Block Island stars in 'Block Island'

Fri, 10/07/2016 - 4:15pm
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Inside the Yellow Kittens it was dark as night. There were patrons hanging around, drinking, talking.

It was a little before 10 a.m. The morning was sunny and warm outside.

The windows had been blacked out. Even though there were people sitting at the bar and at some tables, they were not actually drinking or talking. They were miming the words “apples and oranges.” No one could take a sip of the drink because the level in the glass might differ from shot to shot.

This was movietime. The production crew from Choice Films was on-site filming a thriller with the apt name “Block Island.” It was early in the morning on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

The writer of the film is Jon Adler, who said the story is based on something that happened to him in the mid-1990s. Deciding to take a weekend trip to Block Island with some friends, he drove up to New London to take the ferry. Upon learning they had missed the last one, the group decided to charter a boat. 

They did, and the trip to Block Island, which ended safely, turned terrifying for reasons we don’t need to go into here. “They messed with us,” he said of the locals who they chartered the boat from. “They played games with us."

Adler is also the producer of the film. For a film with a $500,000 budget, the mechanics and intricacies of getting a shot are still quite impressive. The large cast is full of young actors with a wide variety of film and television credits.

On the day of the interior shots at Yellow Kittens, the bar had been cut in half by black curtains, and a dizzying array of equipment took up almost every available empty space on floors and tables. One of the actors waiting around was André Boudreau, owner of Southeast Light Delights and the founder of the Drama 911 theater club here on the island. He had been hired to do a short scene in which he plays a bartender who throws a patron out of the bar.

“This is the biggest production I’ve ever worked on,” said Boudreau, who has about 30 credits on his IMDb page.

As extras filed in, they signed a waiver so their images could be used on film. They each received a little touchup from the makeup artist, and then waited.

There was crew everywhere, surrounded by equipment boxes, tote bags, cables, milk crates, rolls of gaffing tape, two large digital cameras, a dolly track for the camera to smoothly glide over for a moving shot, technicians busily checking light levels or wiping clean camera lenses, production assistants with walkie talkies that crackled constantly, tables with snacks and drinks. The bar at neighboring Windfield's served as the small waiting area for the extras. The person in charge of the costumes kept making recommendations to the actors so that they fit the mood of the scene and the look of the bar. Each extra was asked to bring three sets of clothes to the set.

As the time got closer to start filming, the actors settled into their spots. “Tony — a couple of seconds — once we have this light set up safely!” someone yelled out to the director, Tony Glazer. 

But it was more than a couple of seconds because the fire alarm at Winfield’s went off, sending the entire production team outside. “Everyone clear out!” someone yelled.

When everyone was able to return, another assistant yelled “Let’s have background!” — meaning the extras — who retook their seats at the tables and the bar. Boudreau went behind the bar and everyone was warned to turn their cellphones off.

After a busy morning shooting the one scene, director Glazer took a minute to speak with The Block Island Times about what the film was trying to accomplish and what the state of independent filmmaking is today.

“It’s tough,” Glazer said of the independent film scene. “It’s become tougher. The competition has increased in terms of the number of films being made.” At the same time, said Glazer, who has a number of films and stage plays to his credit, "the market has gotten smaller.” 

Independent films such as “Block Island” do not “generally play in theaters,” said Glazer, but he was hoping that this film’s unique story and setting would set it apart from the rest of the independent crop. 

He said the tension between the characters — two sets of people from differing economic backgrounds — allowed for some character development and social commentary that would help the audience connect with the story while also not slowing down the pace of what he hopes to be a thrilling experience for the moviegoer.

“It’s a great ride, a thrilling story,” Glazer said. “This is a real popcorn movie.”

Adler, who could at times be seen pacing back and forth on the set, also took pains to say that he wanted the island to come off well in the movie. He said filming on the island has been “an incredible experience. This process has been absolutely amazing. It’s been so friendly. We’re so grateful because people have gone out of their way to help us out.”

Filming is expected to take about three weeks, ending sometime in the middle of October, said Glazer, and when it is completed the producers said they hope for some exposure at the festival circuit and an eventual theatrical run.

For more about the film, visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4933914/