Slidell resident Travis McCoy has combined his childhood memories of growing up around Lake Pontchartrain with his experiences as a father in a feature film that just had its international release.
"Dolphin Kick" set in the Bahamas, tells the tale of a young boy, Luke Mahoney, who bonds with a playful dolphin that has lost its way home. Through their friendship and adventures, Luke finds the courage to swim again after the sudden loss of his mother.
McCoy plays the father, and his son Axle plays Luke. In real life, Axle is a competitive swimmer with the Slidell swim team, the Hurricanes, which appears in the film along with longtime swim coach Chris Prator. Many Slidell residents appear as extras, as well.
But most of the action is set far away in the clear blue waters of an island in the Bahamas.
McCoy said "Dolphin Kick" was filmed “in one of the few places in the world where trained dolphins hang out” without being held in captivity. They are free to come and go, and three different dolphins wanted to play Echo. They spent about 35 hours filming with the dolphins, not without some production challenges.
“After about 45 minutes, they get bored and just leave,” McCoy said. “One time they left when a shark came around.”
The filming began two years ago and came to a halt when hurricanes hit the island location. Final shots had to be filmed at locales around Slidell. They show shrimp boats on the lake, scenes near Crawford’s Landing and docks along the bayous in Slidell that stand in for the tropical island.
McCoy co-wrote the story with Jordan Pedreira, a firefighter from Slidell. Both are alums of Northshore High School, and both studied mixed martial arts with Rich Clementi, who provided them with an entry into the world of filmmaking.
“Rich got us parts as stunt men” in several films, McCoy said. But it wasn’t long before McCoy, an international medical device representative, wanted to be on the business side of the camera.
He saw a need for more family-friendly films and began to look at some scripts. But what he saw lacked real drama and conflict, he said.
He remembers the “childhood emotions of avoiding crab trappers on the lake who did not like people messing with their livelihood.” He drew on that experience in "Dolphin Kick" as the boy's adventure is set amid a conflict between the playful dolphin and the local lobster trappers.
The boy's family teams up with a local group of marine conservationists from Taino Island to bring Echo back to his pod, but not before a confrontation takes place.
McCoy wanted his family involved in the film’s production. While he and Axle acted in the film, his older son Diesel took all the drone footage used in it and helped with the clapper and boom mics. His wife, Stacy, helped with sets, make up and continuity, making sure that what they used and wore in scenes matched throughout the production.
He produced the film with Texan Derek Nixon, whose daughter Tyler Nixon plays Luke’s sister.
McCoy is proud that the film earned a G rating and was reviewed by the Dove Foundation, which called it “great family entertainment.”
For his next film, McCoy plans to draw once again on his childhood memories, but the production will always be about family.
He saw the value of having his own children “learn the business side of production, about watching the budget and following through on what you tell people you’ll do.”
“Moving forward, this will have to be about family. If I lose vision of that, we’re done.”
"Dolphin Kick" was released Jan. 22 and is available from Epic Film on demand on iTunes, Vudu, Amazon instant video or on DVD at epic-pictures.com/film/dolphin-kick. For more information, visit Real McCoy Media at www.facebook.com/realmccoymovies.