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by Bryce J. Renninger
July 14, 2010 7:43 AM
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In the Works: Star-Studded "Idiot Brother," "NYC B&B," Sweaty Bombay, Immigrant Musician & Puppets!

An image from Andrew Dosunmu's "Restless City." [Image courtesy of the filmmaker.]

Today's In the Works column profiles Jesse Peretz's new film, "My Idiot Brother," starring Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, and Emily Mortimer as sisters whose lives are disrupted by their brother (played by Paul Rudd). Also this week, two from IFP labs and two from IndieGoGo: a chance meeting in a NYC bed & breakfast, an African immigrant musician in NYC, a puppeteer at a career impasse, and a summer in hot Bombay.

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 as 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.

"My Idiot Brother"
Director: Jesse Peretz
Principal cast: Zooey Deschanel, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Rashida Jones, Emily Mortimer
Producers: Anthony Bregman, Peter Saraf

Director Jesse Peretz ("The Château") began shooting "My Idiot Brother" in New York this week, a comedy about family based on a screenplay by Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall. Anthony Bregman of Likely Story and Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub of Big Beach are producing the project, starring Zooey Deschanel, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott and Emily Mortimer.

"This is a script that I conceived of with my sister and her husband who wrote the script," Peretz explained to indieWIRE by phone late last week. Peretz told iW that he and his sister had written another script together, but had trouble finding financing. "The three main characters in the story were 17, so that was the problem," Peretz noted. "But we had such a good time working together - she's a journalist for Vanity Fair - so we decided to try something else."

What the Peretz siblings and David Schisgall came up with was a story that is starring Banks, Deschanel and Mortimer as three sisters whose lives are disrupted by their well-meaning brother (Rudd). Banks portrays Miranda, the career-driven single sister who is about to get her big break in journalism after spending years writing about accessories at a fashion magazine. Deschanel, meanwhile plays Natalie, the artistic hipster and bisexual whose flakiness and lies are getting in the way of moving forward with her caring, responsible girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones), who is looking to move the relationship towards a more committed place. And Mortimer is Liz, a Park Slope mom who's too worried about having the perfect life and children to notice that her marriage is falling apart.

"We decided to do something a bit more commercial and decided to cast actors I'm friends with and where people were in their 30s - our ages," explained Peretz. "I had Paul [Rudd] in mind as the protagonist and we were talking about the kind of character we wanted to have him play." While the siblings all grew up on Long Island and move into the city, Rudd's character moves Upstate and works as an organic farmer. "He drops out and is happy-go-lucky," said Peretz about the characters, adding, "The sisters are tight knit, but they're all very distinct."

While Peretz said that because of scheduling conflicts and the fact that many of the actors were not New York-based, there wasn't a lot of time for rehearsals, his close relationship with a number of the actors should get the production running relatively smoothly.

"[A lot of the cast members] are people I've been friends with. Paul I did a movie with ("The Château") and Zooey did a video I made for Jimmy Fallon. My wife has a theater group in which Zooey is a guest performer. Elizabeth Banks is the only one I have only met once or twice. Because of the number of characters in this, we haven't had a read-through yet because many people don't live here. I'm feeling pretty confident even if in a perfect world we would have had a read through."

The six-week shoot is taking place in various locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as Upstate. Family considerations kept the project in New York and though the production might have been lured to Canada as many often are, Peretz said the state did offer up some incentives to sweeten the deal.

"The triumvirate - Anthony Bregman, Peter Saraf and me - are all people with families here in New York, so we had a deep incentive to look on the bright side of what tax breaks there were here and we never considered going to Montreal or Toronto. If it were studio, it might be different. But honestly, [New York] gave us some pretty sweet incentives to make it work here."

Beyond the shoot, Peretz said a schedule for post-production will come together soon, though an editor has been hired. Peretz is using the Red Camera for this film, though he does have nostalgia for 35mm. " It's the first time using it and I'm excited about it. There's still a part of me that wants everything to look like 35 mm, but I'm excited to be contemporary and be in the technology of the day," he said. "And, it will give me a lot of freedom that will allow for some improvisation."

More projects, from IndieGoGo and the IFP labs

"NYC B&B (working title)"
IndieGoGo Campaign

An image from Geoff Shelton's "NYC B&B." [Image provided by filmmaker.]

Logline: A private, spacious room to live and dream and have eggs in the morning. Bathroom and emotions are shared.

Production team: Director: Geoff Shelton; Screenplay: Geoff Shelton and Michael Patel Delevante; Producer: Sophia Leang; Executive Producers: Geoff Shelton and Michael Patel Delevante; Director of Photography: Clayton Combe; Editor: Geoff Shelton; Cast: Andrew Zox, Camille Dereux

About the film: "This film has been a dream project for myself, and my co-Writer/Executive Producer Michael Patel Delevante over the past couple years. We had worked together on a number of small DIY, no-budget projects including a feature-length mockumentary and some viral comedy videos over the past 6 years and decided it was time to step up our production value and make a quality HD short film. Our intention was to take on the simplicity of two people connecting with the hope of offering a fresh perspective and sense of humor. Members of our production crew have described the script as an “esoteric, hopeless, romantic comedy”. The narrative is constructed through vignettes of our main characters’ daily lives and their subconscious." -- Geoff Shelton

Current status: The film has just finished shooting and is mostly self-financed. The filmmakers are looking for money to pay for post-production.

For more information and to support the film: Check out the film's IndieGoGo page. The campaign for "NYC B&B" ends in a month and a half.

"Restless City"
IFP Narrative Lab
Logline: "Restless City" tells the story of an Africa immigrant surviving on the fringes of New York City where music is his passion, life is a hustle, and falling in love is his greatest risk.

Production Team: Director: Andrew Dosunmu ("Hot Irons," "The African Game"); Producer: Katie Mustard ("The Greatest," "Night Catches Us"); Producer: Matt Parker ("Loggerheads," "Peter and Vandy"); Cinematographer: Bradford Young ("Pariah," "Entre Nos")

About the Film:"I wanted to make a film about people I know, People who are young and displaced, the consequences of displacement, the joy, dream and drive that motivates them. I wanted to put a face and emotion behind the immigrant who works in the corner store or drives your taxi." -- Andrew Dosunmu

Current Status: In post-production.

"Puppet"
IFP Doc Lab

An image from David Soll's "Puppets." [Image courtesy of filmmaker.]

Logline: Puppets have exploded as serious American art, but how much can you really feel for a block of wood?

Production Team: Director/Producer/DP/Editor: David Soll; Producer: Jared Goldman; Associate Producer: Andrew Schwartztol; Consulting Producer: Hannah Rosenzweig; DP: Mark Rasmussen

About the film: "'Puppet' interweaves a broad look at the fraught history of American puppetry (its marginalization as children's theater and its sudden explosion as high art) with an intimate thread following Dan Hurlin, a downtown artist who is creating a complex puppet work about an eccentric, Depression-era photographer. Dan has just recovered from a scorching New York Times review, which forced his last show out of theaters prematurely. Now he faces a wider backlash against puppetry, suggesting an eerie parallel between himself and his new puppet-subject - a portrait photographer whose stunning body of work was very nearly lost forever." [synopsis provided by the filmmakers]

"I was drawn to make a film about puppetry, and this particular puppet show, for a few reasons, first by the visceral excitement inspired by the puppetry itself. I was shocked, as most are, to find myself relating intimately with a "block of wood," animated by puppeteers operating in full view of the audience. This form of puppetry demonstrates just how simple and profound artistic empathy can be. A close second, though, is my interest in the challenges faced by the artists I met in the puppetry world. They work long hours for low pay because they are passionate about their work, and the trials they face are unique to America, where subsidies for non-commercial art are paltry. Third, I found that the story threads which began to emerge as I shot and edited the film all had a profound connection to themes of disappearance and revival. Puppetry ultimately ended up acting as a stand-in for all those art forms, art works, and artists whose contributions stand just at the edge of mainstream significance, subject to the capricious social whims that can easily push them into total obscurity or unexpected sensation." -- David Soll

Current Status: In post-production.

"Bombay Summer"
IndieGoGo Campaign

An image from Joseph Mathew-Varghese's "Bombay Summer." [Image courtesy of filmmaker.]n

Log line: Three young people form a delicate friendship over a languorous summer in Bombay. Traversing class and landscape, the film follows their journey of discovery, love and loss.

Production team: Writer/Director: Joseph Mathew-Varghese; Producers: Joseph Mathew-Varghese & Sanjay Bhattacharjee; Executive Producers: P.J. Kuruvilla and Mike Larocque; Director of Photography: Amol Rathod; Editor: Pallavi Singhal; Music: Mathias Duplessy

About the film: "After finishing my last film, 'Crossing Arizona' (Sundance, 2006) I really wanted a break from political, issue driven documentaries. And I finally felt ready to make the leap to narrative films. For quite some time I had been nurturing this idea of making a film about youth culture in India; a film that draws on my own experiences and observations growing up in India. In a way, Bombay Summer continues my work as a documentary filmmaker. The narrative is not plot driven. The camera is used to record the experiences (a lot of the acting is improvised) of the characters and their relationship to a society and city amidst rapid change. The film is inspired by the New-Taiwanese cinema of Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Edward Yang." -- Joseph Mathew-Varghese

Current Status: "Bombay Summer" has finished an international festival circuit, but has been unable to find a distributor. They are raising money to release the film theatrically in New York and Los Angeles, followed by DVD and VOD distribution.

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

Also in the works:

Over at Thompson on Hollywood, Anne is reporting that Peter Jackson does indeed want "The Hobbit" and that the film might lose Ian McKellan as Gandalf. Catch up with all of Thompson's "Hobbit" news by checking out TOH's "The Hobbit" page here.

Also up on deck is the new HBO series "Luck," exec produced by Michael Mann, which explores the world of horse racing. The pilot stars Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, John Ortiz, Kerry Condon, and Nick Nolte.

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