The McManus brothers are twins, but they have a singular vision.
Kevin and Matt, from Warwick, were on the island to film scenes for their new film, “The Block Island Sound.” It was between shots, and members of the cast and crew were at the Block Island Pizza Pie Company chowing down before filming started up again.
The two have been living in Los Angeles for the past 10 years, writing primarily for television, they said. They did, however, shoot a short film on Block Island about 10 years ago, called “Front Page,” and they knew Block Island was a place they wanted to return to. Their debut feature, “Funeral Kings,” was released in 2012.
“The Block Island Sound,” which they described as a horror/thriller, was shooting with a crew of about 30. The film stars Chris Sheffield, best known perhaps for the film “The Maze Runner,” and Michaela McManus, who has done extensive work in television and who also happens to be the sister of the directors.
When the McManus brothers sat down with The Block Island Times, they were calm, collected, but it was apparent time was on their minds. “The Block Island Sound” was going to be shot in just 16 days, which meant capturing — to their satisfaction — about 10 pages of script each day.
“This is pretty fast,” said Matt.
When asked how that gets done, Kevin said: “Everybody helps out.”
They had spent the morning shooting scenes at the Block Island Grocery, cast and crew mingling with island shoppers who were passing through. One aspect of the scene involved an accident with a shopping cart, and every time it was turned over the contents had to be replaced in the exact same place in the carriage so that it would match the other angles in the scene.
“A producer pretty much does everything,” said Roman Dent, who is co-producing the feature with a partner, Ashleigh Snead, through her company, Hood River Entertainment. (The brothers are co-producing through their own company, 30 Bones Cinema.) This was Snead’s third producing effort, Dent’s first. “We solve problems before they become problems,” said Dent.
Because it was such a short shooting schedule, Dent said that their focus was on making the cast and crew as comfortable and happy as possible, operating under the assumption that happy people do better work.
“Making a movie is a very collaborative process,” said Dent. He described the McManus brothers as “very focused. They share a common vision.” Dent then went off to solve one of those problems before it became one.
Snead said she had met the McManus brothers a couple of years ago, “and we all wanted to do a feature together.” They reasonably did not want to give away too much of the plot, but said it centered around a father — played by Sheffield — and the strange happenings within the family.
Sheffield said that the McManus twins had approached him to play the role of the dad. Sheffield had been out on the island for a few days prior to the shoot, trying to absorb the ambience of the island as much as possible. His character, he said, is a Block Island native. He said he had “never heard of Block Island, didn’t know where it was,” but after those few days he said he wanted to buy a home here. He was attracted to the script because he found his character complex and the “sci-fi thriller aspect” of the story appealed to him.
With all of the content being produced not just by the major networks, but also by such companies as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and others, Sheffield was asked if it was a good time to be an actor.
“It’s always a good time to be an actor,” he said. “Art and acting are more important than ever.”