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Five Projects iW is Rooting For: Katie Aselton & Duplass's All-Girl Thriller, Jay DeMerit Doc & More

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | feelingsoblahg.blogspot.com May 19, 2011 at 4:10AM

In this week's indieWIRE in-production column, iW speaks to "The Freebie" director Katie Aselton about her new project, the all-girl in-the-woods thriller "Black Rock," written by her husband Mark Duplass. We also have news on a documentary about the creation of a basketball team in Iran. From Kickstarter, we take a look at three projects that caught our attention: an unbelievable story of an American soccer reject who goes on to start at the World Cup for England, the young-girls-in-love first feature from Sundance short filmmaker Aurora Guerrero, and a student film about an incredible, geeky trans-national love story.
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Katie Aselton. [Photo Credit: Ross Partridge]

In this week's indieWIRE in-production column, iW speaks to "The Freebie" director Katie Aselton about her new project, the all-girl in-the-woods thriller "Black Rock," written by her husband Mark Duplass. We also have news on a documentary about the creation of a basketball team in Iran. From Kickstarter, we take a look at three projects that caught our attention: an unbelievable story of an American soccer reject who goes on to start at the World Cup for England, the young-girls-in-love first feature from Sundance short filmmaker Aurora Guerrero, and a student film about an incredible, geeky trans-national love story.

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

"Black Rock"

Katie Aselton, director and star of Sundance '10 low budget breakout "The Freebie," got on the phone with indieWIRE while on location in Milbridge, Maine, preparing for production on her new film "Black Rock." Says Aselton, "In a town of 350 people like Milbridge, 20 people shooting a movie is taking over the town."

In "Black Rock," three childhood friends (Aselton, Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell) return home to visit an island they visited as kids. From there, something very scary -- and very real -- interferes with the idyllic nostalgic trip they all envisioned.

"I came to filmmaking as an actor who wants another job," Aselton told indieWIRE. "If no one gives you the opportunity to play the roles you want to play, you've got to make them yourself. I've had this idea banging around in my head for a while. I had the first two acts in my head, but the climax was eluding me. The idea of violence doesn't come naturally to me. Mark [Duplass] and I were walking through a forest taking turns going down the narrow paths."

Sensing something creepy about their forest stroll, Duplass cranked out a rough draft of the script for "Black Rock" in 12 hours. "Mark has an amazing ability to see the arc of a film. I just had to tweak a lot of the dialogue on my own to make the girls talk like girls."

Fast forward to now, when Aselton is merely weeks away from shooting the film in her hometown. Excited to begin production, she told indieWIRE, "When I was casting this film, I had to ask myself 'With whom do I want to spend four weeks in a forest, getting muddy and being cold in the ocean?' We're going to be making the most out of the elements. It's going to be brutal and raw."

The film's team, who have set up a Kickstarter campaign to help buy a camera for the shoot, reached their goal shortly after iW spoke with her, but the campaign is open until June 5. Click here to find out more and to contribute.

Aselton's castmates should be afraid, very afraid. She just re-watched "Deliverance" before speaking with indieWIRE, and she seemed very inspired.

More projects:

"Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story"

An image from "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" [Image courtesy of the filmmakers]


Logline: "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" is the true story of a young American's journey to the 2010 World Cup - one never experienced in the soccer world. In a few short years, Jay went from playing in the lowest leagues in England to the biggest league in the world to starting at the 2010 World Cup.

Production team: Co-Director/Co-Writer/Producer/Executive Producer/Asst. Editor: Nick Lewis & Ranko Tutulugdzija; Cinematographer/Editor: Zach Salsman; Producer: Jay DeMerit

About the film: "'Rise and Shine' was the result of Jay's friends wanting to get his story out. Ranko and Jay had played college soccer together in Chicago. After college, Jay's dream of playing pro soccer in Europe seemed unreachable. After not making the professional leagues in the U.S., Jay left for Europe at the age of 21 without any professional experience - only a passport, $1500 and a backpack full of dreams. Sleeping in an attic, painting houses and eating beans and toast to survive, Jay took the most unlikely route to the top. The film documents Jay’s journey from the bottom – playing in Sunday park leagues and lower level division London clubs earning 40 pounds a week -- to playing in the English Premier League -- to starting in the 2010 World Cup.

"Neither I nor Ranko had any formal film experience (Nick is an attorney and Ranko an acupuncturist) but our love for soccer and our determination to have Jay's story told made the decision easy. However, one week before the film was set to begin shooting the director we hired notified us that he was unable to direct the project due to family issues. We had a decision to make -- put an end to the project or give it a go. Juggling our day jobs, draining our savings, maxing our credit cards (and borrowing the rest) we set out on a year-long journey that culminated in a 92-minute film, one we hope will inspire and entertain many with its message of hope and self-determination." -- Nick Lewis

Current status: The film is currently in post-production and is raising money for their considerable footage licensing fees.

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 $215,000 by the end of the campaign (July 18).


"Mosquita y Mari"

An image from Aurora Guerrero's "Mosquita y Mari." [Image courtesy of the filmmaker]


Logline: "Mosquita y Mari" is a coming of age film about two young Chicana best friends who struggle to address their growing attraction while growing up in a working-class, immigrant Latino community.

Production Team: Writer/Director: Aurora Guerrero; Cinematographer: Bradford Young; Executive Producer: Jim McKay; Producer: Chad Burris; Co-Producer: Charlene Agabao

About the film: "The inspiration behind my debut feature film, 'Mosquita y Mari,' was my own adolescence. I had same-sex friendships throughout my youth that were very layered. How can you not have a whirlwind of feelings for your closest friends? You pick them because they’re cool, they’re nice, they’re different from the rest, they look out for you, they listen to you, and they take care of you. There’s bound to be chemistry there. Feelings of love and desire are bound to develop. It can be such a loaded relationship because we learn not to cross that line and so a lot of this tension goes unspoken. Essentially, 'Mosquita y Mari' explores this vulnerable space we navigate as young people but within the context of a working-class, immigrant community.

"So for me certain universal rites of passage, like exploring an adolescent first love, became an obstacle to my responsibilities to my family and to securing an economically stable future. 'Mosquita y Mari' is my reflection on these elements coming to a collision in the life of two 15-year-old Chicanas." -- Aurora Guerrero

Current Status: The production is currently raising funds to combine with a Latino Public Broadcast grant to begin production 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 $80,000 by the end of the campaign (May 26).


"Love Hacking"

A still from Jenni Nelson's "Love Hacking." [Image courtesy of filmmaker]


Logline: A virtual relationship becomes a reality when a robot inventor falls in love online and journeys to Nepal to meet his fiance for the first time. They marry the next day.

Production team: Producer/Director/Cinematographer/Editor: Jenni Nelson; Additional Cinematography/Sound Recording: Rebekah Meredith; Composer: Jakes Bejoy

About the film: "'Love Hacking' is a short documentary film that follows the journey of Tim Heath, a robot inventor living in Silicon Valley. After a personal reawakening, Tim radically shifts his outlook on courtship and utilizes the technology he knows best in order to find love. 'Love Hacking' is my thesis film for my MFA degree in Documentary Film and Video at Stanford University. After moving to the tech hub of Silicon Valley, I became fascinated with the impact that technology and globalization have had on dating -- people are traversing continents in order to find the best love match. I was in the middle of researching cross-cultural marriage and online dating when I learned about Tim’s engagement over Skype. I immediately wanted to focus my documentary on his personal journey and after only 2 1/2 weeks, I found myself on a plane to Nepal so I could film the couple meeting in person for the first time and their wedding the following day.

"I am particularly drawn to Tim’s views about open source philosophy as he relates it to relationships. He says that 'In marriage, you have to constantly innovate.' I try to explore the connections between Tim’s innovations at a technological, physical, and spiritual level throughout the course of the film." -- Jenni Nelson

Current status: The film is currently in the final stages of 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 $7,000 by the end of the campaign (June 11).


"From Texas to Tehran" (working title)

An image from Til Schauder's "From Texas to Tehran." [Image courtesy of the filmmaker.]


Logline: A black American plays professional basketball in Iran and forms an unlikely alliance with his teammates and three young women against the backdrop of revolutionary upheaval in Tehran.

Production team: Director/Producer: Till Schauder; Producer: Sara Nodjoumi

About the film: "Despite longstanding political tensions between the two countries a handful of Americans play professional basketball in Iran. 'From Texas to Tehran' is the story of one such player, a charismatic African-American named Kevin Sheppard. 
 Kevin's journey begins at a moment of crisis, both personal and political: his girlfriend, Leah, wants an engagement ring, while Iran's president Ahmadinejad has just called for the destruction of Israel. Kevin’s first reaction, when approached about playing in Iran, is: ‘Hell, no…” From there an inner desire to explore leads him to change his mind. He accepts the challenge and moves to the so-called 'Axis of Evil.'

"Kevin’s professional and personal storylines merge in a powerful climax when the first playoff game coincides with Iran’s controversial 2009 election. Kevin witnesses how this dramatic event affects his teammates and friends. But the event also shapes his own personal worldview as he grows from being a fearful skeptic to becoming a mature global citizen. 'From Texas to Tehran' expresses a simple premise: cultural differences break down through inter-personal engagement." -- Sara Nodjoumi


The project is in post-production and looking for finishing funds.

For more information and to support the film: Contact the producer of the film, Sara Nodjoumi, by emailing her.

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