[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.]
In August’s edition of indieWIRE’s production column, Jason Guerrasio profiles five new films that are in various stages of production. This month’s batch include Brian Gurley’s “A Dance for Bethany,” Lucas Elliott’s “Choose Connor,” Aprill Winney’s “Halfway to Sandwich,” Ashley Horner’s “Kaz,” and Daniel Kraus’ “Musician.”
“A Dance For Bethany”
Set in Asheville, NC, two women from different sides of the social scale become friends after realizing their current situations can benefit one another.
Directed by Brian Gurley, the film follows Abbey (Robyn Lively), a reporter at the local paper who stumbles on the biggest story of her career when she meets Bethany (Lori Beth Edgeman), a teenage prostitute who’s ready to blow the lid off the area’s sex trade in exchange for a normal life. In the process Abbey finds the daughter she’s never had and Bethany finally has the life she’s dreamt of.
Written by Yvonne Williams and executive produced by her husband, Marion Williams, the project has been a struggle to get off the ground since its inception. Two directors left due to creative differences before Gurley came on and understood the story the producers wanted to tell. “[The previous directors felt] the screenplay suffered from not telling the story in a cinematic fashion,” Gurley says. “So instead of being true to the story they wanted to start all over again, but Yvonne stuck to her guns.”
With the original script reading more “like a novel,” Gurley sat down with Yvonne and worked out how he would shoot the film. He’s now confident in the story and is glad he stuck it out. “It’s been a fun challenge for me but we feel the story is powerful enough that people will get it.”
Gurley says the one thing they haven’t had to worry about is finding locations in Asheville. “Because the money was raised locally, the people of Asheville have literally thrown their doors open for us,” he says. “Now the money for locations can go into other departments and additional shooting hours.”
Principal photography will begin sometime in August and is set for a 21-day shoot. Gurley, who’s also the DP, will be shooting on HD. Lee Nesbitt is producing under the Williams’ Raise the Bar Productions.
[For more information, please visit www.adanceforbethany.com]
This coming of age drama by 20-year-old writer-director Lucas Elliott follows a young boy who becomes the poster child for a Congressman’s run for Senate and learns what really goes on behind closed doors in the political world.
Having always been interested in politics, Elliott penned the script three years ago and says the research he put into the project is what makes it stand out. “I found some incredible stuff and I was like ‘wow,’ this is what the story needs to be about,” referring to the two years he spent doing what he calls “undercover investigative research” in the political arena. But that’s the most he’ll say. “I shouldn’t talk about it or I’ll get some people pretty angry.”
The film follows 15-year-old Owen (Alex D. Linz) who meets Congressman Lawrence Connor (Steven Weber) at a school event and after dazzling the Congressman with his political knowledge is asked to come aboard his campaign as his youth spokesman. As Owen is put on TV commercials, radio ads and posters, his innocence is tested by the cut-throat political machine he’s now a part of.
Elliott admits his age and those of producers Karuna Eberl, Andrew McFarlane and Aaron Himelstein (all in their early 20s), did have drawbacks, but their vision for the film was impressive. There was also another advantage. “When trying to get stuff together a lot of your work is done over the phone and over email so people didn’t know how old I was,” Elliott says. Along with Linz (“Max Keeble’s Big Move“) and Weber, they also attached character actors like Diane Delano, Erick Avari and Don McManus.
Shot on Super 16mm by Jim Timperman around Los Angles in June, Elliott is currently editing back home in Boulder, Colorado. The film is produced through Blue Cactus Pictures. Executive Producer is Chris Lux.
“Halfway to Sandwich”
After being diagnosed with cancer, Joe (Ben Montague) decides to throw caution to the wind and live the carefree life he’s always wanted. In the process he meets the girl of his dreams (Elaine Robinson) and learns the life you have is only what you make of it.
Through a chance meeting last year, director Aprill Winney met screenwriter Ryan Tavlin and actor Ben Montague and learned the two had been working on a screenplay. Looking to direct something after being part of a seven-director collaboration on the film “Brushfires” in 2004, Winney asked if she could see the script when it was completed. They sent it to her and Winney quickly identified with the subject. “My father had a terminal illness so this is a tone I understand pretty well,” she says. “The story is a comedy that deals with the issue of mortality, and that’s a fine line to walk, but I felt it was something that I really wanted to do.”
Winney brought in producer Adam Pray and the four set up production in Chicago, where Tavlin and Montague are based. Shooting began in mid-June in and around the Windy City and lasted 14 days. Because of the quick shoot, Winney says the biggest challenge was making sure everything was planned out in preproduction. “I worked with my DP on a shot list and rehearsed my actors so on the day we could really crank it out,” she says. And having editor Robin Gonsalves on set cutting scenes made the speed of the shoot more tolerable. “On two occasions she came to me and said, ‘I can’t cut this scene without this one shot so make sure you get it,'” Winney recalls. “When you’re going as fast as we were that was invaluable.”
Shot on HD by Joseph Fitzgerald, the film’s currently in post production. Tavlin and Montague are executive producing under Montague Films.
[For more information, please visit www.montaguefilms.com]
When Kaz learns she’s inherited an incurable blood disease from the father she’s never met, the feisty music journalist from Berlin heads to England to find him after learning he’s part of an aging rock band.
Shot in Newcastle, England and Berlin, Germany in June over eighteen days, the film is the feature debut of director Ashley Horner whose short, “Rob of the Rovers,” had an impressive run on the international fest circuit in the late ’90s. Since then Horner has started Pinball Films with producer Michael Mitchell, “Kaz” will be the first feature under his company.
In 2000 Horner hired Peter Dillon to pen the script while he looked for financing and a cast. Last year he found a company in Germany to co-produce and got a regional film fund in England. Horner was able to cast Gary Lewis (“Gangs of New York,” “Billy Elliot“) as one of the suspected fathers (he starred in “Rovers”). But finding someone to play Kaz proved difficult. “I went to Berlin and Cannes in 2005 with the purpose to see as much German cinema as possible,” Horner says. “I heard there was a great actress, Nora Von Waldstaetten, in a film that played in Un Certain Regard (“Falscher Bekenner“). It so happen the cast and crew were having a picnic on the beach, I joined them and met Nora.” Two months later she was on board.
Another challenge was shooting in Germany during the World Cup. After completing the UK shoot, they moved production to Berlin for seven days. “It was really tough,” Horner recalls via email from England. “It was hot, the World Cup was raging, [and] we couldn’t speak the language. Thankfully those first fifteen minutes of the film have ended up looking superb.”
Currently in post, the film was shot on HD by Melissa Byers, and it’s produced by Mitchell and Horner.
[For more information, please visit www.pinballfilms.com]
Continuing his Work Series, Daniel Kraus sets his DV camera on acclaimed jazz musician Ken Vandermark and shows the peeks and valleys of a career musician.
The series – which looks at the American worker – began last year with “Sheriff,” a verite portrait of a lawman working in rural North Carolina. The doc went on to receive critical acclaim at festivals and opened the 2006 season of PBS‘ “Independent Lens.” Kraus continues the same style for “Musician,” as he follows the break neck schedule of a full-time musician trying to make a living off his talent.
Inspired by the work of Frederick Wiseman and Studs Terkel, Kraus’ main motivation for the series was that future generations can see what it’s like to work. “The idea is by using this style [the films] become this timeless document,” Kraus says. “A hundred years from now it will be valuable.”
Kraus thought Vandermark (both Chicago natives) would be a good candidate for the series as he does remarkably well for someone who plays music that’s not geared for main stream audiences. But he also wanted to show the unglamorous side of the profession. “This isn’t an hour worth of his songs,” says Kraus, who’s been shooting Vandermark since April. “It shows him loading up his equipment, loading into clubs. People that I target I think don’t want to be glorified necessarily, they see that they have a chance to be a part of this historical document and that appeals to them.”
Though Kraus shoots, edits and produces the series on his own, Chicago-based Kartemquin Films (“Hoop Dreams,” “Stevie“) have voiced interest in making his hour-long docs into a TV series. But if that doesn’t happen, Kraus is still dedicated to making one a year. Future installments may include a garbage man, driving instructor, dentist and truck driver. Kraus hopes to have a cut of “Musician” by the fall.
[Jason Guerrasio writes the Production Report column for indieWIRE and contributes regularly to Premiere, Filmmaker Magazine, MovieMaker and Time Out.]