Gritty Philly film had to fight for its ‘Big Break’


In 2009, Nor­ris­town nat­ive Sean Kirk­patrick and a hand­ful of oth­ers gathered in the river wards to tell a story.

Set­ting up shop in a house on Rich­mond Street, they scraped to­geth­er whatever money and re­sources they could find and, over the course of just 18 days, filmed what they hoped would be a movie worth watch­ing. 

Ac­cord­ing to Re­lativ­ity Me­dia and AMC Theat­ers, Kirk­patrick and friends did just that as their film, Cost of a Soul, will be shown on 50 AMC movie screens across the coun­try start­ing this week­end.

“I really wanted to tell the story of the people liv­ing in these neigh­bor­hoods,” ex­plained Kirk­patrick, who wrote and dir­ec­ted the film. “The ones who have to be ex­posed to this kind of vi­ol­ence every day.”

The story fol­lows a pair of Ir­aq war vets as they re­turn home to real­ize the neigh­bor­hoods they fought to de­fend had de­teri­or­ated in­to ghet­tos they hoped to es­cape.

Us­ing back­drops like Ort­lieb’s Jazz Haus in North­ern Liber­ties, The Corner Bar in Port Rich­mond, and the streets that snake throughout Kens­ing­ton, Fishtown and Brides­burg, the story un­folds as the two main char­ac­ters get re-ac­climated to their home lives.

Like most in­de­pend­ent films, Cost of a Soul was sub­mit­ted to film fest­ivals world­wide but was not get­ting much in the way of a dis­tri­bu­tion deal. Then Kirk­patrick found out about Re­lativ­ity Me­dia’s “I Am Rogue Big Break Movie Con­test.”

“We went to a bunch of fest­ivals and we wer­en’t get­ting any bites from dis­trib­ut­ors,” ex­plained act­or Mark Borkowski. “It was be­ing screened all over the coun­try. Then Sean sub­mit­ted it to this Re­lativ­ity/AMC con­test and, lo and be­hold, we got picked.”

Borkowski, a Kens­ing­ton nat­ive who grew up on Tilton Street and gradu­ated from North Cath­ol­ic, plays a hit man for the Ir­ish gangs that run in parts of Port Rich­mond.

“It’s really ex­cit­ing,” Borkowski said.

“To put things in per­spect­ive, Black Swan and The Fight­er opened on 12 screens,” Kirk­patrick ex­plained.

Both films were crit­ic­ally ac­claimed and went on to win a mul­ti­tude of awards.

“There are a few in­de­pend­ent films out there with tens of mil­lions of dol­lar budgets and they’re only open­ing on 12 screens,” he con­tin­ued.

Their film was made on a much more mod­est budget.

“Most of the money was ba­sic­ally pulled out of my own pock­et,” Kirk­patrick laughed. “We shot the movie with whatever I could scrounge up so it was really a huge risk for me.”

In or­der to do so the cast and crew were forced to cut corners to save money but still get the film they wanted.

“You’re forced to get cre­at­ive,” Kirk­patrick ex­plained. “When you’re backed in­to a corner like that, you have no choice but to ex­pand your mind to do something cre­at­ive.”

One of the biggest things they had to skimp on was po­lice es­cort, which is usu­ally the norm on film sets when hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in equip­ment is in­volved.

“We couldn’t have made the film without the people of these neigh­bor­hoods,” Kirk­patrick ex­plained. “They em­braced us and helped us make this pro­duc­tion pos­sible. We had a bar scene we shot on East­er Sunday and we had 40 people show up just to be in the back­ground on their East­er Sunday.”

Both Kirk­patrick and Borkowski agreed that, if it were not for the res­id­ents, the film couldn’t have been made.

“Work­ing in the old neigh­bor­hood where I was born and raised, to go back there and bring my friends and the com­munity in­to the film was one of the most im­port­ant things to me.”

Without even be­ing screened yet, the film is already gain­ing some pretty im­press­ive cred­ib­il­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to Kirk­patrick, the 50-screen open­ing is the largest for any movie in their budget range ever.

“Re­lativ­ity’s goal was to find a true in­de­pend­ent film and give them a big break,” Kirk­patrick said. “In the rules and reg­u­la­tions, though, it said if they didn’t find a film worthy of (the big break) then they wer­en’t go­ing to go ahead with the con­test.”

Seems like a per­fect fit for all parties in­volved.

“It’s al­ways a big up­hill battle when you don’t have Johnny Depp or pir­ates in your movie,” Kirk­patrick said. “We’re open­ing against the new ‘Pir­ates’ this week­end so I’m hop­ing people de­cide to not go see them and come see our movie.”

Either way, though, Kirk­patrick is humbled by the ex­per­i­ence.

“This has opened a ton of doors for me. It’s such a tough in­dustry, there’s a lot of hard work to be had,” he said. “I think the best will be yet to come.”

See Cost of a Soul

Cost of a Soul will be shown at the fol­low­ing theat­ers:

ull; AMC Loews Cherry Hill 24, 2121 Route 38, Cherry Hill. N.J. 

ull; AMC Frank­lin Mills Mall 14, 1149 Frank­lin Mills Circle, Phil­adelphia, PA

ull; AMC Hamilton 24, 325 Sloan Ave., Hamilton, NJ

For show times and ad­di­tion­al theat­ers, vis­it www.amctheat­


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