Friday will be the culmination of the nine-year journey of Tyler Hisel's script for Dark Was the Night, from the basement of his parents' Lexington home to the big screen.
In the course of that time, he learned that a screenplay exists in two stages: working to complete it and waiting, sometimes years, for it to get made.
"People like to think you write a script that everyone likes and you're off to the races," Hisel says. "But a lot of the time, things don't line up ... and very few (scripts) make it out of the other end of the machine."
Hisel, a 2008 Asbury University graduate, penned the thriller, then titled The Trees, in 2006 while living in his parents' basement during college. It opens in select cities, including Lexington at The Kentucky Theatre, on Friday.
Never miss a local story.
It was always Hisel's dream to make movies, and he would write and direct short films with his friends while going to school at Lexington Christian Academy.
It wasn't until he received an internship offer at the Los Angeles Film Study Center, however, that he got serious about writing a screenplay.
He knew he wanted to make the transition from intern to screenwriter, so before he went west, Hisel wanted to have a script in his back pocket.
Once he was there he made money by any means necessary. He worked at Universal Studios loading people into the Simpsons attraction and played a dead guy on the television show Monk.
The first order of business for anyone in Hollywood, he said, is to do whatever you can to "just stop hemorrhaging money."
But unlike many screenwriting hopefuls with a plane ticket and a prayer, Hisel's new script stuck.
It was named to the Black List in 2009 — a list of the 100 "most liked," not necessarily best, screenplays of each year — and began to garner a lot of attention.
Hisel's film is a monster flick, but it's also a character study into how one family copes with loss.
"I've always jokingly pitched this movie as a family drama that happens to be a creature film," Hisel says. "It's a quirky little movie that doesn't fit into a lot of conventional boxes."
His script was passed among production companies before it landed in the hands of Caliber Media.
Caliber's Jack Heller, who also directed the film, had been calling Hisel for months saying, "If you give me this script, we will be making this movie in six months."
Sure enough, with the help of a few other independent producers, Dark Was the Night was in production six months later.
"The script was off-the-charts amazing," Dylan Narang, one of the film's producers and key financial backers, with Soggy Bottom Media, says.
"The voice was really good, the story was clear, the progression of the characters was very clear. It was firing on all cylinders."
Narang also says another key reason he was drawn to the script was that rather than being another run-of-the-mill horror movie or thriller, Dark Was the Night was heavily character-based and character-driven, something you don't often see in that genre.
Hisel says he learned very quickly in Hollywood not to get excited about a project until it's actually getting made, so it didn't truly sink in until his first day on set.
"I remember standing on the driveway of this house we were shooting at and seeing Kevin Durand for the first time," Hisel says. Durand plays the film's lead, Sheriff Paul Shields. His credits include Lost and the current FX drama The Strain.
Hisel says the feeling of seeing Shields, a character who had existed only in his head for so long, standing in front of him was surreal.
"Suddenly I was looking at him. I was watching him walk and talk," Hisel says. "That's when my mind finally came to terms with the fact that the movie was actually happening."
The film premiered at ScreamFest in Los Angeles in October. And Hisel, who currently has "a lot" of other projects in development, admits the feeling was a little bittersweet. But now Dark Was the Night is something he gets to watch instead of something he works on.
"There was this realization that, for the first time in my career, I don't have to do anything with this film anymore," he says. "It exists. I'm done."