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Production Report: "Anomaly," "I Believe in America," "In A Dark Place...," "Jam," "Tonight at Noon"

Indiewire By Jason Guerrasio | Indiewire October 4, 2005 at 8:3AM

[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.]
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[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 October edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio takes a closer look at five new films that are in production: Jessica Chen Drammeh's "Anomaly," Michael J. Narvaez's "I Believe in America," Abner and Kamma Pastoll's "In A Dark Place...," Craig Serling's "Jam," and Michael Almereyda's "Tonight at Noon."

"Anomaly"

Born half Chinese and half Caucasian, multiethnic issues have played a major part in Jessica Chen Drammeh's life. In her first documentary she explores how it is to live multiracial in America.

Spanning three years, "Anomaly" highlights three people of mixed racial heritage as they give intimate stories about their lives in a society that's becoming, as Drammeh says, "increasingly multicultural but yet in many ways still segregated." In one story Gabriella searches for her biological mother (who's Caucasian) after living most of her life with an African-American family. In another, Michelle, who's half Korean and half Caucasian, opens up about her tough childhood and wonders if her children will go through the same torment, as she married an African-American. And Pete, who's the youngest of the three subjects, shows how younger generations have become more open about mixed race, as he's enthusiastic to express his bi-racial heritage.

"I hope people will recognize the untold stories of people with mixed race," Drammeh says. "It's more complicated than simply answering questions like what are you or where are you from, there's a whole host of different things that influence how a person identifies themselves so I think it fits into the larger conversation about race and shifting identity in American."

Recently the film screened in IFP's Documentary Works-In-Progress section. Drammeh is currently looking for finishing funds. Shot on DV, 16mm and Super 8mm by Ku-Ling, the film is budgeted at under $200,000 and produced by Drammeh. Jacob Okada is the editor and associate producers are Sharon Smith and Toni Urbano. Emmy winner June Cross ("Secret Daughter") is a consulting producer.

[For more information, please visit the film's website.]


"I Believe in America"

Based on his off-Broadway play "A Doctor's Call," playwright-poet Michael J. Narvaez adapts the politically charged play for his writing-directing debut.

A generational drama about one family's involvement in the movement for the independence of Puerto Rico, Narvaez decided to write the play after his brother's mysterious death in 1992. Through his research he learned most of his family, including his brother, was involved in the movement and included many family stories in the play. Now he hopes the adaptation to film will bring more attention to the movement and his proud heritage. "Whatever your authenticity is there's something in it for everybody," Narvaez says. "The piece is not a call to arms nor does it profess one point of view, I focus on this family and how this family is being torn apart and they just happen to be political."

But Narvaez learned through his seven-year struggle to get the film off the ground that fear comes along with exploring this subject. "Certain actors and certain directors left the project because they were spooked," he says. This led to him taking the director reigns, and Narvaez still doesn't understand why so many were reluctant to come onboard. "I said to myself that's like Mario Puzo being afraid to write 'The Godfather,'" he says. "I'm basically writing a work of fiction based on true events and if anything [the film] will be a great enlightenment for the world."

Currently in post-production, the film was shot around New York City last summer. Shot on HD by Patryk Rebisz, David Jakubovic is editing the film. Budgeted at under $500,000, it's produced by Narvaez, Vincent Prezioso and Tony D'Aiuto. Cast includes Jamie Harris (Terrence Malick's upcoming "The New World"), Roger Guenveur Smith ("Do The Right Thing") and Jamie Tirelli ("Girlfight").

[For more information, please visit the film's website.]


"In A Dark Place..."

Similar to something out of a David Lynch film, UK filmmakers Abner and Kamma Pastoll's latest thriller finds two strangers in an abandoned building trying to solve what's beyond a mysterious doorway.

Set in north London the brothers, who share writing and directing credits, came upon the inspiration for "In A Dark Place..." while preparing for another film. After their 13-year-old brother found an abandoned building while scouting locations, they learning the building would be torn down in the near future and decided to make a film there before its demolition. "When the other project became delayed we felt that we couldn't waste the opportunity of utilizing the space," according to the filmmakers via e-mail. "We set out to test our abilities with a limited amount of time and resources."

The Pastoll brothers then came up with a story that would coincide with the location's dark feel. In the film the strangers (played by Daniel Gosling and Abner Pastoll) come across a doorway that makes one of them vanish when he walks through it. The other is now faced with the uncertainty of what will happen when he goes through it. The brothers say one of the biggest challenges were the conditions of the shoot last March. "It was actually colder inside the building than it was outside," they say. "We had insanely long days as we needed to ensure we got everything at the location before it was demolished. They were probably some of the most physically and mentally exhausting days we have had to date."

Production has been on hiatus but will start up again this month. They hope to begin post-production by the beginning of next year. Self-financed through the their production company, February Films/Blue Grotto Pictures, the film is shot on DV and edited by the brothers.

[For more information, please visit the film's website.]

"Jam"

Set on a rural mountain road, five groups of travelers have their lives interrupted when a massive traffic accident traps them on the road during a sweltering Father's Day afternoon.

Thinking up of projects that would work as a low budget feature for his first film, writer-director Craig Serling, and writing partner Nicole Lonner, came up with the idea for "Jam" three years ago while stuck in traffic. The film involves five interweaving stories, all related to fatherhood; occurring in the span of a few hours on a long, hot slab of pavement. "I drew up a lot of my own personal experiences to write about," says Serling (cousin of "The Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling). "I grew up in a single family household and when you decide to go to the wall on your first project you really want to go with material that you're passionate about and I think that is one of the reasons I felt so compelled to make this film."

Hoping to draw people to the project, Serling decided to extract one of the stories and reshape it into a short film. He showed it at festivals in 2003 and sparked interest from financiers and actors like, Marianne Jean-Baptiste ("Secrets & Lies"), Amanda Foreman ("Happy Endings"), Jonathan Silverman and William Forsythe.

Recently wrapped on a 15-day shoot in Los Angeles, it was shot on Super 16 mm by Jeff Venditti. Budgeted under $700,000, it's produced through Dianne Burnett's (TV's "Survivor") Burnett Entertainment in association with Serling's Thanksgiving Films.

[For more information, please visit the film's website.]


"Tonight at Noon"

Writer-director Michael Almereyda ("Hamlet") examines relationships in his next film as he ponders the question: when two people fall in love, what's lost and what's gained? Based on the award winning short story "Five Fucks" by Jonathan Lethem, Almereyda ("Hamlet") uses Lethem's story as the foundation to answer this question.

After first reading the short three years ago, Almereyda was taken by how its "different strands of reality intersect and collide" and thought it would work well as a film. Fortunately for Almereyda, being friends with Lethem made it easy for him to get the option on the story. In the film Lee (Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Dirty Pretty Things") and Mae (Lauren Ambrose, TV's "Six Feet Under") are a couple trying to work out their differences. As Mae struggles with memories of a former flame, Lee, who's a writer, works through his frustration by forming his problems into a story in his mind. The film then shifts back and forth from reality and Lee's imagination. "I like what it says about life," said Almereyda during a break from shooting. "It's about love and loss, it struck me as a meaningful and compelling story, and the shifts in reality offered up strong visual possibilities."

The four-week shoot around New York City wrapped October 1. Also in the cast are Joan Chen ("Saving Face"), Josh Hamilton ("On_Line"), Rutger Hauer ("Blade Runner"), Connie Nielsen ("Gladiator") and Ethan Hawke. Shot on HD by Scott Miller, it's produced by Unison Films' Emanuel Michael, Donald Rosenfeld and Bob Gosse. Cotty Chubb is executive producing.

This article is related to: In The Works