Lili Taylor and Amy Madigan star in Jenny Deller's story of a budding teen scientist who must contend with an unstable home in "Future Weather." The script won multiple grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and received attention at the recent Film Independent Filmmaker Forum. This week's column also features a film co-directed by Ondi Timoner and Robert James about some unclaimed human remains at a psychiatric hospital, one about the struggle between endangered species conservation and the poverty problem, and a doc about video games in Japan.
EDITORS 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, as well completed films that are taking creative paths towards distribution and occasionally ventures away from films to look at other types of projects, such as interesting new film distribution, funding, or exhibition mechanisms.
Jenny Deller, Writer/director, producer ("Save the Future")
Kristin Fairweather, Producer ("Save the Future")
Joe Guest, Line Producer ("Salt," "Taking Woodstock")
Zak Mulligan, Director of Photography ("Obselidia," "I’m Not Me")
Shelby Siegel, Editor ("All Good Things,""Charlie Wilson’s War")
Amy Madigan ("The Laramie Project" "Gone Baby Gone")
Lili Taylor ("Say Anything," "Brooklyn's Finest")
Perla Haney-Jardine ("Kill Bill Vol. 2," "Spiderman 3")
William Sadler ("The Shawshank Redemption," "August Rush")
Marin Ireland ("Revolutionary Road," "Rachel Getting Married")
It's been a charmed road for Jenny Deller, the first-time feature-length filmmaker of "Future Weather," and her producing partner, Kristin Fairweather. Now in post-production, their film about an inquisitive thirteen year-old with an unstable home life has received three Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grants (two through Film Independent and one through the Tribeca Film Institute) and won the 2009 Showtime Tony Cox Award for Screenwriting at the Nantucket Film Festival.
The project received more than an award in Nantucket. Actress Lili Taylor happened to be on a jury that year and the filmmakers were encouraged by insiders to approach Taylor after learning she had been speaking highly of the story. "She was a huge proponent of the script and it was suggested that we talk to her when we arrived in Nantucket to receive the award," Deller told indieWIRE. "We met her in June, 2009 and thought she would be great to play the [main character's] science teacher."
Set in a rural Midwestern setting reminiscent of Deller's southern Illinois upbringing, "Future Weather" focuses on three generations of women. Thirteen year-old Lauduree (Perla Haney-Jardine) is forced to give up her amateur global warming experiment and move in with her unhappy grandmother (Amy Madigan) after her mother (Marin Ireland) abruptly leaves home. Amidst the upheaval, she struggles to to keep her dream of saving the planet alive by searching for a safe place to put down roots.
"In 2006, I decided I wanted to write and direct my first feature and to do it in a way that seemed doable in terms of budget," said Deller, who added that she was inspired in part by an article she had read in The New Yorker on global warming that she thought was "very terrifying." She was also interested in the dynamic of a mother-daughter story who are opposites.
Before Taylor came on board, Deller and Fairweather were searching for the right fit to play Lauduree's grandmother, when they happened upon Perla Haney-Jardine, whose credits include "Spider-Man 3" and "Dark Water." The filmmakers decided to give her a go in a video short they were working on in conjunction with a Netflix grant they were up for. "We decided to try out Perla and make this ten minute clip and she was fantastic," noted Fairweather. "Her parents are filmmakers and they were very supportive of the script, so we kept in touch with them while we were raising money."
For the rest of the cast, the filmmakers turned to Chrystie Street Casting Agency which tied them up with Amy Madigan. "They were very integral [to the production] and loved the script," added the filmmakers.
Currently in post-production, "Future Weather" was shot outside Philadelphia last August and wrapped the first weekend in September. The filmmakers hope to have the project completed by the Spring or Summer of 2011, and will hit the festival circuit thereafter.
"Library of Dust"
Logline: 3,600 canisters of unclaimed human remains are found at the Oregon State Psychiatric Hospital. Secrets are revealed, families are reunited and a half a billion dollars gets raised after photos are taken of these forgotten souls.
Production team: Director: Ondi Timoner ("Dig!," "We Live In Public," "Cool It"); Co-Director/Executive Producer: Robert James; Line Producer: Kyle Parker; Camera: Peter Simonite, Adam Dubrowa; Editors: James Leche, David Timoner
About the film: "I first saw the images of the canisters which contain human ashes and it's strange corrosive effect at a gallery in San Francisco. Haunted for a year, I came to know photographer David Maisel and eventually purchased one of the 6 foot tall photos for my home. After a few film classes At City College in San Francisco I contacted Ondi by Facebook. We corresponded till she took me on as an apprentice. I then approached photographer David Maisel about telling the story of his collection titled Library of Dust. Ondi was intrigued and agreed to co direct my first film about this bizarre story." — Robert James
Current status: The team is in post-production, sending in rough cuts to fests. They are preparing for color correction and a sound mix, including an original score by Sherri Chung.
"The Other Side of the Fence"
Logline: How can we hope to protect endangered animals if we refuse to help the people? "The Other Side of the Fence," is a provocative redemption story that explores how the men who once ruthlessly hunted endangered species may now be their best hope for survival, as conservation parks discover they cannot hope to protect the animals without addressing the poverty and lack of opportunity that exists right outside their gates.
Production team: Executive Producer: Beesham A. Seecharan; Producers: Kevin R. Frech, Eleonore Dailly; Associate Producers: Craig Bender, Laura Camien; Writer/Director: Kevin R. Frech; Editor: Nick Fehver; Cinematographer: Michael Hacker; Additional Photography: Dan Prior, Anthony Irving, Mariah E. Wilson, Marie Alice Dailly, Tony Rossi; Animation: Andrew Fielding, Suspicious Productions, Ltd.
About the film: "I have always had an interest in wildlife conservation. I remember my subscriptions to wildlife magazines as a child, and my mother’s husband George Hulsey was president of the National Wildlife Federation in the 1980’s, as well as active in the Sierra Club. But most of my early film career focused on the poor, the powerless and the marginalized. As I started looking into animal conservation, I realized my two driving interests were not as unrelated as I first thought. I knew I couldn’t wait. This story had to be told. I financed the shoot myself, rather than wait for funding. I worried it would be too late – and it almost was.
"I traveled to Kenya in October, 2007 to explore the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which houses 20% of the remaining white rhinos in the world. In addition to being a well respected conservancy, they also spend time doing outreach in their community to reduce inter-tribal violence, provide job skills training and to educate people on ways to deal with wildlife threats to their livestock other than poaching. Within three weeks of my return, Kenya’s presidential election fell apart, and the country was ravaged by political turmoil and rioting, with hundreds murdered by rival factions. I’ve been actively filming in 2010, and the situation in Kenya is even more extreme. Political turmoil and drought have caused more economic damage, tribal tensions remain high and aid is even scarcer. Without tourist dollars to support it, the conservancies are financially strained, making it harder to protect the animals. Meanwhile, with more men out of work, the rewards for poaching have never been higher." — Kevin R. Frech
Current status: The film is currently in post-production and is actively submitting to festivals. The team still needs to finish animation, graphics, the score, sound mix, and color correction.
"100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience"
Logline: A documentary about the culture, the heroes and the impact of the arcades in Japan.
Production team: Writer/Director: Brad Crawford, DP: Bryan Verot
About the film: "This film came from a desire to return to Japan and showcase a piece of the culture that flourishes there. Having been a semi-serious gamer for most of my life, I was always drawn to the arcades in Japan and picked up on their continued success vs. the opposite of North America. I saw this opportunity as a chance to capture not only the beautiful visuals of Japan as a country but also the interior spaces of these arcades which are glowing, visual stimulae brought to life and really read well on-screen. I spent a month in Japan over the summer hovering from arcade to arcade, meeting people and talking about their experiences in these places. It was from this experience that the story emerged and the opportunity to follow some more prominent characters such as Daigo Umehara (arguably the best street fighter player) and his North American rivals. The film looks to analyze the differences between the professional game scene in Japan and North America and the possibility of a resurgence of the casual arcade fan here in Canada and the states." — Brad Crawford
Current status: The team is still in production. They will be attending the Canada Cup and then heading back to Japan to shoot more footage in the spring.
For more information and to support the film: Please visit the film’s Indie GoGo page. The filmmakers are looking to raise $9,000, and their campaign ends in roughly three months.
Also in the works:
The Brit List of the UK film industry's most sought after unproduced scripts was recently released, and according to Deadline, "Sex Education" by Jonathan Stern and Jamie Minoprio leads the list.
Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, and Ashton Kutcher are reportedly slated to star in the we-can-hardly-wait-for-it follow-up to "Valentine's Day," "New Year's Eve," to be directed by Gary Marshall for New Line Cinemas. The Hollywood Reporter has the story.