January – June 2009
January marked the beginning of a project that will probably take about a year and a half to fully realize. For a few months prior to January of ’09, my friend Mike Conlon and I had been having fun doing little video clips impersonating scenes from The Dark Knight. We’re doing what fans have been doing since the movie was released in July of 2008, but we ended up doing these two video clips a little late, so they weren’t viewed nearly as much as they could have, but nonetheless people enjoyed them. The first clip was of the Interrogation scene between Batman and the Joker. I ended up playing both those characters as well as Commissioner Gordon. Mike shot all the clips on his iPhone, which we both thought was a cool idea at the time, but it wound up being more frustrating than it was worth. I put this clip together, it was good. A few people saw it, and enjoyed it. So a month or so later, we decided to do the final scene between Batman and Two-Face. We did this clip with a GL-2 from the studio, with me playing Batman and Two-Face(Two-Face’s makeup could have been better, but nonetheless it was fun). Mike would end up playing Commissioner Gordon for this clip. I cut this clip together, and again it was fun. All this fun that Mike and I were hanging making these little videos convinced me that we needed to come up with our own material, as opposed to just impersonating The Dark Knight constantly.
So over the course of a few weeks, we tried throwing ideas at each other, aiming to do something relatively simple. I’d attempted to do something big in the summer of ’08, but I realized virtually at the last minute that I was just in over my head with it, so it wound up being postponed indefinitely. Heated words were said with certain people that would have been involved, thankfully no one that I’m friends with; they understood better than others that these types of things can happen, like it or not.
After a few weeks, Mike and I started hatching a story that centered on human cloning, which was an idea that I had initially thought of while a student at Fitchburg State College, but nothing ever came of it. And that original idea would have been drastically different from what Mike and I came up with.
The story for what would eventually become “Doubles” went something like this: a young scientist discovers, through a series of bizarre events, that he has a ‘twin’ brother(for the sake of the film itself until it is finished, I won’t go into story details). I had paced out a decent enough plotline for this story as a thriller, but we didn’t have the depth and minute details that we really needed. So that’s what Mike and I worked out. We also worked out what we could get away with if we used certain locations, and because of that certain plot elements changed.
After about a month, we had a relatively solid story in place that follows what’s been previously mentioned. As far as casting was concerned, I was intending to go with as local as we could. We tried getting some friends of Mike’s to be involved with it, neither one of them got back to me at all. So we then decided to place a post on New England Film’s website for casting. We’re doing that while I’m ‘scouting’ locations. I’d worked out several locations that we could possibly use even while hammering out the first draft of the screenplay. And most of those locations, which I knew of through my connections in public access in Franklin, they were very willing to allow me, my cast and crew to come in and shoot there. The most pivotal location being Dean College, who’s Science Chairperson wound up being a big influence on how we will be portraying the science in the film.
So as casting started, the post was aiming for actors. I ended up getting responses from a number of people, some from relatively close by, others from as far as Vermont. Since I was planning on paying for this movie myself, anyone outside of a half-hour to forty-minute drive away would have been way too expensive to have on the movie. So about half of the people that responded I had to turn down, either because they were too far away, or they’d been around for a while, and therefore they would have requested more than what I would have offered them for the part, or even both. I auditioned four separate guys, two of which tested for the character of Hans Loeb, the central character. One actor tested for the part of Detective Goodrem. The fourth actor tested for both Hans and Detective Goodrem. I showed each of these screen tests to Mike. They were all interesting, the actors that didn’t get the gigs will not be named, but one actor’s screen test was a bit too theatrical. If this had been done as a stage play, it would have been better. Another actor, while good at showing the frustration with Hans, looked too young for what we were aiming for with Hans. So there were the other two actors, Rob Floyd, and Nathaniel Sylva. Rob was interesting to meet because it turned out that he is an Fitchburg State alumnus just like myself, and took some classes with a professor or two that I had. While that had absolutely nothing to do with his landing the part, it was interesting to see we had that connection to FSC. I liked Rob as the detective because initially I had thought of going with two relatively young detectives, but Rob, just through his audition, convinced me that we needed to go with an older detective paired with the younger detective.
Now we come to Nathaniel. I considered him to be in a relatively interesting position after meeting with him a couple times. His head shot unfortunately didn’t really do him justice when I set up the audition. But I met with him, and he was very different than his head shot showed. He was quite a bit taller than I am, and I’m 5’8”. His hair was grown down to his shoulders. We chatted a little bit, then did his screen test. And he added a bit of reluctance to his version of the character that I thought was perfect. To seal the deal, although I was convinced with Nat after this initial screen test, I met with him to see if he could do Charles as well. He was just delightfully creepy for his Charles screen test, although we would end up pulling back on that creepiness for the movie. I offered him the job right then and there.
So Mike and I had Nathaniel Sylva as Hans Loeb and Charles Ritiker. We had Rob Floyd as Detective Goodrem. We originally were going to have Mike play Detective Hayes, Rob’s on-screen partner in crime, no pun intended. But that ended up not working out, so I personally took over acting duties, in addition to being director and producer. We were left with some smaller parts, being Nat’s on-screen mother and father. The father will be played by my good friend John Horrigan, who I’ve done video work for in the past. We needed a lab technician or two for science lab scenes to be done at Dean College. When all my initial people weren’t able to work out for the day, I ended up going with Bob Cantara, the access coordinator at the studio, to essentially cover two characters that we turned into one.
The other essential character that we needed was an actress to play Nathaniel’s on-screen ex-girlfriend. I hadn’t placed a post on New England Film for actresses. The character wasn’t so big that I felt we needed to do so. But what ended up happening is a young actress named Diana Harty got in touch with me after seeing the post for actors. She just took the initiative, and I happily agreed to meet up with her to see what she was all about.
Again, just like Nat, Diana’s head shot did not do her justice at all. While she is young, her head shot seemed like it was from earlier on. We talked about a number of things, including the fact that she’s a wife and mother. It was actually those qualities that I thought would translate internally into a very strong character for Alicia, who, while not a wife and mother herself, definitely had to make some difficult choices before the story itself starts up. It also worked in Diana’s favor that she’s beautiful in a down-to-Earth, girl-next-door type of fashion. So I cast Diana without an audition or without talking to other people because Alicia wasn’t as big a character as the other characters that I felt we needed to go any further than Diana.
The last stage before actually shooting the film was getting the actors together for a read-through, which we did about three to four weeks before we were supposed to start. It helped me out just to hear the actors read their characters aloud. We managed to see what worked verbally and what didn’t. And I made the changes that I thought would be necessary. The read-through ended up showing to me that this project was going to be a lot of fun. You can read about that in the updates that follow.