In December's edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio profiles five new films in various stages of production. This month's group includes Ryan Dunlap's "Greyscale," Jinoh Park's "Jun and Summer," James Houston's "Let's Talk About Sex," George Gallo's "Middle Men" and Michele and Kieran Mulroney's "Paper Man."
After his wife is killed in an explosion at a warehouse owned by the mob, not only is the love of Oliver's life gone but his gift as a painter when he suffers grief-induced Achromatopsia (the inability to see color). Now he's playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the mob hot on his trail.
Inspired by modern noirs like "Memento" and "Brick," Ryan Dunlap conceived the story seven months ago and through the support of fellow filmmakers and the kindness of local businesses in his hometown of Tulsa, Okla., production quickly got off the ground for his debut feature.
"I wanted to bring the Tulsa film community together," Dunlap says, "and they were happy to work on a film that wasn't a low budget horror, which is usually what is done around here." One way in getting the area involved was announcing a casting call in Tulsa, which Dunlap says was such a success he was able to increase the scope of the film. "I found new ways to include characters, beef up the fight scenes; it's given [the film] a much larger feel."
But Dunlap didn't shut out the Coast. His team in L.A. was able to sign actors Doug Jones ("Hellboy" films, "Pan's Labyrinth") and Tim Russ ("Samantha Who?") to play the main mob figures while Dunlap plays the Oliver character. "It's still good to know people outside of Oklahoma," Dunlap quips.
Shot on HD with principal photography nearly wrapped, Dunlap recently pitched the film at the American Film Market last month and is excited to premiere the film sometime next year in Tulsa. Produced by Dunlap (who will also edit), Calix Lewis Reneau and Joseph Cincotti, the D.P. is John Barnett II.
[For more information, please visit www.greyscalemovie.com]
"Jun and Summer"
Director Jinoh Park has segued from making award-winning shorts to putting the final touches on his debut feature, which takes an intimate look inside two struggling actor's lives and the happiness they find after inexplicably spending the day together.
Having played the festival circuit with numerous short films, the Korean-born director has been close to make the jump to features numerous times since 2002 only for something to halt the progression. Exhausted and drowning his sorrows by listening to Frank Sinatra songs, Park decided to push aside the feature scripts he was working on and write a new one that he could make fast and cheap while letting out the frustration that had built inside him. "If I didn't go through what I did I wouldn't have made this film," Park says. "I'm doing everything, which is very challenging, but I get the creative control."
Park says the Sinatra renditions of "Maybe This Time" and "Fools Rush In" (he has festival rights for both) became the nucleus of the Jun character, who he plays in the film. An actor who sings at a club to make extra cash, Park describes him as serious but sincere character who can never find that big break to push his career forward. For the Summer character Park was looking for someone who he could develop a character around from the connection he got from the person. He found it in recent NYU grad Marina Michelson, who he called back to audition five times before giving her the role. With characters like these, Park says the film is not your traditional romantic drama, but instead is more character driven than focused on the plot. "The film doesn't show that they are in love, it's more internal, there's no physical relationship. I wanted to try something new."
Shot in 16 days in New York City on Super 16 by Sean Kirby ("Police Beat," "Zoo"), the film is produced by Park and Sunah Kim Schultz. Post is near completion but Park, who is editing, is still seeking finishing funds. Music is composed by John Blair II and famous Korean pop artist Hamoon Cho.
"Let's Talk About Sex"
For his directorial debut, Australian photographer James Houston examines how sex is perceived by American youth.
Through the cooperation of the youth organization Advocates for Youth, for the last year and a half Houston has been traveling the country learning why sex is such a taboo subject in the States and how the cause of it is leading to a poor understanding about sexually transmitted diseases. "I think parents have a problem talking to their kids about sex," says Houston when asked why U.S. kids aren't getting the right information. "They're learning about sex through their friends or MTV or the Internet or magazines and what you're seeing is young people suffering because of lack of education."
Along with being the film's on-camera tour guide, Houston also spotlights a group of youths in different situations where sex has shaped their lives: a heterosexual male college student, a prom queen from Atlanta who's taken two virginity pledges, an African-American girl from Washington D.C. who has contracted HIV, two sisters from upstate New York, a gay couple in Phoenix, Ariz, one who's HIV positive, and a pregnant high school student.
At first interested in raising awareness about sex to youth by making a PSA, Houston moved to make a feature after learning the restrictions he would have to deal with just to air it. The conservativeness Americans have towards sex is an issue Houston says is something he will also concentrate on. "Being Australian and having lived in Europe for five years, sex tends to be a health issue [in other countries] where in America it's more of a moral issue so we look at why that is so. If you look at poverty or cancer, those are things that affect a certain group of people, we're talking about sex that affects every single one of us whether we believe we're having it or not. This is a film that's going out there to impact a large audience and wake them up."
Currently shooting, Houston hopes to be wrapped by early next year. Shot on HD by Claudia Raschke ("Mad Hot Ballroom") and edited by Todd Woody Richman ("Trouble the Water," "Fahrenheit 9/11"), the producer is Neal Weisman. Film is repped by William Morris Independent.
Hollywood vet George Gallo (wrote "Wise Guys," "Midnight Run" and "Bad Boys" scripts) writes and directs this drama about a straight-laced businessman named Jack Harris who in need of making fast money to provide for his family gets involved in a venture that leads to much more than he expected.
Loosely based on the experience producer/financier Christopher Mallick went through six years ago when he was hired to turn around a credit card billing service for Internet porn sites, the film stars Luke Wilson as Jack along with Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht, James Caan, Kevin Pollak and Kelsey Grammer.
"It seemed like a very simple business turnaround because there was a tremendous amount of cash and I guess by virtue of fast money and fast lifestyle it wasn't as easy as I thought," Mallick recalls from the set. After telling the story to friend, TV writer Andy Weiss three years ago, the two decided to write up a treatment and pitch it as an HBO series. But through further tweaking they decided to make it into a feature and quickly caught the interest of Gallo who wrote the screenplay with Weiss (who is also co-executive producer).
Mallick compares the film to "Goodfellas" for its rag to riches tale and its dramatic story structure, but though the film is set in the adult film world, producer William Sherak says it isn't the main focus. "It's more about a guy figuring out who he is and making wrong choices and trying to redeem himself," he says. "I think the adult film setting makes is interesting and cool instead of being the hook of the movie."
Currently shooting in Phoenix, principal photography will wrap in early December. Shot on 35mm by Lukas Ettlin, producers are Mallick, Sherak, Jason Shuman and Michael Weiss. Editor is Malcolm Campbell.
Jeff Daniels stars as Richard, an author who is forced by his wife, played by Lisa Kudrow, to go to the Hamptons in order to to clear his mind and finish his latest book. But in the process, he befriends a local teenage girl ("Superbad"'s Emma Stone) and the two help each other better understand the rough patch they're going through. Written and directed by Michele and Kieran Mulroney five years ago, the project has had different financing and cast attached through the years, including Paul Giamatti pegged to play the lead for a number of years.
Written at a time when the Mulroneys were struggling to find a route into the business, Michele says it was a way to see if they could move forward in their careers. "We'd been writing for quite a while and didn't know if we should continue and questioned the whole process," she says. "We wrote it at the time with no agent and we had no agenda with it so it was a relief to write something just for the sake of it."
Since then the husband-wife duo have found their footing, the topper being penning the much anticipated "Justice League: Mortal" film for Warner Bros. But they have never forgotten about their pet project, which they crafted at the Sundance Director and Screenwriting Labs. However, when it was time to pull the trigger a year and a half ago, they had to make the decision of either going forward on the film or finish the "Justice League" script. They chose to finish the script, but Kieran says that move proved to be beneficial. "The money came back and it came with a really free hand from the financiers to let us do it the way we wanted to," he says. "We didn't have pressure to cast it a certain way, to shoot it in certain places, so it finally felt like this is the right way to do it."
Currently shooting in Montauk and Rockland County, New York, the film also stars Kieran Culkin, Hunter Parrish and Ryan Reynolds who plays "Captain Excellent," an imaginary friend who Richard has confided in his whole life. The film is produced by Richard N. Gladstein, Guymon Casady, Art Spigel and Ara Katz. Eigil Bryld ("In Bruges," "Becoming Jane") is the D.P. and the editor is Sam Seig ("Ghost Town").