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In the Works: Marston in Albania, Pixelated Feature, Club Closure, Desaparecido & Popcorn Ice Cream

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire June 17, 2010 at 2:51AM

indieWIRE's production column takes a look at a film from "Maria Full of Grace" filmmaker Joshua Marston as well as a hearty batch of IndieGoGo projects. Included in that mix are: a pixelated story of a washed-up rock group, a chronicle of a closed club, the story of one of the Argentinian "disappeared," and ice cream makers who intend to break the world record for flavors any way they can...
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In the Works:  Marston in Albania, Pixelated Feature, Club Closure, Desaparecido & Popcorn Ice Cream
A scene from Josh Marston's still to be titled project shot in Albania. Image courtesy of the filmmaker.

indieWIRE's production column takes a look at a film from "Maria Full of Grace" filmmaker Joshua Marston as well as a hearty batch of IndieGoGo projects. Included in that mix are: a pixelated story of a washed-up rock group, a chronicle of a closed club, the story of one of the Argentinian "disappeared," and ice cream makers who intend to break the world record for flavors any way they can...

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.

Joshua Marston's untitled Albania project
Director: Joshua Marston
Producer: Paul Mezey
Screenplay: Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj
Executive Producers: Janine Gold, Eric Abraham, Domenico Procacci, Hunter Gray and Tyler Brodie
Co-producer: Andamion Murataj

Filmmaker Joshua Marston made a big splash in 2004 with his feature debut "Maria Full of Grace," giving the director a multitude of festival prizes and culminating in an Oscar nomination for its star, Catalina Sandino Moreno for best actress. Since then, the filmmaker has directed a host of shows for TV in addition to his segment in last year's "New York, I Love You." Now, the director is returning to a feature project of his own with a title still to be determined, though once again, the California-born director will be shooting in a foreign language.

"It is shot entirely in Albania. It's an Albanian story in Albanian," Marston told indieWIRE by phone from Los Angeles taking a break from editing. Marston explained that the film's story is told through the point-of-view of a 17 year-old boy whose life is turned upside down after his father and uncle are involved in a killing over a land dispute. An age-old custom, known as a blood feud, forces the boy into a virtual house arrest along with other males in the household. As a result, the boy's sister must take over her father's job and the family becomes increasingly dependent on her to manage their affairs. While his sister flourishes as a result of her new role, the boy becomes increasingly rebellious and frustrated about his circumstances.

"They're in self-imposed isolation," said Marston who read about blood feuds and spent a month in the poor Balkan nation to do research. "It's an Albanian phenomenon and there are today a few hundred families living under house arrest because of these feuds. They're eye for an eye and tit for tat retribution killings. If some uncle flies off the handle and just kills someone, then it's acceptable for not only the uncle to be killed, but any male member of the family. It's based on an archaic code, yet it still exists."

"I spent a lot of time there interviewing families living with these blood feuds and also with men who mediate the [conflicts]. There are also NGOs trying to deal with them. I wrote the script along with Albanian filmmaker Andamion Murataj, [weaving] the narrative together based on what we heard."

The film not only spotlights the blood feud, but also its clash with modernity. The 17 year-old boy, played by a local, is seen uploading photos on Facebook and texting, all the while being forced to stay in confinement under the anachronistic code.

"We are mostly using non-actors and auditioned over 3,000 kids going from school to school," said Marston. "I think we found two amazing kids who play the brother and sister and also great people who play the younger siblings. It was a long processs of auditions - but they're amazing!" Among the 30 speaking rolls in the feature, only six are filled by professional actors. Marston spent 30 days shooting the film and he expects it to come in at around 1 hour and 40 minutes.

More projects, this week all from IndieGoGo:

The Hit Squad

Logline: The Hit Squad is the world's first feature length pixel movie, following a washed up 80s band trying to get one last hit to save their studio and their friendship.

Production team: Writer / Director: Chris Blundell (http://www.archiveofeverything.com). Assistant Producer: Laura Mulhern (http://www.southwest-artwork.co.uk). Additional animation: Gary J Lucken (http://www.armyoftrolls.co.uk).

An image from Chris Blundell's "The Hit Squad. [Image courtesy of the filmmaker.]

About the film: "As a musician, I'd always had a secret penchant for 80s pop music, so I set out to write an 80s style concept album. Within hours, the concept album had turned into character profiles, a fictional biography and a bunch of funny situations they could get into. Over time they gradually got drawn and animated in my pixel art style and eventually I settled on making the whole thing into a full length film. It's really been a labour of love from the beginning and it's really started to get some interest, from the BBC to independent film companies. I want to pay homage to the brilliance of the 80s as well as add a modern twist on the whole thing. We're helping to fund the film by selling the opportunity to be pixelated into the film as an extra." -- Chris Blundell

Current status: The film is near the end of pre-production and is just about to hit production. The team is expecting to release the film into festivals by the end of the year.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film's IndieGoGo page. Contributors to the IndieGoGo fund will have an animated version of themself as an extra in the film.

Finding Mabel

Logline: "Finding Mabel" is a controversial new documentary about The Argentine "Dirty War," and one woman's very personal search for one of the 30,000 "Disappeared," her name sake, Mabel Damora.

Production Team: Director: Eileen Mabel Reardon; Producer: Jorge Ortega; Editor: Meredith Young; Cinematographer: Christina Miserendion; Composer: Abraham Libbos

An image of the subject of Eileen Mabel Reardon's "Finding Mabel." Image courtesy of filmmaker.

About the film: "My documentary film, 'Finding Mabel, aims to be a revealing look at the atrocities committed during the Argentinean Dirty War (1976-1983) and the 30,000+ victims of this genocide, known today as “The Disappeared.” As a first generation American born to two Argentinean parents who fled during the genocide this story is a part of who I am. I want to reconnect with my roots and the sacrifices woven into them. My parents saw and heard of countless friends who were pulled away at gunpoint from their lives, their homes, and their beds, never to be heard from again.

One of these victims was a woman by the name of Mabel Damora, the title of the documentary and my namesake. This isn’t a story I want to tell; it’s one that I must. I’ve found that most of my peers hadn’t even heard of 'The Dirty War' before I began working on this project. For so long it has been swept aside by murky American politics or lost in the ever-accumulating pile of world atrocities, and I can’t sit idly by and let that happen. Many of the people responsible for the torture, including such heinous acts as dropping people from helicopters into the middle of the ocean, are both alive and unpunished for their crimes. This is not ok. Not for me, not for my family, and not for Mabel Damora. For most of my life I have sat on the peripherals of my parents’ activism, and now I too have been called to action in my search to find Mabel." -- Eileen Mabel Reardon

Current status: This film is currently in pre-production. It is imperative that we raise the funds we need to begin production.

For more information and to support the film: Please visit the film's Indie GoGo page.

We are the Hartmans

Logline: The fight is on to save the last suburban rock club.

Production team: Director: Laura Newman; Writers: Peter Brash & Laura Newman; Producers: Dylan Clements, Anne Court, Ben Curtis, Laura Newman, Cielito Pascual, Blayne K. Ross, Marc Solomon & Jonah Spear; Cinematographers: Paul Rondeau & Mark Foster; Cast: John Carey, Dylan Clements, Chris Cook, Anne Court, Ben Curtis, Brie Eley, Murray Hill, Kami Lambert, Blayne K. Ross, Audrey Sawaya, Marc Solomon, Linda Simpson & Jonah Spear.

An image from Laura Newman's "We are the Hartmans." [Image courtesy of the filmmaker.]

About the film: Hartman’s club is the last local hangout in a town beset by Wal-Mart and fast food chains. When the owner of Hartman’s falls ill, his estranged family comes to town to sell the club and collect the money. What they don’t expect is a full-scale neighborhood rebellion by the eccentric musicians, drunks and drag queens that frequent the club. Director Laura Newman notes, "This film began with a bunch of frustrated actors and filmmakers saying, "I wanna make a film!!!" Many of us had been working on films that died or were in constant development. I had been working on a script about a conservative teen summer camp for over 6 years so I was looking to do a low budget film that was super collaborative and fast. So a group of us got in a room and started improvising, creating characters and relationships. Later we brought in Peter Brash, an Emmy award winning writer to help us develop the plot.

We decided to set the whole thing in a rock club in the suburbs. I'd heard about a club in Connecticut in the 90s that was the only place for 50 miles where punk and goth kids could hang out and play music. It was their sanctuary in a boring town. I have been working for years with Reverend Billy and his "Church of Stop Shopping" and traveled all over the U.S. with the group for the film "What Would Jesus Buy?" I'd seen many of these small towns with boarded up main streets and only a Pizza Hut to hang out it. I thought it would be great to take all the characters we'd created in the improv sessions and put them in a rock club called Hartmans, that is under threat of closing. If Hartman dies it's almost like the town dies. There will have no bar, no culture, no community center. All the characters come from different backgrounds (a marine, a famous rock star, a redneck out of work, a preacher, a hip-hop artist, etc.) They don't get along but they all unite in order to save the club."

Current status: The film is currently in pre-production. The team plans to shoot in August. A curious IndieGoGo browser found the film recently and invested a large chunk of change to the film that will expedite the shoot.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film's IndieGoGo page.

Sweet Dreams

Logline: A story about big dreams, small towns, and ice cream... mostly ice cream.

Production team: Director: Jeremy McGovern; Executive Producers: Joie Casarez and Matthew Smith; Producers: Jeremy McGovern, Jenna Edwards, Andrew Robinson

About the film: "Several months ago I went home to Colorado to do some research for a script I am writing ('Honor Farm') which takes place in my hometown. One night while in Pueblo, I

An image of Crook's Place, the subject of "Sweet Dreams." [Image courtesy of the filmmaker.]

was having dinner with my best friend Joie and she mentioned that my brother and I needed to stop by her brothers restaurant 'Crooks Palace' before I returned to Los Angeles to experience the amazing menu. She raved about all the delicacies on the menu and how everything was made from scratch, she then went on to describe the astonishing array of homemade ice creams they had begun creating in the Crooks Palace kitchen with flavors like; sauerkraut, ghost pepper, sesame, popcorn and ginger. I sounded odd, but my brother and I couldn’t wait to try it for ourselves, so we decided we would stop by Crooks Palace on my way to the airport (as Black Hawk is a small town about 1 hour west of Denver). So, the day I left we went to eat at Crooks Palace. The food was amazing, and Matt and Mike (the owners and childhood friends) were amazing hosts.

Then, after we had completely stuffed ourselves… the ice cream arrived. Laid out before us was a dizzying array of home made ice creams. Some of the names seemed to indicate flavors that should not be made into ice cream, but my brother and I happily tried them all. All were delicious even the ones that raised eyebrows when they were announced, but the favorites from our sampling were the Ghost Raspberry, an inspired combination of raspberry ice cream with a touch of the ghost pepper (a pepper 1,000 times hotter than the jalapeño) so it tingles just a little as it melts, and the popcorn...yes, popcorn ice cream. So after my brother and I were sufficiently stuffed and awed Mike and Matt came back out to chat with us. We of course sang their praises and discussed other unique flavors they were working on. Then they confirmed something that Joie had mentioned at dinner, they were planning something huge. With a stockpile of several hundred flavors already invented, they were going to not only break but also double the current worlds record for most homemade flavors of ice cream by creating over 1,000 flavors...On National Ice Cream Day 2011! " -- Jeremy McGovern

Current status: McGovern made his first trip to Colorado in April. He plans to go back to the store every few months over the course of the next year to document the progress. National Ice Cream Day 2011, the day when (fingers crossed) the record will be broken.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film's IndieGoGo page.

Also currently In the Works:

Eddie Marsan ("Happy-Go-Lucky," "Vera Drake") is joining Tom Sturridge, Romola Garai, and newcomer Candese Reid in Tinge Krishnan's "Junkhearts." Krishnan won a BAFTA Short Film Award for her "Shadowscan." The film is currently shooting in London.

Focus Features recently announced four films to be released in 2011: Keith Macdonald's adaptation of the Rosemarry Sutcliff novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" (February 25) Cary Fukunaga's "Jane Eyre" adaptation (March 11), Lone Scherfig's ("An Education") Anne Hathaway-starrer "One Day" (third quarter), and Joe Wright's "Hanna," which stars Saoirse Ronan as the tough daughter of an ex-CIA man (April 8).

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit, In The Works