This week's column begins with an in-depth look at "Lost Rockers," the new documentary by the makers of "American Hardcore," and moves on to profile a number of projects featured on crowdfunding websites IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.
EDITOR'S NOTE: "In the Works" is a weekly column taking a look at upcoming films – in addition to projects in production, it spotlights films in development, completed films that are taking creative paths towards distribution, and occasionally venture away from films to look at other types of projects, such as interesting new film distribution, funding, or exhibition mechanisms.
Music is a consistent theme in director Paul Rachman's work, from his previous feature effort, "American Hardcore" (2006, released by Sony Pictures Classics), to his past work in music videos including the seminal "Man in the Box" for Alice in Chains as well as other vids for Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Bad Brains. (He also happens to be a co-founder of the annual Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, UT.)
Rachman, along with co-producer Steven Blush (a writer on "American Hardcore"), is picking up the mantra of the influential musical geniuses who have made their mark on music culture, but have not been blessed with the fame, money, and hero-worship associated with pop culture success.
"After 'Hardcore,' amongst other projects, Steven [Blush] and I were talking about what's next, and in our research, the best stories we [came across] were these really talented people who fell through the cracks," Rachman told indieWIRE about his new documentary, "Lost Rockers," which is still in its early stages of shooting. "These people had everything going for them in terms of artistic talent, but somehow they didn't make it. Either they didn't jive with the business or something else stood in the way of their path toward fame and riches."
Rachman said that, like "American Hardcore," he and Blush took the idea to various production companies who have so far said "no" because of the risk factor involved with a documentary wrapped around "unknowns." So, like many of their fellow filmmakers, they've started a Kickstarter campaign and have raised two-thirds of their funds with 34 more days left. "It's a bit of doing it with others in a do-it-yourself way," said Rachman. "I like Kickstarter because it's the independent filmmakers' development tool. In Hollywood, there isn't a lot of money for DIY producers."
With the money, Rachman and Blush will continue to get interviews with the artists "in the can," and then Rachman will tap his editing skills to create a work-in-progress cut to take to investors. So far, they've shot four interviews with artists living in the New York City-area where the duo live, and there is a short list of about 15 or so more individuals to shoot.
"There will be probably 8-12 main characters," said Rachman. "So far we've interviewed Gloria Jones, who was a soul singer who moved to rock, [as well as] David Peal who was in John Lennon's band in the '70s in New York." He added that there are also a number of people in Los Angeles, the U.K., and Europe they're planning to shoot, and that while their names may be elusive to fans, their influence on music is not.
"These are people that only some music nerds might know, but every single song these people have helped create will ring a familiar tone, and that's what's going to be the surprise with the film. Audiences are going to know their music."
Logline: "Portland" is the lyrical and stylized story of Patrick, a young wanderer whose death connects a trio of damaged souls. Piecing together the events of the dead man’s life, they confront their own intersecting and long-hidden pasts. What they discover – about themselves, about each other, and about Patrick – will change them all forever.
The team: Matthew Mishory, Writer/Director/Producer ("Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman"); Edward Singletary, Jr., Producer; Paul Lee, Co-Producer; Elizabeth Levine & Adrian Salpeter, Executive Producers; Robert Zimmer, Jr., Consulting Producer; Johannes Bock, Editor; Arban & Steven Severin ("Siouxsie and the Banshees"), Original Score; Cast includes Jonathan Caouette ("Tarnation"), Erin Daniels ("The L Word"), Steven Martini ("Lymelife"), Alex Schemmer ("Big Love"), Edward Singletary, Jr ("Delphinium"), and Renee Victor ("Weeds")
About the film: Writer/director Mishory describes "Portland" as a film about outsiders, likening them to characters on the fringes of the mainstream in films like "Mysterious Skin," "Welcome to the Dollhouse," and "The 400 Blows." Acknowledging that his story is a dark one, he quickly notes that there are moments of humor too, just as there are in real life. Despite living their lives on the margins, the characters in "Portland" are intended to engender empathy and, to some extent, hope. As Mishory notes, "If there is a central theme here, it's the search for intimacy and connection in the midst of despair, alienation, and loss. When society fails us, perhaps the best we can do is create our own."
Current status: Producers are in the final stages of fundraising and pre-production, aiming to raise $25,000 to cover Summer/Fall principal photography costs, partly through an IndieGoGo campaign. They are planning an international festival premiere in 2011.
For more information and to support the film: http://www.indiegogo.com/portlandthefilm. Note that the fundraising deadline for this IndieGoGo campaign is May 5th.
"These Empty Streets"
Logline: A lonely woman searching for her son becomes intimate with his friend. When they're discovered, she realizes her son may be better off without her.
The team: Jarrah Gurrie, Dir/Writer/Editor; Olivia Shore & Sally Kewayosh, Producers; Shang-Sing Guo, Editors; Marden Dean, Cinematography; Gavin Youngs, Production Design; Cast includes Libby Tanner, Craig Stott, & Samuel Nicolausson-Soames.
About the film: Jarrah Gurrie, who has had success with his short films ("Cabalerno" and "Center of the Universe" among others) on the festival circuit, originally intended "These Empty Streets" to be a short as well, for his NYU Thesis project. Instead, a trip back home to his native Australia led him to retool the script from a rural New Jersey setting to its present southern Australia to capitalize on both local connections and the beautiful landscape and summer light.
The project has become his debut feature. While this homecoming had an impact on the ultimate shape of his film, Gurrie interestingly notes that the project is "about needing to escape a small town – no matter how pretty it is." While he explains "Streets" is not autobiographical, it continues the filmmaker's focus on the themes of loss, loneliness, heartbreak, family, and sexuality.
Current status: The RED-shot project is now in post-production, with particular emphasis being paid to sound design and music, and with editing being influenced by video art and experimental film. A $40,000 IndieGoGo campaign is currently running to cover post expenses in addition to marketing and festival costs.
For more information and to support the film: http://www.indiegogo.com/hymn. There is no deadline for fundraising.
Logline: "If you're not crazy when you come here, you're crazy when you leave." "Lavender Hall" is a frequently funny and occasionally disquieting portrait of a family-run residential care home as it prepares to close and uproot its residents.
The team: Lisa Guidetti, Producer/Director/DP; Renée Kopec, Co-Producer
About the film: Lisa Guidetti was introduced to the Wildwood, NJ based Lavender Hall by Renée Kopec, which her family had run for most of the last century. Kopec believed a documentary should be made about the facility, and Guidetti quickly agreed upon her first visit to the unique residence: "I walked in to an almost painfully ironic scene: the residents and staff eating chocolate strawberries on sticks and laughing at 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.'"
As suggested by this initial impression, Guidetti found a host of eccentric characters among the staff and the residents, but also realized a sad truth: "As chaotic, dysfunctional and surreal as the place often seems, the residents are far better cared for at Lavender Hall, or at least far happier, than the antiseptic and over-regulated managed-care facilities they now face."
Current status: The documentary is in post-production and in the midst of a "Make Your Granny Proud!" Kickstarter campaign to cover editing and post-production costs. A fundraiser concert is also planned, featuring music composed by Lavender Hall resident Joel Colker.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/bwiNuR. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $10,000 by the end of the campaign on June 25th.
"The House of Suh"
Logline: "The House of Suh" tells the story of Andrew and his sister Catherine, and how the values, conflicts, and dysfunctions of their Korean immigrant family led to the murder of Robert O'Dubaine. Eloquently narrated by Andrew, the documentary highlights issues of assimilation and the struggle between freedom and responsibility, raising questions about guilt, innocence, and the illusive gray area in-between.
The team: Iris K. Shim, Director/Producer; Gerry Kim, Producer; Damon Hennessey & Daniel Kanes, Cinematographers; Michael Hearst, Composer.
About the film: Iris K. Shim met her subject, Andrew Suh, under unusual circumstances – a friend who had developed a pen-pal relationship with Andrew invited Iris along to keep her company when she visited him in jail for the first time. While his story had received significant media attention, it didn't do the case justice. Shim says, "[O]ur goal was to strip away the sensationalism and examine the internal conflicts that broke down the Suh household." She also notes that, as a Korean-American, she could relate on a personal level to Andrew and Catherine's story, and uses their tragic story to examine larger issues of family, culture, and justice.
Current status: The documentary is currently in post-production, in preparation for its world premiere at Hot Docs next month.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/9Bq6q5. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $5,000 by the end of the campaign on April 26th.
Also currently In the Works:
"Puncture," directed by Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen ("Bernard and Doris") is currently in post-production after shooting in Houston last month with star Chris Evans (recently cast as "Captain America," "Fantastic Four," "The Losers") in a cast that also includes Vinessa Shaw, Mark Kassen, and Brett Cullen. Based on a true story, "Puncture" features Evans as an eccentric and troubled young lawyer who risks everything to take on a health care giant deliberately blocking the availability of safety needles, exposing health care professionals to accidental AIDS infections.