In the early Spring of 2010, Josh Bruening and a crew of greenhorn filmmakers, which included his older brother, began production on a mystery/drama/thriller set in a desolate town. Based on a short story Bruening wrote in college, Gehenna was an ambitious project for the then 34-year-old working in the corporate world. "I have a passion for movies, so it was easy to want to make one," reflects Bruening. "Financially, [in 2010], it finally worked out for us to go forward with [Gehenna]."
After cutting his teeth and learning on the fly with his $20,000 budgeted debut, Bruening wanted to use his growing filmmaking knowledge to do a new, more ambitious project. In the summer of 2012, he and some of his crew from Gehenna went into production for The Devil's Hour, another mystery/drama/thriller with sprinkles of humor.
"[On Gehenna], I learned the importance of pre-production... getting the best talent and finding the greatest locations," Bruening remembers. "[Ample pre-production] limits the amount of stress during shooting as you're not always scrambling to find someone or something in a short period of time.
"The biggest challenge with The Devil's Hour was trying to find brilliant locations on the cheap." Bruening states. Perhaps the most brilliant location utilized in Bruening's sophomore effort is the former Fergus Falls State Hospital, affectionately dubbed 'The Kirkbride' in honor of Dr. Thomas S. Kirkbride who published in 1854 a book detailing construction guidelines for treating the clinically insane.
The massive complex, placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1986, rests vacant a few hours northwest of Minneapolis. A recent push to host movie shoots at The Kirkbride was lifted in the summer of 2013 and the future of the 1600 foot long castle-like structure is in jeopardy. Bruening knows how lucky he was to secure such a unique shooting location, "I was thrilled to find out the Kirkbride was allowing independent filmmakers to shoot there. It was my dream location and it's still incredible to walk through now."
With Gehenna premiering in 2011 and The Devil's Hour likely to be ready for an audience in 2014, Josh Bruening has two features under his directorial belt. He admits he is learning as he goes and recognizes many of the mistakes he's made along the way. He advises those interested in a filmmaking career to take more than one shot at it. "The first [movie] will be a huge learning experience and the second one will be more enjoyable and relaxing," he offers. "You'll see tons of improvement on the second one."
Bruening doesn't know yet what his next project will be, but if he continues his pattern of learning along the way, each project should get incrementally better. Like most ventures, filmmaking comes with a learning curve. Those with strong self-assessing tendencies will rise in the ranks and make a name for themselves. Josh Bruening may be on his way.