Synthetic Cinema in Rocky Hill has built a name for itself in the last decade as a producer of efficiently made, marketable creature features: aliens, mutants, werewolves, the undead, banshees, all on a rampage. Synthetic president Andrew Gernhard even got Drew Barrymore on board to co-produce the company's upcoming horror film.
So the company's newest project, to be shot in July in the Norwich-New London area, is quite a change: an adaptation of bestselling author Wally Lamb's sentimental Christmas comic novel "Wishin' and Hopin'." It will be the first novel by Lamb, a Norwich native who lives in Mansfield, to be adapted into film.
"We're getting tired of monster movies. We're kind of burned out," Gernhard said. "Instead of investing all our money on violence, blood and gore, this time we're going to spend it on production design, to make it 1964 in our locations." He would not reveal the film's budget.
"Wishin' and Hopin'" is about Felix, who is 10 years old, lives in the fictional town of Three Rivers, Conn., and attends St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School. The story follows Felix, his friends, family and teachers as they learn funny life lessons on the way to Christmas.
Gernhard has known Lamb since 1991, when he was 14. Lamb was one of Gernhard's teachers at Norwich Free Academy. "I kept track of him, like everybody in Connecticut does. Everybody loves his books and him," Gernhard said. "Two to three years ago I reached out to him on Facebook."
Gernhard is glad he got "Wishin' and Hopin'" because it is less broad in scale than Lamb's other books. "It's a smaller, less rough story than the others, which are very emotional," he said. "This is character-driven like the others, but a comedy, a smaller story."
Lamb will be listed as executive producer and will be allowed to oversee all aspects of the production, Gernhard said. "We didn't just buy the rights to make the movie we wanted to make. He is the key to telling the story right," he said.
The script will be written by John Doolan and the film will be directed by Colin Theys. It will be the first non-horror movie for them both.
The lead and supporting actors will be cast in New York and Los Angeles, but Gernhard said many adult and child background roles will be filled locally, with casting calls in the New London area. Those interested in getting involved should check frequently on Synthetic's Facebook page.
When Synthetic is casting for "Wishin' and Hopin'," it also will cast for another upcoming film, the details of which Gernhard would not reveal.
Gernhard said Synthetic isn't moving away entirely from monster movies. "We probably will come back," he said. "We've got so much coming out soon that it might take a while for people to figure out we're not making them now."
"Deep in the Darkness" is premiering in New York and Los Angeles this weekend and is coming to TV in May. "Animal," the Drew Barrymore co-production which was shot last year in Manchester, will be released in the summer. "Dark Haul," a sci-fi creature feature, will come out on the Syfy channel in October.