In the early 1900’s, a wealthy alchemist, Jacques St. Germaine, [Dan Istrate], travels to New Orleans to seek help from the legendary voodoo priestess Marie Laveau [Dionne Audain]. When a spate of murders are uncovered, Jacques and the quarreling locals butt heads as they try to discover the identity of the killer.
Featuring a cast of characters pulled directly from actual police reports, “Dinner with the Alchemist” weaves historical fact and imaginative storytelling into a mysterious supernatural drama.
Written by Jenna St. John [who also appears in the role of Abigail] and directed by Kevin Good, “Dinner With The Alchemist” is part love story, part supernatural thriller and part historical documentary of life in early twentieth century New Orleans.
With its rich musical score, brilliant cinematography and a diverse and believable ensemble cast, the filmmakers have succeeded in delivering one of the best and most imaginative independent films of 2018.
“Dinner With The Alchemist” also stars Megan Graves, Tamara Johnson and Regen Wilson.
I recently spoke with Jenna St. John about “Dinner With The Alchemist” and more in this exclusive new interview.
Where did you draw the inspiration for “Dinner With The Alchemist”?
I had gone on vacation to New Orleans with my sister, and the two of us walked around the city and visited a lot of restaurants. They have plaques on buildings describing a lot of mysterious creatures and dark things that had happened there, and we came upon one story about Jacques St. Germaine that seemed too spooky to be true. So, we spent some time in the library going through microfiche to see if there were any news clippings that could prove or disprove it. We wound up finding a police report that verified some of the events. At that moment, we said this has to be a movie already. When we found out that wasn’t the case, I realized it was something I had to write. That’s how it all began.
What’s your writing process like?
For this film, I did a lot of research, and the first several drafts of the script were just me getting to know the characters. I don’t have a particular time and day that I write, but I have a personal rule to write at least one line a day. Sometimes, it may only be just that one line, but usually it will turn into a few pages.
How would you describe the story of “Dinner With The Alchemist”?
For me, it’s a big ensemble piece where every character and arc has its own love story. That was the driving backbone and connective theme. It’s also a story about people in New Orleans from all different walks of life who are affected by these strange murders. We have the wealthy alchemist, two dock workers, police officers and prostitutes, and these events affect each of them in different ways. My character, Abigail, is one of the prostitutes that lets the others know there’s a real threat to them. Without her, there would be this false sense of security.
What was the filming process like?
It was a very tight schedule. We had a small budget, a huge cast and a bunch of locations. Principal photography was sixteen days, but Kevin made the most of every moment. I don’t know anyone more capable of directing this piece other than him.
The musical score for “Dinner With The Alchemist” is so beautiful. What can you tell me about it?
We got really lucky when we got composer, John Piscitello. He gave an organic quality and life to the music. We had a tense soundtrack, with a lot of Phillip Glass and Clair De Lune that we used as inspiration. John worked really hard to get the perfect sound.
Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?
I originally went to grad school to be a novelist. I had done some acting in the past and after I left school I started looking into producing, which naturally led to screenwriting. This is the place that feels most natural for me.
What’s the biggest difference between writing a novel as opposed to a screenplay?
The biggest difference between writing books and screenplays is that in books, so much of the dramatic action happens in the reader’s head. You can’t really do that when writing a screenplay. Structure is key.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on right now?
I’m working on another teen-oriented feature right now that has supernatural elements to it. I also have a television pilot called “Sexpectations” that we’ve screened at a few film festivals. I plan on releasing it sometime next year.
What excites you the most about the release of “Dinner With The Alchemist” and this next phase of your career? What are you looking forward to most about the future?
I’m looking forward to finding more stories that interest me and figuring out better ways to tell them. I’m also looking forward to sharing this film with everyone. We had a small team of people working on this film who are all are super-talented. Showcasing everyone’s work is what I’m really excited about.
“Dinner With The Alchemist” will be released on Tuesday, February 13 on VOD, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Prime.