Gothic Indie Thriller Filming in Southern Illinois


Dig Two Graves, a Gothic mystery thriller, is back in Southern Illinois to film its final scenes.

Directed by Hunter Adams and based on the script he co-wrote with Jeremy Phillips, Dig Two Graves’ cast includes Ted Levine (The Bridge, Shutter Island), Kara Zediker (Contagion), Danny Goldring (The Dark Knight), and newcomer Samantha Isler.

The below summary of the film is from its official Facebook page:

[Dig Two Graves] centers on Jacqueline, a 14-year-old girl nicknamed “Jake” by her older brother Sean.  After Sean mysteriously disappears at a rock quarry, Jake is visited by 3 Moonshiners who offer to bring her dead brother back to life in exchange for taking another life. As Jake wrestles with this morally uncertain proposition, the dark history of her family is unearthed and the mystery surrounding the moonshiners is illuminated.

 

How Southern Illinois Became The Film Location for Dig Two Graves

Originally, Northern Illinois was the first film location choice for the indie film until a friend of the director suggested Southern Illinois. “It is visually stunning at certain locations and I liked the   varieties; swamps, Garden of the Gods, and the Rolling Hills,” said Director Hunter Adam. “It is like nowhere else.”

It is visually stunning at certain locations and I liked the varieties; swamps, Garden of the Gods, and the Rolling Hills. It is like nowhere else.
— Hunter Adams, Director of Dig Two Graves

First, it was the location photos presented by the Illinois Film Office that made the crew interested in Southern Illinois. Then, after a few scouting trips to the area, the producers fell in love with the locations.

“We had a script and we felt we could meet the needs of the script in [Southern Illinois],” said local historian and author Jon Musgrave, who assisted in scouting locations for Dig Two Graves.

Producer P. J. Fishwick loved the small town vibe of Southern Illinois when he was scouting the area. “Some of these small towns have this timeless feel, which adds a lot of production value to the film,” said Fishwick. “We chose this area due to the epic looking locations that make a great backdrop for the story.”

Southern Illinois not only provided the perfect locations for Dig Two Graves to film in, it also served as a location for set construction.  “We built some interiors in a storage building at 900 Skyline Drive in Marion. They worked out fine,” said Plowden.

Some of these small towns have this timeless feel, which adds a lot of production value to the film. We chose this area due to the epic looking locations that make a great backdrop for the story.
— P. J. Fishwick, Producer of Dig Two Graves

In addition to the charming, atmospheric locations, the people of Illinois were also warm and welcoming. “Everyone was so accommodating. Mayors, police and people in general,” said Plowden. “A couple of farmers pulled one of our vehicles out of the mud. When you are shooting in a big city it is a little more buttoned up.”


The Film Locations

Many of the local iconic locations are featured as backdrops for the indie film, beginning with the railroad tunnel — namesake of the town of Tunnel Hill and the Tunnel Hill Trail. A friendly, hot spot for local bikers, the 543-foot tunnel presented an entirely different persona in Dig Two Graves. “We had need of a dark foreboding area where the main character would meet the moonshiners. The railroad tunnel at Tunnel Hill provided that location,” said associate producer Phillip S. Plowden.

Another location used in the film was the square in Marion. “The buildings and the clock tower in Marion Square were perfect for our carnival scene. We liked the circular town square,” said Plowden.

Image of Samantha Isler as "Jake" and Gabriel Cain as "Willie Proctor" filming a scene at the Mermet Springs Quarry - via Dig Two Graves' Facebook page.

Image of Samantha Isler as "Jake" and Gabriel Cain as "Willie Proctor" filming a scene at the Mermet Springs Quarry - via Dig Two Graves' Facebook page.

As to Mermet Springs, its location played a key role in how the town became one of the film’s main filming locations. “Mermet Springs was a perfect location. Lots of parking and access to U.S. Route 45,” shared Plowden. In addition, the Southern Illinois town fits in well with the story.

Filming began last November. “We wanted to have a gothic feel,” said the director. “With the leaves falling and things dying, it will have a menacing feel.”

“We shot all over Southern Illinois, including Tunnel Hill, Pomona,  Anna, Vienna, New Grand Chain, Olmsted and a number of locations,” said Fishwick.

Image of the Old Train Tunnel in Tunnel Hill, Illinois, one of the film locations of Dig Two Graves - via Dig Two Graves' Facebook page.

Image of the Old Train Tunnel in Tunnel Hill, Illinois, one of the film locations of Dig Two Graves - via Dig Two Graves' Facebook page.

Other locations featured in Dig Two Graves are the Cypress swamps of the Cache River, Cave-in-Rock State ParkShawnee National Forest, the Goddard Chapel, the jail cells of the Williamson County Jail Museum,  the old Club 37 in Olmstead, the grade school in Grand Chain, and Ferne Clyffe State Park.

This week, the production is back in Southern Illinois to finish shooting the summer scenes of the movie. Downtown Vienna, Ferne Clyffe State Park and Mermet Springs again stand in as the various backdrops of this week’s filming activities.

“It’s great to be back in Southern Illinois for the last few days of filming. We’ve spent a lot of time here over the last year from scouting to shooting and surviving a blizzard,” shared producer Fishwick. “The crew and myself are excited to reconnect with so many of the great people in Southern Illinois who have helped make this project a success.”

Plowden very much enjoys his experience making the independent film Dig Two Graves in Southern Illinois. “I would love to bring another one down there,” he said.


Southern Illinois Homes Used in the Movie

In addition to the locations mentioned above, the production has also rented many local homes to film in. These include the historic homes of two Southern Illinois lawmakers - Civil War era Congressman A. J. Kuykendall in Vienna, and Prohibition Era Congressman E. E. Dennison in Marion, an old cabin in Jackson County near Rattlesnake Ferry, and a farmhouse in southern Union County.


Working with the Film Students at Southern Illinois University

Chris Parr, boom operator and equipment manager at Southern Illinois University‘s (“SIU’s”) cinema department, believes the production brings many benefits to Illinois. “The cost to make films, the need for hotels for the crews and the money spent to feed them will all benefit these areas,” he explained. In addition, the film students at SIU also get a chance to get real-world experience working on the set of Dig Two Graves. Fishwick have previously used SIU students on productions filmed in Illinois and the collaboration has always been a success.

“A lot of our interns that shot with us in January have since moved to L.A. and are now working,” said Fishwick. “I’ve been able to hire some in Chicago in the meantime so It’s been a really positive experience bringing in kids from SIU.”


Release Date

If all goes well, Dig Two Graves will be released this fall. “The   first step will be submitting it into film festivals,” said Adam.  “If nothing else, we will have a premiere screening.”

For more information and photographs about the film, visit the official Facebook page of Dig Two Graves: www.Facebook.com/digtwograves. You can also read this Vienna Times article for more details.


Illinois Film Office

In addition to the unique locations of Southern Illinois, the state’s film tax credit als played an important part in luring Dig Two Graves to film there. For information on Illinois’ film tax credit and other perks filming in Illionis, visit the Illinois Film Office (a Reel-Scout client). 

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Image above via Google.

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