Omaha is a vampire city. From its early history of violence and corruption to underground tunnels in East Omaha, the dark and mysterious side of the city offers a lush vein for vampire lore. (https://winandoffice.com)
“Omaha has ghosts,” said Sean Rourke, creator of the vampire film “Black Ambient.” “The idea of a vampire walking these streets in the modern day, who was also here in Omaha back in those [early] days, that just seems like a rich place for vampire storytelling.”
“Black Ambient,” shot by Rourke in 1995, is a mockumentary-style film about an Omaha crew hunting the bloodsucking predators starring familiar faces from the city’s theater scene at the time. The film sat shelved until this year, when Rourke revisited and premiered it on “The Vampire’s Castle,” his YouTube channel.
The film was shot during summer and is nostalgic through and through. Thin eyebrows, dark lipstick and middle hair parts take up shots filmed at people’s houses, the Old Market and bygone Omaha locations such as the Astro Theater.
Vampires had a hold on pop culture in the ’90s with “Interview with the Vampire” (1994), “Blade” (1998) and both the film (1992) and TV (1997) versions of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
The influences of Buffy in particular are obvious in “Black Ambient,” with a character even making a tongue-in-cheek reference to the movie during a training sequence.
“You know this reminds me of a scene, like in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ when Buffy is learning cool acrobatic shit in her tight clothes and stuff,” the character says.
Rourke said his love of vampires began with “The Lost Boys” (1987) and “Vampire: The Masquerade,” a tabletop role-playing game published in 1991. He said he brought the game back with him to Omaha during college breaks and his friends would spend their summers creating intricate storylines and vampire lore.
“Working in Hollywood, I find a love for all things science fiction, and comic books and action movies in general,” Rourke said from Los Angeles. “But I find that vampires just keep coming back to me in my life.”
For “Black Ambient,” Rourke held auditions at the Emmy Gifford Children’s Theater and was allowed to use the interior of the under-construction Rose Theater as the film’s setting for the final standoff between vampire and vampire hunters.
Meredith McAdams played the role of Sapphire in the Omaha film when she was an incoming high school senior. She described the process of filming as a memorable whirlwind.
“It was such an awesome experience,” she said. “Looking back, it doesn’t feel like ten days of shooting. When I think back to all the memories we had, it felt like a whole summer.”
McAdams has continued working with Rourke on recent projects of his, and the cast and crew of “Black Ambient” reunited this summer to view the film and share memories of making it.
“Bringing it back out and watching it again, I thought, this is everything great about Omaha as a creative place,” Rourke said. “There’s so much richness and texture in Omaha, and so much talent. There are probably not any other vampire movies shot in Omaha, and that’s a shame.”
Love of oddities and the occult is a family affair for Rourke. His parents, Ann and Denny, performed as magicians in Omaha and traveled the Midwest with their children as a family magic act.
Their performing lifestyle inspired Rourke to study film at the College of Santa Fe, leading to a career in Hollywood. Rourke currently works as an editor at The Third Floor, a VFX visualization studio hired by major movie studios, including Marvel, Disney and Netflix.
As Rourke’s Hollywood career took off, he said he came to appreciate his hometown and hopes his vampire projects on YouTube will inspire others.
“I hope somebody sees “Black Ambient” and thinks, ‘Hey I could do that in Omaha,’” Rourke said. “And then I hope somebody does.”
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