By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire April 14, 2011 at 2:56AM
In this week's in-production column, we spotlight an often-ignored segment of the film industry -- IMAX films. indieWIRE spoke with the lone director working in his basement on an IMAX film centered around images of Saturn taken in 2004 by the Cassini spacecraft. Four projects from Kickstarter are also a part of this week's column: a dark feature that explores the meaning of friendship, a doc portrait of young CEOs of internet startups, a trip to the Falklands and the profile of a "driven" MMA fighter.
Stephen van Vuuren describes his current project, "Outside In," as "IMAX in a Basement," one guy waiting hours for images of Saturn to render on his basement computer. Since 2007, van Vuuren has been working on taking the images from the 2004 Cassini spacecraft's Saturn photo shoot. After being struck by the images, especially by the small blue speck that represented his home planet, van Vuuren was inspired to start work on a planetarium film and even a one-act play about the images.
None of those projects stuck.
It was only after van Vuuren uploaded a one-minute animation of the Cassini spacecraft's Saturn images and the video went viral that van Vuuren was absolutely convinced the project he started on in 2007, an IMAX film based on the images, was the perfect way to show these images off. The market isn't too bad either. "In the indie world, you're used to a huge flux of content and a small amount of screens," he says. "IMAX screens are starved for content. I have two distributors who will distribute the film."
Van Vuuren compares the experience of watching the animations of "Outside In" to the first images of Earth taken from space during the Apollo 8 mission. "What is driving me to get it done is I wanted to show these images from space at the scale that they should be at. If I can get such a strong response from people watching it on their monitors, just wait until they can experience it on the right sense of scale."
While the just-one-guy-in-a-basement concept sounds romantic, the project was made possible by a community of dedicated volunteers working together online. "The camera on most spacecraft takes 1 GB photos," he says. "In order to get higher resolution photos, a series of photographs is stitched together. There are dedicated amateurs all over the world who stitch these photographs together. I started off working on these these very hi-res images; I got involved in the community."
Based on this open-source community ethic, van Vuuren is dedicated to keep this project non-profit. Though he's been crowdfunding for the film since 2007, van Vuuren is currently looking for funders to subsidize his work finishing up the film. For more information on the project, check out the film's website here.
Logline: A pitch-black character study, "Favor" explores what happens when a married, upwardly mobile businessman asks his far-less successful friend to help hide the body of his mistress, a deed which unravels their relationship and eventually leads both men to murderous acts neither had ever suspected themselves capable of.
Production team: Writer/Director: Paul Osborne; Producer: Leslie Wimmer; Cast: Blayne Weaver, Patrick Day
About the film: "What exactly is at the core of friendship? Is it based on a genuine connection between people, or is it more about sharing a common circumstance? Or perhaps friendships center on something far more self-serving: do we like who we like simply because of what they can do for us? We feel a stronger pull towards those wealthier and more attractive, and expect gratitude and obedience from those who we sense are inferior.
These dark, human themes inspired me to write 'Favor,' which I constructed as both a dramatic character study and nail-biting crime thriller. I've long believed that successful storytelling involves taking something personal -- in this case, my doubts and worries about human relationships -- and presenting them in a way which is not only relatable but also entertaining. For 'Favor,' I decided to start simply with the age-old idea that you can tell how good friend is by whether or not they'd help you move a dead body. And if they did that for you, what might they ask for in return? With an eye towards writing 'Favor' as something that can be made inexpensively and independently, I took the opportunity to craft the lead roles around two of my favorite actors, Blayne Weaver and Patrick Day - both of whom are major talents waiting to break out and, fortunately for me, personal friends." -- Paul Osborne
Current status: The team is raising funds for principal photography and post-production. "Favor" is set to begin shooting this 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 6).
"The Startup Kids"
Logline: The Startup Kids is a documentary about young web entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Europe.
Production team: Director/Producers: Sesselja Vilhjalmsdottir, Vala Halldorsdottir; Editor: Helgi Johannsson
About the film: "'The Startup Kids' is a documentary about young web entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Europe. It contains interviews with the founders of Vimeo, Soundcloud, PlayFish, Wordpress, Posterous and many others who talk about how they started their company and their lives as an entrepreneur. The documentary also compares the different environments, resources and attitudes of entrepreneurs on either side of the Atlantic. We are two Icelandic women, Sesselja and Vala, who founded our first company in 2009, shortly after the economic collapse of Iceland. We wanted to motivate other young people to go into entrepreneurship so we grabbed a video camera and bought ourselves tickets to the U.S. and Europe and interviewed some amazing and inspirational people. We have around 70 interviews to put together in a feature length documentary." -- Sesselja Vilhjalmsdottir and Vala Halldorsdottir
Current status: The documentary is in post-production.
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 $7,000 by the end of the campaign (May 7).
"The Columbia Expedition: Falklands Ho!"
Logline: The adventure approaches the Antarctic. Hit and Run History is back on the trail of the Columbia Expedition. And headed south.
Production team: Producer/Director: Andrew Giles Buckley; Producer & Production Manager: Jay Sheehan; Editors: Andrew Giles Buckley, Jay Sheehan & James Gallant; Videographers: T. Kane Stanton, James Gallant, Kyanna Sutton & Jay Sheehan; Audio Engineer: Jay Sheehan
About the film: "I've been following the story of the first American voyage 'round the world -- the Columbia Expedition -- for 16 years, when I began research for my novel 'The Bostoner.' Three years ago, I decided to take it on as a nonfiction book proposal with a few advance book trailers. But with the coming of age of YouTube, those trailers quickly turned into a full documentary series. But less Ken Burns and more Anthony Bourdain. We realized we could follow the voyage point-to-point around the world with our small crew pulled from the small towns of coastal New England. Practicing history without a license. And so the idea of Hit and Run History, an episodic travel-history-adventure show, was born. Since then, we've won over a dozen Massachusetts Cultural Council Grants and most recently the first-ever Social Media Outreach Grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. Our pilot episode took us across New England. Our second to New York, and Cape Verde during the Dengue fever epidemic. Since then we produced a weekly series of short which became the centerpiece of WGBH-Boston's History page.
"Now it's time to pick up the trail again and head off to the most challenging leg of the journey: the Falkland Islands. Not yet out of the Atlantic Ocean, Columbia's crew was at each other's throats, and losing one officer after another. Nineteen year-old Robert Haswell, who kept the only firsthand account of the voyage, jumped ship in the desolate West Falklands and stumbled across the ruins of Port Egmont. Only a few years prior, this first English settlement in the Falklands had been obliterated just a few years prior by the Spanish in the ongoing struggle for dominion over the islands. Unable to find any other ship to take him away, Haswell returned to Columbia as the expedition prepared for the treacherous 'rounding of Cape Horn." -- Andrew Giles Buckley
Current status: The team is currently in pre-production for the latest project. Their plan is to head to the Falklands in May.
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 (May 2).
"Jens Pulver: Driven"
Logline: "Filmed January through April 2010, 'Jens Pulver: Driven' takes you behind the scenes for an emotional roller coaster ride that proves equally heartbreaking and inspirational as we follow legendary mixed martial arts champion, Jens Pulver, on his ‘last march’ toward a do or die comeback after suffering four losses in the cage. The result is an unprecedented in depth look into the fighter, capturing an intimate portrait of a man who rose from a childhood laced with violence and substance abuse, to become one of the most loved and respected MMA fighters of all time.
Production Team: Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor: Gregory Bayne; Writer/Co-Producer: J. Reuben Appelman; Executive Producer: Dylan Bruno; Music: Patrick Benolkin; Sound Design: Jacob Kinch
About the film: "I met Jens Pulver in the fall of 2009. Jens is a mixed martial arts fighter, and former three-time UFC World Champion. At the time I was quite new to MMA, I honestly hadn’t watched it much, nor before my first meeting with Jens did I know much if anything about him or his career. What I did know after that first meeting is that Jens is a warm, casually unassuming guy, with a quick smile and big heart that is willing to chat with anyone. After that first meeting, I felt pretty compelled that there was a story in Jens. I did my research, read his book ('Little Evil: One Ultimate Fighter’s Rise to the Top'), and learned that there was so much more to Jens, and his sport, than meets the eye.
"The first chapter in his autobiography begins like this: 'When I was seven years old, my father decided that he no longer wanted children. On a cloudy Seattle afternoon, he grabbed my two younger brothers and me by the collars of our shirts and hauled us into the living room. After lining us up in a little row by the fireplace, he stumbled into the kitchen to fetch his shotgun.' I was hooked in from that moment, and became engrossed in the story of an abused kid from the horse tracks outside Seattle, who despite every opportunity to repeat the mistakes of his father, instead embraced athletics to eventually rise to the level of World Champion in his sport." -- Gregory Bayne
Current status: The film is now complete, looking for finishing funds, and is beginning its festival run. The film is preparing to do a tour of festival and community screenings. The film will be released in July via Gravitas Ventures/Warner Bros. VOD.
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 (April 16).