[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 Catherine E. Rubey's "Baggage", Tony Hickman's "Broken Windows", Jeremy Lum's "Elise", Anthony Spadaccini's "Head Case", and Scott Tuft's doc "Within The Grid".
Catherine E. Rubey has always enjoyed attending the Sundance Film Festival. But unlike the droves of people who flock to Park City to sell their films, build interest on a potential project or just hit the parties, she's the rare breed who goes to watch films. But that all changed four years ago and now this mother of twins is no longer on the outside looking in.
"My husband and I watched a rough cut of 'The Clearing' at Sundance, and afterwards in the trades and in interviews I kept hearing [Robert] Redford say he wished there was a love story out there for people his age because it's not often explored," says Rubey. She agreed with Redford's observation,took a hiatus from her job in marketing and began writing a script three years ago.
The film follows a recently retired airline pilot who's ready to relax the rest of his life on a tropical beach, but when he learns he's a grandfather the new responsibility makes him realize there's a lot of reconnecting he has to do with his family.
Armed with a few screenwriting courses she took in college and aware that there's a market for stories geared towards baby boomers, Rubey juggled her time taking care of her twin toddlers and writing the screenplay. She then joined screenwriting websites and went on message boards so she could get feedback. Based in Chicago, once she had a draft that was sellable, Rubey began reaching out to producers. "Networking around Chicago I realized everything we need we can do here on our own," she says. John Yaworsky and Patrick Q. Roberts joined Rubey as producers, composer Alex Wurman ("March of the Penguins") came on to do the score, while late last month Corbin Bernsen signed on to play the lead and Dirk Benedict (from "A-Team" fame) agreed to direct.
Why didn't Rubey decide to take the directing reigns? "I just don't want to limit the project," she replies humbly. "Seeing the happy accidents and the depth that can be brought to something from the right actor and director, I don't want to limit it by being greedy."
The film begins preproduction shortly and hopes to shoot in late summer in Chicago. DP Peter Biagi will be shooting on HD. Executive producers are Damian Perkins, Tony Brock, Ralph Cooper and Jerry Steinborn.
For more information, visit www.baggagethefilm.com.
The lives of four women are highlighted in writer-director Tony Hickman's feature debut.
After making the short film "Hear, I Dreamt" two years ago about six women who, while hanging out together, reveal themselves by telling brief stories, Hickman has always been interested in taking that female-centered story and making it into a feature. "Many times in films I feel that the women are there to show the men," he says. "Like, if the man wasn't in the film the woman wouldn't have a role."
For two years Hickman worked on the script for his first feature that follows four women over the course of three days. Larisa Oleynik plays Sara who has just turned 25, the same age her mother was when she died, and deals with the anxiety of not having a mother. Jennifer Hall plays Amy, a lesbian who's grieving over the death of her partner and the stress of being unaccepted by her family. Sarah Thompson is Katie, a struggling actress who has a dwindling relationship with her boyfriend, Walt (Jason George), who's a more successful actor. And Sara Jane Nash is Beth, a psychiatrist who is successful in helping people with their problems but struggles with finding closure from her own troubled past. "I wanted to take some interesting characters, follow them, watch them, not really manufacture the drama just have them come from the characters," Hickman says about coming up with the stories.
Shot in LA and San Diego in April for 20 days on Super 16mm by Jason Cochard, the film is being cut by Mathew Jones. Thomas J. Rasera is producing. Executive producers are Hickman, Christophe Jouin and Rick Kornfeld.
For more information, visit www.brokenwindowsfilm.com.
When Elise learns that she's contracted AIDS this 19-year-old must face the harsh realities of her future and think back on what her life has meant.
Written and directed by Jeremy Lum, the film is loosely based on a collection of people he's known in his life who have AIDS. "Growing up so close to San Francisco during the 80s, with parents who are extremely involved in social conscience movements, I've known many people who have the disease and so this was a means of me being able to speak out for them and also to a generation I've seen grow more and more careless in terms of sexual activity," says Lum, who hopes to work with AIDS groups once the film is ready for release.
Shot in his hometown of San Jose, California, Lum got a lot of support from people he knew in the city, which helped greatly in keeping costs low. He got his old high school to let him shoot the film's prom scene there. "They agreed to let me shoot after they had their prom from 1 to 7 in the morning," he says. "Along with the extras I recruited seniors from the high school to be in the scene." And because his father is a doctor, he was able to shoot in a hospital free of charge.
But Lum says the biggest obstacle was finding the right actress to play Elise, a role that not only deals with the realities of AIDS, but also the emotion that goes with someone searching for answers. After seeing 600 people for all 28 roles (200 just for the Elise character) in San Jose, New York and L.A., Lum chose Becca Murray for the role. "She was the only actress to touch on every section of the character and when she did a scene where she's dying and saying goodbye, which is not in the script, it brought everyone in the audition room to tears."
Currently in post, the film was shot in 27 days in April on HD by Drew Hicks and edited by Morgan Elizabeth. Producers are Lum, Jill Markowitz, Laura Sterritt and David Woodard.
For more information, visit www.elisethemovie.com.
25-year-old filmmaker Anthony Spadaccini is currently finishing post production on his thirteenth feature, a thriller which follows a serial killer who videotapes his murders. The story is told in a first person style through the killer's camera.
After committing a series of murders during the 80s, Wayne Montgomery (Paul McCloskey) has slowed down as rearing a family has taken up most of his time. But now that the kids have gotten older the urge has come back and with the help of his wife (Barbara Lessin) the two begin videotaping their abductions and murders. "It's really disturbing to see the last known footage or picture of someone before they disappear or are deceased," Spadaccini says about coming up with the film's style. "But it always fascinated me so I wanted to capture my own personal feelings and at the same time make a movie that would scare the living daylights out of the audience."
Shot in Claymont, Delaware, Spadaccini (who is also credited as writer, producer and editor) began filming last August and shot every weekend until December using many of the friends and family that have been in most of his shorts and features. Since then there have been a few pick-ups to shoot and some death scenes, including one which was very hard to cast. "It's a very gruesome death [scene] and we could not find anyone who would be willing to go there because it's a very psychological way to die," he says. Fortunately, they did find someone.
Spadaccini says he will have picture lock in August, in time for its premiere at the Newark Film Festival in Delaware. The film is produced through his company Fleet Street Films and is executive produced by Benjamin P. Ablao Jr.
For more information, visit www.fleetstreetfilms.com.
"Within The Grid"
In Scott Tuft's first documentary feature he examines how electricity is used for almost everything we do, and how some people have been harmed by it.
While researching a script he was writing about people who survive electric shock accidents, Tuft was stunned by the bizarre stories he was told and decided to put the script on hold and make his findings into a documentary. One accident he concentrates on is stray voltage on New York City streets. "There's a lot of cables underground and deteriorating so often in the winter, when the snow's melting and touching the wires underneath the streets, when people walk over manhole covers they get electrocuted," he says.
He also investigates how stray voltage has affected a dairy farm in Wisconsin, as, unbeknownst to the farmers, their cows are constantly being shocked by stray voltage due to the ground wires beneath them. As a result the cows get sick and their milk count goes down. "No one can really pin down the problem and these farmers are starting to go out of business."
And along with speaking to historians and scientists about electricity, Tuft highlights a group known as Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors International, which supports survivors of electric shock.
In production for over a year, Tuft is currently shooting interviews and hopes to have the film complete by the end of the summer. He hopes to incorporate animation (a la the "Fight Club" opening credits) to segue to each story and has a friend in China who's working on the animation. The film's shot on DV by Andreas Burgess and produced by Anne Carkeet and Par Parekh.
For more information, visit www.systemicpictures.com.