By Cassidy Swanson/Independent Staff Writer
NORTH KINGSTOWN — For former Wickford residents and co-founders of Zygote Digital Films Chris Simmons and Dorria Marsh, their latest project, a World War II documentary, has a personal connection.
The film has brought the husband-and-wife team, who now live in Cape Cod, Mass., back to the area they once called home. On Saturday, a scene from the movie was being shot at the Seabee Museum & Memorial Park in Davisville, amid the chaos of the R.I. National Guard Air Show.
The film, an adaptation of South Kingstown resident Vic Del Regno’s book “Who Knew: A World War II Journey Through Love Letters,” is about a compilation of love letters written between Del Regno’s father and mother while his father, a former Navy Seabee, was stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. Del Regno is executive producer of the documentary.
Simmons and Marsh are bringing Del Regno’s letters to life through narrators reading excerpts from the letters over scenes enacting World War II, much like PBS’s “The Civil War,” according to Marsh. One such scene was shot Saturday.
The scene shot at the museum depicted Borges writing letters to his wife. The scene also will show soldiers playing cards, talking and finding other ways to pass the time while stationed in the Solomon Islands. Prop master Russ Erwin, who also served as an actor, provided authentic props for the set, while museum consultant Jack Sprengel provided tents. All actors wore authentic Seabee uniforms and gear.
Del Regno’s father, Andrew Del Regno, is portrayed by actor Michael Borges. The rest of the actors were not professionals – rather, just members of the crew who wanted to help out. Gaffer Gabriel Munitz-Alessio, for example, “had the right look” for a young soldier, Simmons said, and became part of the cast.
Del Regno, Simmons and Marsh are committed to making the documentary as authentic as possible. Del Regno and Simmons traveled to the island of Banika, where Del Regno’s father was stationed, to “walk where he had walked,” and get a real feel for what life was like for men stationed in the South Pacific during the war. Even the loud noise from the Air Show added to the authentic feel of the shoot, according to Marsh and Simmons.
The decision to make the documentary “came out of a labor of love and the passion Vic has for this story,” Simmons said, noting that the theme remains “such a universal story” with the number of U.S. troops currently stationed in the Middle East. Simmons said that Del Regno became emotional at times due to the “realism” of the shoot.
Ultimately, Simmons and Marsh would like to have the documentary air on PBS, the History Channel or a similar network. They are also open to the idea of submitting it to film festivals.
Simmons and Marsh hope to appeal to a female audience with their documentary, emphasizing the overarching theme that the documentary is a love story. They also think it will be well received by people who lived through World War II and relatives of men who served during the war.
Through the documentary, Simmons and Marsh hope to capture the love between Del Regno’s parents, Del Regno’s passion for the story, and the “passion to know his father better,” Simmons said.