In director Timothy Stevens’ new feature film, Ghost lights, a journalist named Alex (Katreeva Philips) tries to reconnect with the spirit of her father (John Francis McCullagh) after his death. Shot over 10 days, the film, premiering November 12 at the Lone Star Film Festival in Fort Worth, takes its cast, crew and audiences on a journey through Texas.
The genesis of Ghost lights stems from a reality doc that Stevens was hired to work on in 2019. He describes her as “Unknown destination meets Paranormal activityWith the pilot focusing on the lights of Marfa in the Big Bend area, which are often attributed to ghosts or paranormal phenomena. The show was not picked up again, but he felt inspired by the lights of Marfa and wanted to explore this part of Texas more.
âI’m just madly in love with this part of Texas,â Stevens says. âI went to Terlingua for the first time in 2018 for their Dia de Los Muertos celebration. It’s that cool, abandoned old mining town right on the edge of Big Bend, and it’s just a really scary mystery place. â¦ I just knew I had to come back and film something there eventually.
In the film, Alex’s character comes from Dallas but moves to New York after landing a job at a magazine. She returns to Dallas to try to find ways to make up for her father’s funeral. When Alex returns home, she discovers a tape called “The Ghost Lights – October 15, 1978”.
On the tape, she hears the voice of a miner (Billy Blair) from Terlingua, speaking of experiences with “strange lights”.
“[The miner] is interviewed by [Alexâs] father, “says Stevens,” so she goes on a trip, because she feels like she hasn’t had a good relationship with her father, to try and connect with him beyond the grave in continuing the story. She hopes that this miner is still alive and that she can find out more.
Beyond the paranormal storylines, the film’s themes are universal and earthly.
âThis story is really a father-daughter story about regret and trying to reconnect,â the filmmaker said. âWhen someone dies, you just have to accept it most of the time. So she’s trying to do the impossible, basically.
Stevens, Blair, Philips and McCullagh hit the road for the shoot. It was shot “mostly” in chronological order during a 10-day excursion from Dallas to Terlingua. A road trip like no other, Ghost lights shot in Dallas, Marfa, Alpine and Terlingua.
Stevens estimates that the film cost “around $ 7,000” for the principal photography. It filmed in October of last year, when much of the world was still “squatting,” he says, due to the ongoing pandemic. Only two characters appear onscreen at any given time, and the collective of four actors and crew passed COVID tests prior to filming. They also stayed at the same Airbnb for much of the shoot, so as not to potentially expose themselves to the virus.
After filming was done, Stevens cut a trailer and shared it online. The film still lacked finishing touches, so the cast and crew launched an Indiegogo campaign, which funded “around $ 6,000 for post-production, which paid for special effects, music and color,” says Stevens.
With over a decade of filmmaking experience, Stevens has directed several horror and thriller shorts, including The house beyond the hill and The resurrectionist, the latter having earned him the Fort Worth Indie Film Showcase Award for Best Director. Limited funding, trafficking in Texas and, of course, a pandemic, were all obstacles to Ghost lights‘production. Stevens says the feature film is one of his most difficult projects to date.
Still, he can’t wait to share the film at the Lone Star Film Festival, his favorite event of the year.
âI’ve been to film festivals elsewhere that maybe have some great movies, but they can’t bring the filmmakers out, for some reason,â Stevens says. âWhile I love to see independent films on the big screen, the main reason I go to a film festival was to meet other filmmakers. … I will say the Lone Star Film Festival is like one one of the best film festivals in Texas, if not one of the best in America, I will do it in South By (Southwest) any day of the week. ”