Keegan the Alien tells the story of a 15-year-old boy with autism whose father just passed. In the midst of processing his father’s death, Keegan finds his dad’s half-built teleportation device. The boy starts to believe that his father went to space when he died and wants Keegan to finish the device and meet him there.
“One thing I would love to come out of this film is to raise awareness for autism,” said Rachel David, junior BFA film major and director of Keegan the Alien. “I want people to understand that those with autism are real people and deal with the same struggles we do. Keegan is dealing with a lot of real life stuff, he just happens to also be autistic.”
David said the casting procedure is important in the process of making a film, and emphasized the variety of steps and technical work involved.
“You don’t realize how many things you have to take into consideration when it comes to casting because there are so many extra steps that need to be taken with someone who is a minor, or people who are portraying a disorder that they’re not used to,” David said. “Finding male actors is much harder than you think it would be, especially male actors who are under the age of 18.”
Local 16-year-old Luke Darga is playing the role of Keegan in the film. He has researched and worked delicately to correctly portray a young boy with autism. To prepare for the role, Darga watched movies such as Rain Man and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and has been working closely alongside the director.
“One of my major concerns when I was preparing for the character was to make it realistic, but not offensive,” Darga said. “It’s really been an interesting experience because before I didn’t really know a whole lot about how people with autism acted, or what the symptoms were, and now I do.”
Leslie Darga, Luke’s mother, said she has enjoyed being part of the process of Keegan the Alien, as well as being able to assist Luke in developing his character.
“I have a special education background; I’m a speech pathologist by my schooling,” Leslie Darga said. “I worked in special education departments, so this is interesting to lend him some of my knowledge, to help him navigate and become a person that he doesn’t quite understand the ins and outs of.”
The student-led film is currently in production, and the team is working with a budget of $5,050. Each student in the film class was required to pay $250 at the start of the production, and APU matched their price––thus giving them their full movie budget.
In regards to budgeting, senior film major and Keegan the Alien co-producer Cassondra Barnes said there is an element of complexity.
“I’m handling a lot of other people’s money, and money that the university has entrusted me with,” Barnes said. “I want to make the best film possible, so trying to figure out how to place that money and trying to figure out who I have to say no to is hard. If we run out of money, we’re out of money.”
There are 10 students in the core crew, all of whom were hand picked by David. As co-producer, Barnes has a variety of responsibilities, including scheduling, budgeting and paperwork prior to production. On set, she ensures everything runs smoothly and assists her co-producer.
“We have all gotten so close, especially since we’re working together all the time,” Barnes said.
The film is shot exclusively on the weekends, and two of three regular filming weekends have been shot thus far. After, there will be a break and a pick up weekend that will include re-filming any mistakes that were made during the core production process.
Keegan the Alien is set to have a casual viewing in December, while the central premiere will be in April 2017 in Beverly Hills. Tickets will be available for the premiere next semester.
To see updates and behind the scenes on Keegan the Alien, follow @keeganthealien on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.