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5 Projects to Root For: Ira Sachs' Autobiographical Breakup Film and 4 More from Kickstarter

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire May 26, 2011 at 2:19AM

For this week's in-production column, iW speaks to Ira Sachs ("Married Life," "Forty Shades of Blue") about his new film that deals with his addiction-riddled past relationship and explores gay life in New York City. We also profile three more projects from Kickstarter -- topics include child sex trafficking, a mother's suicide, and a man who was both a Union soldier and a Sioux liaison -- and we take a look at the Kickstarter campaign from New York's LGBT Film Festival, NewFest [Full disclosure: the writer of this column is also the Director of Programming for NewFest].
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Ira Sachs.

For this week's in-production column, iW speaks to Ira Sachs ("Married Life," "Forty Shades of Blue") about his new film that deals with his addiction-riddled past relationship and explores gay life in New York City. We also profile three more projects from Kickstarter -- topics include child sex trafficking, a mother's suicide, and a man who was both a Union soldier and a Sioux liaison -- and we take a look at the Kickstarter campaign from New York's LGBT Film Festival, NewFest [Full disclosure: the writer of this column is also the Director of Programming for NewFest].

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

"Keep the Lights On"

"On the day this relationship ended, I knew immediately that it was a story," Ira Sachs told indieWIRE about his new project, "Keep the Lights On." Sachs, the Sundance award-winning director of "Forty Shades of Blue," continued, "It's an autobiographically inspired story about my last relationship and a story of gay life in NYC over the last decade. I don't see images of my New York -- as an artist, as a filmmaker, as a member of a multisexual community -- I don't see that side of contemporary gay life on screen."

"I was making films about difference, outsiders, and secrets. All those things were thematically queer to me, but I wasn't making films explicitly about my life," he said. This film is different; it loosely retells the story of Sachs's last relationship, from the day it began to the day it ended. Sachs explained, "My ex [who is supportive of the project] was a pretty serious drug addict. I participated in my own very ritualized sexual behavior. It's a very energetic story about sex and drugs and love and life and friends and arguments. It's almost melodramatic, but I don't think the film is melodramatic."

Sachs worked on the script with Mauricio Zacharias. "It was necessary to have someone else's perspective," Sachs said. "He was able to take the raw data that I could provide him with endless numbers of scenes, emails, letters, diary entries and return with a first draft. We came from a lot of similar experiences -- he lived in New York the same 15 or 20 years that I've been here. Also, because he's Brazilian, he has a different take on sex and imagery than an American writer might have."

Despite mainstream successes of gay-themed films like "Brokeback Mountain" and "The Kids Are All Right," Sachs said queer films are still difficult to make. "Casting is challenging and I think people still shy away from this work as much as they ever have," he said. "The woman who is casting the film, Avy Kaufman, cast 'Brokeback Mountain,' a much bigger film, with Ang Lee directing, and she still had trouble casting it. [Actors and agents] think it might make the actors ineligible to play a super hero or something.

"This film is explicitly sexual. It's a film about transparency, so things like nudity are necessary. This would be easier to make in Europe. The broad repression that we feel is reflected by how the Hollywood industry approaches a film like this. And so, we thought it was necessary to reach out on Kickstarter."

So far, despite all of those requirements, one of the lead roles has been taken by Zachary Booth ("Damages") and supporting roles have been taken by Souléymane Sy Savané ("Good Bye Solo"), Julianne Nicholson and Maria Dizzia.

Ira and his team are currently raising funds on Kickstarter. Click here to find out more and to support his project. As with all Kickstarter projects, the film project will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $25,000 by the end of the campaign (June 11).


More projects

"Here One Day"

An image from Kathy Leichter's "Here One Day." [Image courtesy of filmmaker]


Logline: "Here One Day" is a feature-length documentary, told from the filmmaker’s point-of-view, that explores the effect of her mother’s mental illness and suicide on her family. Shot by Kirsten Johnson, winner of the 2010 Excellence in Cinematography Award at Sundance, this beautiful film examines mental illness and stigma, generational passage, family silence and communication, fear, and hard-won joy.

Production Team: Director/Producer: Kathy Leichter; Editor: Pola Rapaport; Director of Photography: Kirsten Johnson; Sound Engineer: Judy Karp; Associate Producers: Noelle Barnes and Carolina Correa

About the film: "When I began making 'Here One Day' in 2004, after over 20 years of work in film production, I realized that if I didn’t tell my own story, I would not be able to successfully portray that of anyone else. How could I ask people to intimately open themselves up in front of the camera if I myself wasn’t willing to? It also had been nine years since my mother’s death and it became clear that this was a story I needed to tell—not only what had happened to my mother, but what repercussions her illness and death had on me and our family. Although this was a story that scared the daylights out of me when I considered telling it, I saw myself at 90, lying in bed and regretting, in the silence of old age, that I never had had the courage to tell this story. So, thus I began what became a seven-year journey of exploration and discovery.

"When I started making 'Here One Day,' I could not even say that my mother committed suicide. I was still mired in the loss of her and was unable to let go. Even in death, my mother was holding me back. Deciding to make the film was perhaps an unconscious choice to free myself from my mother’s grasp. 'Here One Day' documents my journey of separation from my mother as I learn to hold onto her while also letting her go. The film also tells my mother's story from her early years as a bright and gifted child to her first manic episode in 1974 to her gradual slide into depression and eventual suicide in 1995. 'Here One Day' also explores another traumatic mother-loss in my family which sheds light on one of the film's main characters and my journey of separation." -- Kathy Leichter

Current status: The team is currently in post-production and hope to get a rough cut finished by this summer.

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 $25,000 by the end of the campaign (June 1).


"Trade in Hope"

An image from Michelle Nehme's "Trade in Hope."


Logline: An American woman trafficked for sex at the age of nine shares her incredible journey to freedom, while the community she lives in works tirelessly to build solution to the growing problem of child sex slavery in the States.

Production team: Director/Writer/Editor: Michelle Nehme; Producer: Leanna Borsellino; Outreach: John Nehme; Music: Ramy Antoun; Effects: Joel Maysonet; Production Designer: Johanna Adkins

About the film: "Michelle Nehme first heard about sex trafficking when she became a mother and started reading about Amber Alerts in her area. She was surprised to learn that many missing children fall victim to human trafficking and wondered why communities didn't have a stronger response. Michelle's own experience as a survivor of sexual assault has motivated her to raise awareness about sexual abuse and sex trafficking. She recognized a need for greater awareness and resources to combat the sex trafficking of domestic minors – an often overlooked and underserved demographic affected by trafficking. To meet that need, a team was gathered, and they began working on a feature length documentary about child sex slavery in America, aiming to motivate viewers to compassionate action." -- Leanna Borsellino

Current status: The film began production in February, thanks to funds raised from private investors and anonymous donors. The team intends to have the film completed late next year.

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 $30,000 by the end of the campaign (June 18).


"The Sioux Nation: A Documentary about the Real Major Lightner"

An image from Major Lightner's "The Sioux Nation." [Image courtesy of filmmaker]


Logline: "The Sioux Nation: A Documentary about the Real Major Lightner" is a feature length documentary that explores the relationship between The Sioux Nation and Major Isaiah Lightner (The last agent to the Santee Sioux).

Production team: Director: Major Lightner; Writer/Researcher: Dr. John Moretta; Producers: Michelle Moretta Lightner, O'Ryan Brody; Researchers: Christina Moretta, Donald Phelps; Director of Photography: Billy Sumers

About the film: "Major Isaiah Lightner joined the Union Army in 1862 as a Quaker. 1862 is the same year President Abraham Lincoln ordered the largest mass-execution in US history, the hanging of 38 Sioux Warriors in the public square. From a personal perspective, I am a direct descendant of Major Isaiah Lightner, and I am curious to find out more about the story between him and the Sioux Nation. He was appointed the post by President Hayes and held the post under four US Presidents. What I've found out so far has been very intriguing. It makes for a great and fascinating story. My father recommended I do this documentary as he thought it would make a very interesting story and he named me after the man. Another motivating factor is that there seem to be a lot of stories out there about general history. To me, when you focus on a specific person, relationship or event, stories become much more intimate, emotional, and interesting to watch." -- Major Lightner

Current status: The film team is currently researching and writing grants.

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 $32,500 by the end of the campaign (July 9).


NewFest: New York's LGBT Film Festival


Short Description of NewFest: The 23rd Annual NewFest will be bringing the best in LGBT film to venues across New York City, like the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the SVA Theater in Chelsea, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harlem Stage, and the Manhattan JCC.

NewFest's Mission Statement: As one of New York City’s premier LGBT arts organizations, NewFest empowers, educates, entertains, and provokes the culturally rich and diverse communities of the greater metropolitan region. Through our annual film festival and year-round programming, NewFest showcases international, US, and local filmmakers, fostering a greater sense of awareness and community among LGBT and LGBT-friendly audiences.

Plans for the campaign: NewFest is seek to raise funds to cover rising theater rental prices and to bring as many filmmakers into town as we can. We are looking to make sure this year's NewFest is its best ever. We're also hoping our Kickstarter donors take advantage of the membership incentives and come to the festival!

For more information and to support NewFest: Kickstarter page. The team is seeking to reach their $7,500 goal by June 27.

This article is related to: Features, Filmmaker Toolkit, In The Works