LINCOLN -- As always, Ron Truppa came home from Los Angeles a few days before Christmas to spend the holidays with his parents, Ron Sr. and Lori, and other family members.
This time, though, the 36-year-old Lincoln native and Hollywood film writer, producer and director returned to his old Bridle Drive abode with some thrilling news.
Truppa, with plenty of help from his mom, virtually has finalized the screenplay involving fellow Lincolnite Keith Smith's book “Men In My Town,” one the author calls a “novel inspired by actual events.” It details the abduction, beating and rape of Smith when he was 14, and the fact his attacker was later murdered on a Providence street.
That case remains mysteriously (or is it?) unsolved.
Truppa noted that when he booked his flight, he did so with a five-hour layover in Newark, N.J. so he could meet with Smith. He wanted to tell him his book will, in fact, be made into a movie, with filming to occur right here in the Blackstone Valley.
“We went to dinner and discussed the screenplay,” Truppa explained as he relaxed at a living room table as his four-year-old nephew Nico played nearby. “The weird thing is we'd e-mail and talk on the phone all the time, but we hadn't seen each other in about two years. I wanted to explain to him that we finished the script and give him other details.
“I also mentioned some cast lists we had assembled, and he told me he thinks Kevin Spacey looks like his dad, Buddy,” he added with a chuckle. “I needed to know who looked like what actors; I hadn't seen photos of his family members, so he showed them to me. He said his mom looks like Doris Roberts (of “Everybody Loves Raymond” sitcom fame).
“I do know what his attacker looked like, and it's sort of a James Franco type, not as pretty, but more common, more worn, more street-wise … I explained with the economy of Hollywood being what it is, the next step for all this is we'd begin production sometime in the winter of 2013.
“Keith is so excited! He wants to get his message out about child abuse and his '5 Steps You Can Take To Keep Kids Safe.' He was on Anderson Cooper's talk show a few weeks ago to discuss the Jerry Sandusky allegations (at Penn State University). He told me he'd been on the steps of the New Jersey state house on Dec. 10 to push for the bill to get rid of the statute of limitations on child abuse cases.
“He also mentioned other state officials have contacted him; they want to pass similar legislation in their states. Honestly, this story has become so much more relevant than it was even a couple of months ago.”
Truppa revealed last summer he had happened upon Smith's book in November 2009. Because he couldn't attend his 15th-year Lincoln High reunion, he signed on to Facebook and discovered the author's story.
He immediately called Smith, identified himself as another Lincoln native who worked in Hollywood and wanted to develop it into a screenplay. He also told him he hadn't read the book, so Smith sent him one – autographed and with the message, “From one Lincoln guy to another, these are the men in our town.”
Truppa said the note gave him chills. When he read the book, he indicated he could picture himself riding his bike down the same streets Smith had depicted.
The owner of TRUPPA Entertainment – a company based in Sherman Oaks, Calif. that produces films, television pitches, scripts, commercials and public service announcements – admitted he often got goosebumps as he and “Ma Truppa” wrote the script.
It took them about 18 months, and they edited and re-edited, from a distance, at least 15 times.
“There's corruption on both sides – the vigilantism of the person or persons who killed Keith's assailant, and those who covered it up or turned the other cheek,” he stated. “We adopted the screenplay from the book, but we learned so much more about Keith's childhood when we interviewed his brother Brian; his best friend, Kevin McGee; and others. Excepting his parents and Brian, nobody knew what had happened to him.
“Initially, our process was conducting interviews and research for the script; just like the book, it's very accurate, but with the screenplay, we needed more locations to develop the characters. That is, the kids – Keith and his friends or classmates running into the men in their town at various sites, such as Hartley's Pork Pies, Stanley's Hamburgers in Central Falls, the old Fairlawn Cinema, Edward's Ice Cream, the Lime Rock Quarry, even the silos on Great Road.”
Stated Lori: “Interestingly enough, I grew up in Providence over by Smithfield Avenue, and I used to go to Ed's Ice Cream and the cinema. Keith knew those places, but I could remember them more clearly because I'm a little older.
“All I did was drive up and down those streets, and I was able to picture them in 1974, when it happened to him,” she continued. “Even though there's somewhat of an age difference, my friends and his friends hung out at a lot of the same places.”
Both mother and son indicated the opening of the movie will move the same way as Smith's first chapter.
“It was so riveting!” Truppa offered. “You don't mess with something that's not broken. All we had to do was take the beginning and make it visible and audible for those in the audience. You have to tell a story in arcs; simply put, that means a beginning, a middle and an end, and that can be difficult with a book.
“We start it with the book's opening, and then we meet seven-year-old Keith on the day of his First Communion. We had to establish who his friends were and introduce the characters, which in essence is the town.
“He loves it more and more every time, but he does get emotional about it; still, it's in a happy way. It's hard for Keith to read the tough parts, though he says he gets more into it every time he reads it. He told me he thought he'd like it less each time because of the memories it brought back, but he still loves the changes.”
TRUPPA INTERESTED IN DEVELOPING STATION FIRE DOCUMENTARY
Ron Truppa Jr. has expressed interest in developing a documentary about the the Station nightclub fire, the tragedy that ended with the loss of 100 lives and injuries to over 230 during a “Great White” concert the night of Feb. 20, 2003.
“We're coming up on the 10th anniversary of that tragic event, so I'd like to begin shooting it later in 2012,” Truppa said. “I'd like to do this because I think it's extremely important for a fellow Rhode Islander to tell the story. I also think it's important because I was living in California when it happened, and the big problem with it nationally is that people view it as only a number.”
“The thing is, they don't know the people who perished, or the firefighters who tried to save them, or the parents, spouses and children who lost loved ones,” he continued. “People nationally don't know about those who perished, their personalities, what they did for work, who they really were. They just know they burned as a result of the fire, the fourth worst nightclub fire in United States history.
“I know this would be a very tough assignment; that's why I want to do it. I want to honor and memorialize them with a documentary. It's critical that these people's voices be heard, their stories known and shared.”
Truppa wants all proceeds from the documentary to go to The Station Memorial Foundation, which was formed in June 2003 with the purpose of purchasing the property, and the building, and maintaining of a memorial.