The Stella Mar team attended Fr. Rene's memorial mass a year after his passing. We interviewed many of his close friends and heard stories about the amazing person he was and all the good he did.
St. Augustine is known for many things including their Red Trolley Tours that take passengers through historic downtown and share stories of the area. Cimela, Sean, and Jessi took a trolley tour to learn more about the town.
We found this beautiful little park in Old City St. Augustine and filmed a reenactment of actor Dick McMahon portraying Fr. Rene walking through the park praying.
Fr. Rene was very devoted to St. Francis and the Franciscan way of life. He was actually a Franciscan brother before he was a diocesan priest. We found this statue of St. Francis in a park in Old City St. Augustine.
The Stella Mar team lit a candle and said a prayer for all our supporters at the shrine to Our Lady of La Leche. See the video of us lighting the candle here.
The Stella Mar team was honored to work with Emily Black. She visited us from Scotland and helped us with so many things! Read more about her time with us here.
While filming in St. Augustine, Sean and Cimela were interviewed by a local news team who had been following Fr. Rene and Steven's story.
Cimela and Sean were interviewed by a Jacksonville news team about following the story of Fr. Rene and Steven.
Emily held an umbrella over Cimela and the camera to shield them from the rain.
The team had fun filming in the rain. Then all our shoes soaked through and we had to run home and change before meeting with some of Fr. Rene's friends for dinner. Cimela only brought one pair of shoes to St. Augustine so she had to run into Publix and get a pair of flip flops so she wasn't squishing around in wet shoes all night.
Fr. Rene's biological nephew Shaun is an umpire, and Rene would sometimes go to the games to see him. The Stella Mar team met with Shaun, his son, and his friend and filmed them on the baseball field as our actor portraying Fr. Rene watched from the bleachers.
The rain didn't stop our filming! We used the poor weather to our advantage and filmed some scenes of actor Dick McMahon walking through St. Augustine in the rain.
On our final film shoot for Where There Is Darkness, we captured some reenactment scenes with Dick McMahon portraying Fr. Rene. In this photo, the actor was doing sign language. Working with the Deaf community was a big part of Fr. Rene's life.
Fr. Rene was known by many for his love of the New York Yankees. He often wore a hat like this. Sometimes he would even forget to take it off before walking into the church for mass.
Cimela first heard Fr. Rene's story when she listened to an interview with one of his friends on NPR. She was so inspired by his mercy that she asked the rest of the Stella Mar team to help her capture his story.
Cimela and Sean picked up Jozo from the airport. Jozo lives near Medjugorje, the town where we filmed our last movie, and this was his first time in America! He does videography back home, so we asked him to help us film reenactments for Where There Is Darkness.
Cimela and Jozo used tools from the forest to create a boom pole and mic. I don't think that will record audio, but it looks fun.
Sean and Eric sat in a police transport van handcuffed together after they filmed a reenactment scene.
Fr. Rene would participate in the St. Augustine March for Life. Jessi and Cimela captured b roll of the 2017 march. They also spent some time at the Shrine to Our Lady of La Leche, one of Rene's favorite places.
The crew relaxes with coffee the morning before filming some reenactments in St. Augustine.
Our friend, Mr. Patel, allowed to film a reenactment scene in his gas station. He was so excited to help us with the movie.
Dr. Judas was a close friend of Fr. Rene. After interviewing her, the Stella Mar team became her friends too. She even took us to brunch and one of Fr. Rene's favorite restaurants.
This Spanish soldier modeled our Stella Mar sunglasses.
The crew surveyed the track where we would film the car chase.
Cimela was originally inspired to follow Father Rene's story because of how well it reflected the beatitude, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." We took this photo before our interview with Fr. Rene's friend, Fr. Rooney, in the parking lot of his church.
The pastor of San Sebastian church in St. Augustine, Fr. Gillespie, worked with Fr. Rene. He shared so many stories with us as well as some wonderful bits of wisdom
Commander Chuck Mulligan gave us facts about Fr. Rene's case.
Cimela looking cool capturing some evening b roll footage on our first trip to St. Augustine.
We interviewed these religious sisters who are also twin sisters.
Fr. Gillespie's office is a mess of books and papers. It reflects his crowded, intellectual mind.
While filming near the lighthouse in St. Augustine, the Stella Mar team stopped at a lemonade stand. It was refreshing and delicious!
We filmed a real baptism with baby Isla, daughter of the Stella Mar team's friend and accountant. Then, local priest, Father Fred, helped actor Dick McMahon step in and go through the motions for us to film a reenactment. At first it was going to be just a fake baptism for the film but Fr. Fred said we should do a real one! It felt like a Fr. Rene moment as Fr. Rene would have said the same thing!
Lawrence did some test shots with his camera in the office.
Cimela and Jessi pose for a test shoot with the RED Epic Dragon.
During our first shoot in St. Augustine, Cimela captured b roll near the historic fort. We had no idea how far this story would take us, but it's been quite the journey.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office was really helpful and supportive throughout the making of Where There Is Darkness. They shared video and audio files from their investigation (including Steven's confession), they helped us film a car chase, they lent us a SWAT team to film with, they let us film an actor getting booked into their jail, and they allowed us to interview two detectives involved with Fr. Rene's case. Sheriff Shoar was a friend of Fr. Rene's, and he wanted to help share his story. We are so grateful, and the film would not be the same without their help.
We filmed some scenes on this road in St. Augustine known for being the prettiest road in America. Fr. Rene would bike here, so Cimela and Jozo filmed a reenactment with actor Dick McMahon.
On our first film shoot for Where There Is Darkness, we were honored to film an interview with Sheriff Shoar of St. John's County. He was also a friend of Fr. Rene and really supported our team through the whole process of making the film.
Sean, Cimela, and Lawrence discussed the shots they wanted that morning by the water in downtown St. Augustine.
Eric ran through the staging of this scene while Lawrence and Cimela set up the framing of the camera.
We spend long hours going through footage and putting everything together. It's a lot of late nights and sometimes we even fall asleep at our desks.
It's a two hour drive from the Stella Mar office to St. Augustine, Florida. Cimela, Jessi, and Sean have their own version of Carpool Karaoke during their road trips on their way to film. Some favorite jams include Africa by Toto, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham!, Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine, and It's Raining Men by The Weather Girls
The Where There Is Darkness directors are working at their desks in the Stella Mar Films office. We use twinkle lights and lamps because none of us like the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. Also because it makes the office feel magical.
The crew set up for a shot along the water near historic St. Augustine. Eric (the actor playing Steven) is carrying the tripod. Whenever he wasn't in front of the camera, he was helping out behind the scenes.
Cimela chopped vegetables to put into a soup for a scene about Fr. Rene. Cimela is not known for her cooking (unless she's making migas for breakfast), but Jessi cooked this soup.
Jozo, our videographer friend from Medjugojre, came to America to help us with some filming. He's trying on the bike helmet we used for Fr. Rene's reenactment scenes.
Lawrence, the tallest member of our crew, climbed into the trunk to line it with lights. That does not look comfortable, but the shots looked great!
We set up different angles to show both Steven and Fr. Rene's perspectives when filming the reenactments.
We were all blown away by the performances of actors Eric Newcombe and Dick McMahon. We did several takes with different emotional intensities. One of the hardest parts of filming these scenes was not having concrete evidence of what actually happened. We used testimonies from Steven Murray and the detectives that worked the case to piece the scene together.
As documentary filmmakers used to climbing mountains with our gear, we wanted a higher production value for our reenactment scenes. Lights, camera, audio, ACTION!
What a camera! It was an honor to work with the RED Epic Dragon. It was also an honor to work with the owner and operator of said camera, Lawrence Daufenbach.
Jozo got some amazing drone footage for the film. But he also captured this amazing shot of the crew taking a Chick-fil-A lunch break before our shoot.
Jozo helped us film a special Christmas event in St. Augustine.
Jozo was really excited to work with the RED.
Sean helped set up this emotional scene, talking actor Dick McMahon through the emotion of the moment and explaining the details based on what the detectives shared with us in their interviews.
Cimela helped Will rig up this special effects shot for a reenactment.
Jozo lined up the RED Epic Dragon. He's a pro with drones but he loves working with all cameras.
We're not a big budget production. Sean Bloomfield is director, producer, and hair stylist.
We were so grateful to work with Rick Ambrose at the St. Augustine Film Office. He showed us all the best places to film around town. We even filmed a scene at his house!
Eric Newcombe is an incredible actor. He captured the pain and darkness that Steven must have felt, but he also showed his humanity.
Jozo and his drone at sunrise in St. Augustine. This was an early day, but Jozo got some breathtaking shots.
After an emotional week of filming, actors Eric and Dick took a minute to hug it out.
Co-directors Sean and Cimela discussed what they wanted for the scene.
The man lurking in the bright blue hoodie is Jozo making a cameo as a smoker in the alley.
Sean posed for a test shot in the alley.
Sean posed for some screen tests in an alley before we filmed a reenactment scene there.
Father Rene was a huge part of the St. Augustine community. You can find memorials to his memory throughout the town. This was set up in the Nombre de Dios parish gift shop.
Our crew squeezed into this alley near our Stella Mar Films office to film a reenactment scene. This was actually the first reenactment scene we filmed, and our first time working with our friend Lawrence Daufenbach.
From left to right: Lawrence Daufenbach, Dick McMahon, Sean Bloomfield, Sean's Banana, Eric Newcombe, Cimela Kidonakis, and Jessi Hannapel
Eric picked up the Toyota we used for filming and tested out the trunk.
Lawrence flew in from St. Augustine and brought a lot of gear with him. We wanted a cinematic look for our reenactment scenes so we were excited to work with Lawrence who has a film equipment rental shop in Chicago.
Dick McMahon is the actor portraying Father Rene in the reenactment scenes in Where There Is Darkness. Before filming his first scenes, Jessi and Dick sat in the Stella Mar Films studio, went over the script for the reenactments, and talked about Fr. Rene.
Dick watched footage of the real Steven giving his confession.
Cimela, worn out from the shoot, took a nap while Sean, Jessi, and Lawrence unloaded gear.
We woke up early for this shoot, but it was worth it.
Jozo set up to film with his drone while Lawrence set up the RED.
This little tree decided to come home with us after one of our shoots in the woods.
Jozo took this picture of Cimela capturing one of our favorite scenes for the film.
Notice the New York Yankees beanie that the homeless man is wearing? Cimela asked him where he got it, and he replied that he didn't remember. Cimela believes Fr. Rene gave him that hat.
While filming some re enactment scenes about Fr. Rene, the crew came across a homeless man. Dick, the actor playing Rene, sat to talk with him. Cimela captured this beautiful, raw moment, and it's now some of our favorite footage for the film.
Off camera, Eric and Dick got along great, sharing stories and relaxing before we started filming for the day.
Back row, left to right: Sean Bloomfield, Jessi Hannapel, Cimela Kidonakis, Eric Newcombe, and Sony FS5
Front row, left to right: Will Harris, Lawrence Daufenbach, Jozo Ivankovic, and Dick McMahon
Front and center: Jozo's drone, the Mavic Pro
Our friend, Drew, posed as a homeless man sleeping in the alley for this reenactment. Drew is 6'1" and single, in case you were wondering.
Jozo, Sean, and Lawrence walking back from mass in St. Augustine. Dick McMahon, in the background in his Fr. Rene costume, is ready for his next reenactment scene.
We've actually been making movies for almost a century now. I guess now you know our secret...
The Stella Mar crew visited the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine to learn some of the local history and about the first Franciscans in America.
Sean, Cimela, and Jessi found a time machine and visited 16th century St. Augustine. They couldn't stay long because the locals were suspicious of Cimela's hot pink pants.
We posed for a quick pic right after filming a car chase! Commander Chuck Mulligan from St. John's County Sheriff's office took us to a police training track and even drove a police cruiser to reenact the pursuit of Steven after he was spotted again in St. Augustine.
Sean and Cimela unpacked gear from the car.
Jessi has her game face on as she lights this shot.
A local St. Augustine police officer helped us film this scene of Steven at a gas station. When the Stella Mar team reviewed footage the police shared with us for the film, we found some security footage of Steven at a gas station while he was evading the police. As Steven walked out of the gas station, he saw a police officer had pulled in. We wanted to capture the intensity and suspense of that moment in our reenactment.
Cimela filmed this scene using the Helix Jr. It helped hold the camera steady as we walked through the gas station.