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Stand by Me

Release date: January 26, 2018
Directed by: Ben Lewin
Written by: Rich Wilkes, F. Scott Frazier
Produced by: Lara Alameddine, Daniel Dubiecki
Running time: 93 minutes

Wendy (Dakota Fanning), a fiercely independent and brilliant young woman with autism, deeply loves Star Trek, which she uses to filter and understand what she can’t make sense of herself. When she learns about a screenplay competition, Wendy completes a 500-page Star Trek script and becomes determined to enter, even if it means traveling hundreds of miles outside of her sheltered and protected life to submit in person, much to the concern of her big sister (Alice Eve) and therapist (Toni Collette), both of whom are impressed with Wendy’s determination and drive.

Cast & Characters

Dakota Fanning (Wendy), Toni Collette (Scottie), Alice Eve (Audrey), River Alexander (Sam), Marla Gibbs (Rose), Jessica Rothe (Julie), Michael Stahl-David (Jack), Patton Oswalt (Police Officer Frank)

Production Notes

Writer Michael Golamco’s inspiration for Please Stand By came from a NY Times article about young girls with autism attending a summer camp. One girl in particular said her hobby was writing fan fiction along the lines of Lord of the Rings. “That girl resonated with me. The article said girls with autism have problems connecting socially, but what sets them apart from boys is that girls really want to connect. The kernel of the Wendy character started to develop – the idea of a young girl who really wants to connect with the world but isn’t sure how, and the journey of her learning how.” Golamco began writing a 28-page one-act play. “My play had the basic characters of this film,” he explains. “It ends with Wendy going out, leaving the house with her script after a fight with her sister and dealing with Scottie. Wendy goes through the door at the end of the one act play and you never find out what happens to her. You just know she’s on a mission to deliver her script.” Michael produced the one act play and presented within a series of other one act plays in a little black box theater in L.A. People loved it. “After, people came out of the theater crying and emotional; wanting to know what happens to Wendy after she leaves,” he remembers. It got me thinking about telling that story. So I used classics like Wizard of Oz and Little Red Riding Hood as a template for a more modern fable.”

“We knew Toni would bring balance to the issues that plague her character’s world both at home and at work,” says Daniel Dubiecki. “Toni is smart, warm and has an edge and toughness to her that brings so many layers to her characters,” Lara Alameddine adds. “Scottie has to hold it all together despite some of those layers crumbling. She is a single mother of a teenage boy, and embodies strength and empathy while staying grounded and principled in her work and home life.” “Scottie is a bit robotic in her home life and finds it easy to lean into work because of the safety of it not being her actual family,” says Colette. “At home, her son Sam confronts her at every turn and makes her feel like a failure. She’s a problem solver; but she can’t solve Sam’s issues or make his fatherless life any better. At work, Scottie has made huge strides with Wendy. She sees how brilliant and special Wendy is and wants Wendy’s family to see that too. It is easier for Scottie to be open with people at work because there is an actual structure which allows closeness without much intimacy.” “Wendy escapes and when that happens, Sam and Scottie unite and go on a mission together for the first time in ages, she adds. “Through their journey to find Wendy, Sam and Scottie bond again. Sam’s young perspective on Wendy and her writing allows Scottie to understand her more and that is where her real insight comes. Scottie begins to admire her son for the first time in a long time and that opens things up for them, allowing them to truly see each other again.”

“Please Stand By” was quietly released on-demand and in a handful of theaters in January 2018. While it received favorable reviews, especially for Dakota Fanning’s performance, the film went largely unnoticed due to its lack of promotion.