In this week's in-production column, we track the new Focus Features release from Paul Weitz ("American Pie"), which stars Paul Dano and Robert De Niro as father and son who are estranged but must confront each other in Boston homeless shelters. From Kickstarter, we profile projects looking for funding from our friends at Rooftop FIlms, and films about a legendary arcade in New York's Chinatown, a doc about queer music in the South, and an ultra low budget feature starring a guy who cuts fruit at a Whole Foods.
"Untitled Paul Weitz Project" (based on Nick Flynn's memoir "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City")
Paul Weitz's directorial credits are diverse; he's directed "American Pie," "About a Boy," the American Idol spoof "American Dreamz," "Little Fockers," Chris Rock-starrer "Down to Earth," and the Dennis Quaid-Topher Grace young boss/potential son-in-law flick "In Good Company." According to frequent collaborator Andrew Miano, who is producing this new project, Weitz and his team are often drawn to stories where the conflict resides between father and son. When Nick Flynn's form-defying memoir "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City" was passed to Weitz and his team, it struck a chord and Weitz began working on a script.
Flynn spent his twenties working in several Boston homeless shelters, and during his stints, Flynn (Paul Dano) often runs into his alcoholic writer father (Robert De Niro), from whom he is estranged. Julianne Moore and Olivia Thirlby also star. Filling out the homeless shelters will be a crew of roughly a dozen non-actors who were cast with the help of a New York City non-profit.
Weitz has been through several drafts of the script, at different studios, and Miano is convinced that the current draft is perfect for the story. Speaking with indieWIRE, Miano noted, "Paul [Weitz] has never taken the Hollywood ending route. Some versions of the script might have been darker, and in some, the journey the character takes is brighter than in others. Everything happens for a reason, and this draft got the cast and the studio excited."
Central to getting the film on track with its current backer, Focus Features, was casting. Robert De Niro was on board early. "There's a handful of great actors that would be right for the Jonathyn Flynn character," Miano said. "[De Niro] produced about a boy. Going through the process of casting, Bob read it and loved it. Paul and Bob liked each other and trust each other. Working together on 'Little Fockers' solidified the deal." And for Miano, the chemistry between Dano and De Niro is electric. Miano described a scene where De Niro's character was in a bed at the shelter arguing with his Dano's character about the contact they have kept. "They were yelling at each other. The chemistry was incredible."
Miano ended by talking about what is so powerful for him about the story, "I think that in a way, the film is about the struggle to answer the question "Are we going to become our parents? When I read the book, I knew I wanted to see this. I want to justice to Nick Flynn and to the book."
Short Description of Rooftop Films: Rooftop Films 15th Annual Summer Series is a summer-long festival of new, independent films, shown in unique outdoor locations throughout New York City and beyond. In 2011, we will host over 50 events, every weekend from May 13-August 20. We will be screening 23 feature-length films, including 2 World Premieres and 15 NY and US Premieres. And we will be screening 183 short films in themed programs such as New York Non-Fiction, Romance Shorts and Home Movies. Rooftop events include live music, filmmaker Q&As, special performances and presentations, and free drinks, making Rooftop shows some of the most entertaining and interesting film events the world over. At Rooftop Films, we bring underground movies outdoors.
Rooftop’s Mission Statement: Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.
Plans for the campaign: "Every Rooftop screening is already a special event. This year, we want to do even more. If our audience supports our Kickstarter fundraising campaign, we will put on some of the most spectacular film events of the year. And every person who donates gets to attend for free all summer long! If Rooftop Films is successful in our Kickstarter campaign, which ends May 10, we will be able to bring out-of-town filmmakers to New York so you the audience can meet them. In addition, we'll host wrestling matches after a documentary about amateur grapplers. We'll be conducting a youth poetry slam in the Bronx in conjunction with a film about young writers. We'll set up robo-animals at a screening about a sculptor. And we'll fly in Codependent Lesbian Space Aliens from . . . well, Los Angeles. But they'll be in costume!" — Mark Elijah Rosenberg
For more information and to support Rooftop Films: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, Rooftop Films will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $10,000 by the end of the campaign (May 10).
"Arcade: The Last Night at Chinatown Fair"
Logline: "Arcade: The Last Night at Chinatown Fair" documents the final week of New York City’s last arcade, Chinatown Fair. The film follows the community of spirited gamers as they make their way from Manhattan’s Chinatown to their new home at Next Level, an arcade started by Chinatown Fair’s Henry Cen.
Production team: Director/Cinematographer/Editor: Kurt Vincent; Producer: Irene K. Chin
About the film: "I was initially drawn to Chinatown Fair because it seemed so out of place. It was as if it should not have existed at all. I had read about the arcade in the NY Times and was amazed as soon as I walked through the front door. It was a different world inside, full of energy and warmth. When I discovered the community that surrounded the arcade I knew I wanted to make a documentary that would capture the feeling of being there and share the incredible stories and history I was discovering." — Kurt Vincent
Current status: The team is currently in production, filming interviews and shooting the community as it moves to the new arcade.
For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $20,000 by the end of the campaign (May 31).
"Whistlin' Dixie: The Queer Southern Music Project"
Logline: "Whistlin’ Dixie" calls out “All Aboard!” as filmmaker Meredith Heil road-trips through America’s Southern heartland in search of queer musicians invested in building safe spaces and striking down prejudice in a region long considered backwards and bigoted.
Production Team: Director/Writer/Producer: Meredith Heil; Director of Photography: Amber Schaefer; Project Advisors: Renee Tajima-Pena, B. Ruby Rich
About the Film: "Growing up queer in a series of small, suburban towns all over the US, I have always been drawn to creative means of forming queer community. I was inspired to make 'Whistlin' Dixie' after witnessing both the beauty of the South, the strength of its queer music scene and the region’s lack of academic and social visibility within the larger queer population. Many people I've talked to, from California to New York, were completely unaware that queers even existed in the South. I wanted to open people's eyes and change their minds by proving that queer community is not only possible, but can thrive outside of the big metropolitan areas that dot our coasts." — Meredith Heil
Current Status: The project is currently in post-production and is seeking to do self-distribute in a summer screening tour.
For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $2,500 by the end of the campaign (June 25).
Logline: Scoundrels, a dark comedy about the greatest worst band ever, is the sordid tale of three best friends who attempt to reunite the high school band, only to find there's one thing they can’t outplay: themselves.
Production team: Director/Writer/Producer/Editor: Sam Young (Video Logger, "Bad Girls Club" Season 3; Executive Producers: Sam & Cole Young; Cinematographers: Krystal Waters (Former Miss Black Teen USA) & Sam Young; Cast: Chris Hauser (fruit cutter at Whole Foods), Seth Harden (bartender at GengHis Grill), and Sam Young
About the film: "About a year ago, I set out to make a feature. I was over shorts (thank you film school), the web series game felt bloated and I wanted, needed, something more: a feature. Young, dumb, and high strung, I had an idea, a willing group of friends, and a bit too much enthusiasm. So I spent every cent I had to scrounge up the gear and even went as far to build the camera dollys and handheld rigs we shot on. In the end, the journey of self producing a feature film from front to back, writing to sound editing, has been an absolutely priceless experience in my twenty-two years on this earth. 'Scoundrels' is a mission, a claim and a dream. It's an attempt to pull off the impossible; a group of twenty-somethings, who can barely make rent, self-producing an entire feature length movie that is actually worth your time, money and laughter." — Sam Young
Current status: The film is able to be viewed on the film's website at the following link.
For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. 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 (July 27).