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‘Different’ beat goes on

Brayden Tucker plays Lyle Hatcher and Caroline Slater plays Sharon Anne in “Different Drummers.”
Brayden Tucker plays Lyle Hatcher and Caroline Slater plays Sharon Anne in “Different Drummers.”

Years of planning, work bring real-life story to cinema screens

It’s been nearly a decade in the making, but “Different Drummers,” an independent film set and shot in Spokane, is finally getting a local big-screen release.

Written and directed by Don Caron and Lyle Hatcher, the movie is now playing at the AMC Theaters in River Park Square alongside such Hollywood heavyweights as “The Hobbit” and “The Hunger Games.”

That’s not bad for a film that began as a pipe dream some nine years ago. “It’s been such a long time coming,” Caron said. “There’s excitement about it finally arriving here. My excitement is mostly about that people will see it now.”

“Different Drummers” takes place in 1968 and concerns Hatcher’s true-life childhood friendship with a classmate named David Dahlke, who was afflicted with muscular dystrophy and died when he was only 13. Filming wrapped in November 2012, and post-production was completed last February.

“I’m thinking back on that and realizing that was only a little over a year ago,” Caron said of the shoot. “It’s hard to believe. But it’s surprising when you’re doing something like this how short a year is.”

The film’s journey from page to screen was a prolonged one: Caron and Hatcher first translated the story into a book, which they wrote in 2006, then into a film script, which won the best screenplay award at the Houston WorldFest International Film Festival in 2007. Six years later and the finished film made its premiere at that same festival, winning awards for best family film and best young actor for its star, Spokane’s Brayden Tucker.

“That was a very gratifying experience because that’s a major arrival – seeing it and hearing it in a theater setting,” Caron said.

Following their festival success, Caron and Hatcher then set about trying to find release and distribution, but too many of the companies they worked with, Caron said, were interested in altering the filmmakers’ vision from the ground up.

“We had approached a number of different distributors and what we were running into was this square peg/round hole sort of thing,” Caron said. “The distributor would look at (the movie), and they’d say, ‘We can make this work. We’re going to need to restructure the opening, add voiceover.’ And we decided it wasn’t going to work for us to rebuild the movie.”

That’s when Heritage HM, an Australian faith-based distribution company, came into the picture. They approached Caron and Hatcher about possibly marketing and releasing “Different Drummers.” The company’s motto – “Movies change people, people change the world” – struck them.

“They have this idealistic view of the purpose of the medium, which we liked,” Caron said of Heritage HM. “They were interested in distributing movies that they felt mattered to people and could influence their lives in a positive way. That really appealed to us.”

Heritage HM will be responsible for worldwide distribution of “Different Drummers” – Caron said he and Hatcher have reserved the Spokane distribution rights for its local run – and the plan is to open the film on several screens in Australia later this year.

Caron says the goal is to get the movie onto as many theater screens as possible, even if that means circuiting the film on a city-by-city basis. Following that, they’ll need to find another distributor to handle DVD and streaming releases, a process that could take, Caron estimated, another five years.

But “Different Drummers” is a passion project, and both Caron and Hatcher are in it for the long haul – after a decade of work, Caron said, what’s another few years? Regardless of the film’s future, however, Caron says the finished product is exactly the movie he and Hatcher initially envisioned, and he’s most looking forward to seeing general audiences react to it.

“My goal with this movie was to make people laugh and make people cry,” he said. “In my own experience, those are the kinds of movies that stick with me. If I’m watching the audience in the theater and they’re laughing and they’re crying, then that’s a successful movie.”