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by Bryce J. Renninger
June 10, 2010 1:40 AM
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In the Works: "Dirty Girl," Teenage Magellan, Anti-Coal Granny, Serbian Brass Fest, Women in Rodeo

A scene from Abe Sylvia's "Dirty Girl." Image courtesy of the filmmakers.

indieWIRE production column takes a look at a film with a top notch lineup of actors from relative newcomer Abe Sylvia and four doc projects looking for funding on Kickstarter. Included in the mix are docs about a fourteen year old who wants to circle the world, a Serbian brass festival, a grandmother fighting the coal industry, and women in the Mexican rodeo world.

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.

"Dirty Girl"
Writer/director Abe Sylvia
Producers: Rob Paris, Rachel Cohen, Jana Edelbaum, Charles Pugliese
Executive producers: Ed Hart, Joan Huang, Robert Bevan, Samantha Horley, Cyril Megret, Christine Vachon
Cast: Juno Temple, Mila Jovovich, William H. Macy, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Jeremy Dozier
Status: Post-production

Director Abe Sylvia has drummed up some high profile talent for his feature debut, "Dirty Girl," currently in post-production. The filmmaker, who made is foray in entertainment as a Broadway performer and later turned to television and commercial work, attracted the likes of veteran producers Christine Vachon ("Far From Heaven") and Charles Pugliese ("Cairo Time"), as well as actors William H. Macy, Mary Steenburgen and Tim McGraw to this comedy, which Sylvia wrote while at film school at UCLA.

"I wrote it six years ago at UCLA. It's not a true story, but it's based on growing up in the 1980s," Sylvia told indieWIRE by phone from L.A. early Tuesday morning. "It's a truth for me." Described by Sylvia as consisting "a lot of genres" and an ode to John Hughes films that morphs into a road trip movie, "Dirty Girl" stars Juno Temple as Danielle, the high school slut who is sent to a special education class after making too many inappropriate comments during sex ed classes. She meets Clarke (Dozier), a gay, shy and fat kid with no friends. Partners in a school project, they both become the "parents" of a bag of flour. During the project, Danielle longs to head to Los Angeles to find her birth father. Clarke comes along, determined to escape military school that his homophobic father is forcing on him. Along with their "flour child," the pair take off for L.A. with no money.

"Her mother is marrying a Mormon and is rebelling," Sylvia said of Danielle. Sylvia praised Temple as the centerpiece of his film, saying the actress - who also stars in Gregg Araki's upcoming "Kaboom" - is on the verge of becoming "a major movie star."

"She's on the order of a Cate Blanchett. It's very clear she's going to be that. She's the real thing," gushed Sylvia. He also gave kudos to newcomer Jeremy Dozier, who the production found when the aspiring actor sent in an unsolicited video tape. "It's sort of the classic discovery case. The [casting director] received it and said she couldn't believe what she had found. He just nailed it - he's spectacular."

The production was able to woo over some of its bigger names after Vachon came on board. Producer Rob Paris worked with the Spirit Award-winning producer on "One Hour Photo" and asked her to join the project. "She's every independent filmmaker's hero," said Sylvia. "It was a lot easier to knock on doors when you say Christine is a producer. It takes time to get people together and in these economic times, money isn't growing on trees. It just made things [possible]."

"Dirty Girl" wrapped shooting four weeks ago in Los Angeles and is nearly through the first pass of a cut. Sylvia shot the film in Southern California, giving a plug to the region, which has lost production to other locales over the decade. "We were reminded why people do shoot in L.A. The weather is great. There are great crews and it can stand in for a lot of cities…We wanted a first rate crew and those people are here."

More projects, this week all from Kickstarter

"Maidentrip"

Logline: Through a unique mix of live action and animation, "Maidentrip" follows 14-year-old Laura Dekker’s extraordinary adventure to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone. 

A scene from Jillian Schlesinger's "Maidentrip." Image courtesy of the filmmaker.

The team: Jillian Schlesinger, Director/Producer; Leah Koransky, Art Director; Jeremy Craig, Producer; Hillary Spera, Cinematographer; Bram Stadhouders, Composer; Megan Gnekow, Storyboard Artist.

About the film: When director Jillian Schlesinger became aware of Laura Dekker and her dream of a solo circumnavigation, she was sold. She had to make "Maidentrip." A real-life "Young Woman and the Sea," "Maidentrip" will follow the likable Dekker as she interacts with the film's other main character, the open sea, to tell the relationship of Dekker and the ocean, humans and nature. Central to the story will be Dekker's coming of age and her determination to complete her journey.

Current status: "Maidentrip" is in pre-production. The film is nearing the end of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 for production of a five-minute trailer that will serve as a compelling pitch of the feature length film to prospective investors. 

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film's Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $5,000 by the end of the campaign on June 11th.

"Brasslands"

Logline: A tiny Serbian town explodes with brass cacophony as half a million fans descend upon the world's biggest trumpet festival. The story of an unlikely American brass band's journey across the Atlantic interweaves with the host villagers' struggles in a war-scarred land. "Brasslands" explores a moment when music becomes the universal language across political boundaries.

A scene from Meerkat Media's "Brasslands" Image courtesy of the filmmakers.

The team: The Meerkat Media Collective is a self-organized community of makers committed to creating innovative and thought-provoking films through shared authorship and consensus process. Since 2005, the collective has produced and distributed over twenty short films and two features.  Their first feature documentary, "Stages" (IFP Market 2007), won Best Documentary and Audience Award at the HBO New York International Latino Film Festival, their short Brooklyn Boondoggle won Best Documentary of the 2009 Red Hook International Film Festival and "How Wal-Mart Came to Haslett" and "Every Third Bite" were both featured in Art's Engine's Media That Matters Film Festival. The team includes: Bryan Chang, Adam Pogoff, Eric Phillips-Horst, Jay Sterrenberg, Ivana Todorovic, Laura Vitale, Jeff Sterrenberg, Michael Palmieri, Rafael Cruz, Dara Messinger, Eric Felipe-Barkin, Zara Serabian-Arthur, Karim Tabaa, and Laura Cline.

About the film: Executive Producer/Co-Director/Lead Editor Bryan Chang first saw Zlatne Uste in a Brooklyn bar and was blown away instantly. Shortly thereafter, Adam Pogoff, the project's Exec Producer/Co-Director/Music Director told Chang about Guča, a huge brass festival in Serbia and Europe's most intense party that no American knows about. By focusing on Zlatne Uste, the first Americans to play Guča and the only band to feature a woman, the filmmakers had an entry point to film Guča's first international competition.

Current status: Currently, the filmmakers are working to figure out the various elements that will come together for the Guča event that will be worthy of shooting. They have begun to document Zlatne Uste vigorously in New York. The filmmakers are also preparing to shoot Guča to contextualize the town's regular goings-on.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film's 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 on July 4th.

A scene from "The Coal War." Image courtesy of the filmmakers.

"The Coal War"

Logline: One woman. One mountain. One last chance. Set among a backdrop of a million acres of decapitated mountains, a West Virginia grandmother courageously fights the powerful coal industry to save one of the last untouched mountains in Appalachia.

The team: a team of journalists and documentarians, including: Chad A. Stevens (director/producer/principal cinematographer), Bob Sacha (producer), Robert Browman (lead writer and co-editor), Pamela Chen (music composer and co-editor)

About the film: "The Coal War" is a symbolic story of one grandmother's campaign to save a mountain that the coal industry is preparing to destroy. With bulldozers knocking on her door, Lorelei Scarbro attempts to launch a one-woman revolution against the coal industry. Instead, Scarbro stands behind a sustainable energy project: The Coal River Wind Farm. Fighting the coal in West Virginia, which provides 14% of the nation's coal, proves a difficult task, but Scarbro continues to fight on.

Current status: In April of this year, the EPA announced that they intended to limit surface mining in Appalachia. Aiming to be the definitive documentary on the environmental issues in Appalachia, "The Coal War" plans to finish the majority of production by the end of 2010, releasing the film in late 2011.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film's Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $13,125 by the end of the campaign on July 18th.

"Escaramuza"

Logline: In the traditional world of Mexican Rodeo, where “to be charro is to be Mexican,” a team of first-generation California girls does it their way.

The team: Robin Rosenthal, Producer/Co-Editor; Bill Yahraus, Director/DP/Editor

A scene from Robin Rosenthal's "Escaramuza." Image courtesy of the filmmaker.

About the film: Rosenthal & Yahraus, who delved deep into the tradition of thoroughbred horseracing in their last doc, "On the Muscle: Portrait of a Thoroughbred Racing Stable," found a series of articles about the circuit of women in the Mexican Rodeo, the Escaramuzas Charras, that spotlighted Las Azaleas of California. After meeting the women, the filmmakers were incredibly impressed with their personalities and their Charrería culture. The film intends to keep their tradition alive, to profile these courageous women.

Current status: In Post Production, working towards a rough cut. Also in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 by July 16 for essential post production costs.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film's 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 on July 17th.

Also currently In the Works:

Lakeshore Entertainment and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment have announced that they will co-finance and co-produce the Katherine Hiegl-starrer "The Age of Adaline," about an ageless woman who has lived the past 100 years at the same age, who decides she may want to risk her immortality for a man.

In 1 Production, Liam Gallagher's film production company, will produce "The Longest Cocktail Party," about the creation of the Beatles company Apple Corps, formed in the late 60's. The film will explore the ups and downs of being a young man in the music industry in the 1960's.

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