'Escape' director to see project through locals' eyes

SHOWTIME/IMAGEA promotional image invites audience members to RSVP for an advance screening of the Showtime series “Escape at Dannemora” at the Cumberland 12 Cinemas in Plattsburgh on Nov. 15.

PLATTSBURGH — Director Ben Stiller will introduce the advance screening of the first episode of “Escape at Dannemora” coming to Cumberland 12 Cinemas in just a few weeks.

The big event is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, with free admission to the community.

But seating is limited and on that night will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, Showtime said in a press release, so those seeking to attend should RSVP as soon as possible.

“The theater is overbooked to ensure a full house,” the announcement of the screening says, “therefore a pass is not a guarantee of a seat.”

‘CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH’

Stiller is looking forward to sharing his project with the people most closely connected with it.

Executive producer of the project, he directed it in its entirety.

Locals know the story well — cop killer David Sweat and murderer Richard Matt used prison tailor shop supervisor Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell to aid them in preparing their 2015 escape from the maximum security prison, persuading her to provide them with hacksaw blades and other contraband that allowed them to cut holes in the backs of their cells, climb down into the bowels of the facility and make their way to freedom through a manhole in Bouck Street in the Village of Dannemora.

While Mitchell got cold feet and failed to show as their getaway driver, the pair managed, on foot, to lead hundreds of law-enforcement officers through wild country for about three weeks before Matt was shot and killed and Sweat shot and captured in Franklin County.

“Dannemora, Malone and Plattsburgh are an integral part of the story,” Stiller said in a statement to the Press-Republican on Friday.

“Filming up here and connecting with the people who lived this was my favorite part of the process. They all contributed so much.

“It only felt right to be able to share the experience of watching it with the community. I’m excited to be coming back and seeing everyone.”

WORLD PREMIERE

The world premiere of “Escape” was Oct. 15 at the MIPCOM film festival in Cannes; Stiller did a Q&A there afterwards.

Geared toward the media industry, the festival draws major television studios who buy and sell new programs for international distribution.

In Cannes, Stiller said he “sought to evoke the gritty tension of some of his favorite 1970s crime dramas, a la ‘Dog Day Afternoon,’ ‘The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” and ‘Straight Time,’” an article in Variety said.

“I was taken by the combination of elements in it,” the director told Variety. “It wasn’t just a genre piece. It was about human relationships.

“For me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

“Escape at Dannemora” stars Oscar winner Patricia Arquette as Mitchell, Golden Globe recipient Paul Dano as Sweat and Oscar winner Benicio del Toro as Matt.

Many locals won bit parts in the production at a casting call at the Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh that drew such a huge crowd that would-be extras waited in line for hours to get their chance.

James Meagher was among those to pass muster; he commented on the Variety story about his experience.

“From an old New York state prison guard’s perspective. Retired. And having the honor to be background in the movie,” he wrote. “This is going to be the best TV series ever. It will definitely grab the audience.”

LEVEL OF DETAIL

Press-Republican staff writer Robin Caudell played a journalist in an episode, part of the throng packing the small Village of Dannemora to cover the story as it went viral.

“There was a level of detail that impressed me,” said the reporter, who was among P-R staffers and editors who wrote about the actual breakout and manhunt from start to finish.

Numerous extras were retired law enforcement, she said, which “added authenticity” to the filming.

Stiller needed more actors to play journalists, so Caudell brought him a couple of real ones: former P-R reporters Felicia Krieg and Dee Brown.

Krieg was the first reporter on the ground in Dannemora after the escape.

“It was great to be onset with them,” Caudell said, adding with a laugh, “And the food was fabulous.”

It was a fun experience, she said.

“After we wrapped each day, Ben Stiller would come over and thank us for our work.”

Caudell is looking forward to the screening at Cumberland 12.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how they pieced it all together and what ended up on the cutting room floor.”

STRANGER THAN FICTION

The first episode of “Escape from Dannemora” will air on Showtime at 10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18.

“This limited series is based on the stranger-than-fiction account of a prison break in upstate New York in the summer of 2015 that spawned a massive manhunt for two convicted murderers,” the description reads on the Showtime website.

“The prisoners were aided in their escape by a married female prison employee with whom they both became sexually entangled.”

Showtime is a commercial-free premium cable and satellite television network that is available by subscription — it can be streamed on live TV, watched on demand and downloaded to mobile devices to watch offline.

Email Suzanne Moore:

smoore@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @editorSuzanne

SCREENING DETAILS

To reserve a pass for episode 1 of “Escape” at Cumberland 12 on Thursday, Nov. 15, email: EscapeScreening@DammingerProductions.com

See the Showtime trailer for the limited series:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8Mi9CnEeXI

Read the story in Variety about the premiere of “Escape” in France:

https://tinyurl.com/ycu9x6fj

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