By Basil Tsiokos | Indiewire April 28, 2010 at 12:48PM
This week in our production column, 'In the Works', indieWIRE checks in with Ti West – the maker of recent horror smash "The House of the Devil" – about his new project, “The Innkeepers,” then takes a look at a number of documentaries with crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter.
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.
Director Ti West unexpectedly found the story for his newest film in the hotel he stayed in while shooting his previous film, "The House of the Devil." He's returning to the Connecticut inn for "The Innkeepers," inspired by unexplainable occurences during their stay.
"We stayed here during 'House of the Devil' and all this crazy shit happened," West told iW. "So, it's allegedly haunted. It's weird stuff and I must say I'm a skeptical person, but the lights would turn on and off on their own and even the TV turned on by itself." Employees told West that they believe one of the ghosts in residence at the hotel, called "The Yankee Pedlar Inn," is a woman who committed suicide there after being stood up at her wedding.
West, who penned "The Innkeepers" following "Devil," began production this week with Dark Sky Films. The film stars Sara Paxton ("Last House on the Left") as the lead, and the cast includes Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, and George Riddle, among others.
"The Innkeepers" follows the story of two employees working in a haunted hotel before it goes out of business after a century-plus in existence. According to Dark Sky Films, the plot centers on "the last remaining clerks, Claire (Paxton), a twenty-something that has come to terms with her lot in life, and Luke (Healy), a computer-smart loner, are convinced that the hotel is haunted and are determined to prove it. As time ticks down to the final days of operation, mysterious guests check in including Leanne Rease-Jones (McGillis), a former TV actress turned psychic, and an old man insistent on staying in room 353. As several strange occurrences begin to add up, both Claire and Luke must make the crucial decision on what to believe and what not to believe..."
West will work with much of the same crew who worked on "Devil." He said that after they saw the script, they were eager to work with him again on "The Innkeepers."
"They were all on board to do it," said West. "They saw the script and said [to me], 'We know this film, we can do this...'"
Continuing, West added, "I'm still skeptical about all this stuff and I'm still not sure if I believe it, but there was a lot that happened when we stayed here and if it continues, I might have to be a convert."
"Oil in the Family"
Logline: "Oil in the Family" follows filmmaker Jon Goldman in his attempt to understand his family’s connection to the oil industry and the classic 1948 documentary film "Louisiana Story." Using Robert J Flaherty’s final masterpiece as a touchstone, Goldman returns to his bayou roots sixty years later and discovers the price of progress on the land and its people.
The team: Jon Goldman, Director/Producer; Ed Slattery, Cinematographer; Bill Lattanzi, Writer; Daniel Neiden, Co-Producer; Roger Day, Co-Producer; Kevin McCaffrey, Producer; Jean Dunoyer, Editor; Nicole Guillemet, Advisor; Jay Spain, Producer
About the film: When Jon Goldman traced the roots of his family and its wealth, he discovered the link to Flaherty's alternately praised and derided film, commissioned by Standard Oil to show the safety and benefit of oil drilling in a small community. He explains, "My grandmother, Lucy Lemann, helped Flaherty make that film, and my family was also a beneficiary of the discovery of oil." Assembling a production team (many of whom previously worked together on another noted documentary about a family's legacy, Godfrey Cheshire's "Moving Midway"), Goldman retraces Flaherty's steps - including meeting the now 75-year-old star of Flaherty's film - while taking stock of the environmental damage, energy dependence, and political strife wrought by the oil industry, making his personal story resonate on a global level.
Current status: The project is currently in production, which also includes an animation component. They are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the production, including covering the costs of obtaining the rights to use Flaherty's films and stills.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/cAuKh4. As with all Kickstarter campaigns, the filmmakers will not receive any donations unless they meet their fundraising goal of $10000 by their May 14th deadline.
Logline: A portrait of a sound recordist who has spent the last 30 years of his life searching for the quietest places on earth... before they disappear entirely.
The team: Nicholas J Sherman, Producer/Director/Writer; Frederick Marx, Associate Producer ("Hoop Dreams"); Martin DiCicco, Cinematographer; Gordon Hempton, Binaural Audio Recordings; J. Davis, Editor; David Wingo, Composer ("George Washington," "All the Real Girls," "Snow Angels")
About the film: Filmmaker Nicholas Sherman worked together with "Hoop Dreams" producer Frederick Marx on a documentary in the Himalayas and was inspired to direct his own film, one focused on the natural world but with a strong human element. When he read about Gordon Hempton in the newspaper, he found his subject and quickly made arrangements to accompany him into the field and unobtrusively (and quietly!) film his activities. Sherman explains: "It was sort of like shooting a nature film about a rarely seen animal, a snow leopard or something – only in this case our snow leopard was the soundtracker."
Current status: The project is nearly complete, and will be premiering next week at Hot Docs and then moving on to other festival engagements. Producers are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to cover the post-production costs, including a sound mix, color correction, and some clearances for archival footage.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/9yfXW2. As with all Kickstarter campaigns, the filmmakers will not receive any donations unless they meet their fundraising goal of $5000 by their May 15th deadline.
"Tony & Janina's American Wedding"
Logline: After 18 years in America, the Wasilewski family is torn apart when Janina and their six-year-old son Brian are deported back to Poland, barred from returning for ten years. Set against the backdrop of the Chicago political scene, and featuring Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez at the heart of the immigration reform movement, "Tony & Janina’s American Wedding" follows the Wasilewskis' struggle to be reunited in America, as their Senator rises to the Presidency.
The team: Ruth Leitman, Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor ("Lipstick & Dynamite," "Wildwood, NJ"); Steve Dixon, Co-Producer/Composer; Gordon Quinn, Story Consultant ("Hoop Dreams," "Prisoner of Her Past"); Kali Heitholt, Editor; Leslie Simmer ("War Tapes," "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson") & Amy Cargill ("Nice Bombs," "Garbage: The Revolution"), Consulting Editors.
About the film: Director Ruth Leitman met Tony and Janina the day that Janina found out she had 48 hours to leave the US and began to work with the family to reveal their story. She explains: "Why were these two people clinging to this country - even though their family was being torn apart? I wanted to examine their adopted patriotism, that so many immigrants have for this country, that people like me take for granted." Janina and her son left for Poland, while Tony remained in Chicago, quickly becoming an immigration reform activist as he petitioned for help with his case from his political representatives, including Rahm Emmanuel, Barack Obama, and Luis Gutierrez. In following Tony and Janina's individual story, Leitman also demonstrates the larger impact and injustices of the immigration system, a key issue from the 2008 election that will have an impact on 2010 as well.
Current status: The project is currently in post-production, with an anticipated premiere in June. Producers are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to support the final edit, color, sound, music, and final output.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/aopgNU. As with all Kickstarter campaigns, the filmmakers will not receive any donations unless they meet their fundraising goal of $8000 by their May 21st deadline. In addition, the project is participating in the linktv short film contest until April 30.
"Microcapitalist: A Documentary About Women"
Logline: "Microcapitalist" chronicles the lives of poor women living in South America, Africa, and Asia as they utilize microcredit - loans often as small as $25 - to launch and manage small businesses, pulling themselves and their families out of poverty.
The team: Rachel Cook, Director/Producer; Steve Hiller, Director of Photography; Lou Karsen, Producer/Second Camera; Dominic Mendicino, Sound Engineer
About the film: After reading a New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn about poor women's use of microlending, director Rachel Cook was intrigued. She explains: "Because the idea seemed so impactful, I wanted to learn more about it, so I traveled to Paraguay in November to meet some of these businesswomen and hear their stories firsthand." She returned to Chicago and began assembling a production team to make a film exploring the impact of microlending across the world. Her team will travel to three continents to document the stories of women using microloans to support themselves and their families and to gain more influence on their households and on their communities.
Current status: The film is currently in production. The production team recently completed their first leg of shooting in Paraguay, and are planning the second leg of shooting in Asia in the Fall. The producers are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to contribute towards production costs.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/bXTvhX. As with all Kickstarter campaigns, the filmmakers will not receive any donations unless they meet their fundraising goal of $7500 by their May 17th deadline.
"Raise It Up for Ma Dukes"
Logline: When celebrated hip-hop producer J Dilla was struck by Lupus, his mother, Maureen "Ma Dukes" Yancey, sacrificed everything to help him. After his death, she lost her home and her life savings, and is forced to fight for her son's estate, even as she is herself combats the same disease that took her son's life.
The team: Dana Bartle, Director/Producer/Cinematographer; Jude Ray, Executive Producer; Greg Boas, Editor; Jeremy Deputat, Cinematographer; OUTLAW KOPPS, Animators; Michael "task" Hudson, Photographer/Graphics
About the film: Director Dana Bartle has been a fan of J Dilla since the early '90s, recognizing his work producing for celebrated musicians including A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Roots, Common, Erykah Badu, Janet Jackson, and Busta Rhymes. While Dilla kept to the background during his life, his early death brought him media attention, and introduced Bartle to his mother and her role in caring for her son both physically and financially in his last years, and its continuing aftermath. She explains her motivation for making the documentary: "The bond that J Dilla and Ma Dukes shared throughout his career and his illness is an aspect of hip hop culture that is rarely examined."
Current status: Principal photography is scheduled to begin in September. A Kickstarter campaign is currently underway to raise the $5,000 needed to complete the trailer, which includes footage from a benefit party for Ma Dukes hosted by Questlove of the Roots.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/cn3dnr. As with all Kickstarter campaigns, the filmmakers will not receive any donations unless they meet their fundraising goal of $5000 by their May 11th deadline.
Also currently In the Works:
Faith-based urban drama “I'm in Love with a Church Girl,” directed by Steve Race and written by Galley Molina, recently announced the addition of Stephen Baldwin, Vincent Pastore, Michael Madsen, Michael Rivera, and T-Bone to the cast already featuring Ja Rule and Adrienne Bailon (from the "Cheetah Girls"). The production is scheduled to begin principal photography on May 13, and is the first feature from Reverence Gospel Media, a new independent production company specializing in developing and producing faith-based films and other media. "Church Girl," based on Molina's life, focuses on a former high level drug trafficker who has gone legit but struggles to keep on the right side of the law, and the relationship with the titular figure who helps him find redemption.