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by Bryce J. Renninger
April 28, 2011 3:06 AM
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Five Films iW is Rooting For: Duplass Bro Finds His Muse, Bette's Stomping Grounds & More

Jay Duplass's "Kevin." [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

In this week's in-production column, indieWIRE puts the spotlight on a nearly complete film by Jay Duplass. From Kickstarter: The new project from "Small Town Gay Bar" director Malcolm Ingram, which tells the story of the bathhouse-club that gave Bette Middler and Barry Manilow their start; an original epic fantasy; the new project from Sundance alum Rodney Evans ("Brother to Brother"); and a photo project from the filmmakers of "Battle for Brooklyn," which heads to Hot Docs this week.


"Kevin"

When the Duplass brothers ("The Puffy Chair," "Cyrus") were invited to bring their film "Baghead" to the Grenada Film Festival in Spain, Jay Duplass didn't bring his brother and collaborator Mark with him. Instead he brought Kevin Gant, a guitarist he had recently decided to profile in a film who was eager to immerse himself in the world of the flamenco guitar in its natural habitat.

Jay described to indieWIRE the first time he saw Gant perform. "In the early 90's, I was living in Austin, TX, going to school there and things were not going well. I was slammed in school and not feeling very inspired or creative.  My brother came to town to visit me and we went out to this music show, and we saw Kevin Gant play the guitar.  It was the wildest, most inspired performance we had ever seen."

From there, Jay was obsessed. "The guy looked like OJ Simpson, played acoustic guitar, had these weird cosmic lyrics.  It was kind of mind-blowing, so I went to every show I could go to.  In 1995, he completely disappeared, we scoured the newspaper, the Internet, which was just new then, trying to figure out whether he was playing or living.  He fell off the map completely.  For 13 years, my bro and I have held onto this one tape that he had.  We converted it to CD and put it onto our iTunes."

In the middle of shooting studio films in Los Angeles, Jay decided that he needed to reconnect to something from his younger days, something to ground him. To fulfill this desire, he made an effort to track down the elusive singer. Through his network of Austin friends, Jay was able to reconnect with Gant, and from there, Jay documented the musician's life as he rediscovered the guitar. In the time since Jay last saw him, Gant had begun to devote himself to his job at UPS; both of his parents had died, and he was an only child. The interest in his music was welcome to Gant.

Now that the film is "complete" (The film had a screening in SXSW, despite a lack of color correction and complete sound mix), Jay is taking the film on a festival tour with Gant in tow for a concert/Q&A hybrid that will follow each screening.

"[Kevin] sends me an email every two days about how thankful he is," Jay said. "He's on Facebook now, and people see the movie and he talks to people.  He was living alone on the east side of Austin, and now he's got hundreds of Facebook friends.  He's got an email list.  Every time we go to a city, we get an email list, so he can go back to that city and promote a show.  For him, it's everything he really wants, because as much as it is about the music for him, he's a very raw, inspired creative person.  He just wants to be in front of people having an inspired. The whole story is about wild and perfect timing."

Jay has developed a Kickstarter campaign to put the finishing touches on the film and to pay for the expenses of taking Gant and "Kevin" on a film festival tour to promote the film and Gant's music. To contribute or find out more, visit the Kickstarter page here.


Other projects

"Continental"

Logline: From a time and a place not so long ago, when the word positive connoted something not so negative An examination of the infamous Continental Baths in NYC. Directed by the guy who brought you "Small Town Gay Bar."

Production team: Director/Producer: Malcolm Ingram ("Small Town Gay Bar," "Bear Nation"); Producer: Ash Christian ("Fat Girls," "Mangus," "Petunia")

About the film: "'Continental' is an examination of a bath house that existed post-Stonewall and pre-AIDS where the zeitgeist just exploded. An unknown Bette Midler and Barry Manilow were the in-house entertainment and Frankie Knuckles was the house DJ. It was a clubhouse, a social event and a shelter. I decided it was time for me to look back and tell a story about queer history. It is a privileged situation where all the key players are still alive to tell this fascinating fairy tale." -- Malcolm Ingram

Current status: The team hopes to begin shooting in June.

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 11).


"Scourge"

An image from Jeffrey T. Morgan's "Scourge." [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: A hundred years after the fall of mankind, we have the world we deserve. Now there arises an evil worse than man...

Production team: Writer: Andrew Tomlinson; Co-Writer - Ila Coltas; Director, Cinematographer, Editor & Producer - Jeffrey T. Morgan; Producers: Prometheus Motion Pictures, S3 Entertainment, Jeffrey D. Spilman, Larry August; Production Designer & Prop-maker: Tobias Dawson; Costumes & Design - Audrey Lucero; Art Department Coordinator: Katie Max

About the film: "My friend and frequent collaborator Andrew Tomlinson has been crafting the world of 'Scourge' for a long time. I have read the original feature script, the subsequent short and TV pilot, and now we are back to the story's roots as a feature film. My admiration of the story comes from two places - One is my love for the rich and diverse landscape. Andrew's sense of tribal society creates a volatile and fragile kaleidoscope of humanity. The other source of my excitement comes from an admittedly geeky love for things like Dungeons & Dragons, martial arts, fantasy story telling... you get the idea. The real heart of the story, for me, is about regular people, in an impossible situation, who are striving for something a little bit better. It does help that it's wrapped with a dark, tense, action-filled landscape and a wholly original take on a lot of fantasy themes."

Current status: The team is hoping to shoot later this year, after producing a teaser video and garnering interest from investors and audiences.

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 $10,000 by the end of the campaign (May 19).


"The Happy Sad"
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rumur/malls-across-america/widget/video.html

An image from Rodney Evans on the set of his short "Billy and Aaron." [Image courtesy of Evans.]

Logline: "The Happy Sad" is a feature-length narrative film that follows two couples, one black and one white, whose lives collide as they navigate open relationships and sexual identity.

Production team: Director/Producer: Rodney Evans ("Brother to Brother"); Producers: Tory Lenosky, Nikkia Moulterie; Writer: Ken Urban ("The Awake"); Casting Director: Susan Shopmaker ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "Shortbus," "Martha Marcy May Marlene"); Editor: Sabine Hoffman ("Personal Velocity," "The Ballad of Jack and Rose")

About the film: "I became friends with the screenwriter Ken Urban when we both had residencies at the Macdowell Colony in the summer of 2008. We both sensed a connection in the work that we were doing and stayed in touch in the subsequent months. I went to a performance of the stage version of 'The Happy Sad' at the Summer Plays Festival at the Public Theater in New York in 2009 and was extremely moved by it. I immediately saw its potential as a film and when I mentioned that to Ken he told me he had already begun adapting it into to a screenplay.

"The quirky sensibility of 'The Happy Sad' is similar in style to recent films like '(500) Days of Summer' by Marc Webb, 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' by Michel Gondry and 'Me and You and Everyone We Know' by Miranda July, three independent films that explored the inner workings of relationships. But what sets 'The Happy Sad' apart from those films is how gay and bisexual characters are not at the periphery or absent, but taken seriously while forming the center of the narrative. The goal was to create gay and bisexual characters that are as richly examined as the straight protagonists in those films. The overwhelmingly positive response and sold-out audiences for the stage production demonstrated the need and desire for a seriocomic exploration of contemporary relationships. Thinking about recent micro-budget features like 'Tiny Furniture,' 'Humpday' and 'Medicine for Melancholy' we began strategizing about how to make the film with a similar production model using personal connections to actors and in-kind resources available to me in New York."

Current status: The screenwriter has completed several drafts of the screenplay, and after a few more edits, the team intends to start shooting July 2011.

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 $15,000 by the end of the campaign (May 12).


"Malls Across America" (a multimedia production)

An image from Michael Galinsky's photo project "Malls Across America."

Logline: In 1989, following in the footsteps of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, and William Eggleston, I drove across the country and documented malls across America. I had a cheap Nikon FG-20 and an even cheaper lens - but I had a lot of passion.

Production team: Photos by: Michael Galinsky; Produced by the multimedia collective rumur (the film "Battle of Brooklyn")

About the film: "In the winter of 1989 I started a photo project in Smith Haven mall in Long Island. At the time I was a religious studies major. In addition to learning about whirling dervishes and African tribes, I also took a photo class per year- and that winter i was taking a color class. My girlfriend at the time went to Stonybrook on Long Island, and we had to go the mall on an errand. It was packed and electric with energy and I knew right away I'd found the subject for my class. I was a big fan of Robert Frank, and I thought that if he was going to shoot "The Americans" today he'd be spending a lot of time in malls. With my academic focus on sociology and religion I was very interested in how people interacted, and there was a whole lot of interacting going on in that mall.

"I got a fantastic response to the work from my teacher, and I was inspired to drive across the country that summer in shoot in malls across America. I never found another mall with the energy of Smith Haven, but it was a wild experiment nonetheless. I found one mall in Washington State that was identical to one in St. Louis. It was surreal. After that trip I got busy with my band sleepyhead (that's our song punk rock city usa) under the images, and I started photographing the indie rock world. I showed the slides a couple of times, but didn't know what to do with them. They went into a drawer and thankfully didn't gather too much dust." -- Michael Galinsky

Current status: Galinsky is developing a slide show with spoken word to screen in Toronto next week when the team is there with their previous kickstarter success story, "Battle for Brooklyn," which will screen at HotDocs. He is also working on a book of the images and a tour for the slideshow as they travel with "Battle for Brooklyn."

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 $12,000 by the end of the campaign (June 30).

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