Cost of a Soul

The film Cost of a Soul is now available on Cable On Demand, iTunes, and Amazon. The film will also be streaming on Netflix in December and can be added to your Netflix queue. Cost of a Soul became the biggest initial release of an ultra-low-budget SAG film, premiering in 50 AMC Theaters this past summer. Below are excerpts of an interview with lead actor Chris Kerson from May, 2011.

Mike Fishman spoke with actor Chris Kerson about his role as Tommy in the feature film Cost of a Soul, winner of AMC’s Big Break Movie Contest. The Big Break Movie Contest was announced in August 2010 to give filmmakers with previously undistributed feature-length films the opportunity to obtain exclusive on-screen distribution throughout the United States. Cost of a Soul, the feature film writing and directorial debut of Sean Kirkpatrick, opened in 50 theatres nationwide on May 20th as part of the AMC independent™ program, which showcases the best independent films and targets interested moviegoers through unique promotions.

Synopsis: Cost of a Soul is the gritty tale of two wounded veterans who return home to the ghetto they joined the military to escape. As they struggle for redemption, their own families become entangled in a web of crime, corruption and violence. The film was shot in the spirit of 1940’s film noir but set in the modern context of a Philadelphia ghetto neighborhood. The locations used during production were some of the most violent neighborhoods in America as Kirkpatrick’s goal was to embrace the reality of the situation within those neighborhoods.

Mike Fishman (MF): How did you become involved with this project?

Chris Kerson (CK): An actor and friend that I had worked with told me about an amazing script he read, Cost of Soul, and offered to share it with me. He also sent my acting reel to the writer/director of the film, Sean Kirkpatrick. After he reviewed my reel, Sean called and asked, "Can you do a convincing Irish accent because I'd like you to audition for the role of Jake, the Irish gangster?" At the time, I expressed to Sean that I thought the role of Tommy was one of the best characters ever written. When I screen tested for Jake, I made the decision to give the character a youthful quality that I did not see on the page.

Sean called me after seeing my audition tape and said my test had more humanity than he had seen in any other audition. He then asked me to read for the role of Tommy. Sean was concerned that I was not the exact physical type that he envisioned the lead character Tommy, a returning Iraqi veteran. So I was quite surprised and delighted when I received a text from Sean asking me what gym I wanted to join to bulk up at in Philadelphia. In other words, I got the part.

MF: What was it about the screenplay that appealed to you?

CK: When I read the screenplay, I could not believe that something this good had come to me. When I got to a particularly emotionally charged scene that took place in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber between Tommy and his young handicapped daughter Hope, I recognized what a superbly crafted character and dramatic storyline Sean had written. I was blown away by the complexity of the character Tommy. The arc that he went through up to that point in the script moved me so much that I felt I had to become that character.

MF: Your role and performance is very intense. What special challenges did it present?

CK: Sean felt the challenge of the character was taking on the emotional life of Tommy. The technique I developed studying with Charlie Laughton and Marcia Haufrecht has often lead to me being called a "Method" actor. Charlie, who was Al Pacino’s mentor along with numerous other actors that I respect, said, "Actors are emotional athletes.” Therefore, the creating of an overall emotional life for the character as well as from scene to scene stemmed from the disciplines and techniques these two taught me and the trust I had developed building a body of work over the years of vastly different characters. The challenge for me was how one could attempt to become both a marine and a criminal with as much physical specificity as I could in just three weeks. To be convincing on the screen, I gained 25 pounds in just 3 weeks through kickboxing, weightlifting, and running. That was a challenge.

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