A set of twins with Southern Illinois roots whose pandemic hobby dabbled in amateur film is on its way to international recognition.
“The Tenth,” a 25-minute short film written, produced and directed by Saline County natives Kaleb and Kyler Cook, has not only been selected for screening at the upcoming International Christian Film Festival, but is also nominated for five of the best of the festival. awards, including Best Short Film.
The Cook brothers — graduates of Southeastern Illinois College and Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Kyler in creative writing and Kaleb in film and photography) — had never produced a movie before seeking out a pandemic project.
“I think we were both trying to figure out, ‘How can we make the most of this COVID time when you’re just at home in quarantine and not much is going on,’ Kyler, who now lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, explained. “We started wondering what if we were developing a short film?”
Building on their Christian faith – the two brothers left southern Illinois to help start new churches in other states – and inspired by “The Chosen”, a television series about the life of Jesus based on a smartphone application, the cooks decided to develop a story based on the biblical account of the ten plagues during the Exodus.
People also read…
“We always have here about Moses and Pharaoh, but what if we got really intimate and watched the lives of two Israelites following God’s instructions in the midst of the plagues? Kyler shared.
Kyler said he wrote the first draft of the script with regular input from Kaleb. Eventually, Kaleb gave Kyler free rein with the final version.
Kaleb, who works in marketing and communications for Pennsylvania State University, oversaw much of the cinematic efforts as well as post-production editing. Using local colleagues with film experience and equipment as well as friends from Pennsylvania, Michigan and southern Illinois, the film crew was made up of volunteers.
The entire movie was shot in a few days in a barn owned by Kyler’s pastor. In total, the film was produced for around $4,000.
Kaleb said a quick decision to hire professional actors was key.
“It was amazing to work with such talented people who go really far,” he said.
He said he was satisfied with the final product.
“Looking back, there are always things that you think could have been improved, but those are the learning experiences you pay for as a storyteller or director or filmmaker,” Kaleb said. “I think I’m still waiting for people to watch it and say it was terrible, but for the most part we had a lot of positives.”
‘The Tenth’ was conceived simply as a ‘fun project’ for the brothers, but based on the suggestion of a contact in the Christian film industry, the couple were convinced to submit their project to the International Film Festival Christian.
The Cook Brothers couldn’t believe their film was selected for screening and was nominated in four categories: Best Short Film, Best Director (Kaleb and Kyler Cook), Best Lead Actor (Roman Maldonado) and Best Lead Actress (Sara Al-Bazali).
Kaleb called the filming and nomination experience “awesome” and said it sparked a desire for more projects. Work is underway on another short and they hope to eventually create an episodic series about David’s life.
The brothers hope to be able to afford to attend the festival, scheduled for early May in Orlando, Florida. Even if they can’t make it to Orlando, Kaleb is thrilled that “The Tenth” has seemingly made a difference.
“As a director, you just hope it has an impact, which we heard,” he said, recalling a screening with many of the film’s volunteer crew. “There were a lot of tears in their eyes and people who were upset about it.”
Kyler added, “It’s pretty amazing. It’s amazing.”