Production Report: "Autumn's Eyes," "Flakes," "GB 2525," "Shanghai Red," "Wild Tigers I Have Known"
by Jason Guerrasio
[ 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. ]
While filming the independent film "On the Outs," actress Paola Mendoza became good friends with her onscreen daughter Autumn. The 3-year-old was so comfortable around Mendoza she would introduce her as her "fake mommy" around the neighborhood. For Mendoza, hanging around Autumn in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Jersey City, NJ was life changing and she decided to make a documentary on what she saw.
After "Outs" wrapped, Mendoza and assistant director, Gabriel Noble, stayed in Jersey City for a year to film Autumn and her family. "What's unique about the documentary is we really focused on showing the story through the perspective of Autumn," says Mendoza who deliberately put the camera over Autumn's shoulder to capture her point of view at key moments.
Some of the obstacles Autumn and her family go through include living without electricity for three weeks, being evicted from their home, and dealing with the incarceration of Autumn's 18-year-old mother for burglary.
Mendoza recalls one of the most difficult things to shoot was when the family had no electricity. "Once we shot everything we needed we found places for them to stay the night because morally we couldn't just leave them there." But through all the hardship Autumn is the glue that keeps the family together. "Growing up in this environment she is still a beautiful, happy girl throughout it all," says Noble. "What's so amazing about Autumn is that her innocence really was the key to the families survival."
Shot on DV and budgeted at $2-3,000, the film is currently being edited by husband and wife team Joseph and Gloria LaMort.
New Orleans has always been known for having some of the most unique shops and eateries in the world, and Flakes is no exception. A bistro that only sells cereal, it fits in perfectly with the distinctive flavor that surrounds it. But don't bother rushing to the French Quarter for a heaping bowl of Cap'n Crunch. The restaurant only exists in the minds of screenwriters Chris Poche and Karey Kirkpatrick (though there have been reports that cereal bars are popping up around college campuses).
In the story, an old hippie (Christopher Lloyd) owns the shop and spends his days serving cereal and chatting with the local clientele about the history of cereal and the ideal milk to flake ratio. Suddenly his utopian state is disrupted when a competitor shrewdly rips off the concept and opens his own cereal shop across the street.
But according to director Michael Lehmann ("Heathers," "40 Days 40 Nights"), the film isn't only about cereal. "The two cereal restaurants is an easy way to grasp the story but the movie itself is a love story between a wanna-be musician (Aaron Stanford) who works at the cereal bar and his artist girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel) who's trying to get him on track to do his music."
Known mostly for his work in Hollywood, Lehmann says don't expect any dark, depressing indie film, but a lighthearted comedy. "I'm really curious how the independent world views a movie that is meant to be liked and that's not a message movie and not a dark story."
Shot in 20 days last January by d.p. Nancy Schreiber, the film is currently being edited by Nick Smith. The latest project by InDigEnt, its producers are Gary Winick, Jake Abraham, Mark Ross and Karey Kirkpatrick. And executive produced by Jonathan Sehring, Caroline Kaplan and John Sloss.
Frustrated with the lack of quality films coming out of the Latin-American community, co-directors Jojo Henrickson and Kierson Estrada decided to do something about it when they began work on a thriller based in a futuristic barrio.
"GB 2525" takes place in the year 2525 where gangs own most of Los Angles and have been at peace for the last two years. But after a gang leader is assassinated, the two-year treaty is in jeopardy. In hopes to calm the tension among the gangs, Supaman (Frank Alvarez), a spiritual leader to the gangs, goes on a journey with his three compatriots to find who's behind the assassination.
"It's 'The Warriors' meets 'Escape From New York'," says Henrickson who with Estrada want to show the film world that American Latinos have stories to tell. "Writers and directors who aren't Latino are making a lot of urban films. Our aim is to show what we can do."
Shooting for the last two years on weekends, Hendrickson and Estrada gathered all the Latino actors they knew to showcase their talents in a film that they hope will inspire other Latinos to make better movies. "We're trying to make more commercial movies as opposed to these bad B movies," says Henrickson.
But don't expect a heavy CGI sci-fi film. With a small budget, Henrickson goes by the tagline, "Nothing has changed expect for the weapons" to explain the not-so-futuristic look of L.A. in 2525.
Currently Henrickson and Estrada (who's also the d.p. and executive producer) are editing the film. It's produced by John Estrada.
In the hopes to make films that appeal to multicultural audiences, producer Oscar L. Costa and wife, actress Vivian Wu ("The Joy Luck Club") created MardeOro Films in April 1999. Now they will become the first independent film company to shoot entirely in Shanghai, China as they prepare to begin production on "Shanghai Red" in the end of June.
The first of what Costo and Wu (who was born and raised in Shanghai before coming to America in 1987 to start her acting career) hope to be a series of stories set in modern day China, the film deals with a single mother (Wu) who's keeping a terrible secret. The film also deals with cross-cultural topics intertwining English and Chinese characters.
A co-venture with Shanghai Film Studios, the film is budgeted between $1-2 million. Costa is the writer, director and producer. Shooting is planned to take 6-7 weeks and will be shot by d.p. Adam Kane. Richard Burgi stars opposite Wu (who's also producing) in the lead roles along with Chinese actors You Ge and Honglei Sun. The executive Producer is Lisa Lu.
"Wild Tigers I Have Known"
Gaining attention after his short "Bobbycrush" screened at Sundance in 2004, 24-year-old Cam Archer is preparing for his first feature. After years of making films in his bedroom without a script and using his friends and family as actors and crew, Archer decided to sit down and write a script for the first time. "I didn't want to just have a bunch of notes and call up my D.P. and find some kids and shoot," says Archer. "I actually wanted to go about this a bit more legitimately." With that thinking, Archer submitted the script to the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and was accepted. "I really feel like they turned my script around and I think I have a great script now."
This coming of age story follows Logan, a junior high student, who's trying to figure out his place in the world. "It's that kind of adolescent stage where you start to get this weird confidence because you're doing things by yourself but at the same time you're totally not shaped at all. You're lost."
Along with getting tips from the pros at Sundance, Archer also found a mentor in Gus Van Sant. After sending him some of his shorts a year and a half ago, Van Sant saw promise in Archer's work and has since agreed to be an executive producer on "Tigers." "I've asked him questions about producers and working with kids," says Archer. "He did this with 'Tarnation', he did this with 'Kids', he understands the importance of these small movies. I think he appreciates someone who's so caught up in their vision that no one is going to stop them from doing it."
Archer is currently casting, predominantly around his hometown of Santa Cruz, CA, where he hopes to film. He will begin shooting in the summer.
[ For more information, please visit: http://www.camarcher.com. ]