[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 Zeke Zelker's "In Search Of," Jonathan Fein and Brian Danitz's "Objects and Memory," David Gregory's "Plague Town," Marie Miyayama's "The Red Dot," and Tom Gustafson's "Were the World Mine."
"In Search Of"
Hoping to open our country's conservativeness about sexuality, writer-director Zeke Zelker plans to push some buttons (and in some cases already has) with his second feature.
Shot in Allentown, PA, the film follows ten characters that use sex as a way to get something out of life. There's Dave (Jack Barley), who starts a business so that he can afford the lifestyle that his girlfriend is accustomed to; Lauren's (Tracy Toth) cheating on her husband with her "soul mate;" Jack (Michael Rady) uses his wealth to manipulate those who love him and Andy (Keith Nobbs) is a high school football player who succumbs to the pressure of his teammates which leads him to cope with his own sexual desires.
The topic of sex is something that Zelker has explored in his pervious projects -- the short film "Affairs" in 1997 and the feature comedy "AKA: It's a Wiley World!" in 2003 -- but with this film the process of getting it to the screen has been more of a challenge. "I've been working on the script for nine years," he says from the editing room. "It's been a long process in trying to perfect it because I produce other people's work ("Fading," "Loggerheads") so when I step up to the plate with my own writing it has to be completely there."
Zelker's intention was to make an intense film that harks back to gritty '70s cinema. But so far it's been too intense for audiences. He says he was banned from showing footage of the film at a filmmakers town meeting hosted by DeSales University and a teaser he posted on MySpace was brought down. But it has struck a cord with people who have seen it. "Two people have gone to get AIDS tests," Zelker says.
Currently being edited by Nicholas Luciano, the film was shot on 35mm and Super 16mm by D.P. David Tumblety ("Sweet Land," "Brooklyn Lobster") and produced by Zelker's Independent Dream Machine shingle. Executive producers are Gill Holland and Steve Hays.
[For more information, please visit www.isomovie.com]
"Objects and Memory"
In the wake of 9/11 co-directors Jonathan Fein and Brian Danitz became fascinated by what happened to the trinkets and heart-felt mementos left around Ground Zero to commemorate those who lost their lives. Their findings led to a documentary on not only the people who collect these items but the people who put them there as well.
"We all have a need to save things, especially at times of deep emotion," Fein says. "We suddenly realize that what we expected to be the future is ripped away and we need to have a physical symbol that represents who we are." The doc, narrated by Frank Langella with music by Phillip Glass, looks at not only the objects left at Ground Zero, but also at the site of the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City and the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., where the National Park Service has been in charge of collecting what people leave behind on the wall for decades (when the wall was originally erected items were sent to the lost and found).
But Fein and Danitz also interviewed people who lost a loved one on 9/11 and asked them to bring along an item that has meaning to them. "They spoke directly into the camera and told their stories," Fein says. "It's a series of 'oh, wow' stories of individual experiences with things that have been transformed into these almost magical and essential conveyers of memory and emotion."
Having worked on the project for six years, the film is currently in post and Fein hopes to submit it to festivals shortly. He also plans to use the project as an educational tool through his EVER banner (Environment Video Education and Reports), which he hopes can be used in classrooms across the county.
The film is currently close to completing post. Produced by Fein and Danitz, the film was shot on HD by Danitz and edited by Fein.
[For more information, please visit www.objectsandmemory.com]
While on a road trip in the country a family pulls off in a sleepy town to take a break and soon discovers it was the worst mistake of their lives as the town is run by homicidal children.
Directed by David Gregory, he came up with the story's premise in 2000, hoping to make a short entitled "Come Out and Play." But it never got off the ground, so he returned to producing documentaries for DVDs (some of his past work includes featurettes "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth" and "The Wicker Man Enigma"). Then in 2003, colleague John Cregan caught on to Gregory's interest to make a feature and persuaded him to revisit the "Come Out and Play" script. "I kept on procrastinating [on the script] because I was working on all these documentaries," Gregory explains. "Then John took the short film and started writing it as a feature, so I was like, 'That's mine,' and we actually went back and forth a few times and ended up co-writing it."
With Chicago-based Dark Sky Films ponying up the money, Gregory began looking in Connecticut for countryside locations that could double for Ireland. "Originally we wanted to shoot overseas but that was cost prohibitive," he says. "But we wanted to have the feeling of being elsewhere without specifying where it was, so we ended up shooting all over Connecticut, and everyone in the film has an Irish accent."
Gregory says "Village of the Damned" and "The Omen" are obvious comparisons to his film, but that he made it hoping that fans of those films will appreciate how he plays against some of the usual traits. "I didn't want any screaming in the movie, I didn't want it in a hot climate, I wanted to make sure everything was clean. Also, the taboo subject of kids getting slashed up by adults in order to save themselves I thought was something that was worth exploring."
Set to begin post shortly, the film was shot on Super 16 by D.P. Brian Rigney Hubbard and is produced by Derek Curl. Executive producers are Badie Ali, Hamza Ali and Malik B. Ali.
"The Red Dot" (Der Rote Punkt)
In her debut feature, Marie Miyayama takes true-life events to make this drama about a Japanese student (Yuki Inomata) who heads back to Germany eighteen years after a car accident killed her parents to retrace what happened.
In 1998, while working as a translator for a Japanese family visiting Germany, Miyayama found herself part of this family's morning process as she accompanied them to the site of an accident that still held many unanswered questions. "I accompanied a Japanese girl who was a relative of the deceased family," Miyayama says via email from Munich. "She had a map with a red dot indicating where the accident happened. A taxi driver took us and there was nothing but a small memorial stone where the name of the family was engraved. The girl poured Japanese sake on the stone without saying a word. Later, she told me that the accident was caused by a person who wasn't identified yet after 10 years."
Later, while attending the Academy of Television and Film Munich, Miyayama wrote a script around the event titled "Red Dot" (Der Rote Punkt). After receiving mixed feedback on her first draft, which she describes as a hybrid of documentary and fiction, she asked German screenwriter Christoph Tomkewitsch to come on as a co-writer and the two rewrote, she says, up until shooting began. Combining Western dramatic elements with Japanese philosophy, her intent was "to connect different cultures."
Shot in the Bavarian countryside for twenty days and in Tokyo for five last summer, the film is budgeted at 1.1 million euros ($1.6 million). Produced by Martin Blankemeyer and Miyako Sonoki, the film was shot on 16mm by D.P. Oliver Sachs. Currently in post, it's being cut by Marie Miyayama.
"Were The World Mine"
Director Tom Gustafson adapts his short, "Fairies," into his feature debut. Using Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as inspiration, this comedy/musical follows a high school boy's discovery which leads to his uptight hometown becoming more open-minded.
After screening "Fairies" at 75 film festivals (including Tribeca in '04), Gustafson was still into the story and decided to expand it with the help of Shakespeare. "We went to the text of 'Midsummer' to figure out where we could pull lines of text to help create the story that we were trying to tell at that point," Gustafson says. "It's pretty amazing that we have a musical that's all original besides the Shakespeare text, which is public domain. It's really freeing, you don't have to go and track down a bunch of artists for the rights."
In the film the main character Timothy (Tanner Cohen) has the part of Puck in the school production of "Midsummer," but as the lead up to opening night grows closer, Timothy finds a potion -- similar to the one Puck has in "Midsummer" -- that makes people fall in love and uses it to make the most unlikely people (particularly same sex) fall in love with each other. The musical numbers (lyrics directly from "A Midsummer Night's Dream") are then incorporated through Timothy's daydreams.
To find financing Gustafson spent a year trying to interest the Broadway community, but after being promised the world by some only to find they could provide nothing, he decided to make the film with the little money he had, shooting it in Chicago last June. But looking back, Gustafson believes using the short as a launching pad for the feature made the whole process less daunting. "It's still scary as hell," he says, "but it was already an interesting story, and we could show the short to perspective financiers, instead of starting something completely brand new."
Produced by Gustafson, Peter Sterling and Cory Krueckeberg (who also co-wrote the film with Gustafson and was the production designer), the film was shot on Super 16 by D.P. Kira Kelly. The film is currently being edited by Jennifer Lilly. Executive producers are Reid Williams and Jon Sechrist.
[For more information, please visit www.speakproductions.com]