As darkness fell on Powhatan County over Labor Day weekend, creatures that go bump in the night were wreaking havoc – at least until the director yelled "Cut!"
Vampires – good and bad – came to the area on Thursday, Aug. 28, and stayed for several days when "Vampires in Virginia" began shooting on location in the county.
Director Kahil Dotay said he was pleased with how the combination of day and night shoots went, with good locations, crew and cast working in his favor.
"It has been really great as far as people being positive and willing to help," Dotay, of Midlothian, said.
Although the horror flick has already been shooting in different locations in and around Richmond since early July, the shoot on Aug. 28 was the first time on location in Powhatan County, he said.
Filming started at Chadwick and Son Orchids Inc., with the film crew using Arthur Chadwick’s log cabin home and his orchid greenhouses off Dorset Road in scenes for the movie.
Chadwick had never seen a movie set before, much less watched his home and business turned into one. He didn’t stay the whole time the crew was filming, but what he saw was fascinating, he said.
"It is a very unique experience, and it gives you a feel for how Hollywood operates. It is a smaller scale, but it makes you appreciate what goes into making a movie," he said.
Horror films are not his usual fare – "I am more of a romantic comedy genre guy" – but Chadwick said he is open-minded and is looking forward to seeing "Vampires" when it eventually comes out, probably in 2016.
"It’s not due out for a few years, so there is plenty of time to get ready for it," he said. "The orchids I grow take seven years to bloom, so what’s another couple of years. I am trained to be patient, I guess."
Additional Powhatan County locations used for filming were Bellville Farm and several county roads, Freddy Ridout, locations manager, said. It was a hot weekend filled with bugs, bug spray, sunscreen and plenty of demand for water.
One of the aspects of the film that Ridout is the happiest about is that it is a truly Virginia production, between the cast, crew and locations.
"We have no egos on this set. Everybody is on board and wants to see this film made," he said.
Dotay agreed that it seemed "silly" to try to bring people in from outside the state when "there is so much talent here."
"Vampires in Virginia" is a modern take on the vampire story, treating vampirism as a virus that people catch, said Dotay, who also is the writer and producer. He classified the movie as part horror, thriller and romance.
Although there are some vampire movies that Dotay likes, he said he is not usually a fan of the genre. However, he said he likes the commercial viability of vampires right now and thought he could do a good job with the subject.
"I wanted to do a vampire movie that would be something I wanted to see personally," he said.
He is keeping the film’s plot a closely guarded secret, with very few of his cast and crew having the whole picture on the storyline. He promises several plot twists the audience won’t see coming.
Vampires in Powhatan
Before filming ever started, Dotay had his own Powhatan connection. For a few years, his two sons were students at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot Catholic School.
He said he even considered moving his family to Powhatan County, but thought it would be counterproductive to head in the opposite direction of Richmond’s film scene.
After Ridout started scouting locations in Powhatan County, someone who heard they were looking for a log cabin recommended Chadwick’s home, Ridout said.
When Dotay found out about the greenhouses, he decided to work orchids into the script in some way, although he isn’t revealing how. Before filming started, several already could be seen placed around the set.
Besides being the backdrop for part of the film, the county is making its mark on the film in other ways.
Retired electrician Kenny Phibbs of Powhatan resurrected his skills to become the production’s electrician. His wife Carroll was an extra during filming in Midlothian.
The couple saw a casting call notice and decided to try out, he said. He had loved the experience.
"I get to watch it all. It is totally interesting," he said. "It is crossed off the bucket list."
Although filming is certainly fun, Bilal Z. Raychouni of Powhatan saw being the assistant director on the film during shooting in Powhatan as more of an opportunity to make more connections in the film industry.
Raychouni graduated from Emerson College in 2013 and is pursuing a career in film. When he heard about a film being shot in Powhatan County, he said he couldn’t afford not to pursue the opportunity.
"I am meeting some really cool people who are in Virginia and in the Virginia film scene," he said.
Filming is expected to continue at least a few more weeks before post-production work can be done, Dotay said. He added he expects it to be ready in 2016 to begin looking at distribution options.
To stay updated on the film’s progress, go to www.vampiresinvirginia.com.