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by Basil Tsiokos
May 27, 2010 1:03 AM
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In the Works: Borrowed Bodies, Gay Intimacy, High School Jesus, Dante in Motion & Dream "House"

An image from "The Ruined Cast," courtesy of the filmmaker's website.

This week's "In the Works" speaks with "Shortbus"'s John Cameron Mitchell and Howard Gertler and noted graphic novelist Dash Shaw to check in on their new project, "The Ruined Cast," also offering the world premiere of the film's demo teaser; the column also looks at four other projects in various stages of production - covering everything from Dante's Inferno, gay relationships in San Francisco, a collaboration between an ex-prisoner and an artist, and a smalltown theater comedy.

EDITORS NOTE: "In the Works" is a weekly column taking a look at upcoming films, in addition to projects in production. It spotlights films in development, as well completed films that are taking creative paths towards distribution and occasionally ventures away from films to look at other types of projects, such as interesting new film distribution, funding, or exhibition mechanisms.

"The Ruined Cast"

Acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw ("Bottomless Belly Button," "BodyWorld") is teaming up with veteran producer Howard Gertler ("Shortbus," "World's Greatest Dad") and filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "Rabbit Hole") on what promises to be an innovative full-length feature animation called "The Ruined Cast." Shaw, who met Mitchell while doing some illustration work on his latest project, "Rabbit Hole," starring Nicole Kidman, will direct the project, while Gertler and Mitchell will produce.

"The story revolves around a new technology that allows people to wear other people's boides," Shaw told indieWIRE earlier this month. "The body they wear also affects the person who is wearing it, and this is wrapped around a family story." Shaw said that the setting is a "trophy city in the future." Not just figuratively, but literally. The city is encased in a trophy that is akin to a gated community. "The people who live there think of it as an idyllic place," Shaw added.

The project went through the Sundance Screenwriting Lab in January and Shaw will attend the Sundance Directors Lab this summer. Shaw's other filmmaking credits include three shorts he created for IFC.

"Someone suggested Dash [for 'Rabbit Hole'] and I was drawn to him," Mitchell told iW. "His humor was so dry and his art was so interesting. I cast him like an actor but as a graphic artist. Dash understood character in a way an actor can. He showed me the IFC animation which is really amazing... And he sent me the first screenplay he had ever written and it was fantastic."

Take a look at the exclusive online premiere of the demo teaser that Dash and his animation team created for the film:

"The Ruined Cast" / Dash Shaw - demo teaser from Howard Gertler on Vimeo.

Producer Gertler said that the project has the potential to reach multiple audiences who may choose to view the finished project via multiple sources of delivery, enhancing the film's eventual appeal.

"It's the ideal project that can have a multi-platform life," said Gertler. "It can have a theatrical life, but it can be perfect in others like online or television. It's not just storytelling, but also the sensibility. The story creates a self contained universe."

"Contemporary animation is inhuman to me," said Shaw who added that the animation in "Ruined Cast" will not be of the same generic computer-produced variety that lends a uniform feel. "I keep waiting for those animated features that are really smart and I haven't seen that many," added Mitchell. "Bill Plympton's 2-D stuff is really smart, but I haven't seen others lately. It's refreshing to see 2-D again, but in a new way."

For now, the group is holding off on unveiling who will voice the characters, but they expect there will be six or seven main people with an additional two minor roles. Gertler said they are also in the midst of gathering financing, so a target completion date is approximately Fall of 2011.

"The themes [the story] explores are almost extrapolations of Facebook," said Mitchell. "You can be who you want to be online and this is a situation where you can incase yourself in the surface of another person and see how this affects you."

Check out the filmmaker's website for updates throughout the film's production.


More projects

"I Want Your Love"

Image from "I Want Your Love," courtesy of the filmmaker.

Logline: After a decade of living in San Francisco, Sam is forced to move back to his Midwestern roots because he can no longer afford the city. On his final night in San Francisco, friends and ex-lovers gather for a going away party that promises to heighten Sam's already bittersweet feelings about leaving.

The team: Travis Mathews, Director/Screenwriter/Editor; Jack Shamama, Producer; Keith Wilson, Producer/DP; NakedSword, Executive Producer

About the film: Director Mathews says he's "always been interested in finding different ways of showing emotional honesty among gay men," citing his previous feature, "Do I Look Fat?," a documentary about gay men and eating disorders, and "In Their Room," a striking documentary web-series for Butt Magazine filming gay men alone in their bedrooms. "I Want Your Love" seems like a natural progression, adding a fictional component while building on the eroticism and playfulness, the intimacy and directness, of Mathews' previous work. Describing the project as "something of a love letter to San Francisco," Mathews offers that, "On my best days I'd like to think that we're making an updated 'Tales of the City' for this generation of gay men." Addressing the film's depiction of graphic sex, he says: "There's real sex in this movie, the way people actually have sex, but it's not a series of sex scenes with the pretense of a story. If anything I'm thinking of this as a series of narratives that use sex as one tool to further understand who these guys are."

Current status: The filmmakers released a short demo of the project last month that has received a lot of positive press (including from iW's own Peter Knegt). Production on the feature is expected to start in October, with a Winter/Spring 2011 release planned. Casting is currently in process.


"Mangus"

Image from "Mangus," courtesy of the filmmaker.

Logline: Mangus Spedgwick has had one dream his whole life... He wants to be Jesus - in his high school's annual production of "Jesus Christ Spectacular," that is. When unforeseen circumstances strike, Mangus loses the role, which was a Spedgwick family tradition. Will he get to be their town's first crippled Jesus? Not without a hard fight, a road trip, and breaking the law a few times along the way.

The team: Ash Christian, Writer/Director/Producer; Heather Matarazzo, Producer; Anne Clements, Executive Producer ("Quincenera"); Lyn Moncrief, DP; Cast: Jennifer Coolidge, Heather Matarazzo, Leslie Jordan, Deborah Theaker, and John Waters.

About the film: Twenty-five-year-old Christian, whose first feature, "Fat Girls," premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, wanted to explore the role and importance of community theatre to small towns and their aspiring stars. Returning to his home state of Texas to capture the particular character and atmosphere, he says the comedy is "about growing up with a dream." Explaining the four year gap between "Fat" and "Mangus," Christian explains: "Half the reason was me being scared and the other half was me getting caught up in the Hollywood system of big producer, big actors, big financiers. Finally, I just had to say 'Screw it, let's just make the f*ing movie"... so we did." We're thrilled with the cast he did land: stalwart performers like Jennifer Coolidge, Heather Matarazzo, Leslie Jordan, and John Waters - putting the project high on our eagerly anticipated list.

Current status: "Mangus" is currently in post-production in New York City. The producers are in the midst of a crowfunding campaign on IndieGoGo, seeking support to help cover production and post costs.

For more information and to support the film: http://www.indiegogo.com/mangus. The IndieGoGo campaign has a little more than a month to raise its $100,000 goal.


"La Commedia"

Image from "La Commedia," courtesy of the filmmaker.

Logline: A visual translation of Dante's poem using the ideas of Eadweard Muybridge as a meditation on re-envisioning motion in a motion picture.

The team: Amos Poe, Director/Image Capture; Dante Alighieri, Writer; Elena Santamaria, Ben Bindra, & JR Skola, Producers; Ellyn Toscano, Executive Producer; Ben Bindra, Editor; JR Skola, Sound Designer; Thierry Mader, Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, & Decay of Angels, Music; Cast: Loretta Mugnai, Isabelle Huppert, Francis Ford Coppola, Francesco Clemente, Salman Rushdie, Debi Mazar; Narration: Roberto Benigni, Carmelo Bene, Alfonso Santagata, Sandro Lombardi

About the film: One of the pioneers of the no wave cinema movement and of modern American indie film, director Amos Poe ("The Blank Generation," "Unmade Beds," "Alphabet City") was inspired by reading and re-reading Dante Alighieri's masterpiece, "La Divina Commedia" as well as by Eadweard Muybridge's cinematic forebear "The Horse in Motion." Poe explains that his current project came from "my fascination with the roots of cinema as a movable feast and as poetry." Conceived as a cinema verité, "La Commedia" follows Poe during a summer journey through Italy and France, and is primarily concerned with "the perception of motion in a motion picture." The film's structure, composed of 6000 animated stills divided into three cinematic sequences, echo the structure of Dante's work, creating "a kind of re-invention of the comedy for the 21st century."

Current status: The project is currently in post-production, with completion planned to coincide with the film's world premiere at September's Venice Film Festval. The filmmakers are in the midst of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to assist with the final editing costs as well as music licensing.

For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/dDm4qf. 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 on June 28th.


"The House That Herman Built"

Image from "The House That Herman Built," courtesy of the filmmakers.

Logline: Now in his thirty-eighth year in solitary confinement, Herman Wallace is building his dream home with artist Jackie Sumell, challenging injustice in America while building a future outside of prison.

The team: Angad Bhalla, Director/Producer; Ed Barreveld, Executive Producer (Storyline Entertainment); Lisa Valencia-Svensson (Storyline Entertainment) & Loring McAlpin, Producers; Ricardo Acosta, Editor

About the film: The origins of the documentary begin with the story of the Angola 3, three African-American men who were imprisoned for various offenses and, through links to the Black Panthers, became a symbol for racial injustices in the prison system. Until the intervention of a young lawyer in 1997, the three men were held in solitary confinement since 1972. After one of the three activists, Robert King, was finally released, he went on a speaking tour, where artist Jackie Sumell found out their story. Offering to help, she wrote the still imprisoned Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace. Through her correspondence with Wallace, Sumell developed their "House" project. Director Angad Bhalla documents their story, explaining, "I want to tell a story about the power of the imagination to overcome one of the harshest punishments ever devised: long term solitary confinement."

Current status: Primary photography will be completed this Summer, with post-production planned for October. The producers hope to have a rough cut ready by December or January, and are still seeking funding to complete the project.

For more information: "The House That Herman Built"

Also currently In the Works:

"The Foxhounds," a feature documentary version of Harry Markopolos' New York Times best-seller "No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller," has been in production for the past month, directed and written by Jeff Prosserman, and executive produced by Jeff Sackman and Randy Manis (both founders of ThinkFilm), and Anton Nadler. The film focuses on whistleblower Markopolos, who uncovered the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme a decade before it was exposed, only to be ignored by the media and the government. The producers anticipate a Fall premiere.

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