A graduate of the University of Texas, Caplan has worked for production companies in New York, Los Angeles, and Amsterdam. Caplan co-founded Enspire Learning, where he produced e-learning courses for Harvard Business School and the Department of Education. After completing his MFA at the American Film Institute, Caplan went on to produce the Burnt Orange feature “The Cassidy Kids.” Currently he is working on an animated film “Flatland: The Movie,” which stars Martin Sheen and Kristen Bell. Caplan’s thesis film “Duncan Removed” was honored with a student Emmy last winter and was a Student Academy Award finalist.
How did the project come together?
Peter Livolsi (the director and co-writer), Eric West (the D.P.) and I all worked together in our first year at school on a really cool short film called Action Will Be Taken. Based on the success of our collaboration, we decided to team together for our thesis.
Describe the generation of the story idea.
Peter Livolsi (director and co-writer) and Matt Schaefer (co-writer) began writing in the fall of 2004. This story was like no other tale they’d tackled. Although they’d begun with the familiar Cyrano story of one man speaking for another on a few dates, they were more interested in the idea of what if this had been going on for a long period of time and dealt with every facet of a person’s daily life? Would this man soon be incapable of expressing his own thoughts? Would he even be able to recognize his own thoughts? The notion that the main character could have someone telling him everything to say for such a long a time proved to be the story’s most intriguing element, but also its most challenging. Their approach didn’t fall into a specific mold or genre, and there were many ways to go about telling it.
Talk a little about the casting.
An important source of support in telling this difficult story were the two actors Peter had asked to play the roles of Ben and Duncan, Ken Marino and Mackenzie Astin. He had become friends with both actors during a short they had made the previous summer called Last Meals Inc. They knew they wanted to work together again, so Peter and Matt began work on Duncan Removed with the two actors in mind to play the lead roles. Peter was also familiar with the work of actress Mina Badie, and it was clear she would make an interesting choice to play Ben’s unsuspecting wife, Mary. All three actors contributed enormously by asking pointed questions and making careful suggestions before ever stepping onto the set.
Were you on the set? If so, were there any memorable or unexpected moments?
I was on-set everyday. One of the highlights of the shoot was when line producer Rod Ben-Zeev surprised the crew by arranging for four massage therapy students to show up at lunch and give everyone on the crew five-minute massages. The looks of delight on each crew member’s face was awesome! Not surprisingly, we made our day and even got off a couple extra shots!
The narrative student short DUNCAN REMOVED will screen as part of Shorts Program 5 at 7 pm on Saturday, Oct. 21, and at 9:30 pm on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Film passes to the Austin Film Festival are just $35 for admission to all screenings (space permitting).