It’s amazing the difference a decade can make, especially when it comes to people and technology. In 2003, Facebook, the publically-traded social network, was still in its Internet infancy. While Mark Zuckerberg defined what his website was going to be, an English schoolboy was using the Internet to plot his own murder, enlisting one of his friends to help.
This unusual story, reported in detail by Vanity Fair’s Judy Bachrach, forms the basis of “uwantme2killhim?” a new drama based on the decidedly unusual case. When reached by phone for an interview, director Andrew Douglas pointed out the parallels between this incident and more recent events.
“It’s funny because it was echoed last year here in America with Manti Te’o. It’s a whole new world out there; it certainly is,” Douglas explained.
Much of “uwantme2killhim?” takes place in Internet chat rooms, ones that look quite primitive by 2014 standards. The director points out that there’s still an allure to a darkened room: “There’s some kind of allure to that anonymity; I don’t think that’s really gone away. The downside of that is any old pedo can walk into that darkened room and pretend to be something else.”
Investigators gathered evidence in the case, including transcripts of the chats between the two boys.
“One of the things I was thinking about with the film was the sheer volume of chat room transcripts between these two boys. If I could go back and do it again, I would try to get that kind of addictive quality more. Just looking at the transcripts–the length of time–they would talk all night,” Douglas said.
Like the image of a young girl talking non-stop on a telephone in the movies or on TV, Douglas points out the equally strong impulses of people who spend countless hours on the Internet. The online world also represents a different “location” for many people.
“Everything’s different and all the cultural mores are different,” he explained. “In many ways, the Internet is this place, it’s this place where we don’t know the rules yet, the geography of it yet. For me, it was kind of an interesting place to put a drama.”
Recreating the online dialogue between the two young men posed something of a challenge.
“Any financier was so nervous about making this: “Oh is it just going to be computer screens?” he said. “I tried to find a solution to that and tried to make the scenes more interactive, hence the talking for better or worse. You can chat to yourself when you type; that was the sentiment there.”
Another challenge was reminding the audience that this story actually happened in real life.
“I almost wanted to repeat the ‘Based on a true story’ line four times through the movie. One of the things that attracted me to the material in the first place was the sheer challenge of that. To some extent, these were ordinary boys. They’re not thugs, they are not kind of weirdoes. They are not Goths, they are not trolls. They were at a regular school in Manchester,” Douglas offered.