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indieWIRE's Project of the Day: Documentary Based on "The Idiot," "Soft in the Head"

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire June 15, 2011 at 5:26AM

Each week, we usually gather up four or five projects in progress to feature in a single column. Now it's going to be a daily feature, so we can give the spotlight to a single project each day.
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An image of Ed Ryan, the inspiration for Nathan Silver's "Soft in the Head." [Image courtesy of Silver]

Each week, we usually gather up four or five projects in progress to feature in a single column. Now it's going to be a daily feature, so we can give the spotlight to a single project each day.

Is this a movie you'd want to see? Tell us in the comments.


"Soft in the Head"

Logline:
The first documentary based on a novel: A picaresque study of a holy fool with a mania to do good & the world that trips him up at each step

Elevator Pitch:
We will continue to develop and rework "Soft In The Head" until we start shooting, so I can’t divulge much about it except that:

-- some themes and situations are taken from "The Idiot", a 19th Century Russian novel about a criminally kind person
-- the main character is Maury, a criminally kind person and modern day pilgrim
-- it takes place in Queens, New York (around where my parents grew up)
-- it's filled with tense dinner scenes (like the ones you might experience in your own home)
-- it will be shot on 16mm film (film grain's the only way to capture this world of ours)
-- it's ruled by the people in it

Production team:
Director: Nathan Silver ("The Blind")
Producer: Lynn Truong
Cinematographer: Cody Stokes

About the production:
"Movies should not be made from paper, but from people. What I mean to say is that I don’t trust scripts, even though I went to NYU to learn how to write them. I trust people (or at least the ones I’m working with here). So I'm working through the characters with the people I cast. Instead of spending days holed up in my apartment writing, I'm spending months hashing out the characters with the actors, then observing these characters in various situations, and rehearsing with them until the initial ideas I had about the story are just that: initial ideas.

"I was working on an adaptation of "The Idiot" for three years, and I found it impossible to adapt. Then, I met Ed Ryan, a copy writer who had just been laid off from his job of thirty years. I could immediately see Prince Myshkin in Ed. After meeting Prince Myshkin in the flesh, the idea of writing this movie seemed absurd. I had to find modern-day counterparts for each character in the book, put them into a room together, and watch them interact. I like to think of this project as a documentary of a novel. A lot of it comes from the actors’ lives. A lot of it comes from Dostoevsky. The lines are blurred to such an extent that I myself am not sure what belongs to the book and what belongs to the people portraying these characters.

"No matter how much I nudge, push, and shove these characters, I'm just their documentarian. It's a documentary of an imagined life. This is my second time making a feature in this fashion, and I wouldn't do it any other way."

Why iW likes this:
Silver's got an interesting, fresh perspective on filmmaking, and it should be interesting to see how this all pans out.

Current status:
We are currently in pre-production and plan to hit the ground shooting late August.

For more information and to support the film:
Kickstarter page.

Be sure to check out our curated Kickstarter page for more information on projects we think you should check out.

This article is related to: Documentary, Features, Filmmaker Toolkit, In The Works, Project of the Day





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