Production Report: “Every Word is True,” “Our Very Own,” “Out of the Broom Closet,” “Serial,” “Where Love Reigns”
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.]
“Every Word Is True”
After reading a New York Times story about the murder of an entire family in Kansas, Truman Capote, then known as the toast of Manhattan socialites, traveled to the backwoods of Kansas with childhood friend and fellow author, Harper Lee (“To Kill A Mockingbird”), to learn about the then unsolved murders. His findings would lead to one of his most famous books, “In Cold Blood.”
Though many of Capote’s works have been made into films (including “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood”), very little has been done on the author himself. In this biopic, writer/director Douglas McGrath (“Nicholas Nickleby”) takes a look behind what Capote (Toby Jones) found to write “In Cold Blood,” later falling in love with one of the killers, Perry Smith (Daniel Craig). [Incidentally another film on the same subject is in the works with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, directed by Bennett Miller (“The Cruise”).]
Loosely based on George Plimpton’s 1997 biography “Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career,” McGrath found interest from Killer Films in 2000 to do a film on “a very eccentric and fascinating character” of the 20th Century. “She [Christine Vachon] had other ideas brought to her over the years about Capote but none which she felt make sense as movies,” says McGrath from the set. “She heard this idea and felt it made great sense as a movie.”
Currently shooting in Austin, TX, McGrath admits one of the biggest challenges going into production was creating 1959 Manhattan. But thanks to production designer Judy Becker (“Garden State”), McGrath says, “you come off the Texas street and you really feel like you’re on Park Avenue.”
Having filmed since mid February, shooting will wrap by mid April. Bruno Delbonnel (“A Very Long Engagement”) is the d.p., Camilla Toniolo (“Living in Oblivion”) is the editor, Christine Vachon, Jocelyn Hayes and Anne Walker-McBay are producing, and John Wells is executive producer. Warner Independent Pictures will distribute the film.
“Our Very Own”
Set in the small town of Shelbyville, TN in the late 1970s, this coming-of-age story follows a group of high school seniors who hope to become famous like the hometown success story, actress Sondra Locke (who in real life was pulled from obscurity in Shelbyville to become an Oscar nominated actress). After they hear Locke is coming to town, the friends become obsessed with finding a way for her to notice them.
Written and directed by Cameron Watson, the film is an adaptation of a monologue he performed in 1999 about his childhood in Shelbyville. “A friend of mine said, ‘There’s a great story here, I don’t’ know if it’s a play, I don’t know if it’s a movie,’ and I sat down and came up with a movie,” says Watson.
Creating GADA Films for the purpose of making the movie with producers Steve Cubine, Shannon McMahon Lichte and Maggie Biggar, Watson and company raised money for three years but couldn’t generate the cash needed to make the film they wanted. Then in an unfathomable stroke of good fortune, the script got in the hands of Robert McLean, a wealthy Tennessee investor from Shelbyville. “My brother and he were roommates in college,” says Watson. In love with the script and its references of the town he grew up in, McLean ponied up most of the $1 million budget.
Production wrapped in Shelbyville after a 26-day shoot last June. Currently in post, the film will be submitted to festivals in the near future. Shot on 35mm by Roberto Blasini, it’s being cut by Brian Anton. Cast includes Allison Janney (TV’s “The West Wing”), Keith Carradine, Jason Ritter (“Happy Endings”) and Hilarie Burton (TV’s “One Tree Hill”). There’s also a small cameo by Mary Badham who’s known best for playing Scout in “To Kill A Mockingbird.” This is her first role in 39 years.
[For more information on the film, please visit: http://www.ourveryownmovie.com.]
“Out Of The Broom Closet”
Highlighting a spirituality that’s been feared since the Middle Ages, you can understand Lorri Leighton‘s panic as she and a TV crew filmed a group of witches during they’re evening’s ceremony. “I was really freaked out because I didn’t know what witchcraft was at all,” Leighton says. “I thought they could read my mind and maybe they could cast a spell on me. But they were really warm, really intellectual, and from there I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to doing a documentary about this.”
Shot from 1999 thru 2001, “Out of the Broom Closet” follows five people as they practice witchcraft in their lives. “We just sort of follow them and they show us what it means,” she says. “We also have two experts which adds a lot of the historical aspects of witchcraft.”
Finding her subjects through the community of witches living in New York City, Leighton came up with a diverse group. There’s a lawyer who’s written three books about her experiences with witchcraft, a high-school witch, a male witch who’s a biochemist and uses what he’s learned from witchcraft to make all-natural medicines, a Witch who’s also a National Public Radio correspondent (Margot Adler), and a witch who gets her kicks teaching people magic. Leighton said, “She teaches us a very simple love spell. People always ask me, ‘What do I need again for that?’.”
The documentary also debunks many of the age-old myths. “They don’t sit around a caldron, or have green faces, or walk around with brooms and levitating, what it is is a deep belief in something, a spiritual path.”
Budgeted at more than $150,000, it was shot on DV by Ben Wolf and edited by Jessie Weiner. Currently looking for financing to finish postproduction, Leighton has been looking to air the doc on TV but don’t be surprised if you see it at a festival. “I think it would work on the festival circuit,” Leighton said.”
[For more information on the film, please visit: http://www.outofthebroomcloset.tv.]
Waiting for the scoop that will make her career, ambitious TV reporter Roseanne Crystal (Lauren Vélez) heads to Rhinebeck, NY to do a story about a local hero cop. But when she stumbles upon a string of grizzly murders in the town, Crystal finds herself in the biggest story she’s ever covered. As the sudden onslaught of media attention on the town builds, the townspeople gradually change, as does Crystal who will stop at nothing to have this story catapult her to the top of the broadcast news totem poll.
Written, directed, edited and produced by a pair of first-time filmmakers, Kevin Arbouet and Larry Strong, the two describe the film as a twisted dark comedy on “the effects the media has on society and the effects society has on the media.” After finding no takers when they shopped the script around a year-and-a-half ago, Strong (who’s a graphic designer at Newsweek) and Arbouet (formerly VP of Lee Daniels Entertainment) decided to make the film through their company Arbo Pictures.
The 13-day shoot was from late September to early October last year in Glen Cove, L.I., which substituted for Rhineback. Strong said, “It was less expensive to shoot on Long Island and bus the cast and crew in from New York City.” Budgeted at $100,000, production was helped along by any freebees it could get, but the biggest was access to the CBS news desk in New York. “We asked a favor at BET [Black Entertainment Television] and they said they use the CBS news desk,” says Arbouet called and to his surprise was given permission to shoot there. “They gave us the whole set, I’m still amazed we got that access.”
Currently the film is on its final sound mix and will be submitted to festivals in the near future. Shot on DV by Patryk Rebisz, the executive producers are Michael J. Arbouet and Alan Spindel. The cast also includes Erik Jensen, Scott Brooks and Kelly AuCoin.
[For more information on the film, please visit: http://www.serialthemovie.com.]
“Where Love Reigns”
Based on the true story of the affair between psychologist Carl Jung and his patient Sabina Spielrein, “Where Love Reigns” is set at the turn of the century and follows the forbidden love which threatens to destroy the marriage and career of Jung.
Currently in pre-production in the U.K., director David Ness, who’s been fascinated by Jung’s work since his teens, first thought of making the film when he went to the Bush Theatre in London to see Snoo Wilson‘s play, “Sabina.” “I immediately saw the huge cinematic potential the story and characters contained,” says Ness who got Wilson’s blessing to adapt the play into a film. “I took the title from a quote I found in Sabina’s writings, ‘Where love reigns, the ego dies,’ seems to me to define her character, where all sacrificing love of the higher spiritual self conquers over mundane impulses.”
Though this marks Ness’ feature film debut, he calls it an ideal setting as along with filmmaking he’s also taught social science at two colleges in Europe. “The story resonates deeply with me,” he says via e-mail. “It is a love story underpinned by a deeply spiritual core, dealing with the central themes of genius, madness, passion, love and betrayal.”
Set for a five-week shoot (start date not yet announced) in the U.K. and South Africa, with post in Canada, the £2.7 million ($5 million) budget will be shot on 35mm. Chee Keong Cheung, Rob Weston, Tim Hampton, Martin F. Katz and Philo Pieterse will produce with Martin Scorsese executive producing. Cast includes Sarah Gadon (Spielrein), Douglas Henshall (Jung), and Oscar nominee Armin Mueller Stahl as Jung’s close friend Sigmund Freud.