“Dead Sound” is a new movie by writer and producer Jon Adler about a group of young men and women who are kidnapped by a couple of psychotic fishermen while on the way to a party on Block Island. The film is based on the harrowing true event experienced by writer Jon Adler.
Meagan Meehan (MM): There have been a lot of films about terror at sea, but I don’t know how many of them are based on true stories. Can you, briefly, explain what happened to you?
Jon Adler (JA): I would love to. You know, I’ve told the story hundreds and hundreds of times to people over the years, and it’s always fun to see their jaws drop. The hair on the back of my neck stands up every time I tell the tale. Briefly, my friends and I were going to a party on Block Island when we were in high school. We missed the last ferry out of New London, CT, and found some fishermen to take us over to Block that night on their fishing boat. Halfway across, in the middle of the Long Island Sound, they pulled a shotgun on us and held us hostage on their boat. They locked two girls in the bathroom below deck, and made my buddy drive the boat with a shotgun to his head. That’s not all of it, but you get the gist, and it is exactly what happens in DEAD SOUND. Fortunately, we made it to Block Island that night, physically unharmed thank God, although it was a very traumatic experience that stayed with us for a long time. I think my poor friend who had to drive the boat with a shotgun to his head has never quite been the same! I hope seeing the movie will be therapeutic for him. I know writing and producing the movie was for me! Beyond that, I took a good deal of poetic license with the script, and ultimately the movie is my version of what could have happened if we weren’t so lucky.
MM: Are any of the characters based on you?
JA: Jake Harley, for the most part.
MM: Where was the film shot?
JA: We shot on Block Island, RI. That was a huge gift because it is where everything happened in the true story. We were there for a month, with a 14-day shoot. Thanks to my friends Mikey Kiley and Harry Boardsen, who live on and around Block Island, anything we needed during production was at our finger tips. Mikey is basically Block Island royalty, and as our Location Manager, we nicknamed him the ‘Location Prince’. He provided whatever we needed whether it be picture boats, or lobsters for the infamous lobster scene. I’m particularly fond of the lobster scene which I wrote based on a horrifying experience I had pledging a fraternity in college. I think I should say that no animals were harmed during the making of this movie!
So many people on Block Island helped make this film happen-all the locals, including the Block Island Police Department who lent us one of their cruisers for the big party scene, and let us shoot a scene in the police station. We are grateful to everyone on the island as a whole. Everyone there is so friendly- I think people who live on an island are just friendlier in general, maybe because they are so isolated they love having visitors. Block Island a great place to shoot a movie! Special thanks to Steve Feinberg, head of the Rhode Island Film Commission, who helped make everything go so smoothly for us.
MM: Kevin Costner had a hell of a time working on “Waterworld” back in the day, how did you find working on water?
JA: Knowing this was going to be a low budget movie, I wrote it so it could be shot mainly in one location to keep costs down- on the boat. It had its challenges, but ultimately, we had a great experience working on water. Safety was my number one concern, and we took extra care to make the set safe for the cast and crew. It went swimmingly, no pun intended!
MM: Is it difficult filming on a boat though?
JA: It certainly can be. Obviously, we didn’t have the budget to put the boat in a tank indoors in order to control the environment. Weather plays a big role when shooting on boats in the water, and you can’t control the weather! We got lucky. The weather we had for the month we were on Block Island was the best they’d had in decades in the fall season.
MM: Is it hard to ground thriller or horror films? Is there a risk of playing things too over-the-top?
JA: I deliberately tried to avoid playing anything too over-the-top in the script, and I think we avoided doing that in the movie as well.
MM: As Producer and Writer of “Dead Sound”, how closely did you work with the director to ensure the original vision of your script was captured?
JA: After raising the money for the film with Executive Producers Ken and Janet Schur, we had the ‘green light’. When I hired our awesome line producer Summer Crockett Moore, we still did not have a director attached. She told me her husband Tony Glazer had directed a thriller called “Junction”. After seeing it, I knew he would be the right man for the job. It was a good decision, and I was fortunate to have worked very closely with Tony throughout pre-production, production, and post-production. Tony did an outstanding job directing this movie!
The benefit of raising the money on your film is you get to have final cut, and be in the position to make the key creative and business decisions on the film. While we were on Block Island, I had full confidence in Tony, and turned the set over to him once shooting started. I was there with him at the monitors with the headset and everything, and it was just a pleasure to watch Tony work with the actors and crew. Occasionally, I put on the writer hat, and we made some adjustments here and there to the script when necessary during the shooting phase, but other than that my job was easy- let Tony work his magic. It is no easy task to shoot a thriller on a boat in the water in just 14 days, and we managed to pull it off.
We had a solid collaborative relationship throughout the making of “Dead Sound”, and still do today. I’m very proud of that because on a film, I think relationships are everything. We really had a great ‘film family’ top to bottom, and I think because we made a good movie on a low budget, everyone who worked on “Dead Sound” is very proud of the role they played in making it all come together.
Post-production was a true collaborative effort as well. Working with Tony and our amazing editor, Ben Rodriguez, in the edit room was such a great experience. Seeing the finished film 9 years after writing the first draft, and 24 years after the real-life terrifying events on the boat actually happened, was an experience beyond my wildest dreams. I could not be happier with how it all turned out.
MM: What are you working on now?
JA: I can’t say too much about it at this time, but six months ago I formed a producing partnership and new production company with a NY Times bestselling author. Within four months, our agent got us our first production deal for a series of bestselling novels my partner wrote. We are very excited! I’ve also written a couple more screenplays called “Grey Island” and “Plum Island”- both thrillers, which we plan to produce under our new production company banner. Making “Dead Sound” was a special experience for me because I was involved in every aspect of making the film. On future movies- especially Hollywood movies, I know I won’t always be in that position, and I will just be happy to play my part whatever that may be. Just to be able to be part of making a movie is a dream come true.
MM: What do you hope audiences get out of “Dead Sound”?
JA: I hope they experience the real fear my friends and I experienced on that boat ride from hell. There are some really terrifying scenes in the film. There are also some humorous parts in there to ease the tension. Watching the film on the big screen at some of the film festivals with a large audience, and seeing and hearing people react to both the scary and funny scenes, was an experience I will never forget. All the hard work by our amazing cast and crew really paid off! My investors who saw the film are all very happy, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude because without their support this film never would have been made. All I can really hope for is that people enjoy the film, and tell their friends to check it out!