Production Report: “All God’s Children”, “Independence”, “Little Fugitive”, “Oyster Farmer”, “White Paddy: A Love Story”
by Jason Guerrasio
[Editor’s note: indieWIRE’s monthly production report looks at independent films in various stages of production. If you’d like to tell us about a film in production for future columns, please contact us.]
“All God’s Children”
Though the constant barrage of news coverage about the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal has ended. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to report on the matter. Filmmakers Scott and Luci Westphal-Solary are currently shooting a revealing documentary that explores the abuse many children went through while on missionary trips run by The Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA).
Since the 1950s the C&MA have required missionary groups in West Africa to send their children to the Mamou Alliance Academy while they did their mission work in the field, sometimes being as far as 1,000 miles from the school. Unbeknownst to the parents their children were sexually, physically, and mentally abused by the Mamou staff. “All God’s Children” interviews three families whose parents attended Mamou and explores what they went though (from ages 6 thru 15) and how they’ve lived with it. “We’re surprised ‘Dateline’ or ’60 Minutes’ hasn’t done anything on this,” says Scott Westphal-Solary. “There hasn’t been a massive outcry about this like the Catholic Church [scandal].”
After receiving a grant from the Jerome Foundation and maxing out their credit cards, Scott (who quit his job as a graphic designer for a financial firm) and Luci have been traveling around the country with their Panasonic 24p camera interviewing their subjects. Currently finishing up the family interviews, the husband and wife team will try next to get interviews with the C&MA. They hope to be ready for post by mid-September when they will then solicit an editor and try to get into Sundance.
[Get updates on the doc’s progress at Scott’s blog: http://blogs.indiewire.com/swestphal-solary/.]
In dire need of money, Samantha decides to take a job selling fireworks out of a tent for ten days leading up to Independence Day. Naïve to what the job entails, she discovers she has to live out of the tent for the ten days with no basic necessities. As the days pass she finds help through the interesting characters that come to the tent, and even battles a tornado. By the end Samantha has a new outlook on life and her community.
Set in Cozad, Nebraska, the five-week shoot has just wrapped and is currently beginning post with hopes of a picture lock in October. Written and produced by its star, Margaret Norwood, the story is taken from her own experiences while attending college in Nebraska. After working on the script for three years, she passed it on to her good friend, director Terry Gsell. The native Nebraskan immediately responded to the material and offered to direct. Norwood had no qualms with him taking the helm. “I think to do the lead and be the writer and to direct would have been a little much for me to handle,” she says. “And I felt comfortable with him because we’ve worked together before.”
Produced through Norwood’s company, Baby Lion Productions, LLC, with Greg Owen-Boger for $80,000 (some of the money was raised from selling fireworks) the film was shot on DV by Luke Eder. But Norwood is greatly appreciative to the Cozad fire department that came to the set on four separate occasions to create the storm simulation– though she would have rather not been in the middle of it. “I was soaking wet for those days but apparently the lightning looked great.”
[Learn more about the project at: http://www.independencethemovie.com.]
A remake of Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, and Ray Ashley‘s 1953 classic, Joanna Lipper puts a modern twist on the story of a young boy who runs away to Coney Island after he thinks he killed his older brother.
Known for her documentaries about children (“Inside Out: Portraits of Children” and “Growing Up Fast” which also spawned a book of the same title), Lipper became interested in doing the remake while screening her work at the MoMA New Documentaries series a few years ago. “A couple of people came up to me and said the ‘Little Fugitive‘ remake rights were available,” she says. “I approached Morris Engel and his daughter Mary and they agreed after seeing my movies to give me the option on the rights.” (Mary Engel is on as a co-producer. Morris is a consultant).
Lipper, who along with directing is the screenwriter and one of the producers, explains that her film uses the “core concept of the original,” but does stand on it’s own. “The original movie is such a perfect gem you could never duplicate that,” she says. Lipper point out one major difference is that the parents (played by Peter Dinklage and Justina Machado) play a larger role.
Shot on HD by Rick Sands, principal photography wrapped in Brooklyn over Labor Day weekend and the crew is gearing up for a 12-week post, Keith Reamer is the editor, Frederick Zollo (“Mississippi Burning“) his partner Nick Paleologos, and Vice Maggio are the producers. Newcomers David Castro (7-years-old) and Nicholas Salgado (12) play the brothers, with Brendan Sexton (“Session 9,” “Boys Don’t Cry“), Lois Smith (“Fried Green Tomatoes“), model Sophie Dahl, and Raquel Castro (“Jersey Girl“) rounding out the cast.
[Learn more about the project at: http://www.littlefugitive.com.]
Set in Australia’s Hawkesbury River in New South Wales, “Oyster Farmer” follows an inept thief who leaves Sydney after pulling a job and shacks up with oyster farmers in an isolated river community while he waits for his share of the score. He soon grows fond of the town, and one of the local girls, evaporating his low profile and becoming a major fixture in the community.
The film was written and directed be first-timer Anna Reeves who was inspired to write the screenplay three years ago after moving from Australia to London, recalling memories of the Hawkesbury River. With help from the Australian Film Finance Corporation, which came on as a main investor, Reeves was able to make her film in the town where the story was inspired. But that didn’t mean it would be easy. The 33-day shoot was plagued with the constant rising tide. “75 percent of the locations were inaccessible by road so we had to travel upriver every morning through thick mist with the cast and crew praying we wouldn’t get lost,” says Reeves via e-mail from London. But the tide wasn’t their only obstacle. Reeves recalls one of the most stressful scenes was trying to shoot on a train headed for Sydney. “Sydney Rail wouldn’t allow us to travel because of overcrowding so we had to shoot, then leap off the train, run across the tracks, get into a boat and race the train to the next station for another take. We only had one morning to do this.”
Currently finishing post, the film will have its world premiere in the Discovery section of the Toronto International Film Festival, where Reeves hopes to sell the North American rights. Dendy Films has bought the Australian rights to the film and plans to release it early next year.
Budgeted at under $7 million Australian (under $5 million US), the film stars Alex O’Lachlan, Jim Norton (“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets“), Jack Thompson, and Kerry Armstrong (“Lantana“). Shot on 35mm by Alun Bollinger (“Heavenly Creatures“), it’s produced by Anthony Buckley (Australia) and Piers Tempest (UK).
[Learn more at the Australian Film Finance Corporation’s website: http://www.ffc.gov.au.]
“White Paddy: A Love Story”
The second feature from writer/director Geretta Geretta (“Sweetiecakes“),”White Paddy: A Love Story” follows Karen as she reluctantly returns home to find a shocking change: the old neighborhood has become predominantly black. While trying to fit in with her new neighbors she also struggles to keep her dysfunctional family in check. Set in Geretta’s hometown of Portland, OR in the early 1970s, the story is loosely based on her own turbulent childhood. “I left Portland running and vowed that I never would come back,” says Geretta. “[But] the story was nagging me so deeply. It didn’t go any further until I came back here.”
After starring in numerous low budget films in Europe (“Mystery Science Theater 3000” fans may remember her role as Amazon in “Warrior of the Lost World“), Geretta decided to go write and direct because, as she says, “the parts were so badly written I thought I could write better than this.” She enrolled in the American Film Institute Master’s Program in Screenwriting and since has learned the trade from taking jobs in the US and overseas. For Geretta, this project completes the long circle she’s taken in her life and career to get back home. “It has to do with growing up enough emotionally, personally and also creatively to return to your roots.”
Currently in pre-production with hopes to begin shooting October 1, “White Paddy” is financed through Big Six Film Switzerland; the same company that financed “Sweetiecakes.” Currently seeking a cinematographer, the film will be shot on Super 16mm, and edited by Eva Contis. The film stars Tatum O’Neal as Karen, Lisa Bonet (“High Fidelity,” “The Cosby Show“), Debra Wilson (“Mad TV“), Michael Jace (“The Shield“), and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
[Learn more about the project at: http://www.whitepaddy.com.]