A Tale of Two Towns

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  September 29, 2009

"Ed [Bianchi] was great to us, but he was too far along in his career to go back and see our vision," says Hickey. "The same with Gandolfini, who was a gentleman, but wanted to make it his own. The more money and glamour that you attach to your project, the less control you have. I would have gotten 25 grand and a kick in the ass; at the same time, though, I knew that, if I could get the eye of people like that, I had something special." Damien DiPaola, a North End restaurateur who is acting in and executive producing the film, adds: "We could have done this with somebody bigger, but now we'd be sitting around sucking on our thumbs." (The film does not yet have distribution.)

As consolation, Hickey assembled a relatively stacked team, especially considering the mere $75,000 he raised from investors. Experienced set hands pledged time; Charlestown native and independent filmmaker Robert Scali signed on to direct; director of photography Christian DiNunzio brought along a Red One, the same model high-def digital-video camera that was used to shoot such blockbusters as Che and District 9. It took three years of atonement and hard pitching to convince authorities and concerned creative types alike that the former derelict dreg could be trusted and that he meant (legal) business, but ultimately Hickey was also able to accrue what he estimates is more than $1 million in favors: police vehicles were donated; Boston SWAT team members volunteered in full riot gear; generous city permits were provided; his 200-person cast and crew was allowed to use the abandoned Barnstable County Jail on Cape Cod; New Balance and Affliction hooked up apparel; UFC star Tim Sylvia is playing a major role for no compensation beyond food and transportation.

For leads, Hickey cast two other Bunker Hill housing-projects veterans — Brendan Brennan, who spent 11 years in federal lock-up for armed robbery, and David Burns, another old friend of Hickey's who ushered Charlestown into MTV-culture consciousness as a cast member of the Real World: Seattle. "My father's been a heroin addict for 35 years, and almost everyone I know in Charlestown — including myself — has been addicted to or at least used some sort of opiate," says Burns, who is also an executive producer on the film. "As for Oxys, they wiped out a generation of people here, and we wanted to show the collateral damage from a street level. That's why this film is so important — we're legitimate Charlestown kids who did all sorts of shit, but we're not glorifying it here. This is not a made-up gangster flick. It's from the heart, and it's real."

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