2 prominent Alabama figures featured in NEW thriller ‘Black Balsam’—here’s how you can watch

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From the Black Balsam premiere. Left to Right, Emily Topper (Caitlin Roth), Heath Franklin (Director), David Schifter (Writer/Producer), Jessica Fox-Thigpen (Casting Director) and Brian Kurlander (Bill Roth). (Carrie Johnson)

If you’re a fan of nail-biting thriller movies, we’ve got a new flick to put on your radar featuring prominent Alabama figures you may recognize. We spoke with award-winning actor and former Executive Director of Alabama Film Office, Brian Kurlander, for an inside scoop. Read on for more on the conversation.

About Black Balsam

Black Balsam tells the bone-chilling story of husband and wife duo Ellen (Josie Davis) and Bill (Brian Kurlander) who purchase their dream scenic mountain retreat in North Carolina from a deceased woman’s estate. Unfortunately, things to take a turn for the worse when they arrive.

When the couple arrives at the secluded vacation home, they discover an unexpected tenant: the vengeful son of the deceased owner, who turns their would-be dream home into a nightmare.

If you love thrilling movies like The Strangers (2008) and Cabin in the Woods (2011), definitely add Black Balsam to your watch list.

Meet Brian Kurlander

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Dule Hill and Brian Kurlander in ABC’s The Wonder Years. (Victor Nelli Jr.)

From stage to screen and behind the scenes, Brian Kurlander has had a vast impact on Alabama’s film industry. We wanted to get to know a little more about his newest venture, so we did some digging.

Based in Atlanta, Kurlander has made an appearance on popular shows like the award-winning miniseries Dopesick on Hulu, The Wonder Years, House of Cards and Cobra Kai. In one of his latest roles, Kurlander plays a father desperately trying to protect his family in the thriller Black Balsam.

“The experience on set was just amazing. This was during COVID, so we were sequestered in a compound in the mountains of South Carolina. We had very limited cell reception, so we were really out of contact. The relationships that were created over the course of shooting the film were incredible. These people are now some of my dear friends.”

Brian Kurlander

Kurlander has decades of acting experience from theaters all over the country, and has used his expertise to uplift the film industry in our state. In the early 2000s, he took a break from acting to focus his efforts as Executive Director of the Alabama Film Office.

In the first three months of his leadership role, Kurlander successfully drafted and lobbied the state’s first film incentive legislation and recruited Tim Burton’s Big Fish to film in Alabama. To this day, it remains one of the highest grossing and most successful films produced in Alabama.

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Kurlander at the premiere of Black Balsam. (Carrie Johnson)

“I learned so much during my time at the office. It was amazing. I can’t take credit, we were able to do these things because we were given the latitude to do so. I was able to go where I could meet with people, tell them our story and show them the things that they will be able to capture on film. Whether it was people in the counties or people in the cities, it was a really wonderful opportunity to talk about how the film industry might impact their communities and what they can do to help.”

Brian Kurlander

Kurlander also graduated from Leadership Birmingham in 2007, a program that brings together and empowers community leaders to create meaningful civic change.

In our conversation, Kurlander told me fascinating stories of what it’s like being an actor, including getting to work opposite Morgan Freeman in his upcoming film, Muti. I had to ask the obvious question, how does that feel? To Kurlander, the key is tuning everything out and focusing on the relationship between two characters.

“You can’t help but think… ‘I’m looking at and hearing the voice of God! I can’t believe this is happening.’ There are two hard things on any set—one is the first day of shooting and the second is working opposite of someone iconic. For this movie, it just so happened that my first day shooting was working with Morgan Freeman.”

Brian Kurlander

Kurlander has three releases, including Black Balsam, set for 2023: Muti, opposite Morgan Freeman and Cole Houser, Hard Matter with Harvery Keitel and Tyrese Gibson and the made-for-TV movie Home Safe.

You’ll spot Thom Gossom Jr. too!

Another iconic Alabamian you should keep an eye out for in Black Balsam is Thom Gossom Jr.

Born in Birmingham, Gossom received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from Auburn University where he was the first black athlete in the Southeastern Conference to walk on, earn a full scholarship and graduate. Since then, his career has flourished, acting in film, television and on stage and has become a successful entrepreneur, public speaker and writer.

His film credits include Fight Club, Jeepers Creepers 2 and Miss Ever’s Boy’s. In the new film Black Balsam, Gossom plays as Sherriff Bensen.

“He’s really extraordinary. He gave me his book, about being one of the one of the guys that helped to integrate the Auburn football team. It was great to meet him and hear his story.”

Brian Kurlander

How to watch

Looking to tune in? Black Balsam is available for rent or purchase on many streaming services, including ITunes, Amazon Video and YouTube.

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Gabby Gervais
Gabby Gervais
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