[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 January edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio takes a closer look at five new films that are in production: Justin Theroux's "Dedication", James Boinski's "Legit", Steven Hahn and Francis Hsueh's "Party", Craig DiBona's "Rain", and Greg Morgan's "The Substance of Things Hoped For".
Actor Justin Theroux ("Mulholland Drive") prepares what he calls "a slightly dark comedic love story" in his directorial debut, starring friend Billy Crudup ("Stage Beauty").
Theroux got involved in the project while starring in Plum Pictures' "The Baxter" last year. He discussed his interest in directing with Plum principals Galt Niederhoffer, Celine Rattray and Daniela Taplin, the trio passed along the script penned by David Bromberg. Having always been attracted to working behind the camera (he and Ben Stiller co-wrote "Tropic Thunder" which is currently in development at DreamWorks), Theroux sees "Dedication" as a way to gradually slide into the realm of directing. "It's not overly ambitious," Theroux says of the film, "still I think it has huge qualities to it."
Crudup plays Henry, a children's book writer who's grieving the death of Rudy (Harvey Keitel), his long-time collaborator. He's then forced to collaborate with Lucy (Mandy Moore) and the two soon become romantically involved. But Theroux says this won't be like most love stories. "As most romantic comedies hang on commitment issues, this sort of hangs on mental issues," he says, describing Henry as mentally ill; often seeking guidance from his deceased partner throughout the film. "It's not whether [Henry] chooses to be with a girl, it's really about whether he is mentally capable of being with a girl."
Currently in preproduction, Theroux believes this part of the process is the most difficult. "Having been on enough sets I know the general rhythm at which movies flow," he says. "I know what every element does, I know what every key department does, I just have never been on the front end of it."
Filming is scheduled to begin in mid-February around New York City. Theroux is currently scouting locations and hiring key crewmembers. The film also stars Mia Farrow and Bob Balaban and is produced by Plum Pictures.
Fed up with his life in the mob, Big Jim tries to cut his ties to the underworld and begin a legitimate career. But will the mob let him go? James Boinski co-writes, directs, produces and stars.
A veteran of 60 films in front and behind the camera, Boinski along with producer John Stemberg decided to make a film three years ago. For three months the two transformed Boinski's kitchen into their production office, writing the script while calling in favors to their friends in the business. But when they were unable to wrangle a director Boinski had to take the reigns. "It was a little hectic planning a shooting schedule and learning your lines at the same time, I wanted to give up the acting part," Boinski admits, "but more or less everyone said you have to act too."
We join Big Jim (Boinski) after he takes a bullet in a botched money drop. Considering a career change he starts a nightclub on the side and hopes to sever his mob ties when the time is right. But when the club becomes successful Big Jim's moonlighting proves to be his downfall and must answer to The Boss.
Produced through Boinski's Kitchen Film Productions, the film is currently in postproduction. Budgeted at around $750,000, the 29-day shoot in Chicago wrapped last April. Shot on DV by Brian Levin, the film stars Chicago-based actors Allen Kalfas, Angelynn Schoofs, Jim Grillo and Norm Boucher.
[For more information, please visit the film website.]
Co-directors Steven Hahn and Francis Hsueh delve into New York City's Asian-American party scene in their debut feature-length documentary.
Every week thousands of e-mails are sent to young Asian-American New Yorkers fed up of the mainstream parties and longing for a social setting where they don't have to worry about being accepted. They find that acceptance at Koreatown on 32nd Street, where the parties take place. Hahn and Hsueh spent nine months following the partygoers and party planners to find out why people go and what the scene says about Asian-Americans.
Among their subjects is a Korean waitress who's been a fixture in the party scene since age 13, two Chinese female investment bankers who use the scene as an escape from their racist work environment, and one party promoter who has grand political aspirations. The doc also features Columbia University professor Gary Okihiro who comments on the subjects' behavior. "It's not conventional in the sense that we don't try to spoon feed the audience," Hsueh says. "We try to lay it out in a way that allows people to take what they want from the film, we don't give a hard and fast answer."
Recently ending their careers as corporate lawyers, Hahn and Hsueh financed, shot and edited the doc under their company Omerice Works. Budgeted at $25,000 and shot on DV, they showed the doc as a work-in-progress at the New York Asian-American International Film Festival. Currently submitting the final cut to festivals, Hahn says the months of hard work was worth it because the subject matter was close to their hearts. "Asian-Americans are at a crossroads of being model minorities and yet still many of us fell very uncomfortable in this society," he says. "The party serves as a hook where Asians go and have fun."
[For more information please visit the film website.]
Director Craig DiBona adapts V.C. Andrews' best selling novel about a young girl coming of age to find the family she's been living with isn't hers.
Penned by Andrew Neiderman ("The Devil's Advocate"), he and entertainment guru Merv Griffin spent the last two years developing the first of a popular four-book series into a feature. DiBona has known Neiderman since he was the camera operator on "The Devil's Advocate" nine years ago. Last summer Neiderman asked DiBona to direct "Rain." "You read the script and so much happens in the first 30 pages it makes your head spin, it's a great story," says DiBona who instantly signed on.
The film follows Rain (Brooklyn Sudano), a 17-year-old poor African-American girl who witnesses the murder of her sister by the hands of the neighborhood gang. For her protection her mother tells Rain she must leave the neighborhood, but not before revealing the truth of her origins. Her mother is a wealthy white woman who gave Rain up at birth to the family she's been living with. Rain is sent to live with her real grandmother (Faye Dunaway) and tries to connect with her real family, but the gang is hot on her tale.
Recently wrapped on the 21-day shoot, the film is currently in postproduction. Co-produced by Merv Griffin Entertainment, Big Headz Entertainment and Lexi Dog Entertainment, DiBona shot the film on 35 mm while Bob Reitano ("Sleepless in Seattle") does the editing. The film also stars Robert Loggia and Janine Turner (TV's "Northern Exposure").
"The Substance of Things Hoped For"
Exploring faith and family, co-writer-director-producer Greg Morgan follows one girl's journey to find her father.
In the film Daphne (Vanessa Lengies) suffers from a rare form of schizophrenia and can control the disease by taking medication. Unfortunately the drug will abort her unborn child. She comes to the conclusion that if the disease is hereditary she will have an abortion, if it isn't she'll have the child and cope with the disease without medication. Before deciding her parents must take a blood test. Having never known her father (Ray Wise) she goes off to find him and inevitably decides her future as a mother.
Morgan came up with the story five years ago and with the help of co-writer/co-producer Duke Addleman creates a film that's sure to turn heads with its stance on pro-choice and faith. "Christians may come to the conclusion that she found God, while people like me who are just spiritual will think she found faith within herself," Morgan says. The subject matter also caused conflict on set. "I had one actress who did make a thing about her beliefs on abortion," he says, but after speaking her peace acted out the part the way Morgan wanted.
Morgan hopes the film will find the kind of audiences who flocked to recent faith-based films like "What the Bleep Do We Know!?" "I anticipate the audience being vocal, and positive," he says.
Currently in postproduction, shooting wrapped in Los Angeles last September. Produced through Morgan's Film Punk Films, the film was shot on 16 mm by Jessica Gallant and edited by Morgan.
For more information please visit the film website.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Jason Guerrasio writes the Production Report column for indieWIRE and contributes regularly to Premiere, Filmmaker Magazine, MovieMaker and Time Out.