The Spy Who Knew Me

After months of planning, today our ensemble officially starts production on our second feature film: The Spy Who Knew Me!

A riff on the classic spy-adventure genre epitomized by James Bond, THE SPY WHO KNEW ME will give our ensemble of 20 young adult actors with Down syndrome the chance to play with some unique characters in an action-packed story, while collaborating with a professional film crew and teaching artists at some exciting locations around Chicago. 

What is it that makes us who we are? That intangible something that makes us unique? Is it our name? Our face? Our job? But if your job revolves around secrets, lies, and pretending to be someone you are not, where does the story end and the real you begin?

The plot follows super spy Tabitha Link and the ladies of the all-female agency U.N.I.T.E. (Underground National Intelligence Taskforce Enterprise). Following an anonymous tip, Tabitha winds up at the scene of a jewelry heist where she sees a familiar face from her past. She and her fellow spies must race to find the connections between a series of thefts, a top-secret military experiment, and several missing operatives before they lose themselves completely to the evil organization E.C.H.O.  

A.B.L.E. co-founder and teaching artist Lawrence Kern, crafted the screenplay for THE SPY WHO KNEW ME with each actor’s individual strengths and personality in mind. Kern, who will also direct the film, incorporated monologues the cast wrote themselves for 2015's production What You Will about who they are, what they love, and what they can do. The story celebrates differences and stresses the importance of holding on to what makes us unique. “People are more than one thing,” Tabitha reminds us. “A world where everyone’s the same isn’t worth living in.” 

We have a jam-packed schedule for the next two weeks. Several local businesses and organizations have agreed to host our cast for filming and become a part of the unique story we're creating. Scroll through the gallery to learn more. 

A typical shoot will last around 3-4 hours, and some days we'll visit more than one location. As with all films, we'll be filming our of sequence and with different groups of actors each day, but our entire ensemble will get to be together for at least a few key moments during filming: on August 1st, our entire team will meet for a pre-production rehearsal to get to know characters, try on costumes, learn about basic film set etiquette, and practice some of the larger scenes. On August 3rd, the company will present a reading of the screenplay for family, friends, and our Hatchfund donors. And on August 11, everyone will join together to film the big finale at Firehouse Studios. Along the way, actors will build confidence while developing skills like speech and communication, focus, creativity, and teamwork! 

Funding for the film was made possible through a campaign on crowd-funding platform, Hatchfund. Donations ranged from $10 to $2000, and 142 individual donors contributed a total of over $22,000 in exchange for exclusive project “perks” including autographed scripts, film props, and invitations to an exclusive staged reading of the screenplay with the cast and crew.

The finished film will be about 60 minutes long and will be shared at schools and community centers around Chicago, and on the local and international film festival circuit to help raise awareness and show what individuals with Down syndrome can do when they are given equal access to creative opportunities.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for daily updates and livestreams from the set, and check our blog the next few weeks to meet our production crew, see production logs, and more!