Never Do Harm
When two thieves break into his home looking for medical drugs, a doctor is forced to make a choice between what is right and what is wrong. Written by Andrew Wakefield, it is the first of three short films based on Downcast that have been made.
Gallery from film
DIRECTED & EDITED BY
DR. DECKER …. Andrew Wakefield
THIEF #1 …. Alexander Frasier
THIEF #2 …. Jordan Wilgus
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
BOOM OPERATOR/KEY GRIP
Never Do Harm was one of those projects that sort of fell into our laps by accident and it was a lot of dumb luck that we were even able to pull it off.
When Downcast was in pre-production, we decided to quickly do a short sci-fi film called The Ride Home, to get our muscles a little more practiced and get some exposure for our work. One of the actors, Andrew Wakefield, seemed to me like a good choice for the role of Decker in Downcast and after consulting with Eleanore and my father (Janaka) about it, I figured I’d give him the pitch. After I told him the story of this underground clinic with a doctor who intends to give criminals a second chance, something must have clicked. About a day or so later, Andrew came to me and said “I’m interested in auditioning for the part and by the way, here’s this script I wrote as kind of my idea for a backstory to the character. What do you think?”
As it turned out, Andrew wasn’t just the right choice for Decker, he was also a writer that started something. The backstory was spot-on, matching my personal thoughts and ruminations on the character’s history, and was in its own right a cool little story. It took a little while to come to a decision about it, but in the end, we thought it would be fun and interesting to make Never Do Harm, the short script, to showcase this cameo character’s history.
The shoot, on the other hand, took a while to get to. With our attention getting taken by shooting Downcast itself, the short film was on the shelf until November. What was good about this was it gave us time to plan the film, so that when opportunity arose it was a rather smooth process.
Casting was a bit trickier. Obviously we had Andrew as Decker, but we had two robbers to cast. Jordan Wilgus had worked with us on RIde Home as well and it seemed a good fit, bringing a great physicality to the stunt fall in the film and innocence to the role. The other actor took a while to find and our first choice ended up having to back out on the day of the shoot due to scheduling conflicts. So I called fellow director Aaron Gregory Austin, the director of First Date 3, and he got us in touch with Alexander Frasier. With only a couple of hours to figure out his character and get into the zone, Frasier ended up being a surprise hit. He worked hard, gave his 110%, and was a blast to manage. Pretty much the entire tone of his character comes from his on-the-spot interpretation of the script.
A couple of things kept the shoot interesting. One is that although we had the opportunity to be noisy if we wanted to (the apartment we filmed in had a vacant room beneath us, so we had less neighbors to worry about), we ended up keeping ourselves very quiet. This helped immensely in keeping a tense tone and putting both cast and crew (basically just the three actors, myself, and Janaka) into character with the material. The other was that everyone really chipped in and helped out, sometimes actors holding lights, myself doing blood/make-up application for the minor gunshot wound (admittedly I wish it was more detailed), and Andrew going above and beyond by gathering all the props for the medical supplies. Although it was a bit of a slog, going hours longer than we intended to, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had on-set.
When it came to post-production, it was tight. The short was made in part because we had Attack of the Flix/Suck My Flick, a local film screening where you bring shorts of 10 mins or less to play, was the following Sunday. In a mere 5 days, I edited the film, did the one effect, color corrected as needed, and did a lot of soundscape work to get the audio in check. To my surprise, we ended up getting third place in the AOTF Film Competition. (I still have the Death Wish 4 poster from that night!)
Soon after, it occurred to us to keep doing these short side-story films for Downcast and Discard came about only a few months later…. but that’s another story!