Local filmmakers Bobby Cloud and John F. Uranday have made an exorcism film that is unlike any audiences have seen before. But because they don't want to spoil their movie by sharing those specific details, you'll have to take their word for it — for now.
"Lost Souls" is the first feature film by the Penwheel Productions duo, who are set to take the film to Cannes, France, next month for the city's film market and, hopefully, its prestigious invite-only festival.
The film tells the story of an immigrant family from Cuba, Cloud said. When daughter Anna starts to exhibit strange behavior, her parents reach out to a local priest for help.
"Things definitely do not go as planned," Cloud said. "We tried to write elements of the traditional recipe for exorcism films, and we did two things that haven't really been done."
Cloud and Uranday are keeping mum on what those two things are, not wanting to spoil the movie before audiences have the chance to see it. (Those eager for an early look can contact the filmmakers about a private screening planned for Sunday.)
Starring actors from Los Angeles (and a few local ones), the film was shot in Bakersfield, Arvin and just outside Taft. The locations were partly due to convenience but the pair said there is a local angle to the story, another thing that makes it unique.
The idea for "Lost Souls" came about in April 2017, and within days Cloud and Uranday had already started to cast the movie. Filming took place that July, with post-production ending in June 2018.
They have screened the film for friends and family, many of whom seemed to have been expecting something that looked a little more home-made, they said.
"They're surprised," Uranday said, adding with a laugh that he and Cloud can take that positively or negatively. "'Oh, you guys are making a movie!'"
"'A real movie,'" Cloud added, speaking as their impressed viewers. "A lot of people are really shocked by the quality, including our own family."
Cloud and Uranday have been sending both "Lost Souls" and "Broken Innocence," their short film about children used by cartels, to festivals. At the United Artist Film Festival, "Lost Souls" won a best feature film award, which will come with theatrical distribution. (The filmmakers will share more on that as details are worked out.)
Even with a festival award, pending distribution and rave reviews from family and friends, there is still one place all filmmakers dream of showing their work.
"Everybody just said, 'You guys need to go to Cannes if you want to be taken seriously as filmmakers,'" Uranday said, referring to friends they have made in the film industry.
They won't know until next week whether "Lost Souls" will be included in the festival portion of the event, but they will show both that film and "Broken Innocence" in the market. To help them make the trip to France, the duo has set up a GoFundMe.
Getting to Cannes will give the duo a chance to show others in the film industry what Penwheel Productions is and the kinds of stories they want to tell.
"We just write things a lot of people will shy away from," Uranday said, adding that their projects so far deal with dark and painful topics.
"We like to deal with subjects people don't like to acknowledge are happening," Cloud said. Both finished projects deal with "things that happen to children that nobody seems to want to acknowledge because it's too terrible."'
Part of what helps the two work together is that they balance each other out, they said. Friends for about nine years, both Cloud and Uranday have prior film experience, though Uranday has quite a bit more, as he's been working on films and music videos for about 15 years. Cloud, a family law attorney, started making films when he was 19 but took a break as he followed his career in law.
The two met up when Cloud opened his first independent law office near Uranday's studio at the time. Cloud would help Uranday with contracts and they eventually bonded over a love of films and, later, decided to team up to make them.
"It was very natural and organic, the way we'd pitch ideas back and forth," Uranday said. "There was never any awkward pause in creativity."
With two finished projects, the filmmakers are already thinking about what's next, including a sequel to "Lost Souls."
"John and I are wanting to head in the same direction," Cloud said. "We want to be working filmmakers, not make one film and walk away."