"Roulette," a psycho-thriller by Maryland native Erik Kristopher Myers, will be sure to leave you feeling tense and on-edge.
Myers' film is no fantasy world. He takes real life situations and throws them at his audience – raw and uncensored – in the midst of a game of Russian Roulette.
"Roulette," garnering eight awards from the World and Music Independent Film Festival and Hot Media International Film Festival, was shot predominantly in Harford County at homes near Aberdeen Proving Ground and Bel Air South and at Harford Community College, which was disguised to look like other places.
The 113-minute film delves into the lives of three characters: Dean, a wheelchair-bound landscaper with an undiagnosable illness (played by Mike Baldwin); Kessler, an alcoholic who's been passed over for a promotion (played by Will Haza); and Sunny, a holier-than-thou pro-lifer who longs for love.
Twists and turns in the lives of the three characters will leave your stomach in knots as Myers intertwines dark-themes like alcoholism and adultery with topical issues like abortion and mental illness into short flash-frame narratives.
"Some films are afraid to confront reality of what really happens in our lives,' Myers, the 37-year-old from Parkville, said. "When things get uncomfortable, they cut to the next scene or close the door. But this is an opportunity to confront those things – depression, gender identification, addiction."
Myers said as a filmmaker he prefers to confront those topics head on writing about things that even he is afraid of.
"I like to exorcise my demons and the more it frightens me, the more compelling it is for me to make," Myers said.
Set to debut on DVD on Nov. 19, "Roulette," which was released on Blu-ray on Oct. 22, sold out on Amazon on its first day.
Initially, Myers said he had difficulty securing a film distributor to release the picture without chopping out many of the touchy scenes and subjects.
"A lot [of distributors] wanted to chop the film and I couldn't do that," Myers said. "Not because I was being a highfalutin artist, but the power in some of those sequences needed to stay."
Myers explained that the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, in December 2012, also scared away a lot potential distributors.
"A movie about a gun frightened a lot of people off," Myers said.
Eventually, R Squared Films Inc. agreed to distribute the film without cutting any graphic scenes.
Baldwin, "Roulette" actor and co-producer, is a native of Harford County and graduated from Harford Community College before transferring to Towson University, where he met Myers. Baldwin played an integral part in securing local students, who were interested in interning with the film production, Myers said.
The film was conceived on a shoestring budget. Myers said it took about $20,000 to create the film, which was shot by a small crew of volunteer film graduates from Harford Community College, Towson University and Catholic University.
"I had to pull out all of my credit cards and max them out," Myers said. "My wife's car was breaking down. It was a dark and tiring time in my life, but I felt like if I didn't make this film now, I might not be able to. This is what I did with absolutely no money or investors; imagine what I can do with the script and just a little bit of money."
Myers, a Towson University electronic media and film graduate, said he was drawn to storytelling as a child.
"From the time I was very, very young I was entranced by storytelling," Myers said. "So I want to create films so someone could be as entranced as I am."
Myers said he does not relate to any of three main characters in "Roulette" in a traditional sense. He said he tries not to write in a way that is self-serving or romanticizes the plight of a struggling writer, filmmaker.
To develop the story lines, Myers said he did a lot of background research on social issues in writing the script for the film.
But like any good director, Myers said he doesn't empathize with any of the three main characters over the other.
"They are all my bastard stepchildren... I love and destroy them all equally," Myers said.
Myers said he hopes his film will bring more awareness to local indie artists in Maryland.
"Movies are being shot in your backyard every day," Myers said. "I would tell people to look and see what's going on in their community."