By Jason Guerrasio | Indiewire November 7, 2008 at 6:39AM
[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 November's edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio profiles five new films in various stages of production. This month's group includes Tara Wray's "Cartoon College," Raul Sanchez Inglis's "The Company Men," Paola Mendoza and Gloria La Morte's "Entre Nos," Stephen Burke's "Happy Ever Afters" and Sinohui Hinojosa's "The Last Job: Redemption."
"My life is about as far from that as possible. Everything is different now," says documentary filmmaker Tara Wray when asked how life has been since revealing her troubled relationship with her mother in her festival favorite first feature, "Manhattan, Kansas." After taking some time off to absorb the experience of highlighting something so personal for public view, she's since moved from New York City to Vermont and has found the subject for her next film: The Center for Cartoon Studies.
Wanting to do something as far removed from her first film, Wray has always been interested in comics and after learning about the school a year ago, located in White River Junction, Vermont, she traveled there with her husband, and since shooting wrapped in May, has decided to stay and live in the area. Her initial idea for the film was to enroll in the school and document her time there, but after seeing the caliber of work being done and reconsidering starring in anymore of her films (she hopes to not even narrate this one) she decided to highlight an academic year in the life of three students attending the school as well as its co-founder, James Sturm. "They're not really talkers," says Wray of her subjects. "The meat of the matter is in their work and sometimes that was a limitation." Wray hopes to incorporate the work of the students through the narrative of the film.
Wray also plans to highlight the town of White River Junction, which Wray describes as "the perfect town for this collection of misfits because the whole town itself is a collection of misfits." Once a burgeoning railroad town, it's since hit the skids and is filled with abandoned buildings, bars and prostitutes. But in the few years the school has been in existence it's bought a vacant telephone company building and a department store to be its campus. "I definitely wanted a part of the film to be about how this school for cartoonists was revitalizing this town," she says. "But it's in such the beginning stages. Comics may have saved the artists' lives but not the town just yet."
Finding funding through the LES Foundation and Chicken and Egg Pictures, Wray is currently looking for finishing funds and hopes to be ready to premiere at next year's SXSW (where she won the audience award for "Manhattan, Kansas" in 2006). Film is produced by Alan Oxman and Josh Melrod. Shot on DV by Wray and Melrod, Bret Granato is editing.
[For more information, please visit www.myspace.com/cartoon_college]
"The Company Men"
Martin Landau and Steve Zahn head an all-star cast in Raul Sanchez Inglis's ("Vice") next film which looks inside a fledgling company's inter-office dog eat dog environment.
Though one could assume the story's plot has been ripped from the headlines of recent months, Inglis admits he wrote the script a few years ago but decided instead to make the Michael Madsen-starrer genre pic "Vice" as it was easier to get off the ground. But with a film under his belt, Inglis and producer Matthew Robert Kelly decided to follow up with a dialogue-driven drama, and some of the best character actors have taken notice.
In the vein of "Glengarry Glen Ross," Landau and Zahn play two salesmen who try to survive the company reshuffle though with their generational gap look differently at their jobs, their company and the current economic climate. "The company has to cut a lot of fat and a lot of people get let go and some get promotions and are in charge of positions they probably shouldn't get and it's all the repercussions that happen. That's how these two men in trying to survive build a relationship that would never have existed before," Inglis says. Also starring are Steve Buscemi, Ron Livingston, Tom Waits, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Brian Cox.
In an ironic twist of life imitating art, Kelly reveals that because of the economy some of their investors have had to drop out due to lack or frozen funds. This has caused the production, budgeted at $5.5 million, to rethink the shoot location from Detroit and move to Winnipeg. "Looking at the Canadian dollar versus the American, the Canadian is in the tank," Kelly says. "[Moving production to Canada] basically drops my budget by about $600,000. It's back to the same runaway problem the U.S. had and I really think people are going to go back to shooting their films in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver." Kelly hopes to be wrapped in time to submit the film to Cannes.
Expected to be shot on 35mm by D.P. Antonio Calvache ("Little Children"), John Axelrad ("We Own the Night") has signed on to edit. Executive producer is Alberta Mayne.
Actress Paola Mendoza ("On the Outs," "Sangre de mi Sangre") follows up her 2006 directorial debut, the documentary "Autumn's Eyes," with a narrative feature based on her mother's efforts to raise her children on her own.
Co-directed with "Autumn's Eyes" editor Gloria La Morte, Mendoza also stars, playing the role of her mother. Having heard the story most of her life, Mendoza has wanted to make the film for many years and after drafting a script with La Morte in the spring of 2006 they found a way to get it made after winning the IFP Market's Panasonic Digital Filmmaking Award in 2007 (then titled "We Can"). "We were like, we got a script, we got a camera, let's try to make the movie," Mendoza says. The project was also in Tribeca All Access and received a Cinereach grant for post.
Set in Queens' Jackson Heights neighborhood, Mariana (Mendoza), who recently emigrated from Colombia with her two children (Sebastian Villada, Laura Montana), is abandoned by her husband and must overcome the language barrier while working a number of strenuous jobs, including collecting cans, to support her family. "It's a very inspirational story about triumph and struggle and family coming together to overcome the most impossible odds," says Mendoza, who made the production a family affair as her mother and brother were on set for the first week of shooting. And even though it's a personal story, La Morte says they made sure when writing the script to create something that would appeal to a wide audience. "Though the story is about a family from Colombia, some of our characters are Asian, some are from India, it's really been opened up to a world audience."
The HD-shot "Entre Nos" (which translates to 'Between Us'), lensed for 18 days and was shot by D.P. Bradford Young and edited by La Morte. Financed by IndiePix, producers are Michael Skolnik ("On the Outs") and Joseph La Morte ("Washington Heights"), executive producers are IndiePix's Bob Alexander and Ryan Harrington.
[For more information, please visit http://entrenosfilm.com]
"Happy Ever Afters"
Irish filmmaker Stephen Burke's debut feature is a screwball wedding comedy starring Sally Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky") and Tom Riley.
Filming in Wicklow and Dublin, Burke and producer Lesley McKimm come from a TV background having both worked together on the series "No Tears," but two years ago Burke came up with the premise for a feature about the hilarity that ensues after two wedding parties collide at the same hotel for their receptions. The two struggled to find financing but after getting support from the Irish Film Board and then co-producing with the German company Tatfilm, things began to move forward with Hawkins and Riley signing on to play the leads. "What I really liked about [Sally and Tom] is they both have great comic timing," according to Burke in an e-mail during production. "They happen to be good friends also, which really helped with the chemistry on screen."
With a budget that Burke says was around the same as the last TV movie he did, an obvious challenge is getting the most out of each day, but he does recall shooting in Dublin city centre as being one of the toughest shoots of the film. "We tried to be as inconspicuous as possible but shooting with a beautiful redhead (Jade Yourell) in a wedding dress made that difficult," he says. "We also shot a scene where somebody falls off Dublin's main bridge and plenty of passersby offered their own opinion of how well we were doing it."
Shot on HD by D.P. Jonathan Kovel, filming recently wrapped. With distribution already locked in Ireland, France, Switzerland, Benelux and New Zealand, McKimm hopes to find a U.S. distributor in the near future. Christine Rupert is also producing, Jane Doolan is executive producing.
"The Last Job: Redemption"
After working twenty years in film sales, Sinohui Hinojosa has the advent of the Red One digital camera and a 48 Hour film competition to thank for his progression into a filmmaker.
Though he's made shorts his whole life, like most, Hinojosa needed steady income to support his family, which put his full-time filmmaking aspirations on hold. Dealing with resale divisions, distributors and film buyers, he admits toward the end the films he was selling was not as good as the ones he was making. So six years ago he co-founded Emerging Artist Productions, a Bay area-based company specializing in creating marketing campaigns, commercials and trailers, though recently they've moved to making their own feature. After Hinojosa conceived and directed a short film titled "The Last Job," which was created during their participation in the 48 Hour Film Project in San Francisco this past summer filmed on the Red camera, he's now prepping a feature length version.
Tentatively titled "The Last Job: Redemption," Hinojosa is currently fleshing out the story with co-writer Dave Hoekenga, Hinojosa says it won't be related to the plot of the short, but British character actor Derrick O'Connor will reprise his role as Yuri, an ex-KGB agent who finds himself helping the CIA to track down an assassin who he encountered in the Cold War.
Hinojosa says making the film wouldn't be possible without using the Red camera, which will make a film budgeted at $1.5 million look like a $7-8 million movie. "When we shot the short I was just looking at some of the shots and it just played like a theatrical film," he says. "We all thought, if we take these elements from the short we could make a feature." They cut a trailer and in it highlighted the use of the Red as an attraction to investors. It worked, as Cinevolve has bought home video rights and will rep the film at AFM. But it also got the attention of the camera's creators. "Ted Schilowitz, one of the head guys at Red One saw our trailer and loved it," Hinojosa says. "I get an e-mail from him asking if he could show the trailer in front of a movie he was screening. That was great."
Produced by his Emerging Artist Productions co-founder Bernard Fok, shooting is set to begin in end of February in Michigan. Film's D.P. is Michael Epple and will be edited by Joel H. Hinojosa. Arik Treston and Nicole Ballivian are executive producers.
[For more information, please visit www.thelastjob.com]