violence, and stupidity and more movies that promote intelligence and compassion. Maybe it will not be called the entertainment industry anymore, but it does not matter. What matters is what kind of movies it produces. The industry responds to people’s needs. So the more people become conscious, the more corresponding films we will see. And I am not speaking about some specific spiritual or religious films. I mean a general shift that has to take place. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say that we have not seen anything like this before. “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Groundhog Day,” “The Tree of Life” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile” are good examples of mainstream movies with these motives. As an actor, I have always felt disgust towards stupid, vulgar, and trivial stories without any authentic originality regardless of genre. In addition, having faced a lot of rejection from less than intelligent casting directors, directors, producers, I have started writing my own scripts and directing my own projects. This allows me to work in the kind of material I consider worthwhile, have full control over it, and give other truly talented people an opportunity to create something original.
“Overturn: Awakening of the Warrior” is the title of my new philosophical sci-fi action feature film. Action and philosophy? Yes, I should say, it is a quite unusual film. Why is this movie important? Primarily, because it touches some essential spiritual issues but presents them in an easy-to-understand visually-oriented form. It is a story about Christopher Gabriel, a young American, whose initial purpose in life is to be a “normal” human being. But what prevents him from feeling “normal” is nightmares that he has all the time. He thinks that something is wrong with him. But his life suddenly changes when unknown people kidnap him and tell him that he is not who he thinks he is. Initially, he refuses to believe, but when he realizes that they know everything about him, he agrees to cooperate. He goes through training which involves physical, mental, and spiritual development in order to discover his abilities. He needs these abilities to accomplish a special mission. This mission is very important for the outcome of a certain invisible war that involves all humanity without its awareness of it. This situation has been constructed by the opposite side, whose main representative in the film is the Servant.
We shot the movie on Canon 7D for under $30K, which is probably considered a micro-budget feature. I should say that a small budget has two sides, just like anything else. On one hand, you can’t afford certain things that might be important, but on the other hand, you intensify your creativity in order to find a cheap or free solution (and more often than not, you end up finding it.) We filmed in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, a country that an average American, if asked about it, would say that it is somewhere in Siberia. But in reality, it is the biggest European country by area. By the way, it is called Ukraine, not the Ukraine as you would commonly hear. Anyway, even though it is one of the former Soviet republics, filming here is the same as in London, Paris, New York, or Los Angeles, but it is much cheaper. Today quite many European and American films are partially or fully shot in this country. I can even open a little secret to those of you, who might plan to film their next indie here: if you do not interfere with the free and safe movement of people or vehicles while shooting outside, 9 times of 10, you can shoot without a permit. We shot a few scenes next to the main country square for 5 or 6 hours without a permit, and no one told us anything.
I think what makes “Overturn” quite special is its international cast. By the way, this aspect created some additional difficulties. For example, we cast a very good Ukrainian actor Konstantin Gerasimuk to play the part of the Servant. But the problem was that he did not speak any English except for, “Hello! My name is Konstantin.” So I decided to train him to speak his lines in English. Three weeks before the filming began, we started rehearsing and did it every night for a few hours through Skype. As a result, he did an incredible job on the set, and his heavy Russian accent and manner of speaking created an interesting otherworldly feeling. The movie also features two American actors: Eric Ross Gilliatt, who has performed on the San Diego stage for 25 years, and Michael Golodini from New York, who studied acting in the Vakhtangov Theatre Academy in Moscow. Maria, the female leading role, is played by Mary Mellow. A very talented actress, she is originally from Ukraine but has worked in many international projects. We also have an Australian actor Bill Konstantinidis, Nigerian actress Philippa Peter and Iranian actor Reza Golestani. This diversity was my initial intention, because it helps the story by creating a global feeling. Even personally, I think that there are much more similarities in people of all nations than there are differences. Racial prejudice is just another manifestation of the human unconsciousness.
Since it is an action movie, I planned some fighting scenes. But from the beginning, we knew that we would not have enough money to film them with cars, guns, explosions, and other common Hollywood stuff. In fact, I did not want to do it that way, because it has been hugely overdone. Our fight coordinator Vitaliy Kiuila and I decided to use martial arts. And even though, martial arts are not uncommon in movies as well, Vitaliy’s unique fighting style called “Dragon” was an interesting solution, because it has quite unique moves that people have not seen before. I have been into martial arts since childhood, so it was a great joy learning this technique. We rehearsed for three months. Certainly, we had some wounds and injuries, and felt like squeezed lemons after we shot each scene, but the next day everybody wanted to do it again.
Currently, the film is in the final stages of post production here in Kiev, and we are planning festival submissions and distribution. How will it go? No one can predict it. But who knows, maybe “Overturn” is a response to the needs of people who are ready to see this new kind of entertainment.
John Deryl is an actor/director/writer/producer/composer. He was born in Ukraine but spent his childhood in different countries. He studied acting in college. After graduation, he worked on stage for some time and made appearances in films and TV shows, but then started creating his own film projects. He is currently finishing his feature “Overturn: Awakening of the Warrior” and developing a script for a philosophical drama short film.