As a child, filmmaker Frank Sciurba remembers being bored whenever he wasn't inside a darkened movie theater.
"When I hit daylight, my whole life would stop until I went to a movie again," said Sciurba, 56, a Purcellville writer, producer and director. "I've been making films inside my head since I was five years old."
He has been making them in real life since 2001, when he wrote a screenplay and filmed his first movie, "The Vulture's Eye," a horror film based on Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula." He made the movie on a shoestring budget, filming in Loudoun, Fauquier and Prince William counties with local actors who worked for free.
Sciurba's second movie, "Perfect Poison," a thriller-love story, was also shot in Loudoun and Fauquier last year, at such locations as the Ashby Inn in Paris, the Horse Country Saddlery in Warrenton and the historic Quaker village of Waterford. It premieres Sept. 19.
"We have everything right here in Loudoun County, so I put it together here," said Sciurba, who based his screenplay on Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Rappaccini's Daughter."
In Hawthorne's tragic tale, set in Renaissance Padua, the beautiful daughter of a scientist, who is confined to a mysterious garden, attracts the attention of a young medical student who is determined to meet her -- a decision with fatal consequences. Sciurba's version -- which, trying not to give away too much, he calls "a classic tale of best intentions that go horribly awry" -- is set in the early 1960s.
In Sciurba's version, Lorenzo Rappaccini is an Italian scientist who once worked for Mussolini. Rappaccini and his beautiful daughter, Beatrice, immigrate to the United States so he can conduct chemical and biological warfare research at Fort Detrick, Md. Their glamorous lifestyle on an estate in the Virginia horse country is shaken when a handsome drifter enters their lives.
"The film itself came a lot closer to what I believe I'm capable of doing as a filmmaker," Sciurba said.
Sciurba, a former photographer who also worked in advertising as a graphic artist and salesman, moved to Warrenton in the 1980s and to Purcellville three years ago. Over the years, he has sold several pilot scripts to television networks, but none was ever produced. By 2001, he felt if he didn't take the leap into filmmaking, he never would.
"I'm not very good at verbalizing," Sciurba said. "Film is the one art form I really relate to."
The idea of making a movie based on the Hawthorne story was suggested by Sciurba's girlfriend, M.J. McAteer, letters editor at The Washington Post, a former English major and a Hawthorne fan.
As to cost, Sciurba would only say that the production depended mostly on donated props and settings. Like the actors in "The Vulture's Eye," which was bought by a distributor last year and is available on the Internet, the actors in "Perfect Poison" received no compensation other than a promise of a percentage of any future profits.
One donated setting was a stable with old-fashioned wooden stall doors. For three weeks in October, an old oak tree on George Wiltshire's Mosby Springs Farm in Middleburg became the backdrop to a crucial scene in "Perfect Poison." His horses were incorporated into the plot, and even his daughter Annia Dowell-Wiltshire, now 16, ended up an extra.
Wiltshire, 62, said that the experience motivated him to perform some upkeep long delayed since his wife died eight years ago.
"He needed some back roads, so I had gravel brought in the field paths to make them look like old country roads," said Wiltshire, who was born and raised on the farm.
Sciurba said he planned to start filming his third movie, a present-day version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Beautiful and Damned," in Loudoun and Fauquier next summer. The gloomy Fitzgerald novel deals with promising and wealthy individuals who squander their potential.
The old-fashioned ambiance of the area has also drawn the makers of another film, "Woman's Story," to schedule its premiere at the Tally Ho Theatre in Leesburg on Friday.
Filmmaker Gary Conway first passed by the theater on a trip to Leesburg about three years ago, when he visited to promote his wine, Carmody McKnight, to restaurants nearby.
"It has the feel of the theater I went to as a kid," said Conway, who wrote, directed and acts in the movie about a woman re-evaluating her 30-year marriage. "I thought that here would be a community that would appreciate seeing a film like this. Like a great glass of wine, it has many, many levels."
Conway said his film was a celebration of various art forms, including architecture, painting, sculpture and playwriting. Filmed mostly in Memphis, Tenn., the movie incorporated a classical music score and paintings Conway created as he was filming the movie.
"Woman's Story" marks the directing debut of Conway, a longtime actor, screenwriter and producer who, under the name Gareth Carmody, played the title role in the 1957 movie "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein," which has since become a cult hit. That movie will also be shown this weekend at the Tally Ho.
Conway, who lives in a winery near Paso Robles, Calif., with his wife, Marian McKnight Conway, a former Miss America, said he would like to start a vineyard in Loudoun County.
Some tickets may still be available for the premiere of "Perfect Poison," 2 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Theatre at Washington, 291 Gay St., Washington., Va. For information, e-mail email@example.com.
"Woman's Story" premieres 6 p.m. Friday at the Tally Ho, 19 W. Market St., Leesburg. A Saturday night showing will be followed by a 7:45 p.m. question-and-answer session with Conway. Tickets for the movie are $8. 703-669-8444 or visit www.tallyhotheatre.com. A gala fundraiser 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Lightfoot Restaurant, 11 N. King St., Leesburg, will raise money for nonprofit groups supporting women's issues, education and arts in the Loudoun area. $65 a person. 703-771-2233.