• Johnnie Brannon

Making Movies | Sheol

Updated: Apr 3

"Making Movies" will be a new blog series in which I'll share my own personal experiences on the films I've directed or the productions I have worked on to give you an insight on how it all came together. My first blog in this series will be on my next film, Sheol.

Jason Willey as Pete Finkel

April 5. 2015.

When I started taking film classes at The University of Central Arkansas, I had already directed 5 short films, including back to back Best Picture wins at the 2013 and 2014 48 Hour Film Project in Little Rock.

In all honesty, I had no idea what I was doing and I was so fortunate to have had the amazing crews that I had. Heading back to college at the ripe old age of 41, I was going in by myself. It was up to me to educate myself in hopes to become more well rounded. Both as an actor and as a director.

Digital Film 1 (DF1) was my main focus that Spring and it was going to be a full load. That was exciting though because as a film student, I would get to direct a 90-second short film, which turned into Stranger Than Paradise, make a music video that turned into Moby's 18 and my final assignment was to make a five-minute film, and that would be Sheol.

The idea was of two men, one from Heaven and one from Hell, who would meet up in purgatory once a day to take those in waiting to their final resting place. On this specific day, they would see something they've never seen before, an innocent soul with nowhere to go.

I crammed a lot into a five-minute script and I do mean A LOT! So, this is how I put the film together and why it's taken five years to finish it.



Everything happened pretty fast. We shot Sheol at Crush Wine Bar in North Little Rock. That was our "purgatory" and we filmed it on Easter Sunday, April 5th, 2015. We shot for one full day. My crew included my roommate and frequent collaborator Donavon Thompson as my DP. Jarrod Paul Beck was my AD. My gaffer was JC Cocker, who is one of the busiest folks in the area. Carol Wise ran sound and a few classmates shadowed the experienced crew.

My cast. I didn't hold auditions because I had people in mind who I wanted in these roles. Like most local filmmakers, I had written this script with a few actors in mind.

Duane Jackson and Byron Taylor were my Mr. White and Mr. Black. The men from Heaven and Hell. As for the people who were in purgatory, I personally invited people to be in this film. I didn't want just anyone, I wanted particular people. As essential as it is, background work isn't really doing anything as far as performance goes. The background for Sheol, whom I call "passengers" really just sit in one place as they await their final destination. When I say I personally invited people to be in this film, it's because I wanted these people in the film. Deb Lewis, who unfortunately we don't really see in this film, is an amazing actress who's done so much in local theater and film.

Deb was in the feature film Last Summer which came out in 2012. Her performance was amazing and it caught the attention of renowned casting director, Avy Kaufman, who reached out to me personally to get in touch with Deb through IMDB. I wanted Deb there because I love her work and I just wanted her to be in the film. The same goes for all of the other performers who are in this film.

Sharon Combs as Tara Howser and Kristof Waltermire as James Howser

Kirby Simon as Sherry Jones

Fran Austin was originally cast as The Woman of Sheol but she was doing a play that day and couldn't get away, so we cast Tamara Glynn (Halloween 5) instead.

With Tamara on board, we received a little bit of press.

The full article is here



When we finished Sheol, I was happy with what we had but there were a number of problems that arose. Our sound was really bad. When we filmed, we didn't disconnect the fridge that was keeping the wine cool and unfortunately, it left most of the audio unusable. A pivotal scene in the film in which the man from Heaven and the man from Hell play for a soul didn't really work. While editing, it was hard to stretch this scene out and build up suspense or drama, and to be honest, it took me 5 years to come up with something that I felt would work.

Carol Wise (Sound) and JC Cocker (Grip)

One of the toughest parts of making a film is cutting out what doesn't work or push the story of the film. The woman of Sheol, which was played by Tamara Glynn didn't work out and that role didn't make the final cut.

Tamara Glynn & Johnnie Brannon

As of today, I'm happy with the final product. There are just a few small technical things I need to finish up which are the audio and score. As of now, this film will be released in 2021, 6 years after wrapping the production.

I'm excited to see where this film goes. I'm not sure how big of a festival run it will have (if any) but I'm really excited that this film is now complete. On to the next!

Kirby Simon (Sherry Jones), Deb Lewis as a Passenger and Jason Willey (Pete Finkel)

Tony J. Taylor (Producer), Johnnie Brannon and Duane Jackson (Mr. Black)

Chatting with Deb, Jason and Kirby.

The official movie poster.

The film is now complete and picture locked. A score and sound design has been completed and the final stage of color correcting will be taking place soon with DP Donavon Thompson taking charge. We started this project on April 5, 2015 and the film became picture locked with sound design complete on April 2, 2022, nearly 7 years to the day when we first rolled the camera.

A follow up will come soon.

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