Three of the films profiled in this week's "In the Works" coincidentally deal in some way with the home foreclosure crisis, beginning with Richard Ledes' horror thriller, the aptly titled "Foreclosure," starring Michael Imperioli, Wendell Pierce, and Bill Raymond; as well as documentaries-in-progress "Dragonslayer" and "Total Badass." Two Kickstarter projects round out this week's films.
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.
Richard Ledes, whose previous film, "The Caller," won at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, began principal photography on his latest film in Queens last week. "Foreclosure," inspired in part by the current financial crisis, is set in a neighborhood where nearly every house is vacant, their former owners victims of the housing market's freefall. Against this backdrop, a broken family tries to stay together while a curse and the ghosts of their haunted house try to tear them apart.
Ledes, speaking to indieWIRE last week, explains his screenplay's origins: "I was interested in the idea that in times of financial crisis, buried prejudices, including racial and ethnic tensions, come to a head - they 'rise from the dead.' In a climate of insecurity, people find a sort of psychological compensation through scapegoating. So, in a way, the ghosts [in the film] serve figuratively as a way to talk about this particular dimension of the climate of foreclosure."
The writer/director, recognizing the power of keeping plot elements of horror films secret, refrained from saying too much about the film, but did acknowledge that these real-life inspirations served as a "provocative" element in the film without taking away from the entertainment aspects of the genre. He likened the approach as similar to that of the classic adaptation of "The Shining," where indictments of racism figure in the story without being overtly foregrounded.
Ledes began to write the script when the foreclosure crisis first started to emerge, and had certain actors in mind from the beginning, including his regulars, Wendell Pierce (“Treme,” “The Wire”) and Bill Raymond ("Dogville," "Michael Clayton"), and Michael Imperioli. He credits the enthusiasm of his cast with providing "a tremendous source of energy" for the project.
Another boost for the project has been the film's popular website, which takes as its title the film's tagline: "Ghosts Don't Move Out." Ledes explains the rationale for connecting with audiences before filming began: "I wanted the website to give a broad sense of the areas of research that we were engaged in, everything from news stories, to books, to films we looked at, interviews with directors about their working process, etc." Echoing the advice of many a social media maven, Ledes notes that, with each of his films, "the website has become an earlier and more integral part of the process."
One particularly interesting use of the site has been to use it to collect real-life foreclosure horror stories - a powerful audience engagement tool, given the themes of the film. Ledes says, "I'm happy with the response so far, particularly with the personal stories, echoes of which inform some of the film's narrative."
"Foreclosure" is scheduled to shoot in Queens for 22 days.
Logline: In the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis, a lost skater wanders up and down inland California in search of abandoned swimming pools to skate, with only a backpack, sleeping bag, and twenty pairs of sunglasses to his name. Along the way he meets a girl as unlikely and original as he is.
The team: Tristan Patterson, Director ("Electric Slide"); John Baker, Producer; Eric Koretz, Cinematographer ("Truth in Numbers," "The Man That I Was"); Lizzy Calhoun, Editor ("The Fighter," "Hung")
About the film: The filmmakers were inspired to make "Dragonslayer" after seeing a skate video called "Cancer Dust" touching on similar themes. Director Patterson explains: "I wanted to know who these kids were, and what their lives were really like, when they weren’t skating pools. It felt like they were living in a world with no future, like they were the first generation of American youth to come of age after the decline." Wanting to have his subjects involved in documenting their own experiences, he outfitted them with flip cameras, in addition to filming them himself with a small crew. With all of the project's twists and turns, Patterson concludes: "A year later, after watching their lives unfold, I’ve never been more optimistic about the infinite possibilities for a better future, no matter how harsh life can sometimes be."
Current status: "Dragonslayer" was recently the recipient of a Cinereach grant. The film is currently in post-production, seeking additional finishing funds to complete the rest of editing and all other related post costs.
To view footage: Email i am a dragonslayer [at] gmail [dot] com
Logline: The Texas tale of Chad Holt, a hilarious, crazy-ass writer/publisher/singer/weed-dealer/sex addict/Guinea pig enthusiast/dad/pirate radio host/raconteur and general man-about-town, as he rides out the last six months of felony probation (for bootlegging SXSW wristbands!) and, ultimately, must change his ways when a financial crisis befalls his estranged family.
The team: Bob Ray, Director/Producer/Editor; Kera Dacy, Producer; Mia Cevallos, Co-Producer; Andrew Segovia, Editor; featuring Chad Holt; with the music of The Crack Pipes, Fruntbutt, BFE, Migas, Wine and Revolution
About the film: Filmmaker Ray met his eccentric subject when they were neighbors about 15 years ago, recognizing in him a kindred spirit. He was inspired to make a documentary on his friend when he read an article about guinea pig competitions in Holt's popular zine, Whoopsy! Magazine: "I approached Chad with the idea, and he simply said, 'Bob, I’ve been waiting ten years for you to make a movie about me.'" Not content to simply document Holt's "depravity and insanity," Ray found the core of his story when Holt had to straighten up to take custody of his children, who were on the brink of homelessness due to their mother's home being foreclosed upon.
Current status: Following “super-secret fine-cut sneak peeks” at the Alamo Drafthouse in his hometown of Austin, TX, this month, Ray plans to finish the film by mid-June/early July and take it on a promotional DIY tour together with his first documentary, "Hell on Wheels," a number of his animated "CrashToons," and his first narrative feature, "Rock Opera."
For more information: http://www.TotalBadassTheMovie.com
"Herman & Shelly"
Logline: In this tragicomic romance, two quirky, creative, and ambitious children grow up to be quirky, creative, and disillusioned adults. While Herman and Shelly try to figure out who they want to be, they're also faced with the question of who they are to each other.
The team: Bridget Stokes, Writer/Director; Vicky Wight, Producer; Dan Teicher, Music Supervisor; Brette Goldstein, Casting Director
About the film: Stokes initially conceived of her protagonists as 12-year-olds in a short film made for a course at The New School. Upon completion of that project, she found herself intrigued by what her characters would be like as adults, when creativity and artistic expression are not so freely encouraged. Expanding the story to explore this question, she developed a script she strongly believed in. She explains, "I think this script became THE script to make because not only could I connect with this theme of what it means to be an artist, but I started to find that everyone who wanted to come on board connected with it as well." As veteran film distributors, Stokes and her producer, Vicky Wight, count on their experience to set the film off on the right course as soon as they can complete the project.
Current status: The film is currently in pre-production, with casting underway, music being recorded for the fictional band in the film, preliminary locations scouted, and additional crew, including a DP and Production Designer, close to being locked. Principal photography is scheduled for mid-August, with the aim to have a completed film by the end of the year. The filmmakers are nearing the end of a Kickstarter campaign to cover pre-production and initial production costs.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/aHbcPZ. 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 on May 30th.
"Playing for Change" (working title)
Logline: South Africa will be host to a cultural exchange this summer during the 2010 World Cup Finals, but this exchange will occur not just in the stadiums and thoroughfares of the host cities - it will take place in restaurants, bars, and living rooms throughout the world. The World Cup will impact communities, educate the nation, and influences perceptions of its people around the world.
The team: Rashida McWilliams, Director/Producer ("Play Pretend"); Stephanie Kinna, Assistant Director ("Mango Kiss"); Rhiannon Hyde, Director of Photography ("Quarter Life")
About the film: When South Africa was selected to host the World Cup, soccer fanatic McWilliams felt a strong desire to travel there to document the event. She explains, "I knew that not only did I need to be there, but that there was a moment to be captured when the first African country welcomed this global event." Recognizing that media attention will understandably focus on the actual games and players, McWilliams plans to take a different approach - focusing on the impact of the tournament on ordinary people, and the ability of sports to unite: "I hope that spending a month in an African country, literally or figuratively, will result in a change of the (mis)perceptions many people have about Africans."
Current status: The project is currently in pre-production, awaiting the start of principal photography next month in South African during the World Cup. The filmmakers are in the midst of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to assist with the costs of travel for their small crew.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/cuKis5. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $3,000 by the end of the campaign on June 1st.
Also currently In the Works:
"Son of No One," directed and written by Astoria native Dito Montiel, has been filming in Astoria, including space at Kaufman Astoria Studios. The film, starring Channing Tatum, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino, Ray Liotta, and Tracy Morgan, centers on a young cop who is assigned to a precinct in the working class neighborhood where he grew up. When an old secret surfaces, his life and family are threatened. Hannibal Pictures and Nu Image/Millennium are co-producing and co-distributing.