September 16, 2014
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LIFESTYLES
Locally written, produced film portrays life interrupted
JOHN SANTILLI

“Missing William,” a motion picture written and produced by Dan McKinnon from Pawtucket and co-produced by John Santilli of Johnston, will be released nationwide in theaters this Friday, March 7. The movie, which was filmed entirely in the Ocean State in 2011, is a romantic drama starring Brandon Routh, new face of Superman in the movies.

“Independent film production is heavy lifting - securing funding, producers, the director, locations and nationwide distribution. I am extremely proud of the final product that could only have been made with the above and beyond efforts of literally everyone involved in ‘Missing William,’” McKinnon said in a press release.

McKinnon knows a little bit about heavy lifting. Like the mythical Sisyphus, he has figuratively pushed a number of screenplays up hill.

“I have been writing screenplays since I was 21 years old, that’s about 15 or 16 years,” he said. “Three or four of them have been optioned, but this is the first one that actually got made. I made it a point to make it by myself.”

Fortunately for McKinnon’s wife and his soon-to-be born child, Dan is not your typical independent filmmaker, begging and borrowing to get a picture done at all costs. He has a practical side, which is also being a successful lawyer. He attended Bowdoin College in Maine for his undergraduate work and went to law school in Washington and in Philadelphia. He is the Senior Counsel for Intellectual Property for New Balance Athletic Shoes in Boston, so making lots of money in a very short time was not a priority.

For all that, McKinnon doesn’t describe “Missing William” as an “art” film, even if it is playing at the Cable Car, which is not noted for booking blockbuster films.

“If I had to describe it, I would say it’s like a ‘tweener,’” said McKinnon. “It feels like a more mainstream film, but I think it’s also a little deeper than that.”

From the film trailer, you can see that it deals with the sudden shocks that people endure when a word, a deed or an attitude produces a violent reaction far out of proportion with the provocation. Set in Rhode Island, the story follows Abby, a 30-something artist who is left with caring for her husband, William, after he's tragically injured in a bar fight.

As she attempts to coax him back to health, James, her childhood sweetheart and unrequited love, attempts to coax her back into living life again herself. The complicated love triangle that ensues is touching, poignant, and concludes with a realization that's as profound as it is beautiful, according to the press release.

In Rhode Island, the question always arises about whom in real life were the characters in a movie taken from; catastrophic bar fights are not unknown in Rhode Island. McKinnon is happy to report that the plot has not been “torn from recent headlines” in the “Law and Order” tradition.

“It’s a complete fabrication,” he said. “It’s not based on anyone I know, or on a story I heard - It came right out of my head.”

McKinnon said the movie was filmed in just over a month in 2011 in various places around the state. He said it is also opening in 11 cities around the country at the same time. Like Los Angeles, New York, Cleveland, Boston and other urban markets.

“It is also available on demand on the same day from Cox Cable,” he said.

In addition to Brandon Routh, the film stars Courtney Ford, Spencer Grammer, Reid Scott and Richard Meehan, who had a small un-credited role as the Khaki Scout in “Moonrise Kingdom,” another film made largely in Rhode Island.

Without giving out too many details about upcoming projects, McKinnon said he has secured the rights for the story of Lopez Lomong, the author of “Running for my Life,” about his life an a lost boy of Africa who literally ran from the Sudan to Kenya to escape the genocidal war there. That is a story that doesn’t need much of Rhode Island, but it does speak to the growing reputation of Rhode Island for having a pool of competent and professional talent for making movies.

One reason McKinnon feels at home is John Santilli at Aloris Entertainment, who has managed to make Rhode Island a comfortable home for a number of filmmakers who have chosen to locate their films in Rhode Island. They offer a broad range of support services and studio space for filmmakers. McKinnon is sure that Aloris is up to the task.

“I love Rhode Island and working in Rhode Island,” he said. “My family is here and this is home.”

But is Rhode Island ready to make a major movie about a man running from a war-torn part of the world that really is ripped from the headlines? Aloris Entertainment and McKinnon will be sort of stepping out of their comfort zone and into the wider world.

According to information from Aloris Entertainment, they are a limited liability company established for the purpose of producing quality independent feature films. Formed in early 2010, Aloris focuses on creating independent films with a major studio feel and wide market appeal.

“Aloris understands that making a movie represents the truest intersection of ‘art meets business.’ Always keeping that in mind, Aloris stands firm on its cornerstone belief that it will never compromise the art for the sake of the business nor the business for sake of the art. We seek to produce only those select films that meet both our most stringent artistic standards while still garnering the potential for commercial success.”

To date, Aloris has produced “Missing William” and “The English Teacher,” starring Julianne Moore. Aloris is about to begin pre-production on its third film, “Lomong.”

“This is going to be a much bigger film, with bigger names, a bigger budget,” said McKinnon, “and we are going to do it.”

“Missing William” will debut in Rhode Island at the Cable Car Cinema (www.cablecarcinema.com/index.cfm) in Providence on Friday, March 7 at 7 p.m. McKinnon and Santilli will offer a Q & A following the movie at the Cable Car on Saturday, March 8. “Missing William” simultaneously will be released On Demand across the entire United States. To view the trailer, go to www.alorisentertainment.com.


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