[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 February edition of indieWIRE's production column, Jason Guerrasio takes a closer look at five new films that are in production: James Clayden's "The Desealer", Cetywa Powell's "Dirty Hands", Melanie Perkins' "Have You Seen Andy?", Scott Dacko's "The Insurgents" and Vladimir Lik's "Sanctified."
From Aussie director/painter/sculptor James Clayden, this thriller follows one man's search for answers to why parts of his life have unexplainably vanished from his memory.
When a young man (Luke Ryan) returns from the library to see the hotel he's been staying at is in rubble, he obviously has some questions. Though he states he's been living there for the past eight weeks, the workers tell him that's impossible because the site has been under construction for 12 weeks. He's escorted off the work site by a woman (Meg White) who offers him her spare room to use for a couple of nights. He accepts, and she soon grows interested in his condition and tries to figure out what's happened.
Known for his experimental works like "The Other Side of the Door" and "Hamlet X," Clayden spent a year writing the script for "The Desealer" and says in a brief email that the story explores "what goes on in the human perception." A noteworthy artistic figure in Australia since the '70s, Clayden's films have screened at the Rotterdam and Melbourne film festivals.
Along with self-financing the $40,000 budget, Clayden is also editing and shooting, using numerous formats including 16mm, Super 8mm, DV and HD. Currently shooting in Melbourne, Australia, Clayden hopes to be in post by the summer.
Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Cetywa Powell, this political thriller examines how war brings the worst out in mankind.
Set in a holding cell in Iraq, five Middle Eastern captives await questioning by American interrogators for their involvement in a car bombing. Sent in one by one, the captives endure harsh questioning and torture. The film delves not only into the captives' survival in the most unthinkable conditions but the men who are doing the interrogating.
After doing a vast amount of research that included reading blogs on American interrogation, reports on Abu Ghraib and fiction books by Muslim writers, Powell spent the past two years pitching the script, which she calls "the psychological devastation people do to each other in war." She admits the subject matter has made some potential financiers irate but has found people who are interested in her controversial material. The Tribeca Film Institute was one of the first to come on board, assisting in setting up meetings with people in the industry. Then prominent casting director Mali Finn signed on, and most recently Israeli star Aki Avni has been attached to star as one of the captives. But she's also had to navigate through numerous landmines.
Casting the film with an Israeli (Avni), Palestinian (Waleed Zuaiter) and Iranian (Mitra Hajjar) almost caused her Arab financiers to balk and made it impossible to shoot in Israel (where Iranians are forbidden). With shooting not set to begin until the spring, Powell says a lot can still go wrong but is keeping a level head. "Here's this movie of torture and interrogation with the backdrop of war directed by a woman, I have a lot of hurdles," she says. "But the passion and support I'm getting from people helps."
Shooting in Los Angeles and London, Powell is currently casting and looking for key crew members. The film is executive produced by Reyad Farraj.
"Have You Seen Andy?"
In August 1976, 10-year-old Andy Puglisi vanished while playing at a Lawrence, Massachusetts, public pool. Despite a six-day search Andy was never found and to this day the case is unsolved. Now Andy's friend, Melanie Perkins, who was at the pool on the day of his disappearance, has made a documentary about her missing friend.
"I said to myself as a little girl, 'When I grow up I'm going to try to find him,'" Perkins says as she recalls the horrifying days following Andy's disappearance. After working on documentaries for 15 years, Perkins decided to make her own in 1998. "It had to be something that I felt really strong about," she says. "That's when Andy's case came to mind."
Perkins returned to Lawrence and started looking through Andy's case file. Her research uncovered new information, which motivated the police to re-open the case. As the film retraces the day of Andy's disappearance, Perkins also interviews Andy's parents, the suspects in the case, and follows the police as they investigate new leads. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into," she says as renewed interest in the case brought a Boston Globe and network news stories. But Perkins says her doc is different from their stories. "A lot of times they glorify the suspects, and the victim gets lost," she says. "That's what's different about my film, the victim becomes the important part of the story."
Filming wrapped up this past summer. It was shot on BETA and DV by Stephen McCarthy and is currently being edited by Rachel Clark. The doc was recently picked up by HBO for a 2007 broadcast. But Perkins believes it has theatrical potential and is submitting it to festivals in hopes of distribution.
[For more information, please visit the film website.]
Set in a post-9/11 America, writer-director Scott Dacko hopes to raise questions about our views on terrorism by exploring what drives people to do appalling acts.
In the film, four Americans come together to build a truck bomb and plan to detonate it on a target in the U.S. Highlighting the days leading up to the event, Dacko says the film is more about the motivations of the people involved than the act itself. "One of the ideas of this film was to create characters that were very American so that you have to evaluate what they say at face value," Dacko says.
Originally conceived as a novel, Dacko decided six months ago to change it into a screenplay after realizing what he was writing was too current to have sitting on the shelf waiting to be discovered. He quickly found interest in production companies Full Glass Films ("My Suicidal Sweetheart") and Angel Baby Entertainment and has recently begun the 15-day shoot in Long Island City, New York. Dacko says the motivation behind the film is to make people talk more about domestic terrorism. "We don't want to say this is how you should act, but if you're scared of terrorism what does that really mean and how do we as a society respond to that?"
Produced by Michael Parness, Elana Pianko, Stan Erdreich, John Gallagher and Greg Segal, the film's being shot on HD by Learan Kahanov and edited by Joe Hobeck. The cast includes Mary Stuart Masterson, Michael Mosley, Henry Simmons, Juliette Marquis and John Shea. Jared Moshe is the film's rep.
[For more information please visit the film website.]
With no other means to financially support themselves, three friends turn to crime to make ends meet. But they quickly learn crime doesn't pay.
Written and directed by Vladimir Lik, the film follows three friends in the aftermath of a robbery gone horrible wrong. As they try to comprehend what happened, Audrey (Janice Richardson), Lily (Paola Mendoza) and Stretch (Ramses Ignacio) soon succumb to guilt in different ways. "We set out to make something different," Lik says. "Instead of doing a whodunit, or focusing on the victims, we tell you who does what in the first 20 seconds and then follow the people who did it." But Lik is quick to state his film doesn't sympathize with criminals. He believes it shows crime only brings pain. "You're not only going to get caught, go to jail, or die, but you can't really live your life because you're tortured with guilt," he says.
After his previous film ("Boricua's Bond") was unsuccessful, Lik took some time off from movies to clear his head. During that time he thought back on the experience (along with paying back the financiers whom he calls "people that don't make their money legally") and realized he didn't take it as seriously as he should have. Lik believes this film is his redemption. A big part of that is his producer, Rich Barbadillo, who Lik says helped by just listening. "We talked about the ideas in my head, and it was sort of like therapy sessions," Lik says. "Whatever made sense we would keep, and at the end we went to work on a script."
Filming wrapped up last summer around New York City and Long Island and is currently in post-production. Shot on DV and Super 16mm by Eric Giovon, editing was done by Erik Boccio and produced by Lik, Barbadillo and Matt Morillo.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Jason Guerrasio writes the Production Report column for indieWIRE and contributes regularly to Premiere, Filmmaker Magazine, MovieMaker and Time Out.