Photo by Ash Daniel
vampire casting call
Susee Garcia at an open casting call for Vampires in Virginia at the Regency Square Mall in June.
Local filmmaker recruits cast and crew for thriller movie set around Richmond.
A vampire film shot in Richmond? If the idea just gave you déjà-vu, blame Steven Spielberg. Vampires in Virginia was originally scheduled to shoot throughout the region in 2012, but “when Lincoln came into town, basically we had to just say, ‘OK, we’re not going to shoot, because every single crew member’s going to want to work on that film,’ ” says Vampires writer and executive producer Kahil Dotay.
For a production that is relying so heavily on indigenous talent of every kind, it was probably a wise move. So, after a recent call for local actors and crew, the modern-day vampire movie — a “thriller, horror, romance, in that order” — has finally commenced filming in Richmond, as well as in Chesterfield, Henrico and Powhatan counties.
Telling the story of what might happen if vampirism took the form of a contagious virus, the script was written specifically with the area in mind. A Richmonder since 1996, Dotay was inspired by locations such as Byrd Park’s Pump House, the canal and Mid-Lothian Mines Park. Yet Vampires almost got made in California, the hometown of director Tim Russ (Lt. Cmdr. Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager).
“It was a really hard decision,” Dotay says. “I went back and forth, and then the [Virginia] Film Office said, ‘Look, we can help you out,’ whereas the California Film Office would not have been there if we’d hit any snags.”
The VFO offered rebates on money spent in the state, and provided assistance with scouting locations. “We always do whatever we can to support Virginia-based filmmakers,” says Andrew Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office.
Though Russ — whose availability was assured with a California shoot location — may now have to share his directorial role with someone else, working locally has other major draws. Useful for a film whose total budget is only $252,000, there are favors from friends and colleagues that can be called in.
“Normally, a camera package might cost $1,000 a day for rental,” Dotay says. “[Here,] I can get that for $200. That’s the thing Virginia can offer. We’re all independent filmmakers, and we’re all trying to help each other out.”