Missing William – Interview with Director Kenn MacRae and actors Nikki Hovan & Richard Meehan
Looking for a heartfelt, romantic drama with a bit of a twist? The new film Missing William, starring Brandon Routh (of Superman Returns fame) and Courtney Ford (True Blood, Parenthood) just might fit the bill. The film, which according to IMDb was completed in 2011 and is only just now coming out, tells the story of a woman who drops everything to care for her husband after a tragic accident. Coming to her aid is someone from her distant past.
We got the chance to ask a few questions of the director Kenn MacRae, plus the actors who play Young James (Richard Meehan) & Young Abby (Nikki Hovan):
1. What is the movie about?
Nikki: Missing William is a romantic drama about Abby, a young artist in Rhode Island, who is caring for her husband, William after a tragic incident. As she coaxes William back to health, James, her childhood sweetheart, tries to coax her back into living life again for herself. The movie concludes with a twist you won’t see coming and with the realization that’s as profound as it is beautiful.
Richard: Missing William is about Abigail (Abby), who has to nurse her husband William back to health after a bar fight. James, her pre-teen boyfriend and first love, is by her side the entire time. Nikki Hovan and I were the pre-teen Abby and James. Watch out because what happens in the end you will never see coming.
2. What was the biggest challenge in working on the film?
Kenn: Time. We shot the whole film in eighteen days, which is really cranking along. That was the simple reality of having a low budget, but the great part of that challenge is that in many ways it forces you to make creative decisions you might not even consider on a larger-scale production.
Nikki: There’s a scene where I’m talking about the story behind the purple heart….there were a lot of lines for me to learn in a very short amount of time! Another challenging scene was when Richard (Young James) and I had to jump off a dock into the ocean. The water was freezing because it was October when we shot the movie…and we had to film that scene several times!
Richard: The most challenging part for me was wanting to nail the scene the first time. I am always my worst critic. There is always something that I think I could have done better. This was my first movie and I wish I could do it over with what I know now.
3. Any funny moments on set?
Kenn: Plenty. It was a fantastic cast and crew pulling together and working hard, so the jokes on set were quality – and very welcome – when they came. Brandon Routh (James) probably led the charge the most as he’s got a really deadpan sense of humor and great comic timing. He and I set up a couple of outtake gags together, and he did a bunch of his own on the fly – including pretending to be drunk and walk into a shot we were capturing with co-stars Reid Scott and Courtney Ford (his real-life wife).
Nikki: I remember when we were filming one of the rowboat scenes where Young James (Richard) had to row us toward shore. The tide wasn’t cooperating with us and on several takes the tide took us out before Richard could row all the way into shore. You never know what’s going to happen when you have to deal with Mother Nature!
4. Tell us what it was like working on set…was it hard work or was it pretty easy?
Nikki: Learning all the lines in a very short amount of time (we filmed all our scenes in only 7 days) was challenging, but the director, cast and crew were amazing to work with and made the filming a once-in-a-lifetime incredible and fun experience.
Richard: I think it is always hard being on set, having to know your lines and wanting to nail it the first time so everyone can move on. You have tons of eyes on you and I never want to let anyone down with my performance. There is so many other people involved with making a movie and they all have to wait on you and the perfect take before you cut.
5. Why should anyone go see Missing William?
Kenn: Missing William addresses love, loss, and living through both, and it does it in a really unique way. I love a blockbuster as much as the next guy but this is a really considered and unique love story that comes with a bunch of complications – and everyone can relate to that.
Richard: If you see the movie just for the ending it would be worth it. You will want to watch this one again.
6. What are your future goals in show business?
Nikki: I would like to be involved in show business in some capacity, whether it be acting, behind-the-camera production work or even in marketing.
Richard: I just recently relocated to LA to pursue acting full time. I have a great manager and I am going on lots of great auditions. Acting is one of my long time goals. I hope that I am able to make acting my life long career. While I wait for the opportunity to prove myself to the acting community I am taking classes to improve my craft.
7. What do you have coming up next (projects in production, upcoming releases)
Kenn: I just directed the first three episodes of a new series for Investigation Discovery network called Heartbreakers. It’s true crime-based, love triangle stuff (i.e. hearts get broken), starring characters played by heartbreakers from back in the day like Judd Nelson, Jack Wagner, Antonio Sabato Jr, Christopher Knight and Kevin Sorbo. That one’s on-air in August, and I’m working on a couple of other scripts, and music videos in the meantime.
Nikki: In late spring/summer I will be filming a couple of pilot TV and web shows that will start airing in the fall, 2014 for a new network focused on tweens/teens.
Richard: I was lucky enough to be cast in a short film last year. Bully, a thesis film for American Film Institute directed by Rob Weiermair is just starting to make its rounds to film festivals. I play the lead, Toby, a shy 14-year-old high school kid pushed to the limits with unexpected results when a video of me being brutally humiliated at school appears on the Internet. I also learn that my demons are not just in the classroom.
8. What do you like to do for fun, besides acting?
Nikki: In addition to taking singing and improv lessons, I just love to sing and do improv for fun. I also love to swim, shop and just hang out with my friends.
Richard: I love playing basketball. When I am back East I love hanging out with friends and of course we play ball if the weather is nice. In the summer I love hanging out at our beach on Cape Cod.
9. What advice do you have for other kids who want to get into acting?
Nikki: Start by taking a variety of acting classes (drama, comedy, improv) and join an acting group inside or outside of school.
Richard: First and most important is that you need to be true to yourself. Second is that you have to be able to handle the rejection. There is lots of rejection, don’t let that get you down if this is something you really really want to do, go for it. Go on the audition then forget about it and onto the next one because most likely you will not be cast for every audition.
10. Anything else we should know?
Kenn: That as corny as the cliché is, it’s true: anything is possible if you set your mind to it. I grew up in suburban Australia, loving film and TV, hoping I could one day be a part of that world – and now I’m living in the heart of it, in Los Angeles, working in the industry.
Finally, a few extra questions just for Kenn MacRae, the director:
1. Did you capture on film or digitally, and what influenced that choice?
I love shooting on film but I’m not a diehard purist. We shot on the RED camera, which is digital, and achieved a filmic look through lighting and post. My collaborator and cinematographer Brandon Cox made the final call based on the brief and reference I’d given him, as well as time and budget allowed – and he did a superb job.
2. Tell us what it was like working with Richard and Nikki?
Finding the right cast for any production is absolutely crucial, and I’m extremely fortunate I found Richard and Nikki. Their roles were integral to the whole story working (they play younger versions of the leads, James (Brandon Routh) and Abby (Courtney Ford), and in a dramatic, character-based piece they carried it off admirably – especially considering there was no time for rehearsal before shooting.
3. Where is the film available?
The film finished a cinematic release in twelve cities across America in March, and is now rolling out through all the leading VOD channels: iTunes, Netflix, Amazon and so on. That’s over 100 million screens, so you should be able to find it somewhere. Worldwide distribution is being finalized in the coming months.
4. What advice do you have for teens who want to become filmmakers like you?
Don’t wait for a course, or a huge budget, or the right equipment, or an invitation before you start being a filmmaker – just start making films. There are so many cost-effective ways of making original material – my ten year-old daughter and twelve year-old son make incredible horror trailers using an iPod app.
Learn about the different roles, and learn about people who do them well. Actor? Director? Of course. But cinematographer, lighting and electrical, producer, screenwriter, production design, wardrobe, and makeup are all essential collaborators, no matter what scale, and you need to know how to work together. To do that effectively you need to know how they can help you, and vice versa.
5. What made you want to work on Missing William?
Mainly that it was a really original take on a love story, and because it was ambitious in terms of setting it over a lifetime. For the same reasons and more, some top talent were interested in being involved – which also increased the appeal for me – and I managed to get them all on board.
More on Richard:
More on Nikki: