MARION -- An aspiring actor or actress in a rural area reads a "help wanted" advertisement for roles in a movie to be shot locally, tries out, and lands a role.
It may sound too good to be true, but that's the experience several actors and actresses in Southern Illinois enjoyed when they became attached to the film, "Dig Two Graves."
On Saturday evening, director Hunter Adams showed the film in a premiere at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center to a packed house.
"Dig Two Graves" is a thriller with supernatural elements involving a teen girl nicknamed "Jake," whose older brother drowns mysteriously. His body is never recovered. Later, while dealing with the grief of losing her only sibling, she is approached by three strangers who claim they can bring back her brother if she will coerce a classmate into jumping into the same water where her brother disappeared.
As Jake is torn between the thought of having her brother back and knowing she would be responsible for the death of her classmate -- a boy named Willie Proctor -- she learns that the unusual occurrences surrounding her are related to her grandfather's past.
After the premiere, local cast and crew members were invited on the stage for a Q&A session with Adams.
For Alexsia Patton, a Gallatin County High School Class of 2016 graduate, being a part of the film was the culmination of many years of performance arts.
"I was 6 years old and an Oompa Loompa on the SIC stage," Patton, who is chasing a career in the film industry, said of her first stage experience many years ago. "Acting has always been a big part of me, and I'm glad I heard about this when I did."
Though she auditioned as an extra, she also gained an extra unsung role.
"I was the stand-in for Samantha Isler, as well," she said. "That was very exciting."
Isler played the lead female role of Jacqueline "Jake" Mather.
Patton is a creative writing major who plans to continue her film career, possibly with a job as a film writer.
"Right now, it's my dream, but I'm making it into my reality," she said.
Patton isn't the only Southern Illinois local hoping "Dig Two Graves" will advance a film career.
Gabe Cain is a freshman at Herrin High School, and he said he had an almost overwhelming experience in the movie.
"I didn't have any kind of experience acting or with performing," Cain said. "But, I got the notice about them needing extras, so my dad and I went in for the auditions. They had several different scripts there, and they gave me the script for the role of Willie Proctor. I got cast for the role after the reading. I've never done anything like that."
His first day on the job was challenging, he said.
"I was already kind of nervous, and then my first scene I shot was when I was waking my grandpa up from his nightmares," Cain said.
Despite no prior acting experience, Cain said he might pursue additional acting roles.
Jon Musgrave, a local historian from Marion, served as the event coordinator Saturday evening. Musgrave worked with Adams during production to make suggestions regarding shooting locations, access to particular areas and as a source of background contextual information for the region.
While helping Adams field questions during the Q&A session, an audience member asked about his future film plans.
"I thought I'd do a sequel and call it 'Dig 3 Graves,'" Adams joked.
"Yeah, there's a few cast members left," Musgrave added.
Another star of the film didn't have any lines, but made an impression on fellow castmates.
"Sintullo," a large timber rattlesnake, appeared with his handler, biologist Tony Gerard. Adams said originally he wanted to use crows in the film to signify paranormal events. After consulting with Gerard, Adams decided to use the snake.
At Saturday's Q&A, a couple of cast members looked slightly unsettled as Sintullo draped across Gerard's shoulders, occasionally flicking out its tongue.
"He's laid back," Gerard said of the massive viper. "Maybe a little too laid back. He only rattled one time when we were shooting."
"Well, it was February," Adams said.
Gerard explained that while Sintullo retained his fangs, he had been treated so he was not venomous.
Adams said he enjoyed his experience filming in southern Illinois and might shoot additional films here in the future.
"You never know, but I've been researching some of the activities that took place here back in the '20s," he said.
"Dig Two Graves" currently is available on iTunes. It also will screen in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, later this month and on April 23 at the Dead by Dawn Film Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.