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Production Report: "Love and Mary," "Sisters," "Solstice," "Urban Explorers," "We Own The Night"

By Jason Guerrasio | Indiewire May 2, 2006 at 6:49AM

[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.]
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[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 May edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio takes a closer look at five new films that are in production: Elizabeth Harrison's "Love and Mary", Douglas Buck's "Sisters", Daniel Myrick's "Solstice", Melody Gilbert's "Urban Explorers: Into The Darkness" and James Gray's "We Own The Night."

"Love and Mary"

Mary (Lauren German) is forced to do something she's been dreading since falling in love with her fiance Brent (Gabriel Mann): introduce him to the family. But because of Brent's allergies his twin brother, Jake (Mann), must go in his place, leading Mary to see her family in a different light.

A romantic comedy set in Houston, TX, writer-director-Houstonian Elizabeth Harrison thought her home city would fit perfectly for her film about a woman forced to return to a town she's been running from her whole life. "I wanted to make a movie in Texas about interesting people that weren't your stereotypical cliche southerners," Harrison says, adding: "Not many movies come to Houston so the city was very receptive to the project."

Inspired by films like "Annie Hall" and "The Goodbye Girl," Harrison also throws in some "eccentric secondary characters" to punch up the insanity of Mary's family. There's the pet psychiatrist mother, pill-popping father who sports a rat tail, an Uncle who invents weird suits to help protect his irritated skin, and younger brother who's a disgruntled rock musician playing in a '70s disco cover band to make ends meet.

Shot last March, post production is currently underway in L.A. and will continue through the fall. Budgeted at $500,000, the film's shot on HD by Brad Rushing and produced by Harrison's Ranch House Productions, Peter James Cooper and Jonathan Downs.

[For more information, please visit their website.]

"Sisters"

Writer-director Douglas Buck remakes Brian De Palma's 1973 thriller for his feature debut, starring Chloe Sevigny, Stephen Rea and Lou Doillon.

Having made a name for himself internationally with shorts like "Cutting Moments," "Home" and "Prologue," Buck has been a fan of "Sisters" since film school and when he learned producer Edward R. Pressman (who produced the original) was looking to remake it, he found a way to get his attention. "Larry Fessenden ("Wendigo") and I were sitting at a bar and he mentioned that Ed was interested in remaking 'Sisters,'" Buck recalls. "I said I would love to take a crack at that so Larry got my films to Ed."

In the film, reporter Grace Collier (Sevigny) witnesses a murder, and though she's certain she knows who did it, things get complex when Grace realizes the person (Doillon) also has a twin sister.

Buck teamed up with John Freitas, the professor who turned him onto the original, to co-write the script. Buck says he stays true to De Palma's structure, but "near the end it changes a lot."

The first film to show off De Palma's Hitchcockian style, Pressman calls the original a B-movie, but that's what makes it perfect for a remake. "It's hard to remake a classic movie, but not many people know about this film so you're not being tested against the standard," he says. (Pressman is also in talks to remake De Palma's "Phantom of the Paradise.")

"Sisters" recently wrapped production in Vancouver. The 23-day shoot budgeted at $5 million will be in post until the fall. Shot on 35 mm by John Campbell ("My Own Private Idaho"), the editor is Omar Daher. Producers are Pressman and Alessandro Camon, executive producers are Lee Solomon and Kirk Shaw.

"Solstice"

Writer-director Daniel Myrick embarks on his first feature since "The Blair Witch Project" with a supernatural thriller set in New Orleans.

Inspired by the 2003 Swedish film "Midsummer," the film revolves around a group of friends who get together at a lake house before splitting up for college. Soon one friend (Elisabeth Harnois) realizes her twin sister, who committed suicide months earlier, is trying to communicate with her.

"I've wanted to make this for a while," says Myrick from the set. "It harks back to the horrors I grew up with - "Rosemary's Baby," "The Shining" - those kinds of films that revolve around the character and story more than the genre."

Getting the project off the ground was a challenge. After shopping the script around for a few years, all seemed lost after MGM showed interest then folded, leading Myrick to move on and direct the online series "The Strand." Then last year Jim Stern's Endgame Entertainment ("Stay Alive") gave the project new life when they came on board and prepared a start date in New Orleans last August. But when Hurricane Katrina touched down on the Gulf Coast production was pushed to March.

Myrick says the seven year hiatus after "Blair Witch" was simply due to not finding anything good to make. "[I] read a whole bunch of bad scripts and I've just tried to be pretty selective about what to jump into," he says. And Myrick already has his next project lined up. Through the company, Raw Feed, which he created with TV execs Tony Krantz ("24") and John Shiban ("The X-Files"), the three will separately direct low budget horror films for a direct-to-DVD series. Myrick begins his film in August.

"Solstice" recently wrapped shooting. Budgeted at $5 million, the film was shot on 35 mm by David Mullen ("Northfork"). Mathilde Bonnefoy ("Run Lola Run") is editing, Stern and Adam Del Deo are producing.

[For more information, please visit their website.]

"Urban Explorers: Into The Darkness"

Melody Gilbert's ("A Life Without Pain") latest documentary highlights a group of thrill seekers known as Urban Explorers who survey abandoned buildings, storm drains and anything else derelict for the sudden rush of being somewhere they shouldn't be.

Gilbert first learned about the group three years ago when a few were mistaken for terrorists in her hometown of St. Paul, MN. "They were walking down the street wearing black, had night vision goggles and cameras and all kinds of equipment," she recalls. "It turns out they were these guys called Urban Explorers; I was like, 'What's an Urban Explorer?'"

Managing to gain the trust of one, Gilbert learned Minnesota is a popular spot for urban exploring. "We have a lot of people who come here [and explore] drains and sewers because we have incredible networks of pipes that leads to all these crazy places." Other Urban Explorer must-sees are the northeast for their abandoned mental institutions and the west for mines and abandoned train stations. Overseas, Europe and Australia are also popular.

The doc follows four explorers as they travel the globe seeking out their next expedition. The film also takes an inside look at the Urban Explorer convention in Glasgow, Scotland.

Filming the doc for the last three years, Gilbert's learned there's more to these explorers than their mischievous behavior. "There's a very serious side to this that has to do with preservation and caring about the past," she says, "and I think it's a reflection of how we are as a society, how we make things and don't care about them and let them disintegrate."

Currently in post, the doc is financed through Gilbert's Frozen Feet Films and co-produced by Channel Z Films. Shot on DV by Gilbert and Adrian Danciu, the editor is Charlie Gerszewski. The film features music from The Owls, The Hopefuls and Kid Dakota.

[For more information, please visit their website.]

"We Own The Night"

After a six year absence, writer-director James Gray returns with a gritty drama set in 1980s New York City. Gray hasn't been heard from since the disappointing release of "The Yards" in 2000; the Joaquin Phoenix-Mark Wahlberg starrer that caused a tug of war battle in post between Gray and the then Weinstein-owned Miramax. But according to producer Nick Wechsler (who's been involved in all of Gray's films), Gray's low profile was due to working on his latest film. "As soon as he was done with 'The Yards' this idea came to him and he's been writing the script over the last few years."

The story follows Joseph (Phoenix), a nightclub manager who's placed in the middle of a rivalry between his cop brother (played by Wahlberg) and the Russian mobsters who frequent his club. "[James] had read something which lead him to this story and he went out and interviewed cops and when [the script] was complete we sold it to Warner Bros.," Wechsler says.
But after a regime change at Warner Bros., the studio balked on the project causing Wechsler to spend another year getting back the film. Once he did he quickly found backing from Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's 2929 Productions.

Wechsler says the re-teaming of Gray with Wahlberg and Phoenix will vindicate what happened with "The Yards." "We got short changed on the release of 'The Yards,'" Wechsler says. "It was during a tough period for Miramax and they were afraid of it because the movie was so dark. But both actors' stars have risen, James and the actors work incredibly well together, so we thought everyone deserves to really get an opportunity to see how this team works."

Shot on 35 mm by Joaquin Baca-Asay ("Roger Dodger"), filming wraps on May 21 and is slated for a '07 release. The editor is John Axelrad. Wechsler, Wahlberg, Phoenix, and 2929 Productions' Marc Butan are producing. Executive producers are Cuban and Wagner. The film also stars Robert Duvall and Eva Mendes.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Jason Guerrasio writes the Production Report column for indieWIRE and contributes regularly to Premiere, Filmmaker Magazine, MovieMaker and Time Out.

This article is related to: In The Works





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