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June 2, 2011 4:16 AM
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5 Projects to Root For: A New Austin Film With Alex Karpovsky, the Endangered Acoustic Guitar & More

An image of Jonny Mars from Sean Gallagher's "Good Night."

In this week's in-production column, indieWIRE takes a look at a film from a new crop of Austin filmmakers, Sean Gallagher's "Good Night," which stars Jonny Mars ("WUSS," "The Happy Poet") and Alex Karpovsky ("Tiny Furniture"). Also in this week's column, a film about the current crisis of acoustic guitars, a contemporary update of "Aladdin" and "Pandora's Box," the story of one of Detroit's oldest projects, and a failed Kickstarter campaign still looking for support from a film about cases of sexual abuse by coaches.

Be sure to check out our curated Kickstarter page for more information on projects we think you should check out.

"Good Night"

Sean Gallagher pitched the film's eventual star and producer Jonny Mars the idea for his project in Mars' backyard in 2002. "The director and I have a long-standing relationship," says Mars."He grew up with my younger brother, and I watched him make movies with my younger brother. We started making short films together that played at larger festivals like Rotterdam."

In "Good Night," a group of friends gather for a dinner to celebrate Leigh's 29th birthday. Leigh (Adriene Mishler), it turns out, is sick, and through four flashbacks structured as stand-alone short films, "Home," "Work," "Rest," and "Play," we see the inner workings of Leigh and her boyfriend Winston's everyday life, dealing with her illness and other problems, most of them financial, plaguing Americans in the twenty-first century.

Mars, Gallagher, and the rest of the team are no strangers to money issues. Several producers were attached to the project over the years, but they were never able to get the money procured for the hundreds of thousands of dollars they budgeted. In 2009, Mars and Gallagher shook hands, pledging to make the film themselves and to wear as many hats as necessary to make it on their own much, much lower budget.

"Only in Austin, Texas could you do what we do," says Mars. "We don't have the funds to make big-budget extravagant things. Instead, we have the largest university in the world here so we have a lot of eager people that are eager to cut their teeth. Sean and I both trusted each other's work ethic. And so we made the film for $25,000, raising money by selling credits and .1% of the profit for each $100 donated. We were saved by the Canon 7D, which allowed us to shoot five cameras at a time at the dinner table cheaply."

The team from "Good Night" has now begun searching for money online, and they have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their post-production process. As with all Kickstarter projects, the film project will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $11,100 by the end of the campaign (July 2).


Other Projects

"Musicwood"

An image from Maxine Trump's "Musicwood." [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: A new music documentary looks at the latest endangered species: The acoustic guitar. The world’s leading guitar-makers attempt to slow the over-logging of a rain forest before it’s too late and their industry is silenced.

Production team: Director/Producer: Maxine Trump; Producer/Editor: Josh Granger; Cinematograher: Curt Wallin; Subjects: Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars, Chris Martin of Martin Guitars, Dave Berryman of Gibson, Yo La Tengo, Turin Brakes and more

About the film: "In 2007, I was working on a short documentary about subsistence communities in Alaska, when I heard about the over-logging of the largest coastal rain forest in the world and the devastating affects it was having on the music industry. The logging is now so extreme that the acoustic guitar as we know it is under threat. To tell this story, my team and I found ourselves filming acoustic performances in the Alaska forest at the base of a 600-year-old Sitka Spruce tree that can grow to double the height of the Statue of Liberty. My team were able to follow Martin, Taylor and Gibson as they traveled together for the first time to this majestic forest in an attempt to persuade the Native American loggers to slow their industrial level of logging. The distrust of these white men was palpable. As Chris Martin of Martin Guitars put it, to resolve this issue 'it will be as close to a miracle as I will see in my lifetime.'" -- Maxine Trump

Current status: Primary production on the film is completed, but several acoustic performances still need to be shot.

For more information and to support the film:
Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the film project will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $20,000 by the end of the campaign (June 24).


"Many Monsters of Sadness"

An image from Motke Dapp's "Many Monsters of Sadness." Image courtesy of the filmmaker.

Logline: Eleanor and her friends discover a mysterious box that many of them think has the ability to grant wishes. As every "granted wish" is fulfilled, something horrible happens in return. As disappearances and mysterious gifts pile up, Eleanor understands it's her responsibility to stop whatever it is that's bringing sadness to her life.

Production team: Director: Motke Dapp; Producer: Ryan Hartsock; Writers: Motke Dapp, Paul Armstrong, and Josh Jones; Cinematographers: Bobby Marko, Micah Simms and Paul Armstrong

About the film: "Motke Dapp and Josh Jones had the idea to make a graphic novel about a guy who finds a box full of monsters who eat his neighbors. As the Fighting with Forks team started thinking about our next project, the idea was pitched to make several shorts loosely based on this idea, and as we started exploring the subject, we found the idea really lent itself to being a full feature film. As each story started to take shape, we got more excited about the idea of a box that looks into the heart and tries to help satisfy a person's deepest desire, ultimately leading to disaster. Approaching this idea with comedy, action, drama, and suspense, we feel we've really been able to touch on the selfish desires of people." -- Ryan Hartsock

Current status: The film is being produced in three parts, each its own short film chapter, and two out of the three films have been shot.

For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the film project will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $12,000 by the end of the campaign (June 19).


"Coached into Silence"

An image from the set of "Coached into Silence." [Photo Credit: Yale Gurney]

Logline: "Coached into Silence" is a feature-length documentary which deals with the sexual abuse of boys within the world of organized sports.

Production team: Producer/Director: Chris Gavagan; Cinematographer: Dave Dodds; Sound Mixer: Bret Scheinfeld

About the film: "As a concept, the project that would eventually become 'Coached into Silence' began several years ago. At the time I had naively envisioned it as an objectively journalistic, detached 'issue film' exploring the sexual abuse of boys within the world of organized sports. As our research continued and we spoke to more men who had suffered through these abuses, everything changed. How dare I ask these people to reveal these stories, their darkest days, their darkest secrets, when I had chosen not to include the story I know best of all? From the moment I chose to include my story as the thread that will tie all of these disparate stories together, 'Coached into Silence' has taken on a life of its own. To that end, I went back the the place where this story began for me, and sat down to interview my own coach and sexual abuser." -- Chris Gavagan

Current status: The team is in the middle of production, getting ready for a more travel-intensive series of shoots.


For more information and to support the film:
Film website. While the project's Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful, they are still looking for funds to complete the film.


"Brewster Douglass, You're My Brother"

An image from Paul Abowd and Oren Goldenberg's "Brewster Douglass, You're My Brother." [Image courtesy of the filmmakers]

Logline: Detroit's "empty" neighborhoods are anything but.

Production team: Writers/Directors/Producers: Paul Abowd and Oren Goldenberg; Cinematographer/Editor: Oren Goldenberg; Sound: Paul Abowd

About the film: "This film is a collaboration of two Detroiters — myself (a journalist) and filmmaker Oren Goldenberg. For years, the two of us have biked through the Brewster Douglass Projects. At first glance, its towers conjure the empty Detroit everyone talks about. This film takes us closer, where community, history, and memories continue to fill the neighborhood. In 1935, Eleanor Roosevelt came to break ground on the Brewster Homes, the first public housing project in the country built for black people. Seventy-five years later, half of the neighborhood has been demolished and redeveloped. The other half stands windowless and seemingly vacant. We began the film with many questions. How did Brewster Douglass get here? What happened to public housing in this country? What about the people who filled these buildings—and the people who still do? What are their visions for the future or the neighborhood and the city?

"We returned to Brewster Douglass and soon met: squatters in the project's Douglass row houses, which were officially vacated in 2008; early residents who have since moved out; organizers who fought to keep the projects open; and those who live and worship in the redeveloped Brewster Homes across from the vacant towers. This film looks at the neighborhood through their eyes." -- Paul Abowd

Current status: Most of the shooting is finished for this project, and the film is ready to enter post-production.

For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the film project will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $3,500 by the end of the campaign (June 8).

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