Filmed in Wheeling, “Doughboy,” Brings Tears, Respect for Freedom

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Pullman Square Doughboy Premiere
Pullman Square Doughboy Premiere
HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) - Good movies strongly advocate a new perspective making you think. Better movies expose the viewer to new ideas allowing them to form opinions. The best movies often change your mind about a subject while coaxing a tear or two from your eyes. ‘Doughboy” is the latter.

Having lived at the heart of NYC’s creative center, Tribeca, Troy (Barrett Carnahan) objects when his father and mom tell him dad’s taking a job in West Virginia. Upon arrival in the Mountain State, the family does not fit the norm of God fearing, patriotic and sports enthusiastic. Poor Troy, he finds a coffee shop with internet access only to discover it closed Sunday.

Dad and mom are vegetarians, pacifists and more cautiously introverted than most in Wheeling. Troy doesn’t fit in at Wheeling High either, he won’t stand to pledge allegiance, he’s very quiet, and he will not blend for the sake of conformity.

Doughboy Premiere Wheeling
Doughboy Premiere Wheeling
A walk in the park leads to legal woes. He’s caught with an egg at a World War I veterans memorial of a Doughboy. “Someone else did it,” Troy pleads, but the judge sentences him to community service at a veterans home. Mom objects. The judge doubles the hours.

Screenwriter Ty DeMartino wanted to tell a story that a grandfather might take his grandchildren to. Seeking to bridge the gap of generations, DeMartino settled on an event that impacted nearly every American alive at the time --- The fall of the World Trade Center on 9/11. “It’s this generation’s Pearl Harbor,” DeMartino following a Saturday showing at Marquee Cinemas Pullman Square.

Emily Capehart as Jill
Emily Capehart as Jill
Simultaneously, 9/11 brought the country together. Patriotism and sacrificing yourself for a cause now recalled images of the burning Towers and Pentagon. Memories of the flag meant one stretched across a steel beam. Men and women enlisted in the Armed Forces to repulse those who dared attack America on its home soil.

Setting his film in the veterans home permitted him to depict how the sacrifice of veterans from World War I and World War II to Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iran , and Afghanistan passed from generation to generation preserving the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.

“It gives recognition to all generations,” DeMartino said.

As part of his story about ordinary people, he introduces his lead character Troy to veterans of most of the country’s conflicts --- including an older vet named Joe (Terry Kiser) challenging his apathetic perspective and Mitch (Michael Allen) , a vet of the War on Terror not too many years older than Troy.

DeMartino determined early that he did not want the film to have a “preachy” feel. Like our country, he tells the veterans stories, and it’s up to each individual viewer to contemplate their own response. Craftily, he smoothly buries (credit JW Myers, director) small mysteries which permit viewers to exit with additional questions on their mind than putting faces on former members of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the country once solidly supporting the military missions has fragmented along political, ideological, and moralistic roots. Where on September 12, 2001, no one questioned the official version of the terrorist attacks, 2011 has the nation jaded and shattered. Some support the overseas missions. Others ask whether we went to war for the wrong reason (oil, revenge, or to benefit defense contractors).

Screenwriter Ty DeMartino & Exec. Producer Kristin Selbert
Screenwriter Ty DeMartino & Exec. Producer Kristin Selbert
However, the screenwriter and co-producer does not flinch at what he called “conspiracy theories.”

“That’s one of the great things about America,” he said adding questioning and drawing your own conclusion is one of the rights for which veterans have sacrificed their lives. “I know my 9/11 explanation. It challenged me and changed [the characters] Troy, Jill ( Emily Capehart ) and Mitch.” He hopes the film provokes people to “ask questions, come to conclusions, begin an open dialogue, and respect [each other’s] views.”

A portion of “Doughboy” occurs on the campus of Wheeling Park High School, where Emily Capehart is a sophomore. Like many teenagers, when offered the role she knew very little about either patriotism or veterans. “Research opened my eyes,” Capehart explained Saturday night , August 20, at Marquee Pullman.

Despite having endured the loss of both parents, she plays a naturally upbeat red/white/blue star spangled optimist. Since her father died in the War on Terror, she entertains at the Veterans Home where she meets Troy. They eventually decide to produce a documentary of the stories of vets living there in an effort to raise money to keep the venue open.

“I wasn’t patriotic but the movie [making] changed me,” she said.

Lending her “happy all the time” personality to a story that like life has sadness and dysfunction, Capehart told me that her enthusiasm is not acting. “I’m really like Jill,” she said. “I really care.”

Asked about interaction with other students at Wheeling Park, she said the brief shoot at the school has left the students unchanged. “They need to watch the movie; they did not see the deep emotional scenes.”

Doughboy Cast at Pullman autograph party
Doughboy Cast at Pullman autograph party

Terry Kiser and Emily Capehart sit to watch the flick at Marquee Pullman Square
Terry Kiser and Emily Capehart sit to watch the flick at Marquee Pullman Square
While Emily , then in kindergarten, remembers little of September 11, 2001, her fellow cast member, Michael Allen is himself a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. For him, the words of 20something Mitch “jump off the page. They come out of me exactly how I feel.”

Ironically, Allen’s service in Afghanistan was as a combat cameraman for a Special Forces troop.

 “It was the best and worst time of my life,” Allen said. “I would not trade it for anything.”

Perhaps, the greatest acting transitions were those of Barrett Carnahan, who plays Troy. Steered to audition by the school janitor, Carnahan also worked as an extra in “Super 8” shot in Weirton. He describe the experience as “running from explosions and breaking glass” in your imagination.

Emily Capehart
Emily Capehart

 However, when Carnahan accepted the “Doughboy” lead, he had to gradually go from apathetic pacifist to sharing the deep empathy of Jill.

How did he do it? Knowing that the film would be shot out of sequence, the young actor assigned a happiness scale to Troy. A one was his most distant and apathetic; a ten represented the stubborn unwilling to give in to bitterness smiles of Jill.

VFW Members at Pullman
VFW Members at Pullman
Add the gift of Terry (“Weekend at Bernies”) Kiser and “Doughboy” did something that has not occurred since “We Are Marshall” unreeled , I had to wipe more than one tear from my eyes. I’m glad. Ty DeMartino told me 5ne viewer said, “If you don’t cry at this movie you don’t have a heart in your chest.”

Comments powered by Disqus