THE REAL STORY
When Duke was about 2 years old, his mother, Dawn Goldstein-Robidoux, started noticing he wasn't looking into her eyes anymore. “He stopped talking and looking at us, and he could not be in his highchair without having tantrums. The worst was he stopped interacting with his siblings.” After seeing two different doctors, Duke was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, giving the family answers for his nonverbal behavior. A series of therapy sessions changes everything. After 17 years with little to no communication, Duke started to type, and it changed everybody's lives. His family began to learn simple things like his favorite color (red), and his family and friends finally realized that Duke was always there, and he has LOTS to say.
AN IMPORTANT TEXT MESSAGE
In 2016, Dru Miller (producer/writer) received a text message from one of her best friends Debbie Cipolla (Duke's aunt). Duke was introducing himself to the world.
MAKING IT INTO A SHORT FILM
Partners in other projects, Dru sent the text message to Thiago Dadalt (writer/director). She voiced her thoughts about wanting to make a short film about it. Thiago fell in love with Duke's story. In his effort to bring as real a story as possible to the screen, he spent over a year observing Duke and his family. He learned about their family dynamics and routines, as well as Duke’s school and gym activities. While based on Duke’s real family, Thiago and Dru decided that in order for all aspects to be condensed for a short film, the family in the film would be fictional. This would help to tell the story over a shorter period of time.
With most of the crew hired, Thiago began the casting process. Piercey Dalton had previously worked with Thiago in "Chocolate", so they excitedly decided to jump into this new journey together. In his quest to find the perfect "Duke", Thiago received over 500 applications, and held over 100 auditions. Robert Solomon, who currently lives in Atlanta, was chosen and flew to Los Angeles to start the three-wek rehearsal process. With the help of acting coach Kirk Baltz (Dances with Wolves (1990), Natural Born Killers (1994) and Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs), the actors built a true family dynamic, and Duke's story began to take shape on screen.
After months writing and planning, the Duke team was ready to shoot. The film was shot in several locations in the San Fernando Valley and Malibu, CA, throughout the winter in 2017.
THE FEATURE FILM VERSION
Duke’s story is way bigger than what is shown in the short film, and the producers cannot wait to expand on a feature length film. The writers will begin the screenplay soon, and they hope to bring more awareness to this important story that not only will touch many lives, but educate so many people around the world.