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by Bryce J. Renninger
April 7, 2011 3:06 AM
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The 5 Projects We're Rooting For: A Mormon Gay Son Drama and More

An image of Will Swenson, the director of "Facing East." [Photo courtesy of Will Swenson.]

For this week's edition of In The Works, a series that highlights in-production titles we're hoping make their way to a platform near you, indieWIRE looks at an adaptation of "Facing East," which will be the directing debut of Broadway star Will Swenson ("Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") From Kickstarter, iW profiles projects about black tattoo culture, docs about artists Ai Weiwei and Kenny Scharf, and "Pig," a film that is set to premiere at this year's Nashville Film Festival.

"Facing East"

After deciding to adapt her stage play "Facing East," Carol Lynn Pearson teamed with producer Duane Andersen ("Surrogate Valentine," "White on Rice") to work on the script and find a director. They found him in Tony-nominated Broadway star Will Swenson ("Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," "Hair").

"Facing East" tells the story of a Mormon family who must cope with the suicide of their gay son. The stage version premiered in Salt Lake City in 2006 to sold-out audiences and went on to off-Broadway and San Francisco productions.

Producer Duane Andersen talked about the difference between this film and others that have dealt with Mormonism and homosexuality. "It's an interesting mix/niche," he said. "Our whole team is mixed with people who mostly have a Mormon background. Many of them have left the church; some of them are still practicing. The difference between this movie and 'Latter Days' and '8: The Mormon Proposition' is it's less of a statement against the church. It's a big issue. This film asks if we can somehow approach this appropriately."

The production has made a commitment to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Trevor Project. Said Andersen, "We were looking to do more with the film than just make a film, to have some impact between screening and selling DVDs, so we started looking for an organization like Trevor that would seem to make sense."

Andersen previously worked with Swenson on a small mockumentary, "Sons of Provo," about a Mormon boy band. "Carol Lynn and I were looking at several people who had done indie films before, but Will stood out as someone who would understand, who was a strong advocate for equality. I was convinced having worked with him before. He'd be able to get to the heart of the issues and be a good ambassador for the film."

Now that Swenson is signed on to direct, casting process has begun for the four leads, with production to begin later this year.

More Projects:

"Color Outside the Lines"

Artemus Jenkins' "Color Outside the Lines." [Image courtesy of


Logline: Documentary about black tattoo culture that seeks to destroy stigmas and stereotypes associated with the artform.

Production Team: Director/Cinematographer/Editor: Artemus Jenkins; Producers: Miya Bailey and Artemus Jenkins; Exec Producer: Miya Bailey; Written and Conceived by Miya Bailey

About the film: "My motivating factor for doing the film was the opportunity to tell a unique story. Tattoo culture as a whole has not really been covered from a historical or artistic perspective. There are only a couple documentaries worth mentioning, meaning BLACK tattoo culture has certainly not been covered. This film represents the voices of each artist and anyone affected by this culture." -- Artemus Jenkins

Current Status: Currently in production, with about 40% of shooting completed. Still to come are shoots in LA, New Orleans and Miami, among others. They plan begin submitting to festivals in the fall.

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 (June 25).

More projects on page 2

"The Fun's Inside"

Malia Scharf and Nathan Meier's "The Fun's Inside." [Image courtesy of filmmakers.]


Logline: "The Fun's Inside" will explore the life and work of American artist Kenny Scharf, whose “surrealistic pop” paintings shook up the New York art world of the early 1980s and turned him into a star.

Production Team: Producers/Directors: Malia Scharf and Nathan Meier; Cinematographer: Nathan Meier; Sound Production: Moritz Rechenberg

About the film: "Kenny Scharf is a true original and although his art has been celebrated for over 30 years, little is known about the man outside of his public persona. As his daughter, there is a certain intimacy that I am able to share with him. This documentary film will explore Kenny's history and the context of where he began his career, who his peers were and how he became established in the art world. We will explore this time period in the early '80s with archival footage and home movies of Scharf and his family and friends. These films and videos will also include other prominent figures and collaborators, such as Keith Haring, Klaus Nomi and Ann Magnuson. The key to the film and to Kenny's way of living, is his positive attitude towards life and his art. The style of the film will capture his unique vision. This would be the first feature film on Kenny and it is a way for me to get to know my dad and his work even more. I want to share the unique point of view I have as knowing him as human being and father. I am honored to be making a film about the most inspirational person that I know." - Malia Scharf

Current status: The team is still in production, finishing up interviews.

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 18).


"Pig"

An image from Henry Barrial's "Pig." [Image courtesy of the filmmakers.]


Logline: "Pig" is an enigmatic mystery about a man who wakes up alone in the middle of the desert with a hood on his head and his hands tied behind his back, with no idea where he is, who he is or how he got there.

Production Team: Writer/Director: Henry Barrial; Producer: Mark Stolaroff; Co-producer: Alex Cutler; Editor: Eric Strand; Cinematographer: Collin Brink; Lead Actor: Rudolf Martin

About the Film: "'Pig' is the third collaboration for Henry and I. I first met Henry when he submitted his $3,000 feature "Some Body" to Next Wave Films, IFC's finishing fund company founded by Peter Broderick. I was a principal there and loved the film and we invested in it. It premiered in Dramatic Competition at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically by Lot 47 Films. [With 'Pig',] Henry came up with the germ of the idea after reading a story about a Lebanese man who was rendered by the CIA for being a suspected terrorist. After a couple of years, when it was clear he wasn't a terrorist, the man was blindfolded and dropped into a foreign country where he didn't even speak the language. His family had moved on with their lives, believing him dead. Henry mentioned this story to me on the way to our first film festival with "True Love" and said he thought there was a movie in there. He was also inspired by the ideas of futurist Ray Kurzweil and his observations of humans merging with computers and the reversal of death and illness. This factored into the first draft of the script that I read on the way to our next festival and from then we decided we would make the film ourselves, with our own money (again!). The ideas and budget grew from there. We set out to make a movie that would act as a mystery and play with the audience's expectations and assumptions, but also Henry became fascinated by the idea of a man living moment to moment, not tied down by memories or most of the identifications one accumulates over the course of a life. Our hero was uber-conscious and present. And with this premise, he could explore all of these ideas and more." -- Mark Stolaroff

Current status: The team is currently putting the final touches on the film, prepping for their world premiere on April 16th at the Nashville Film Festival.

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 24).


"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"

"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry." [Image provided by the filmmaker]


Logline: Can an artist change China? "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" follows two tumultuous years in the life of Ai Weiwei, when he became a superstar, a dissident of the art world, in the headlines, a first-time father and an online god to tens of thousands of Chinese netizens, all while trying to stay out of prison.

Production team: Director/Producer/Cinematographer: Alison Klayman; Editor: Jen Fineran; Executive Producer: MUSE Film and Television; Interview subjects: Ai Weiwei, Hung Huang, Evan Osnos, Zuzhou Zuoxiao, Hung Huang, Hsieh Tehching and Chen Danqing

About the film: "I moved to China in 2006, but I first met Ai Weiwei two years ago. I filmed a short video that ran with an exhibition of his photographs in Beijing. He liked the piece, and I gradually started filming more of his daily life. I traveled with him in seven countries and 11 cities, capturing his art and activist activities, as well as his down time with family and friends. The first time he introduced me to someone saying, "That's Alison, she's been following me for a long time because she's making a documentary about me," that's when I knew this project was really happening.

"Now, after spending two years filming him, watching his media profile and art career soar abroad, and his life become more perilous in China, I felt like it was time to get his story out to a wide international audience. Many people in China are silenced or detained for doing similar things -- writing online articles, speaking their mind. His example is a reminder of the complexity of modern China. I hope this film will inspire people, show them a little bit more about today's China, and increase Ai Weiwei's base of support around the world." - Alison Klayman

Current Status: The film is currently 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 $20,000 by the end of the campaign (May 28).

1 Comment

  • Nathaniel Rogers | April 7, 2011 5:15 AMReply

    Will Swenson has actually directed a feature before. He was the star and director of the Mormon feature SONS OF PROVO back in that "Mollywood" wave of movies.