The Block Island Times

Writer's Block: Block it, light it, shoot it

By J. V. Houlihan, Jr. | Feb 14, 2012
Photo by: courtesy of Ricky Laprade Local actors Rich Tretheway (left) and Andre Boudreau (facing away) are amongst the cast in this scene from the movie "Villanelle," shot in Club Soda.

When I taught my high school theatre classes basic stagecraft — movement, vocal styling and script analysis — I would put students into groups of three or four, with a script or an idea to develop. I would choose the groups randomly and then see what happened. It always intrigued me, when I put my students in this creative environment, to see what they would actually present onstage.

I found that putting students together with a common goal would lead to the best cooperation and teamwork. One person who seems to have absorbed that lesson well is writer and director Ricky Laprade, whom I taught those many years ago and who is going on to make his mark on the Rhode Island film scene.

Laprade studied English and theatre with me at Narragansett High School. He was a voracious reader, serious film buff, and very engaged student. After graduating with a BA in Film and English from the University of Rhode Island, he met some other creative people from Block Island and other parts of New England, and some interesting things are happening as a result. One of them: “Villanelle,” a “horror noire” shot on Block Island in the spring of 2011; see the trailer, by Cut to the Chase Productions, on now. The rough cut of “Villanelle” looks very good; some color correction and simple edits and the film will be ready for release late this spring.

A second interesting thing: “Erebus,” another creepy feature, which will use ghost ships as the starting off point for the narrative and is also planned for filming on Block Island and around Rhode Island. The crew is currently accepting donations toward the cost of filming on — backers have until February 17 to contribute anything from $1 to $1,000 — and fundraising will continue after then on By mid-way through this week, the film had raised more than $8,000 (“Villanelle” was also funded on, successfully raising $4,000 through the website). Filming is set to start on Block Island next month.

Take a look at the trailer for “Villanelle” and anyone who’s spent any time on the island will see some familiar faces, foremost among them Sharky’s restaurant owner Rich Tretheway.

“Rich came highly recommended as someone who brings it on set and off,” says Laprade. Catch the trailer for Villanelle — Tretheway brings it, alright, doggedly investigating a series of grisly murders on a winter-bound island. Cameras capture all the stark beauty of the island’s offseason, adding to an atmosphere of claustrophobic horror.

Another Block Island actor, Andre Boudreau, is part of Laprade’s likeminded team, although when you’re watching the trailer, you’d miss him if you blinked — he’s in it for only a few seconds. Boudreau has also appeared in a web series of Laprade’s called “Working Title.”

I had a chance to see this talented group of actors, camera people, and directors — Laprade used David Langill as assistant director — in action under adverse conditions. Some actors came down from Boston to shoot a short outdoor scene last spring. All went well until torrential rain, deafening thunder and sideways lightning arrived mid-shoot. But professionalism reigned, and the crew got what they needed. I was very proud of my former student — he still calls me Mr. H — and how, despite the chaos caused by the horrible weather, they blocked it, lit it, shot it and moved on.

I saw likeminded people with a common goal, and I was honored to be a part of it.

Laprade says various island businesses gave invaluable support, among them Club Soda, Block Island Power Company, the folks at the Block Island Free Library, and the Block Island Ferry. “We’ve been very fortunate to have such a supportive community for our projects,” said Laprade. “We like to stay way under the radar, so as to not encumber anyone, and as a result very few people know we’re out here working.”

A release showing for “Villanelle” will be announced soon; Laprade is hoping for Block Island and Providence screenings by late spring, with ticket sales to benefit a local charity. Meanwhile, I’ve read the script for “Erebus” and it scared the hell out of me. The talent range for this project looks promising — go to Cut to the Chase Productions on Facebook for further information. And be sure that, without whistles and bells, Laprade’s team will once more stealthily go about their business on Block Island this March. They’ll block it, light it, shoot it and move on.

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