[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 May's edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio profiles five new films that are in various stages of production. This month's group includes Ian James Colmer's "Antigravity", Ryuhei Kitamura's "Midnight Meat Train", Brad T. Gottfred's "Orgies and the Meaning of Life", Christine Jeffs' "Sunshine Cleaning", Patrick Creadon's "Untitled Patrick Creadon Federal Debt Documentary".
Set in Australia, Ian James Colmer's sci-fi thriller is based on the work of UFO/Antigravity expert Capt. Bruce L. Cathie.
In the film, Alec Freeman creates a computer program that can detect the world energy grid. He hires freelance photographer Jade Summers to gather more research, but when it falls into the wrong hands Alec and Jade race to unlock the secrets of antigravity before its too late.
Colmer, who has been a freelance photographer for 24 years, was interested to make a film around Cathie's work on creating an energy grid after meeting him ten years ago. "Bruce was considering doing a documentary [about his work], and I suggested it would be great to do a feature-length narrative film about his research," Colmer says via e-mail from Australia. After researching as much as he could (collecting over 300 books on antigravity), he began writing the script in 1998.
Some of the roles have been cast, including Jade Summers who will be played by Andrea Lui, but Colmer admits the biggest setback has been getting financing. "Australia doesn't support films of this size," says Colmer, who projects the film's budget to be around $27 million. "I've had to look to the private sector and overseas studios, mainly the U.S. and U.K."
Currently in preproduction, Colmer hopes to being shooting this year with locations in Adelaide, Australia, Mt. Cook in New Zealand and studios in the U.K. (Colmer is also shooting a psychological thriller called "The Fury," which he may shoot before this film.) D.P. Ben Nott ("See No Evil") will shoot on 35mm.
[For more information, please visit www.antigravitymovie.com.]
"Midnight Meat Train"
Based on Clive Barker's 1980s "Books of Blood" series, Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura ("Versus," "Sky High") makes his American debut with this cult horror classic that's finally getting a movie adaptation.
The film follows a struggling photographer (Bradley Cooper) who hopes taking a few shots of serial killer Mahogany (Vinnie Jones, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels") - who stalks late night commuters in the subways - will help his portfolio.
Kitamura promises as much gore - if not more - as the recent films in the genre like the "Saw" films and "Hostel," and expects Mahogany to be compared to horror legends Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Leatherface. "From day one I've told Clive we have to create a new icon of horror heroes and I think this Mahogany will be the new classic horror icon," Kitamura says confidently from the set.
The director, who's known in Japan for his unique shooting style that can be compared to Sam Raimi's early work, has turned down numerous American films to direct, but says when he was offered "Meat Train" from producers at Lakeshore Entertainment he couldn't pass it up. "I bought Clive's book 20 years ago on the day it came out [in Japan]," he says.
And working closely with Barker in developing the story was an honor for this horror fan, but Kitamura admits it was also tedious at times. "I changed the script and somehow Clive read an in-process draft and was very angry," he recalls. "I went to his house and acted out the scene and explained everything and after ten minutes he said, 'I like it, you solved all the problems.' I'm a fan so I know I'd be upset if someone messed up his great book, but I'm tying to make something better otherwise I wouldn't have come all the way from Japan to do this."
Currently filming in L.A., principle photography is set to wrap May 4. Shot on 35mm by Jonathan Sela (2006's "The Omen") and edited by Toby Yates ("The Dead Girl"), the film will be released by Lionsgate in 2008. Producers are Lakeshore's Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright and Eric Reid. David Rubin is executive producer. Jeff Buhler adapted the screenplay. The film also starts Brooke Shields, Peter Jacobson ("Good Night, and Good Luck") and Roger Bart ("Hostel: Part II").
"Orgies and the Meaning of Life"
Writer-director Brad T. Gottfred ("The Movie Hero") is currently in post on his second feature, which follows a guy battling sexual fantasies and a troubled relationship with his father to find the right woman.
Gottfred plays Baxter Goode who's at the crossroads in life as he works as a messenger carrier during the day while trying to finish his book about a sexually obsessed stick figure, much to the chagrin of his father, a best-selling Christian author. Baxter is also looking for a woman who'll end his long addiction to orgy fantasies. "I wanted to deal with sexuality and existential despair," Gottfred says, "but I also knew I wanted to make it super low budget, very experimental and offer something very unique to the marketplace."
After finding a DVD deal for his first film, "The Movie Hero," Gottfred went back to writing bigger budgeted scripts which he knew he'd never be able to make on his own. Then after going to Sundance in 2006 he became motivated to make another film, but this time using elements that would catch a distributor's eye. Without name talent attached (though friend Peter Stormare makes a cameo and does some of the original music), he hopes the animation and sexual nature of the story will be selling points. "With 'Movie Hero' I learned that in the market place it was kind of in no mans land," Gottfred says. "It didn't have big enough stars to sell and the comedy wasn't broad enough. With ['Orgies'] I knew my budget and I knew I had to bring as many [selling] elements as possible."
Gottfred kept his costs low by shooting in his house in Hollywood on the weekends last fall and paying one day rentals on the equipment which they were allowed to keep for the weekends. The film is currently in its final sound mix.
Shot on HD by Erik Forssell, the editor is Jonathan Howard and producers are Gottfred, Jessica Brody and Lindsay Wray (who also stars in the film). Houston King and Stormare are executive producers. Animation is by Geoff Oki.
[For more information, please visit www.orgiesandthemeaningoflife.com.]
Amy Adams and Emily Blunt team up to play siblings with an unusual profession in this dark comedy directed by Christine Jeffs ("Sylvia").
Written by Megan Holley, the film follows Rose (Adams), who in trying to get enough money to send her son (Jason Spevack) to private school decides to start a business with her sister (Blunt) cleaning crime scenes.
Holley's script caught the eye of producer Glenn Williamson ("Hollywoodland") four years ago while on the board of a screenplay competition in Virginia. Impressed by the story, he took it upon himself to get the film made. Quickly he grabbed the attention of Big Beach Films ("Little Miss Sunshine") to produce it with him and signed on Karen Moncrieff ("Blue Car") to direct. "[The story is] funny but it's also emotional," Williamson says. "It's really about these characters and this family. It's not like a "CSI" thing or they stumble upon a crime and have to solve it, it's very humanistic and funny."
But the project hit a crossroads when Moncrieff left the film after her passion project, "The Dead Girl," got financing. Realizing the film still had to go on Williamson asked Jeffs to take the directing reigns. "I was the head of production at Focus when 'Sylvia' was made so I knew Christine and she loved the script."
Casting Adams was a no brainier as her Oscar-nominated role in "Junebug" made her perfect for the lead. And Williamson recalls how he first heard about Blunt. "I was hired by Fox to produce the remake of 'The Omen' and our post production supervisor Aaron Downing, who was post supervisor on 'The Devil Wears Prada,' kept telling me about this girl that's going to pop off the screen [in 'Prada'], he would not shut up about her. So we saw the movie early and we liked her, but it's funny that someone Emily never met had a lot to do with making sure we paid attention to her."
Shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico last March, the film's currently being edited by Heather Persons ("Starter For Ten"). Shot on 35mm by John Toon ("Sylvia"), the film's produced by Williamson and Big Beach's Jeb Brody, Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub. Film also starts Alan Arkin and Steve Zahn.
"Untitled Patrick Creadon Federal Debt Documentary"
Patrick Creadon's follow-up to his breakout debut doc "Wordplay" examines the country's ever-expanding federal debt. Loosely based on the book "Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis," Creadon hopes the doc will bring awareness about the federal debt as successfully as "An Inconvenient Truth" did with global warming.
"Our movie is basically about how the federal government spends our tax revenue and how they're doing a poor job of doing it," Creadon says. For the past few months Creadon and his wife, producer Christine O'Malley, have been shooting interviews with Warren Buffet, former Secretaries of the Treasury Robert Rubin and Paul O'Neil, former Cabinet official Alice Rivlin and current U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, who Creadon says will be a major focus in the doc as "he's traveling the country trying to explain to people that what we're doing will affect us in the future." They are also working on getting interviews with all the presidential candidates.
Creadon notes that even though most of the nation's news coverage has been about what the U.S. spends on the war, the interest that we pay on the federal debt is twice as much every year as what we've spent on the war. He believes a theatrical documentary is the only way to get at the severity of this problem. "David Walker was featured on '60 Minutes' a few months ago and that was a great piece but by the time people went to bed the story was over," Creadon says. "This movie isn't about fixing the problem, it's about understanding what the problems are."
The doc, which is being shot on mini-DV by Creadon, is produced through Open Sky Entertainment, with Glenn Garland and Chris Duddy as Executive Producers, and Sarah Gibson as producer, along with O'Malley Creadon Productions. Creadon hopes to have the project ready for release by next summer.