Production Report: "American Hardcore," "Patch," "P.S.," "Saving Face," & "Vineyard Haven"
by Jason Guerrasio
Editor's Note: This is the first article in indieWIRE's new series of occasional reports on independent films in production. If you'd like your film in production to be considered, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"AMERICAN HARDCORE: A TRIBAL HISTORY"
Since showing a 19-minute work-in-progress at the 2003 IFP Market in New York City in September, "American Hardcore: A Tribal History" has been one of the hot projects to track. For its director/producer Paul Rachman (a co-founding filmmaker and the East Coast director of Slamdance) and producer Steven Blush, this documentary on the underground hardcore punk scene of the 1970s recollects memories of their start. "I started my career doing videos for bands like Gang Green and The Bad Brains so in a way we're revisiting part of our youth," says Rachman.
Basing their film on the book of the same title by Blush, the two have been traveling the country with their mini-DV Cam in search of the guys who pioneered early American punk rock. Currently halfway though the interview footage, Rachman reports tracking down the punk rockers thus far has been a smooth process. "Steve and I know most of the prominent ones and through their connections we get the other people." Some of the bands highlighted in the doc include The Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, D.O.A., Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, and Moby (who, pre-electronica, played in a punk band in Connecticut). Along with the interview footage, Rachman has found 12 hours of 8 and 16 mm footage that he shot decades ago, which he'll incorporate in the film, along with other footage and music he's gotten from the bands.
Rachman describes the film's budget as a "travel budget." Due to owning all the equipment being used, the only money spent so far has been on traveling for the interviews. He hopes to have the film finished by January 2005.
"My idea is not to make a short 'a short' in the sense of it being this one-off thing," says filmmaker/artist Chris Romero who's new 30-minute short, "Patch," is similar to the shorts he's made in the past -- they include an art component that extends the film's linear narrative. Like his last project "Joe and Charlie at the Ranch" (which played at fests including Gen Art, Palm Springs, Chicago, and is currently airing on IFC), the former architect constructs an exhibit to accompany the film. For "Patch," Romero is currently in talks with the Guggenheim and The Museum of Modern Art to show the exhibit. "I'm planning to show these huge 60-inch-wide photographs installed in this household environment, which will be next to the screening," he explains. Romero also hopes to have the film play on its own at film festivals.
"Patch" (shot on Super 16) follows Maelynn as she returns to her hometown to mourn the death of her mother, but also finds the truth about a childhood incident she's been tormented by her whole life. The flashback scenes were filmed last October in Woodstock, N.Y., by DP Jay Silver, the rest of the film will be filmed back at Woodstock in the beginning of March and shot by Frank G. DeMarco ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch"). "I'm going for a very stylized atmospheric quality," Romero explains. "Frank's work seemed to really work well with that idea."
Romero plans for the film to be finished by the summer. Ramsey Fong is producing and Melissa Leo, who drew kudos for her role as Benicio Del Toro's suffering wife in "21 Grams," stars as Maelynn. Romero is currently looking for a gallery partner for the exhibition side.
After Dylan Kidd's first film, "Roger Dodger," gave him industry attention and critical acclaim, the writer/director has been very selective about his follow-up project. "We were getting every open director project but they just didn't quicken the pulse," says Kidd. Then early last year, Hart Sharp Entertainment ("Boys Don't Cry") passed along the adaptation of Helen Schulman's novel "p.s." to Kidd's producing partner, Anne Chaisson. Though Chaisson and Kidd didn't like that script, when Kidd read the book he saw its potential. Kidd and Schulman (who is credited as screenwriter along with Kidd) went back and rewrote the script so it was as true to the book as possible. "The book wasn't broken, so there was no reason to change it," says Kidd.
Laura Linney plays Louise, who runs the admissions department at Columbia University's School of the Arts. Stuck in a rut and spending too much time with her ex-husband (Gabriel Byrne), she meets an applicant (Topher Grace) who resembles her old high school boyfriend who died suddenly in a car crash. Louise sees this as a second chance. "The film is about the repercussions of what happens when you meet somebody but you're completely distracted by their resemblance to somebody from your past," says Kidd. The film also stars Paul Rudd and Marcia Gay Harden.
Shot on the Columbia University campus in October on 35mm, "p.s." is currently in post-production. Kidd's brought back most of his crew from "Dodger" including DP Joaqin Baca-Asay, production designer Stephen Beatrice, and composer Craig Wedren. The film is produced by Hart Sharp Entertainment and repped by John Sloss.
Set in New York's Mandarin-speaking immigrant Chinese community, Alice Wu's first feature film, "Saving Face," explores the journey a widowed mother and her daughter take to better understand each other. Or as Wu describes it, "an Asian-American lesbian romantic comedy."
Wil (Michelle Krusiec) comes back from work one day to find her mother (Joan Chen) at her doorstep, shunned from the community because she's pregnant and forced to find a husband. As Wil plays matchmaker, she sees the pressure her mom is under and decides to keep her unorthodox romantic life a secret.
Wu is best known for her short film "Trick or Treat," and she caught the eye of Will Smith's production company, Overbrook Entertainment, after its president, Teddy Zee, came across the "Saving Face" screenplay while on a judging panel for the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. Currently in the 10th week of post-production, Wu looks back on filming and recalls a less stressful experience than she had imagined before production started. "Making you're first film is kind of like getting pregnant and everyone tells you how terrible their labor was," says Wu. "[But] once we actually were rolling suddenly everything came together." She says the biggest challenge was finding someone to take one of the main roles after the actor who had the part but was stuck in China with visa problems. Fortunately her second choice was in the States. "In between takes I met him and thought he could do it, and he did," says Wu. "That was very fortunate."
Shot on location in New York's Flushing, Queens; Brooklyn; and Manhattan on 35 mm, the film is produced by Overbrook and executive produced by Forensic Films and Greenstreet Films for what Wu calls a "small budget." Overbrook has a first-look deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment.
With their relationship on the rocks, Kate and Mark are invited by Kate's college professor to spend the weekend at his cottage in Martha's Vineyard. When they arrive, the couple is surprised to find the professor is also at the house. Though he seems very hospitable, we find that the only reason they're up there is so the professor can put the moves on Kate.
"Vineyard Haven" is the feature debut of writer/director Matt Goldman. Known for his intense shorts including "Broke" and most recent "The Perpetual Life of Jim Albers" (which played at Sundance and Rotterdam last year), Goldman purposely wrote his first feature to be more subtle and controlled. "I said to myself, 'I'm going to write something that is simple enough that I know exactly what I'm doing,'" says Goldman. He brings up Polanski's, "Knife In the Water," when describing the tone of "Haven."
Currently the film is in pre-production and actively casting the parts of Kate and Mark. William Forsythe has signed on to play the professor, which makes Goldman ecstatic. "Because he's scary looking, he's gotten a lot of scary-guy roles and mobster roles, so this is great for him because he gets to be this renaissance man with this regal attitude."
With a budget of $100,000, Goldman believes he will shoot "Vineyard Haven" on Super 16mm with principal photography beginning in April. Seth Carmichael, who also produced "Jim Albers," is producing.