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April 5, 2006 8:49 AM
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Production Report: "All The World's A Stage," "Exhibit A," "If Ever I Cease To Love," "Stiffs," "Whe

A scene from A.M. Peters's "If Ever I Cease To Love." Photo courtesy of the filmmaker.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: indieWIRE's monthly production report looks at independent films in various stages of production. If you'd like to tell us about a film in production for future columns, please contact us.]

In the April edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio takes a closer look at five new films that are in production: Vaun Monroe's "All The World's A Stage," Dom Rotheroe's "Exhibit A," A.M. Peters's "If Ever I Cease To Love," Frank Ciota's "Stiffs," and Ryan Eslinger's "When A Man Falls In The Forest."

"All The World's A Stage"

Struggling to find financing or a cast and crew for his first feature, college professor and filmmaker Vaun Monroe turned to academia to get his film made.

A professor of screenwriting and directing at Ithaca College and film and television studies at Cornell University, Monroe asked Ithaca if he could take a group of advanced cinema students and teach them how to make a feature-length film by actually shooting one. The school accepted, but first Monroe had to find a cast.

After an abysmal turnout at the casting call, Monroe was forced to scrap the original script. He wrote a new one, using the handful of talented actors who showed for the call. The new story follows Vanessa Armstrong (Esosa Edosomwan), a working actress who decides to take a fellowship at a college. She's hired as a theatre professor and quickly finds her treatment at the college similar to what she receives as an actress. "She's brought in as an affirmative action hire and some of the other faculty are hostile to her for that reason," Monroe explains.

The class started January 2005 where Monroe began rehearsals, assigned crew positions and taught editing. In March shooting commenced with a $5,000 budget. Monroe admits it was a daunting task but is proud of his students and hopes to work with them again. "They really rouse to the occasion," he says. "There were times when we were shooting out in the cold, we had to light [shots] on the fly, we shot in rougher black parts of town. The students really got a different kind of multi-cultural experience during this shoot."

Shot around Ithaca College in 24 days on DV by Changhee Chun, the film is currently being edited by Jacob Serlen, Eric McKeon and Ryan Harris. Brandon Pender is executive producer.

[For more information, please visit their website.]


"Exhibit A"

Investigating the death of an entire family, the authorities only clue to what happened is a running camcorder they found at the scene. Written and directed by Dom Rotheroe, this story of family turmoil set in Britain is told through the lens of the camcorder.

Conceived five years ago by Rotheroe and producer Darren Bender, the story follows a family struggling to stay together. To lighten the atmosphere, the father buys a camcorder for his daughter. But she uses her new gift to spy on him and learns some horrible secrets. The story is told entirely from the point-of-view of the camcorder, with the only cuts occurring when someone turns it off.

"The home movie idea worked on 'The Blair Witch Project,' but we are taking it a step further, making it look like it was cut in camera and no one had found the footage and edited it," Rotheroe says via e-mail. To no surprise financing was hard to come by, but they ultimately had a #300,000 budget ($524,000) from UK's Yorkshire Screen and Screen East along with private investors.

Shot last October in Leeds, Yorkshire in 16 days, Rotheroe admits the hardest part of the shoot was pulling off the clever storytelling. "Because of the nature of the home movie thing the shots were basically long takes of scenes which we couldn't cut into. Which meant they had to be right all the way through," he says. "Sometimes we'd retake and retake, the record was 25 takes, and I started to feel like Kubrick...in a bad way."

Currently in postproduction, Rotheroe hopes to have the film complete by the middle of the month. Produced through Bender's Bigger Pictures, the film stars Bradley Cole, Brittany Ashworth, Angela Forrest and Oliver Lee. D.P. is Rob Hardy and David Charap is the editor. Hugo Heppell, Sheryl Crown, and Richard Wood are executive producers.

"If Ever I Cease To Love"

Director A.M. Peters explores the New Orleans music scene post-Hurricane Katrina in her first feature-length documentary and learns The Big Easy is a town with a lot of heart and little quit.

Using the official song of Marti Gras as her title, Peters originally intending on filming a short on musicians who have been displaced since the hurricane, but she quickly realized doing anything less than a feature on the music and people of New Orleans would be a great disservice. "New Orleans is the bastard step child so to speak of the United States' major cities, but it's also the ultimate embodiment of the American spirit," says Peters who recently returned from Marti Gras and couldn't believe all the good spirit she witnessed on Bourbon St. "People are like, 'Forget it we can take care of ourselves,' it's weird that I'm not coming across a lot of bitterness."

As Peters captures the current state of New Orleans, her mission is to show how the music, which has been the city's lifeblood since its existence, will be the catalyst behind the rebuilding. "Music in New Orleans could arguably be said to have come from the union of many cultures - European, African, South American, French - and all these people have come together to support and rebuild the city." Highlighting area bands like The Public, The Fantastic Ooze and Kermit Ruffins, the doc also has interviews from Tom Piazza, author of "Why New Orleans Matters," and Tulane Professor, Ray Fransen.

Returning to New Orleans at the end of the month to interview bands during Jazz Fest, Peters hopes to have a final cut by August. Shot on DV by Boris Cifuentes and edited by Mary Lou Donner, it's produced through Peters' Dinomonster Films and Liquid Metal Media.

[For more information, please visit their website.]


"Stiffs"

Set in Boston, Mass, this black comedy follows Frank Tramontana (Danny Aiello), an over the hill ladies man who drives a hearse and impresses the ladies with his outlandish tales. But when he goes too far to woo his latest fling, Frank finds himself in hot water with some dangerous people.

Directed by Frank Ciota ("Ciao America") and written by his brother Joe Ciota, the Boston natives use the Italian-American section of town, The North End, as the setting for their latest film. Frank describes it as "a coming-of-age story for somebody who's retired," and says his brother's inspiration for the story came from the smooth dance numbers and love ballads from the band Gipsy Kings, which sums up the suave attitude of the main character. "He played them for me and said, 'This is the structure of the film,'" says Frank with a chuckle from the editing room. The Ciota's also loosely based the characters on actual hearse drivers they know.

Along with Aiello, the film stars Heather Tom, Lesley Ann Warren and Frank Vincent ("The Sopranos") who plays "Jimmy The Limo King," an outlandish character who all the drivers look up to.

Shot over 34 days in the beginning of the year, post production has recently begun with George Chiochios editing. Shot on 35 mm by Giulio Pietromarchi, the film is produced by Sandy Missakian and executive produced by Roger Marino.

[For more information, please visit their website.]


"When A Man Falls In The Forest"

Exploring how men and women relate to each other, writer-director Ryan Eslinger enlists a talented ensemble cast for his sophomore effort.

After turning heads with his debut "Madness and Genius" in 2003, Eslinger went to L.A. and found quick work as a writer-for-hire. One was writing a script for Sharon Stone. While taking a meeting with Stone he passed her his script about four middle-class adults living miserable lives in the Midwest. She was intrigued by the script, specifically the part of Karen, an unhappily married woman who shoplifts to feel better. Not only did she sign on to star, she's also executive producing the film budgeted at under $5 million. Eslinger says the serendipitous meeting was the first good news he's had since coming to L.A. "I was trying to sell scripts and write for hire and the writing just kept getting worse so I went back to [a script] I'd like to see if it were a movie." With Stone attached, the cast of Timothy Hutton, Dylan Baker and Pruitt Taylor Vince rounded out fairly quickly.

Working on the script at the Sundance Screenwriters and Filmmakers Labs along with Cannes' Atelier du Festival, Eslinger found financing last year through Kirk Shaw's Canadian-based Insight Film and Mary Aloe's Proud Mary Entertainment.

Shot in Vancouver last February, Eslinger is currently editing. Shot on 35mm by Lawrence Sher, executive producers are Max Sinovoi, Ira Besserman and Soly Haim.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Jason Guerrasio writes the Production Report column for indieWIRE and contributes regularly to Premiere, Filmmaker Magazine, MovieMaker and Time Out.

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