By Brian Brooks | Indiewire April 8, 2010 at 2:14AM
After some months' hiatus, indieWIRE is pleased to relaunch a regular column spotlighting films in the works. The previous version of this column was a monthly report focused on films in production. "In the Works" is a weekly column with an expansive view of upcoming films - in addition to projects in production, it will spotlight films in development, completed films that are taking creative paths towards distribution, and even occasionally venture away from films to look at other types of projects, such as interesting new film distribution, funding, or exhibition mechanisms.
"In the Works" will generally include a featured project - in this case "Super" by James Gunn - as well as shorter profiles on promising projects iW is tracking through colleague suggestions, or, as with the projects below, via sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo that are becoming invaluable to filmmakers seeking new funding sources. Sites such as these allow individuals to contribute funds in exchange for benefits that the filmmakers have developed (ranging from on-screen thanks to unique personalized gifts to producer credit), or, in the case of some projects, tax-deductions. Where possible, iW has included links for each project for readers to find out more information.
"This is a dangerous comedy," producer Ted Hope ("Adventureland") told indieWIRE Wednesday about his latest project, "Super," now in post-production. "There are 361 people registered on MySpace as superheroes, which I found interesting. Then I remembered someone had mentioned to me that [writer/director] James Gunn had written a script years ago about this subject."
So, the idea went from page to shooting late last year. In the film, Rainn Wilson (an executive producer on the film) dons the outward trappings of a superhero after his wife falls under the influence of a drug dealer. It was important for the team to portray the character as believable in his determination, even though his skills may be lacking.
"We united to make this really funny and dangerous so that it rings true," Hope explained. "[The film] has an intensity and a reality, which will make it jaw-dropping at times. You just have to believe that this guy is going to go out in a costume with no super abilities and believe he's going to beat the shit out of people."
Though the "non-talented" superhero theme is present in Matthew Vaughn's upcoming "Kick-Ass" (which premiered at the recent SXSW Film Festival), Hope sees "Super" as a stand out. He said that he read the script for "Kick-Ass" and watched other films with a similar premise to distinguish his project.
The producer gave a big shout out to the production's shoot in Shreveport, Louisiana, offering kudos to the town's people for their help in making their two stints there a success. "[Producer] Miranda Bailey had shot in Shreveport before for 'Wonderful World' (2009) with Matthew Broderick and suggested it, so we went down and we thought the place would be great for 'Super.'"
Continuing, Hope added, "It was super hospitable filming there. The town treated us very well. It has a mix of looks and we shot at a great time." Hope, a veteran producer having worked on dozens of films, including "Human Nature," "American Splendor," "21 Grams," "The Devil and Daniel Johnston," and many others, said that "Super" was one of his most enjoyable shoots. The production shot after Thanksgiving and through the December holidays and then returned again after a break. "It was a very ambitious shoot and people were wondering if it would be possible, but it turned out great. We had a perfect ensemble. Not just the [higher profile] people in the film, but the entire crew."
Hope, who is well-regarded by filmmakers and industry for his forward thinking, uniquely allowed outsiders a peek behind the scenes of the Shreveport shoots, frequently tweeting from the set. This allowed his followers on Twitter to actively engage with the production and built-up anticipation for its eventual release.
Hope said that because of the cast and team (and probably in part due to his social media usage), "Super" has been tracked "really hard" by distributors already and they're still deciding how to position the film once it's finally completed. "In this day and age, it's an exciting challenge," said Hope alluding to the ever-changing distribution and festival landscape, adding, "Rainn [Wilson] also has two million Twitter followers, which puts him in the top 50. And in this day and age, that's certainly worth something."
"Super" quick stats:
Logline: An average guy takes on a superhero persona "The Crimson Bolt" after his wife falls prey to the influences of a drug dealer. He has the best of intentions, but he lacks any actual heroic talents.
The team: James Gunn, Writer/Director; Ted Hope and Miranda Bailey, producers; Cast includes Rainn Wilson (The Crimson Bolt), Ellen Page (Boltie), as well as Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Andre Royo, and Sean Gunn; Steve Gainer (Cinematography); Cara Silverman (Editor); William A. Elliott (Production Design); Mary Matthews (Costume Design); Tyler Bates (Original Music)
Current status: In post-production
"Purim: The Book of Esther"
Logline: The animated film "Purim: The Book of Esther" tells the true story of a Jewish peasant girl who becomes the Queen of Persia and eventually the leader of a resistance that saved her people.
The team: Yehudi Mercado, Writer/Director ("Porn Editor," HBO, 2008; "Buffalo Speedway vol 1" Graphic Novel, 2010). Seth Caplan, Producer ("The 2 Bobs," 2011; "Flatland: The Movie," 2007)
About the film: "Purim" is being envisioned as a hand-drawn animated project, which, while adhering to Old Testament history, will bring a few new aspects to a well-known tale that will allow the story to connect to new generations. "We are challenging the traditional story by incorporating newly revealed details that have only recently been discovered by historians," explains producer Seth Caplan ("In Search of a Midnight Kiss," Winner, 2009 Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award). These new elements will serve to bolster the story, shared by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths, of a beautiful and powerful queen who stands up for herself and for her people, showing the power of the individual against seemingly impossible odds.
Current status: The project is nearing the end of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 for pre-production costs to create illustrations and storyboards that will serve as the basis for the animated film as well as for a graphic novel version of the story.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/cWiB60. Note that, thanks to an anonymous donor, all contributions up to $750 will be matched until April 15th. 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 April 20th.
"Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo"
Logline: Working backwards through history, the multidisciplinary documentary "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo" explores the mystery of the development of Japan’s love affair with bugs.
The team: Jessica Oreck, Director/Writer/Producer/Editor; Akito Kawahara & Maiko Endo, Co-Producers; Sean Price Williams, Cinematographer; Theo Angell, Editor.
About the film: Jessica Oreck's unconventional and thoroughly absorbing film premiered at SXSW last year and has had a successful festival life, winning an award at Cinevegas and at the Cinema Eye Honors, while also being nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Next up: theatrical engagements beginning at New York's Film Forum on May 12, moving on to venues in Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, and Chicago through the end of July. She explains, "Theatrical is still an essential part of movie-making for me. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think I could make a film that was only intended to play on TV or online."
Current status: Eschewing a traditional distribution deal, Oreck is working with Argot Pictures on her theatrical release, where she maintains all the rights to her film but must front all costs. For that reason, she turned to online crowd-funding at Kickstarter to fund her theatrical release's advertising, duplication, and shipping costs, as well as costs associated with a non-theatrical tour of universities, museums, and cultural centers.
For more information and to support the film: http://kck.st/93YdI6. 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 April 16th.
Logline: The documentary "Yallah Underground" explores the emerging cultural underground scene in the Middle East and the new generation of young Arabic artists who seamlessly integrate aspects of different cultures and philosophies into their lifestyle and work.
The team: Farid Eslam, Director/Co-Producer; Dana Wilson, Co-Producer/Photographer; Jakub Vomacka, Editor; Prokop Soucek, Director of Photography.
About the film: Farid Eslam was inspired in part by his own experience growing up as an immigrant in Germany, empathizing with the young artists he met while traveling through the Middle East who lived "in some sort of gap between cultures and not really belonging in neither their own nor in the Western culture." Citing prejudices in both the Western and the Arab world preventing peace, Eslam hopes that the film will encourage better communication and cooperation between cultures. "By exposing our audiences to these young artists, their lives, opinions, and work we will highlight similarities and differences between the cultures and show that they are no threat to anybody with peaceful open-minded thinking."
Current status: The documentary is currently in development. Most of the subjects to be featured in the documentary have been secured, an initial trailer has been put together, and the filmmakers have started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $6,000 to travel to Beirut, Amman, Damascus, and Cairo to begin production.
For more information and to support the film: http://www.indiegogo.com/Yallah-Underground. There is no deadline for fundraising.
Logline: Set in rural Texas, the short film "Knife" chronicles the mission of vengeance of an unnamed man.
The team: James Johnston, Writer/Director; Alec Jhangiani, Producer; Dennis Bishop, Executive Producer; Jonathan Rudak, Production Designer; David Lowery, Editor
About the film: Johnston, Lowery, and Rudak worked together on the feature "St. Nick," which premiered at SXSW last year. In a unique twist, Johnston has chosen to film "Knife" as a silent film, stripping the story to its visual basics as a Southern Gothic tale of anger, greed, and revenge. Adds producer Alec Jhangiani, "Considering the deep transitions our art and industry are going through right now, I find the idea of returning to the roots of filmmaking [via silent film] very compelling as a possible means to answering some of the major questions we face as modern filmmakers."
Current status: "Knife" is currently casting, with an intended production start date of late May in the Fort Worth, TX area, with the aim to have a completed film to submit to festivals in the Fall. The film has received a grant from Rooftop Films and is currently running a campaign through IndieGoGo to raise $5,000 to cover production costs including hiring crew and actors.
For more information and to support the film: http://www.indiegogo.com/Knife. There is no deadline for fundraising.
Also currently In the Works:
Fox Searchlight's "Win Win," directed by Tom McCarthy ("The Visitor," "The Station Agent") began principal photography last month in New York with stars Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Melanie Lynskey, and Jeffrey Tambor. Balancing drama and comedy, "Win Win" features Giamatti as a struggling attorney and part-time high school wrestling coach who becomes the legal guardian of an elderly client, only to have to deal with the client's runaway teenaged grandson.
CORRECTION: This article was updated to note that "Super" producer Ted Hope has not seen "Kick-Ass."