I Put Tatiana Maslany in a Cult, Here’s What Happened…

I Put Tatiana Maslany in a Cult, Here’s What Happened…

By John Trefry

Fair Warning - Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the short film, Souls of Totality.

During the solar eclipse last year when many people were staring up at the sky with special glasses, I joined a cult in Oregon and drank Kool-Aid under a blanket.

Well, at least that’s what the scene in our short film, Souls of Totality, was about.

Hopefully you’ve seen the film which follows real life couple Tatiana Maslany (Lady 18) and Tom Cullen (Guy 3).  In Souls of Totality, the eclipse is set against a desperate race to save the life of the one you love. The story shows two people abandoning all expectations because of their love. It shows how love can break the lineage. And I guess that love has a funny way of making us not care about the things that otherwise we feel should be important.

What many people find to be the most fascinating part of the film is that we shot it during the actual solar eclipse. There are no special effects - it’s all real! In fact, Souls of Totality is the first narrative film to do this in cinema history, which is a pretty rare thing to accomplish! I personally I think the most interesting part of the story is the forbidden love between Lady 18 and Guy 3 and where their journey leads them.

As the film ends, I find myself asking what are they going to do now? And did they miss out on joining the Souls wherever they ended up?

The story of the film is rather unexpected and I feel like it’s important to share since there is so much that went into bringing you what you see on screen.

It all begin in the Summer of 2017 when our director, Richard Raymond, invited my sister and her husband to head up to Oregon to see the solar eclipse in August. The next sign from the universe was an old friend named Tom said he would also like to come along and bring his longtime girlfriend Tatiana.

It was at that point Rich had a realization. My sister, Kate Trefry who writes for Stranger Things, and her husband, Ben Bolea, were both talented screenwriters. His friend, Tom Cullen, is a hugely talented actor known for Downton Abbey and Knightfall and Tom’s girlfriend was Tatiana Maslany, the Emmy-winning actress known for her incredible performance in Orphan Black. With Rich as a director, we had all the beginnings of a film project. Everyone was interested and it was off to the races.

Keep in mind this is mid-Summer just a few weeks before the first solar eclipse in America in almost 100 years. We had to get things organized and fast.

Our connection to Oregon was through Rich and his wife Nousha’s nanny, whose family is from a little town, Powell Butte, right in the path of eclipse. It helps for context to recall that the solar eclipse was a huge deal and people were expected to come from all over the world and descend on this narrow band known as the path of totality.

So through the nanny connection Rich gained access to a few key set pieces:

  • General store
  • Farm
  • And a school bus

In true indie filmmaking style our writers Kate and Ben built the story around what we knew we had. And in just a few short weeks we marshaled together a fantastic crew and we all traveled up to Central Oregon for the Souls shoot.

The experience of making the film was very special. We all stayed at the family home of Rich’s nanny which was crazy because we had 24 people in the cast and crew, so the accommodations  involved 6 tents in backyard, a camper van and a bunch of air mattresses. Since our team was so small as producer I ended up being responsible for much of the crew meals and catering. What you may not know is that most of the crew played cult members because our production was so small. And when Rich would yell cut, all the extras dressed as cult members would run back behind the camera and do their respective jobs.

An often overlooked but in my opinion one of the most interesting aspects of the story was the mysterious “Shepherd One” whose voice on the tape hauntingly informs Tatiana’s character “Lady 18” that she is the most important person in the world. We wondered what were the circumstances of her grainy recording, what was her story and how did this tape come to be with these Souls? The answers are left vague for a reason, we wanted the audience to ask those same questions. It leaves the film with a lingering feeling that stays with you.

Of course the scene that always gets the most attention is the eclipse sequence which we rehearsed repeatedly using Nasa data to inform the exact blocking of the entire shot down to the second. It had to be really precise because Tatiana climbing over the fence had to correspond exactly to the beginning of totality with sun being obscured by the moon. After rehearsing that scene countless times the eclipse was upon us and it was go time!

It’s hard to describe what a total solar eclipse feels like. There’s a 360-degree sunset and the air gets cold and in our case, animals were going crazy. With all that pressure and so much going on, all eyes were on Tatiana. She was incredible! Not only did she hit her marks and nailed the blocking perfectly, she gave a heart wrenching performance. As the sun emerged from behind the moon and the darkness gave way to light, the scene ended with Tatiana and Tom embracing. It was pure magic and we were all overcome with emotion. To have been witness to something powerful and larger than ourselves and to have come together to create something that we all felt was special-- was unforgettable.

So when you watch the film, I hope you feel the love from all of us who poured our heart into bringing this story to you. It was a once in a lifetime chance and we couldn’t be more excited to share it with you.

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About the Author

John Trefry has produced award-winning films including Souls of Totality, The Need To GROW and Bad Fan. His forthcoming films include How To Be Alone and Will the Machine. John is originally from Alaska and passionate about creating stories that inspire audiences to engage.

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