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December 16, 2004 2:00 AM
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Production Report: "'Do," "Gisela," "The OH in Ohio," "Runaway," and "Wedding Photo"

Production Report: "'Do," "Gisela," "The OH in Ohio," "Runaway," and "Wedding Photo"

by Jason Guerrasio




A photo from the film "Runaway," one of a crop of new movies highlighted in the latest edition of the Production Report. Image provided by the filmmakers.


[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.]

"'Do"

When Betsy Nagler was a kid and moved from Newark, NJ to the more suburban South Orange, she realized one difference in her new surroundings, "at school everyone cared about wearing the right clothes and doing your hair the right way." For Nagler it was a major adjustment and she's since learned that appearance, especially your hairstyle, can mean more than what you say or think.

This drove her to make the documentary "'Do," in which she follows five New Yorkers through five years and 14 hairstyles to discover the connection between appearance and identity. "Each person has a very specific story about who they are and it has to do with their hair and how they use it to express themselves or express things that are going on in their lives," she says.

As Nagler and her subjects gained trust in each other the documentary became more than just about hairstyles as they opened up about their personal lives. This included one of her subjects revealing that she was so shaken by September 11th that she decided to change her hairstyle in the middle of the night to calm her nerves. Another showed how he incorporated his hairstyle in his drug recovery. These are issues Nagler never thought they'd explore. "We all thought this was going to be just a film about hair and then it evolved into a five year project and they just opened up."

Made on a shoestring budget of $32,000 (much of it in-kind), Nagler, who along with directing also produced and shot the doc, filmed on and off from 1998 to 2003 on High 8mm and DV. Currently in post, she hopes to be finished by this month and then submit it into festivals.

[ For more information, please visit: www.dofilms.com. ]

"Gisela"

Adapted from the novel of the same title by Anke Stelling and Robby Dannenberg, German writer/director Isabelle Stever delves into the complex life of Gisela, an overweight, unobtrusive 27-year-old whose social life consists of separate relationships with an abusive husband and two lovers who both pretend not to be interested in her. "It's a drama with somewhat of a happy ending," says Stever via e-mail.

Stever and Stelling (who both share co-writing credit) began work on the screenplay in the beginning of 2003 and tinkered with it up until shooting began last June, trying to make a novel that consists mostly of inner monologues work for the screen. "My interest was to save the anarchistic attitude of the novel," she says via e-mail. "It's not an unrealistic Hollywood constructed story, it's taken from real life."

Filmed in Bonn, Germany for 25 days, Stever is currently finishing the sound edit. She recalls the most stressful time in post for her and editor, Christian Kraemer, was finding the balance between the three main characters. "There were some darling moments that had to be killed in order to save the rhythm and purity of the film."

Produced by Gerd Haag, the film is from the production company Tag/Traum and was shot on 16mm by James Carman. It stars Anne Weinknecht as Gisela, Carlo Ljubek, Stefan Rudolf, and Horst Markgraf. This is Stever's second feature; her first was 2002's "Portrait of a Married Couple."

"The OH in Ohio"

On the outside Priscilla seems to have the ideal life with her great job and loving husband, but there is a problem. Priscilla's never had an orgasm. So in the hopes to salvage her marriage, Priscilla decides to go in search of the 'big O'.

This premise is the creation of director Billy Kent, his wife Sarah Bird, and screenwriter Adam Wierzbianski. The three began writing the script four years ago and have since found an impressive ensemble of talent to star in Kent's feature debut. Parker Posey, who was one of the first to come on board, plays Priscilla, Danny DeVito plays "Wayne the pool guy" who inevitably gives Priscilla what she's been searching for, and Paul Rudd plays the husband. Kent notes there are also notable cameos but he's keeping them under wraps for now. He did reveal one though. Liza Minnelli plays a woman who runs what he calls, "a Tupperware party for in-orgasmic women."

Shot in Cleveland last month in 23-days, the Greater Cleveland Film Commission greeted the production with open arms, letting them shoot all around the city including the Warehouse District, Avon Lake, Cleveland Heights, and Jacobs Field.

The film is produced by Miranda Bailey and Francey Grace's Ambush Entertainment and budgeted at $2.5 million. Shot on 35mm by Ramsey Nickell, editor Paul Bertino is to begin cutting this month, with a picture lock set for February.

"Runaway"

When Michael and his younger brother Dylan run away from home, they believe they've escaped their troubled past. The two find a quiet town to call home and after getting a job and a girlfriend, Michael believes things are improving. But before they know it their troubled past catches up with them, ruining the new life they created and jeopardizing the people that have befriend them.

Written by first time screenwriter Bill True and directed by Tim McCann ("Revolution #9," "Nowhere Man"), the project is financed through Alan Klingenstein's Filbert Steps Productions. After developing the project with True for a year they approached McCann with the project, believing he could handle the film's dark subject matter. "Tim is really fantastic about directing actors in situations that involve emotional distress and he struck us as somebody who could do a very good job with the material," says Klingenstein.

This marks the third project for the New York-based production company who've been quiet since 2000's "Two Family House." "It was all about finding material that was cast worthy," says Klingenstein about the hiatus. "We read a lot of scripts and this was the first script since 'Two Family House' that has jumped out at us."

Shot in Catskill, NY last August, the film was shot on HD by Frank Barrera. Budgeted at under $2 million, it's currently in post and being edited by Lisa Barnable. They hope to be finished by mid-January.

The film stars Aaron Stafford (who's also one of the producers) as Michael, Zack Savage as Dylan and Robin Tunney plays Michael's love interest, Carly, with supporting roles from Peter Gerety, Terry Kinney and Michael Gaston.

[ For more information, please visit: www.filbertsteps.com. ]

"Wedding Photo"

Set in Montevideo, Minnesota, filmmaker Ali Selim explores the human spirit, family, and how the future is made through the strength of the past in this drama set in the 1920s. Budgeted at $1 million, Selim and his producing partner Ed Driscoll were able to make the film on their own through private equity investors in the North Star state, and a little help from complete strangers. "We got hundreds of extras and they brought out old farming equipment and said please shoot it, where as in a regular shoot you'd have to search for it and pay for it, but how we made it was through the tremendous amount of support we got," says Selim.

In the film, Lars Torvik inherits the family farm after his grandparents, Inge and Olaf, die. He's then faced with the decision to sell the land. Before he can decide, he recalls his grandparent's stories about their time on the farm. The rest of the film takes place in the 1920's where Inge and Olaf deal with the issues of the '20s, including immigration, war and religion. Selim based the film on a short story he read in a Minneapolis/St. Paul newspaper in 1991.

Produced through Selim and Driscoll's company, Beautiful Motion Pictures, the film was shot on 35mm by David Tumblety. Principal photography wrapped last month with post to go on until March. James Stranger is the editor.

The film stars, Elizabeth Reaser as Inge, Tim Guinee as Olaf, with Alan Cumming (who's also on as producer), John Heard and Ned Beatty rounding out the cast.

[ For more information, please visit: www.builtbybeautiful.com. ]

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