Thriller filmed on Block Island in wide release this week

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 5:15pm
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There are a lot of familiar faces in the movie ‘Dead Sound.” That’s because the nautical thriller was filmed on the island a couple of years ago, although at that time the production was called simply “Block Island.” You’ll see André Boudreau, Allie McCabe, and a number of other island residents, along with a number of familiar locations in Old Harbor and inside Yellow Kittens.

The plot is simple enough: a group of college friends miss the ferry from New London and have to chart a fishing boat to get to the island. The trip, however, turns out to be a little nastier than just enduring a bumpy ride.

The film, which debuted at several film festivals, is now in wide digital release on video-on-demand streaming services. The Block Island Times spoke with co-producer/co-writer Jon Adler and director Tony Glazer about their experiences on the film. Here is Mr. Adler:

Q: I wanted to get something out of the way. When you were filming out here, the movie was called “Block Island.” It’s being released as “Dead Sound.” Why the change in name?

A: Well, first of all, on behalf of the entire "Dead Sound" cast and crew, I want to thank all of Block Island for welcoming us with open arms and graciously hosting us during production of this movie. You all made it a very special experience for us. The folks on Block Island are some of the friendliest people on earth! I think islanders are just friendly people in general. A huge shout out to my good friends Mikey "Location Prince" Kiley and Harry Boardsen, who live on and around Block Island. They opened all the doors for us. We also want to thank Steve Feinberg and the Rhode Island State Film Commission for all their help and support.

The original title for the film, "Block Island," was great, but my sales agent requested that we come up with a title that sounds more ominous and better suited for the style of film that this is. That's the reason we changed the title to "Dead Sound." I came up with “Dead Sound” because it takes place on the Long Island Sound, and it is sort of a tribute to some of the movies that inspired me while writing the script — "Deliverance," "Dead Calm,” "Jaws,” and the original "Funny Games.” I’ve visited Block Island a few times over the years. It truly is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. Of course, after we were held hostage on the fishing boat that night, I always take the ferry. 

Q: The opening credits say the film is inspired by true events. How close is what happens in the movie what happened to you? 

A:  For "Dead Sound", act one, and the first part of act two, is basically exactly what happened in real life. It was hands down the scariest night of our lives, and a most traumatic experience that stayed with me and my friends for a long time. Obviously, I took a good deal of poetic license, and it is basically my version of what could have gone down on that boat if we weren't so lucky.

Q: Filming on, or near, the water, is notoriously difficult. What kind of challenges did this shoot present? 

A: Working on water has its challenges, but we had a great experience with it. Safety was my number one concern, and we took extra care to make the set safe for the cast and crew. On an indie film like this, you don't have the budget to put the boat in a tank indoors in order to better control the environment. Weather plays a big factor when shooting on boats in the water, and you can’t control the weather! We got lucky, and the weather cooperated with our shooting schedule. In fact, I think we had the best weather in years on Block Island during the fall month we were there filming the movie.

Q: Where did you find the fishing boat used in the movie? It’s a character in and of itself.

A: Together with our line producer, Summer Crockett Moore, and director Tony Glazer, we went on a couple of boat scouts to Newport, and other places. The Seeker was the first boat we checked out, and ultimately what we used in the film. It turned out to be perfect! The boat basically matched perfectly with the action in the script. It was one of those moments where we were just like, “Wow, this is meant to be!” We had a lot of those moments making this movie.

Q: The movie is being released on a wide array of streaming platforms, and I know has been shown in film festivals. Tell us a little about the journey from writing, producing, finishing, and getting the film in front of audiences. What has that been like?

A: It all started the night my friends and I had the actual, terrifying real-life experience on our trip to Block Island back in 1993 on the fishing boat with the captain and first mate. I started writing the script in 2007 and 2008. The movie is being released in 2020. It’s been a long journey with this film, my first feature as producer and writer, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. For me, producing a movie is all about relationships. It started with a really fun collaboration on some early drafts of the script with my old friend Ted Weihman, who is credited as a writer. Eventually, I raised the money for “Dead Sound” with the help of the film’s executive producers, Janet and Ken Schur. Then it was just about putting together the right team. Eventually, I hired Summer and Tony, and we jumped right in to pre-production. It was apparent from the beginning that we were all going to enjoy working together. We had a great collaborative effort with the entire cast and crew. It was a real tight film family. We are all still friends after all is said and done, and I think that is a rare thing on low budget indie films and one of the things I am most proud of. That in and of itself is a big win. Everyone who worked on "Dead Sound" is very proud of the role they played in making it. I am truly grateful to all the people who made this dream possible and I’m looking forward to the wide digital and DVD release and for everyone to see it!

Q: The movie has a tough, smartly written script. A few interesting surprises and twists, and an aura of menace hovers over it. When you saw the completed film, did you find it to be a satisfying version of the script you wrote?

A: It was very close to my original vision. I think it actually turned out better. I worked closely with our director Tony Glazer throughout the process. There were no surprises. I think that is the benefit of raising the money and producing your own movie. You get to have final cut. Tony did an outstanding job directing the film, along with our entire cast and crew. The actors were just so good in this film. They worked so well together. We all checked our egos at the door, which I think is the key to success. I’m just so grateful to everyone who worked on “Dead Sound.” Beyond my wildest dreams, for sure.

Director Tony Glazer talks about his experiences on “Dead Sound:”

Q: What influences you as a filmmaker?

A: Stories. Warts and all. I’m influenced by events in my own life. I love telling a story that may be so different for any given audience’s experience, but still has something in it that the audience can recognize and identify with on a personal level. Hopefully, many people will not have had an experience like the ones our protagonists experience in “Dead Sound,” but there are other aspects in the story — involving our protagonists and antagonists — that they, hopefully, will be drawn to, engaging them. That’s what’s exciting to me. Finding the threads that connect us. These days, we spend a lot of time discussing our differences; litigating them, even. I’m influenced by films that illuminate our similarities — our shared fears, hopes, loves — the films that show, in spite of how different we may be in some ways, we still, ultimately, have a connective, human bond that is our ultimate strength.

Q: I want to talk about casting a little bit. How much were you involved in the casting? 

A: I was very involved. It’s a very specific, critical part of the process. We had an incredible casting director, Judy Bowman from Judy Bowman Casting. She was remarkably influential in getting us what ultimately turned out to be a great cast. This genre can have its share of well-worn tropes and archetypal characters and I wanted to have some terrific actors who could serve that but at the same time take it deeper. I wanted to be surprised by the characters. It was important for me to have the audience view them one way only to ultimately come to see them in a completely different light by the film’s end. They had to be real people. I was very fortunate not just to have great actors on this film — I also had great people. When I work with actors, it’s a real collaboration, so I’m very specific about certain elements but I’m also eager to get their input. To answer directly, in the end, it becomes a combination of being hands-on and staying out of the way.

Q: A lot of the scenes take place on a boat, either on deck or in the cabin. How hard is it to shoot in such a confined space?

A: Shooting in confined spaces can present some challenges in terms of camera placement, lights, crew, etc. You can find there’s barely enough room for everyone to be there and function in an optimum way. However, the cramped nature of the boat also helped create a claustrophobic and trapped quality that was perfect for the story. Everyone — from actor to grip — felt the close-quartered nature of the boat and those limitations ultimately fed the performances and informed the way the film was shot. At a certain point, the confined space became less of a limitation and more of an inspiration.

Q: When you finish a film, are you able to sit back and enjoy the film, or do all the technical issues and other behind the scenes things just keep going through your mind?

A: That’s a tough question. When you make a film you inevitably remember what was going on while you were making it. There was one time, though, when I watched “Dead Sound” with a festival audience and the audience had such a fun time. It was actually the first time I got to enjoy the ride and not think so much about behind the scenes aspect of it. But you’re right. It can be hard to separate. You watch a scene you’ve worked on where an on-screen character is outside sitting in the grass, relaxed and happy, enjoying some well earned time off at dusk and, while it plays out, you find yourself remembering how on the day you were shooting this scene you were about to lose the light and we’re in danger of not finishing the scene and everyone was rushing and tense and someone, on top of all that, ruined the previous take because they forgot to turn their phone off and instead of enjoying a sweet, peaceful scene, you remember how not peaceful the whole scene really was for you.

Q: After you receive the script and start hiring actors, how closely do you adhere to the script?

A: On the surface, “Dead Sound” is a classic genre tale akin to the movies I grew up watching in south Florida as a boy. Beneath that surface, however, there’s something else, something angry and volatile. Because just beneath these waters there’s a roiling class struggle and our heroes, to their peril, are and remain completely unaware of it. In this way, the film is also a clarion call to the “now” to quote Stone, one of the characters in the film. It’s a message to our protagonists to wake up to the world around them. The antagonists in our story, while they have no moral justification for their actions, have a point of view behind them and it’s the seeing of this that allows us view them beyond the generic villain archetypes and tropes. They’re people who do bad things — but they’re people all the same. Early in the film the characters miss the final ferry; which leads to them to hiring Stone and Bobby to take them to Block Island. So there’s already a cautionary tale implied about “not missing the boat.” But as the film goes on, we learn that it’s more than just a warning for our characters not to miss the ferry at the opening of the film, it’s also a warning for them, and perhaps us, not to miss something bigger — and dangerous — lurking just beneath the surface.

“Dead Sound” can be seen on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Googleplay, Xbox, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Dish Network, iNDEMAND, Vubiquity.