Washington Filmworks recently caught up with Marc Dahlstrom, producer of the Washington incentive feature film Different Drummers. The film shot in Spokane in the fall of 2012 and is based on a true story that took place in the city in the 1960s. The movie follows two fourth grade boys, David and Lyle. When David, in a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy, accurately foretells the death of their teacher, a doubtful Lyle decides to test the existence of God by attempting to get David to run again.
This spring, Different Drummers was in competition at the 46th Annual WorldFest in Houston. We wanted to find out more about the project and how the film incentive factored into the decision to shoot in Washington.
Tell us about WorldFest in Houston?
Houston was great. The script won the Grand Remington Award (“best of show”) at WorldFest six years ago. Once festival organizers heard we had made the movie, they really wanted Different Dummers to screen there. Different Drummers won a Platinum Remington Award for Family Feature Films and one of our local Spokane actors, Brayden Tucker, who played the role of Lyle, received a Critics Choice Award for Best Young Actor. Colleen Cary, who played the part of Miss O’Donnell, was also nominated for the Critics Choice Award for Best Actor. It was a good festival!
What made you choose Washington State for Different Drummers?
The movie is based on a true story that took place in Spokane, WA , so filming there was our first choice and it couldn’t have turned out better. We were able to use some of the actual locations from the story. Plus September and October in Spokane is one of the most beautiful times of year and between sunny days and the fall colors, we were able to take full advantage of Mother Nature for our exterior scenes.
The funding assistance we received from Washington Filmworks was also a major factor. We were looking at cuts to make to the budget, so the scope and scale of the film matched the amount of funding we had available. When we were approved for the funding assistance from Filmworks we were able to stop the cutting process and even began to add elements we had always hoped to do.
Can you talk about you experience filming here?
Our experience shooting in Spokane was perfect. Everyone is willing to do what he or she can to accommodate requests, from using a neighbors yard for video village to closing down a street, you rarely get a “NO.” And most of the time you get a “YES!!! What can we do to help?” Additionally, the natural production value is unbeatable – you can accomplish just about any look.
Where did you film in Spokane?
Several of our locations included private residences. One was the original home from the true story. We also worked with the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Spokane School District. We spent a number of days filming at Pratt Elementary, which is closed, but the District also allowed us to shoot at Hutton Elementary, which is open and active with classes. The folks at the district were extremely helpful.
How did the incentive program help you film in Washington?
Different Dummers would not be the movie it is without Washington Filmworks and it’s possible the movie would not have been made at all without the incentive. Because of the funding assistance, more than 60 people in Spokane had a full-time, family wage jobs on the film. The incentive allowed us to recruit the best cast and crew, to pay them higher wages, and fund a pension and health program. When you think about it, a project like Different Drummers pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into an area – from hotel rooms, to restaurants, to gas stations, to car rentals. Money was spent in the local economy and many benefited.
What opportunities does Washington State present for filmmakers?
The biggest opportunity Washington presents is the ease of production. There is a crew base, there is an equipment base, there is a talent base and it’s comparatively easy to make a movie here. Considering these strengths, there’s no reason we shouldn’t have a film production industry similar in size to New Mexico or Louisiana.
The issue is the amount of incentive money available. If Washington loses film production to other states, it’s NOT because we didn’t have the right look, or resources, or experience. The state loses film production because it doesn’t have enough incentive money to compete with bigger funds. The first two questions out of an inquiring producer’s mouth are “how does your incentive work and how much money is still available this year?”
Find out more about Different Drummers and watch the trailer here.