Making THE CALL
D'Ovidio spent time at LA's downtown call center, sitting with operators and listening in on calls. "Every time a call came in, my stomach would drop, but they were so calm!" he says. "I didn't know what to expect next, and they were just pros. I found that they were the glue of the city. They held the police, the fire, the ambulances -- nobody moved in the city without them."
From the various true stories D'Ovidio culled, a scenario was imagined that dealt directly with a fear of the screenwriter's: claustrophobia. "I wanted to write a contained thriller, and I figured shooting in a trunk with somebody and keeping the screws tightened would be a great way to carry through the suspense."
Only later would D'Ovidio find out that his scenario was all too real. "It actually happened to a girl," he reveals. "After we had written the script, we went down [to the Call Center] and they started telling us a story about this girl that was put in the trunk of a limo, and they tried to locate her all around the city."
Needless to say, when the script fell into the hands of the producing partners at Troika Pictures, eager to find the right movie to launch their company, it was an instant hit. Says producer Robert Stein, "When I read the script, right away I thought it was a fantastic thriller, and exactly what we were looking for as our first project."
His producing partner Michael Helfant quickly recognized the powerful appeal of the story for audiences, as a chance to show 911 operators as heroes. "They serve a really critical function in our society," says Helfant. "There's a great line from the movie that says, our 911 centers have to be very secure because if they go dark, we're in trouble. I don't think there's really been a feature film that highlights the role of the 911 operator."
WWE Studios President and Producer Michael Luisi said, "I've known Robert and Michael for over twenty years, and when they approached me about partnering on this project, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for WWE Studios. We had also just worked with D'Ovidio on another project and were confident that with the right director and cast, The Call would be something special."
Finding the right director for The Call was crucial to making the project work as something commercially viable as a nail-biting suspense movie, but authentic as a portrait of the job 911 call centers do, and anchored by great performances. Producer Bradley Gallo says all signs pointed to director Brad Anderson. "Where's the indie director who gives you the character performances, can handle the dark material, then add a commercial script so he gives you a little different version? That's what we were looking for, and Brad is perfect for that. He can go as lighthearted as Next Stop Wonderland, he has the horror of Session 9, and the character-driven The Machinist. Then we met with him, and he's kind of a serious guy, and we say, 'What's your vision of this movie?' And he comes out with exactly what he's going to do, and we were just floored. It was a done deal."
Says Brad Anderson, "I read the script, and the novelty of the story and the world it depicted attracted me to the project. 911 calls have always fascinated me. We hear the calls but never really know what goes into the call. We only get bits and pieces. This film will answer a lot of those questions."
It was also a chance to exercise skills in the suspense realm that seemed completely unique. "Most of the story takes place in the course of one day, a couple of hours. It's almost kind of a real-time type scenario and it's very contained, literally contained. I mean, much of the action occurs at the call center, and in the trunk of a car. I was sort of interested in the idea of how to tell a story, dramatically and visually and cinematically, in such a small space. It posed a lot of challenges, but that was part of the draw for me, as well."
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