Alumni, faculty help initiate local film

“Revelation Trail,” a zombie-thriller film directed by Murray State graduate John P. Gibson, will premier April 12 in Paducah, Ky., to a sold-out theater.

The movie follows The Preacher, played by Murray State graduate Daniel Van Thomas, as he teams up with Marshal Edwards (Daniel Britt) to fend off zombies in the American west. Several roles in the film, besides Thomas’ role, are played by alumni or faculty of Murray State.

The idea for the film was thought of in 2006 by Blake Armstrong, a friend of Gibson’s from Metropolis, Ill., who currently works in Los Angeles. Gibson was initially hesitant about delving into the zombie world.

“I wasn’t really feeling it,” Gibson said. “I’d done work with zombies in college, and I felt it had been played out.”

Armstrong and Gibson ran with it anyway, and a little more than six years later with the addition of Van Thomas, they had created a film that will debut at the peak of the rise of the undead genre.

The important thing to Gibson was that the movie be a western with zombie elements and not the other way around.

“Revelation Trail” is an independent film that has a scale which was difficult to maneuver around with such a small budget. Van Thomas and Gibson, who also produced the film, had to raise the money for production through the generosity of people in the areas in which they filmed in.

“There is just no way it could’ve happened without that element of charity and selflessness,” Van Thomas said.

Crew and cast members had to give up some comforts in order to scrimp on production costs. Most nights, they slept five or seven to a hotel room, and when that commodity was not available, they utilized the couches, basements and even garages of local families willing to take them in.

“These things taught me what we’re made of,” Gibson said. “It doesn’t matter the time it takes – if you’re really passionate about something, you’ll find a way.”

Gibson used his contacts and social networking on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get the word out that he needed actors willing to work for little to play roles in his film, and to keep followers up-to-date on the production process.

By the time they put out the casting call, “Revelation Trail” had already gained a dedicated following of 600-700 people on social media sites.

Van Thomas and Gibson were both mentored by Bob Valentine, a senior lecturer at Murray State, who plays Samuel Beard in the film. Valentine directed Van Thomas in his first-stage acting jobs.

During the search for actors, Gibson’s wife, Candace Gibson, suggested Valentine play Beard. Gibson said Valentine brought something completely unexpected to the role.

Valentine frequently acts in plays and independent films in his free time, and was able to act in “Revelation Trail” because it was filmed in relatively close proximity to Murray. Almost all of Valentine’s scenes were shot within two long weekends over Winter Break. The entire movie was filmed in only three weeks.

The first two showings of “Revelation Trail” are sold-out at Maiden Alley Cinema, but tickets are still available for the remaining showings on Saturday and Sunday.

Story by Amanda Grau, Staff writer.