An incredibly produced short film titled Sidekick will be available on YouTube beginning Friday morning (October 28) and several fan favorites around these parts are involved in addition to the some well-known creative talents behind the scenes.
Emily Bett Rickards, who of course we know so well for her role as “Felicity Smoak” on Arrow, is one of the movie’s leads, and playing her husband is Once Upon A Time’s “Prince Charming” himself, Josh Dallas. Playing the “villain” of the story is a man who was so dastardly as Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells on The Flash, Tom Cavanagh. A young man named Christian Michael Cooper plays the son of the characters played by Emily and Josh, and he’s simply fantastic.
We spoke with the director Jeff Cassidy — himself a veteran of The Flash production — for more details about this fantastic short film, and in doing so, hopefully you’ll have a better idea of how and where to see it. Enjoy:
GREENARROWTV’s CRAIG BYRNE: What was the genesis behind developing Sidekick?
JEFF CASSIDY: A friend of mine had pitched a vague glimpse of this idea a few years back and the concept had always stuck with me – how difficult it would be as a parent to sit down and explain to a young child something of this magnitude. I have a few feature screenplays optioned and I was looking to take a break from rewrites – refresh the brain. So I called up my buddy and said “you ever going to write that idea” – he said no, and then it took up the next year and half of my life!
For the uninitiated, what is Sidekick about?
Sidekick is about two parents coming to grips with a horrible problem, how that affects their relationship and how the father chooses to tell his son. If your world was about to come crumbling down, what would be the one essential lesson you’d want to convey to your child. (I’m purposely trying to leave it all kind of vague so there’s still some surprises when we release on Friday!)
Emily Bett Rickards, Tom Cavanagh, and Josh Dallas are playing characters that are similar to what we know of them, yet at the same time are very distinctively different. Can you talk about that, and how they got involved with the project?
Blackmail. Pure and simple! I would argue that the characters are extremely different than what they are used to – and I think that challenge was a big draw for all three of them.
I actually ended up on the same flight as Josh and e-mailed it to him. He messaged me before we even took off saying he loved it and I think there may have been some tears in first class that night! Josh is a new father and I think that added another layer of depth for him. Right from our first conversations I could tell it struck a nerve and could see him wincing at the thought of a parent having to live through this horrible situation. I think, despite the superhero aspect of the story, the raw, blue-collar approach to this scenario was something he really responded to.
Emily was a different story. I’ve known Emily for a long time, she’s a young, gorgeous, incredibly talented actress — to be honest it didn’t occur to me right off the bat to cast her as a mom who’s been through hard times. I was looking for someone a little bit older. The more I broke down the family that’s at the core of this story — young, blue collar, down on their luck – the more I kept coming back to ‘a young family’. I really wanted the ‘real world’ aspect of this story to be grounded in reality and not just your atypical TV family. So I called up Tina Teoli, our Key Makeup Artist and asked her if she thought it would be possible to age Emily up slightly and give her a more run down, neutral, makeup free look. We looked a lot at what they did with Amy Adams in The Fighter. Tina gave me the go ahead and I have a lot of respect for Emily for jumping at that because I know a lot of actresses that would have just said “I’m a beautiful 24 year old! You want me to look like what?!” and then hung up the phone! Dial tone……
Tom Cavanagh is a force. Truly. He’s just always 100% in tune with what he’s doing both from an emotional level and from a technical level. He really liked the script and although he’s been able to play some more sinister characters in the past, I know he was excited to be able to completely transform himself for this from a physical perspective. That’s something you don’t always get to do as an actor. His special effects makeup, which was done by our uber talented artist Kari Anderson and oversaw by dept. head Jenn Kaminski, took 1.5hrs to complete and when he came out, you barely recognized him! Even his teeth were done. He was able to not only be the villain but he was able to embody the metaphor that his character stood for… I’ve said too much.
Can you talk about the young man who is the Sidekick of the title and how he became involved?
Christian Michael Cooper. I’m his BIGGEST FAN! This kid is so talented and just an absolute pleasure to have on set. The whole cast and crew was just enamored with him and he lifted everyone’s spirits every time he was on set. For someone so young he was really able to hit some heavy, emotional beats and do the lighter stuff too. I believe he was one of the runner-ups for the movie “Room”. Our casting director Sean Cossey sent me a ton of kids and Christian’s name was literally the last to come across. Fate I guess…
How long did this take to shoot?
In my head I think I’m still shooting this! We shot over several weekends – it was the only time I could get these busy actors and technicians to be free. So after 70-80 hour work weeks they all came out on their Saturday nights and worked again – for free – everyone just seemed to really love and get behind the project. We had 212 people credited on the film!
What was the most challenging part?
EVERYTHING! This project was like Terry Gilliam’s “Lost in La Mancha” for me — every single, possible thing that could go wrong did! We lost locations at the last minute, people at the last minute, footage was erased – just everything. It’s a miracle that it got done, it really is! It took about a year from writing it to get it into production and then another 7 months from our first shooting day until the advanced screening you were at – and that’s up late at night 7 days a week, every week. I knew the project was ambitious – it was one of the things that pushed me to do it. But I swear it almost killed me!
Carlos Valdes mentioned to me that he knew you from your position on The Flash. Can you talk about what you did there?
By the way, I was just having a conversation a few days ago with someone and was saying that Carlos Valdes is one of those people you meet that is just 1000% good down to the core. Not a bad bone in him. I absolutely love that guy. I digress… I worked in the camera department, pulling focus and operating on a good chunk of The Flash’s three seasons.
Were there projects that you worked on before that prepared you for an undertaking like this?
I’ve directed a lot of small projects but none of them with this level of stunts and vfx. Directing has always been my passion and what I was working towards doing full time. This story just really struck a chord with me and I felt compelled to do it. I’ve worked on film sets since I was 20, I feel very at home on set. I was also editing music videos on the side back when music videos had their heyday. So between working on big budget action/vfx shows like the Flash and Warcraft in the camera dept., editing and directing other projects – I was always pretty confident that we could pull this off.
There seemed to be a lot of the “Flarrowverse” family working behind the scenes. How did that come together, and is there anyone specific you’d like to thank?
Again – massive, massive bribery on a large scale! Yes, you are right. There was a ton of people from the Flash and Arrow universe that helped make this possible. We had 212 people credited on this project – I’ve never heard of a short film of this scale before – we shut down a section of downtown Vancouver with the help of Alan Bartolic, The Flash’s location manager. Jon Kralt, the stunt coordinator, is just out-of–this-world good — this wouldn’t have been possible without him, Chad Bellamy, Monty Thompson and their team of superstar stunt performers. Betty Dubney, our co-producer and costume designer made me a deal at the start – she said she’d design the costumes only if ‘we did it right’ – and she did. She worked tirelessly with her team for MONTHS designing the superhero costumes – worked right through Christmas – I’ll be forever indebted to her for this.
Armen Kevorkian (Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow) from Encore was our VFX Supervisor – we would have been looking at stick figures fighting if it wasn’t for him! Blake Neely composed the score and just killed it, such an outstanding job. My producers Sage Brocklebank and Kristian Andresen called in every favor they could. I could answer this question for a long, long time because there are so many people that helped make this possible.
Where can people see Sidekick?
Sidekick is going to be released on YouTube on Friday, October 28. It’s a personal project so I’m going to tweet it out from my Twitter account @cassidy_Jeff at 9am pst… unless I can’t wait any longer – that’s also possible!
Will there be a Blu-ray/DVD release?
Not at this time. We had so many people volunteer their time, I made it clear from the start that I was willing to empty my bank account to produce this project but I never wanted to make money off of it. There were a lot of people that had ideas how to monetize this but it really wouldn’t feel right. That said, we don’t have a DVD budget, we’re just going to put it on the internet and give it to the people! If you don’t have the Internet, write me and I’ll come over to your house and play it for you!
Is there an official website for Sidekick?
Nope! Wanted to stay away from that too. I really went against the grain with this but we have the YouTube page where we’ll release our videos and the Instagram page @sidekickmovie where we house all our photos. That’s it!
Is the movie being shown at any film festivals?
We will be definitely be submitting to festivals, specifically looking at the ones that allow internet releases as well – which I’ve recently discovered are actually quite a few. From the start the DP Stewart Whelan and I wanted to make this feel big – there’s so many big budget comic book movies out and the bar has risen so high. We wanted people to get lost in the story and not think “well that would have been cool if they had a budget”. We shot this project on anamorphic lenses, we have a big, very cool 5.1 mix done by Gregor Phillips at Cinescope Sound – it’s really made for the big screen. I wish everyone would be able to see it there. It actually pains me they can’t!
Is there a Kickstarter or merchandise being sold to fund the production?
We considered doing a Kickstarter campaign but I didn’t feel right about it. If we did it, I would have had to trade off the popularity of the cast and that idea always felt horrible to me – especially because they’re all friends. “Hey can you be in my movie, oh and also fund it for me?” So I just saved and then spent my own money! Although someday, if I ever take off Josh’s Captain Strong costume that I’m wearing right now, I’d be curious what it could bring in!
What can fans do to spread the word?
We’re hoping that on Friday when we release the film that #Sidekick will be trending. That and write, tweet to all your favorite comic book/film websites and media outlets — let them know this is happening. Get all your friends to repost. We did this for the fans. Let’s take over the internet!
Is there anything else that you’d like fans to know?
We kept the project secret as long as we could so that it would be a really great surprise for the fans. I wanted to build some mystery — what is this secret project that is happening – an ultimate multi-universe crossover event! So don’t give too much away too soon! If they know the whole story, they won’t be surprised Friday morning!
Sidekick will be released Friday, October 29 here — to whet your appetite, here are a few stills from the production. Enjoy!