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PRODUCTION REPORT: "The Art of the Fight," "The Champion Inside," "The Guitar," "A Simple Love Story

By Jason Guerrasio | Indiewire February 6, 2007 at 4:32AM

[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 February's edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio profiles five new films that are in various stages of production. This month's group includes Peter Askin's "The Art of the Fight," John Reidy's "The Champion Inside," Amy Redford's "The Guitar," Dimitri Vorris' "A Simple Love Story," and Lux's "Winter."

"The Art of the Fight"

Director Peter Askin adapts the stage play "Trumbo: Red, White & Blacklisted" into a feature length documentary that chronicles screenwriter Dalton Trumbo's life from 1947 to 1960 when he was blacklisted for not testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Like the play, "The Art of the Fight" (previously titled "Trumbo") will be highlighting many of Trumbo's letters during the 13 years and will be recited by Paul Giamatti, Nathan Lane, David Strathairn, Danny Glover, Joan Allen, Liam Neeson, Donald Sutherland, Michael Douglas and Brian Dennehy. The doc will also have interviews from people who where around Trumbo at the time (including Kirk Douglas), archival footage of the hearings and clips from some of the films he wrote, including "Roman Holiday," "A Guy Named Joe" and "Spartacus."

"He was a individualist, he was a contrarian, he was stubborn and he believed as an American if you value what America had to offer it was the Constitution and its first Ten Amendments," Askin says about Trumbo. "[But] our goal was not to make another documentary about the blacklist but to make a film about Trumbo set against that period of time."

At the time Trumbo was called to the hearings with the rest of the Hollywood 10 he was one of the highest paid screenwriters in Hollywood. The doc chronicles what transpired after he was blacklisted: spent a year in prison, went bankrupt and for the next decade wrote screenplays using pseudonyms until Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger demanded his name be credited for the scripts he wrote for "Spartacus" and "Exodus" in 1960.

Currently in post, Askin is looking for a composer and hopes to be done in time to submit the film to Cannes. Co-produced by Safe House Pictures and Filbert Steps Productions, the producers are Will Battersby and Tory Tunnell of Safe House and Filbert's Alan Klingenstein, David Viola and Jim Kohlberg. Shot on HD by Frank Prinzi, the editor is Kurt Engfehr ("Fahrenheit 9/11").

"The Champion Inside"

When champion boxer Leslie Garrett is diagnosed with breast cancer and forced to give up boxing, she must find another career and decides to practice law. Though the court room isn't as fulfilling as being in the ring, she knows it's best for her. But after helping a man fight off two muggers and finding out he's a boxing trainer, the two decide to help each other regain respect in the boxing world as Garrett ties on the gloves one last time.

Written by professional boxer and cancer survivor Jillian Bullock, the film will be directed by John Reidy, who says he knew instantly that he wanted to be involved. "Both of my parents died from cancer so I think [this film] is something that needs to be out there," he says. "Not only because it's a story about a woman boxer and her challenges but I think the story will hit home with a lot of people."

Scheduled to shoot in Philadelphia in the spring, the producers are currently locking financing along with key cast and crew. Most of preproduction will be dedicated to the actors--especially the one playing Leslie--training so the boxing scenes look authentic. Trainer Tommy Gallagher (TV's "The Contender") has been hired as a boxing consultant. The film will also be sponsored by the International Female Boxers Association, Everlast, The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The producers will be donating a portion of the box office receipts to both foundations.

Produced by Reidy, Bullock, Christopher Mann and Rose Sias, the executive producer is Portia Cannon.

[For more information, please visit www.thechampioninsidemovie.com]

"The Guitar"

Set around lower Manhattan, actress Amy Redford (daughter of Robert Redford) steps behind the camera for the first time to tell the story of one woman's liberating journey through life after learning she has a terminal illness.

Written by Amos Poe, Redford was first offered to star in the film but after reading the script she immediately felt connected to the story and knew she had to direct it. "I had been looking for a project to direct for a while," she says, "and then I kept feeling like this story kept revealing itself to me visually and I realized that I really wanted to shepherd the story."

The next step was finding the right actress to play the lead, Melody, who we follow through the movie after she gets dumped, fired from her job and told she has only two months to live all in the same day. This leads her to let go of the things restricting her, buy an expensive loft, learn to play electric guitar and live in the moment. Character actress Saffron Burrows got the role, Redford says partly due to her confident approach in auditions. "She's such a beautiful person and the character is sort of an every woman, I was a little confused about why she wanted to play this part. I asked, 'What should I watch of yours that would tell me that you should do this part?' And she was like, 'ah, nothing.' And she had the part at that moment."

Shot over 21 days last month on 16mm, Redford not only wanted to highlight New York but give the film a mythological feel. "The illness is a metaphor and the characters [Melody] encounters--the pizza delivery girl (Paz de la Huerta) and the UPS guy (Isaach de Bankole)--are like the Sirens and the Cyclops and there's one character that's sort of the gate keeper, so I love it because you can relate so personally to this moment in life."

Currently in post, the film is produced by Redford, Poe, Heyward Collins, Bob Jason and Brad Zions. Executive producer is Andy Emilio. Bobby Bukowski is DP and the editor is David Leonard.

"A Simple Love Story"

Set in a European metropolis, this story of sexual desire, guns and art by writer-director-producer Dimitri Vorris shows that contrary to the title love is never simple.

In the film Sophia (Silvia Colloca), a painter and member of high society, begins an affair with a stranger though they both know it will only get them in trouble as Sophia's husband is a dangerous arms dealer. Vorris, who is making his feature debut, says he wrote the story in the hopes that it would be appealing to a wide audience. "I didn't want to make a feature film that would play in limited release and then die," he says via e-mail from Greece, where a majority of the filming will take place in the end of March.

Currently in preproduction, Vorris has been working on the project for close to two years and has begun casting the leads, including the part of Sophia which he admits has been the biggest challenge as he auditioned over 100 actresses. But after six months of auditions he found Italian actress Colloca. "We clicked in less than ten minutes," Vorris says. "She brings in memories of the Italian film divas of the '50s and '60s." Vorris also has well known composer Shigeru Umebayashi ("House of Flying Daggers," "In The Mood For Love") doing the score. "It was really encouraging that someone of that caliber, thousands of miles away, believed in the film so strongly," Vorris says. "Ume doesn't speak English. I don't speak Japanese. But somehow through the power of music we've communicated."

The film has secured distribution in ten countries and plans to do presales at the Berlin International Film Festival. DP Taki Zervoulakos will be shooting on 35mm. Editors are George Mavropsarides and John Kostavaras.

[For more information, please visit www.asimplelovestory.com]

"Winter"

After a stock market crash by Internet terrorists causes the loss of thousands of jobs, one man (Adam Buller) struggles to start a family and gain employment at the same time, which causes a downward spiral that affects everyone around him and his own health.

Writer-director Lux, who's known for his music videos in Canada, makes his feature debut and says the story comes from some hard experiences he's gone through in the past year. "When I get bummed about something I turn to writing and most of the scenarios I write are taken from my biggest fears that I don't want to ever happen to me," Lux explains via e-mail. In the case of "Winter," Lux came up with the story over Christmas while having creative differences with the producers on another feature. He has since postponed shooting that film and will begin once "Winter" is complete.

Along with writing and directing, Lux is producing the film through his company Lux Film Company and is also the DP. With the freedom of not having to answer to anyone he's able to have unconventional methods in making the film, this includes not having a script. "The actors and I are working with only scene descriptions," Lux says. "I've always wanted to shoot a movie this way. I love how the characters search for the words when they interact with each other." Filming also will be halted for four months to allow Buller to lose 30 pounds and grow is hair longer to show his character's struggle.

The 14 day shoot begins February 10 in Toronto with a C$250,000 budget (US$212,000).

[For more information, please visit www.luxfilmco.com]

This article is related to: In The Works