Dallas Filmmaker Chris Dowling on Accidentally Writing a Movie About Down Syndrome

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

When Chris Dowling began writing his film Produce, he didn't know he was writing a film about down syndrome.

"I wanted to write a story about faith," he says. "And then as I was working on the film's narrative, I realized there had to be a character with this childlike faith and so I ended up writing a young man with down syndrome."

When I speak with Dowling, the Dallas native is rushing to get through the final stages of production on his second full-length film, which premieres at the Dallas International Film Festival at 5:45 p.m. Sunday, April 6 with a repeat screening Monday, April 7 at 1 p.m.

The movie follows Calvin, a professional baseball player forced into an early retirement in Kentucky, where he struggles to raise a teenage daughter. Like most films about washed-up sports players, Calvin hits rock bottom, which is when he meets a kid with Down syndrome nicknamed Produce, because he works at the local grocery store. The rest of the film, predictably, is about Calvin's redemption. What's not predictable about this film is that in role of Produce, Dowling chose to cast an actor with Down syndrome.

"Usually filmmakers cast someone to play Down syndrome, but as I began to research the disability, I didn't want to do the story an injustice. I didn't want it to feel contrived," Dowling says. "It might be the most lines an actor with Down syndrome has ever had in a film, but the only limitation that people with Down syndrome have are the ones we put on them."

David DeSanctis, the 21-year-old man who plays Produce in the film, had never acted before being cast in this film. Dowling discovered DeSanctis with the help of Down Syndrome of Louisville, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides support to the local community where they shot the film.

"As the cast and crew got to know David, we learned he's probably happier than 80% of my friends," Dowling says. "Finding that joy and embracing it was part of the film. He's the conduit for change in the film and I hope people leave asking, who am I simply passing by or ignoring in my daily life?"

For Dowling the biggest surprise of working on the film he wrote was discovering truths about how he treats people everyday.

"It's a microcosm of the sad fact that we do overlook and feel sorry for people with down syndrome," he says. "We apologize to the parents. I'll never do that again."

See Produce at the Angelika Film Center as part of the Dallas International Film Festival, 5:45 p.m. Sunday, April 6 or Monday, April 7 at 1 p.m. More information and tickets available at dallasfilm.org.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.