Dan Carracino and Kevin Hanlon were friends who for years played with the idea of making a movie. But when they finally followed through, the result was far from a playful screenplay. Instead, they spent eight years creating Bill W., a documentary about the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous and author of the program's famous 12 steps, Bill Wilson. The pair spoke with New Times about their first feature.
New Times: This is your first film. Why choose this subject matter?
Hanlon: Eight years ago, Dan got really serious about [making a film]. And at the time, I was reading Not God, a fascinating story about the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. I told Dan if I was going to make this commitment, I wanted it to be about that.
The director and co-writer of Bill W. talk about their first film and AA
Featuring Blake J. Evans, Chris Gates, Dennis Lowell, Julia Schell, Tim Intravia, Leila Babson, Lenore Pershing, Max Owens, Ron Nagle, and Laura Kauffmann. Directed by Dan Carracino. Written by Patrick Gambuti Jr. and Kevin Hanlon. 104 minutes. Not rated. Thursday, July 5, through Sunday, July 8, at O Cinema, 90 NW 29th St., Miami; 305-571-9970; o-cinema.org.
Read a review of Bill W..
Carracino: Also, before we really looked into it, I wasn't aware Bill Wilson died in 1971, 40 years prior to when we were starting. That information made us realize the window on people who knew Bill was closing and how important it was to record their stories before it was too late.
Was it a difficult decision to include the details of Bill's alcoholism in the film?
Hanlon: Dan and I both feel very strongly that Bill Wilson was one of the most important people of the 20th Century despite being not widely known. We wanted to be honest about the person he was. Actually... we don't agree that the "negatives" are necessarily negatives. They are just parts of the truth about a hero.
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For a film about anonymity, you sure got a lot of people to talk to you on camera. How did you do that?
Hanlon: The first thing we tried to do was find people still alive who knew Bill Wilson. When we did find people, it took awhile to gain their trust. But eventually they realized we respected the traditions of AA and opened up to us. Then, by word of mouth, we'd meet more and more people who'd ask us: "Have you talked to so-and-so? They'd be perfect for this."
Can we expect to see any more films from you?
Hanlon: Hopefully we don't follow the Harper Lee model. Although, if [Bill W.] can go out as the To Kill a Mockingbird of documentaries, I'd be pretty OK with that.