A thriller, a love triangle, military families, the biological clock, and tumultuous love are all subjects receiving the spotlight in five films in various stages of production. In this month's installment of the Production Report, Jason Guerrasio takes a look at Joe Maggio's "Bitter Feast," David Crabtree's "Broken Dreams," Nara Garber and Betsy Nagler's "Flat Daddy," Jennifer Ussi's "Girl Clock!" and Dean Peterson's "Incredibly Small."
The latest in the ScareFlix series by Larry Fessenden's Glass Eye Pix (which has given us "The Off Season," "The Roost," "Trigger Man" and the upcoming "I Sell The Dead"), Joe Maggio ("Paper Covers Rock") writes and directs this ultra-low budget horror starring James LeGros ("The Last Winter") and Joshua Leonard ("Humpday") and is the first feature to be shot on a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR).
In the film, LeGros plays Chef Peter Grey, who has a hit TV show and is on the verge of having his restaurant franchised and a line of cookwear on the market. But all of that quickly vanishes when food blogger J.T. Franks (Leonard) starts a rumor that Peter's TV show is going to be canceled. With his dreams shattered, Peter kidnaps J.T. and takes him to a secluded cabin in upstate New York for his own version of a quickfire challenge.
Maggio, who's known for dramas like "Virgil Bliss" and more recently "Paper Covers Rock," considered the switch to genre filmmaking after talking to Fessenden. "He asked me if I was interested in taking a swipe at doing a horror," Maggio recalls. "And I will be honest; I wondered how it would affect my career. Will I suddenly become a genre filmmaker? But Larry was very persuasive and reassured me that there can be dramatic elements, so I think it is a multidimensional horror film."
With the 15-day shoot set around New York City and the Woodstock area upstate, the idea of shooting on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II still camera came when the film's D.P. Michael McDonough raved about it to Maggio. "We went around Brooklyn shooting stuff one night and I was just amazed by the low light capability. It sees better than the human eye," Maggio says. "McDonough has a beautiful collection of lenses and there's no other camera we could afford where we would have that kind of aesthetic latitude. This camera is a game changer. This is where independent cinema is heading." As far as Maggio knows (and the film's financier MPI Media Group) this is the first feature to be shot on a DSLR.
The film is currently in post and being cut by Seth Anderson. Producers are Fessenden, Peter Phok and Brent Kunkle.
[For more information, please visit www.scareflix.com]
Editor David Crabtree (TV's "NYPD Blue," "Las Vegas") turns to the director's chair in his debut feature about three lifelong friends who are in a love triangle which leads one of them down a dangerous path.
Currently the supervising editing on USA's "Psych," Crabtree, who directed the short film "The Bedroom" in 1994, began to get the itch to direct again within the last year and started to shadow directors in hopes to begin directing TV shows. "A couple of directors independently told me that if I wanted to be a director I should really take an acting class," Crabtree recalls. So he took their advice and enrolled at the Beverly Hills Playhouse where he not only learned how to work with actors, but met a couple that he wanted to make projects with. After creating a few Web shorts for Funnyordie.com with the actors, he decided he wanted to do something more substantial with them. "That got the juices flowing again to do something on my own," Crabtree says.
Putting his aspirations to direct TV aside, Crabtree began putting a feature script together through pitch sessions with actors Eddie Navarro, Kelsey Ford and Jake Olson, who he met at the Playhouse. Financing the film out of his and his wife's pockets, screenwriter Jeff Wallace sculpted a script from the ideas Crabtree developed with his actors. "Just working with these enthusiastic, hungry, passionate actors really ignited something in me," Crabtree says.
Shot on HD in Los Angeles this past April, Crabtree hopes to veer farther from editing and do more feature directing in the future. Edited by Terrell Clegg and Crabtree, the D.P. is Matthew Boyd. Producers are Crabtree and Anna Marie Esparza.
[For more information, please visit www.brokendreamsthemovie.com]
Co-directors Nara Garber and Betsy Nagler are currently in post on a documentary which follows the lives of five families scattered across the country who deal with the deployment of a loved one to military service in the Middle East. All the families have another thing in common. They own a large cardboard cut out of their deployed family member, known as a "Flat Daddy."
Flat Daddy received worldwide notice when it was highlighted on the front page of the New York Times in the fall of 2006. Garber and Nagler, who had met recently in a screenwriting class, decided after ready the story to team up and make a film that highlights this unique way to stay connected with family members during war.
Garder says that through the cardboard cut outs the film shows, "What military families are enduring in terms of economic and emotional hardships. Especially as people getting redeployed is becoming the norm."
Not an official program by the military, the Maine National Guard spearheaded the Flat Daddy craze after Sgt. First Class Barbara Claudel saw a Flat Daddy at a conference that a North Dakota woman made of her husband after he was deployed. Since then, through word of mouth, the program has now been taken on by many of the military forces across the country. Through the help of Sgt. Claudel, Garber and Nagler reached out to 25 families and narrowed that down to five, it includes families from Las Vegas, the Bronx, Minnesota and two families from Maine. "The two families from Maine, the husbands have come back home but each represents a different aspect of what families are going through," Nagler explains. "The family in Vegas, the son passed away before they got their Flat Daddy [also known as Hero on a Stick]; the one in Minnesota, both parents are deployed at the same time and the kids are living with their grandparents; and the one in the Bronx is more about the wife who was very dependent on her husband and now has to become her own person."
With financing from private investors and a grant from the New York State Council of the Arts, the directors shot the families over a year from July 2007 to October 2008. Shot on mini-DV by Garber, the film is currently being edited by Gavin Coleman. Garber and Nagler are looking for finishing funds and hope to have a picture lock by early 2010. Producers are Garber, Nagler and Peggy Sutton. Executive producers are Selina Lewis Davidson and Susannah Ludwig.
[For more information, please visit www.flatdaddydocumentary.com]
Australian director Jennifer Ussi is close to completion on this comedy about three middle-aged women who can't hold off the biological clock ticking inside them and decide to do something about it.
Written by Adam Couper and Ussi, the director says she came up with the idea for the film when she turned 40 and her clock began to tick a little louder. "It was the most bizarre experience of my life," she writes in an e-mail. "I became another person all together - totally obsessed with having a baby." Realizing that women all over the world deal with what she was going through, Ussi decided it was the perfect story for her first feature.
After casting Aussie actresses Veronica Neave, Queenie van de Zandt and Catarina Hebbard to play the three leads, the film shot for 21 days in Brisbane, Australia last May. Soon after screening the film in Melbourne and Sydney, Ussi signed with a distributor but the company backed out of the deal five months later. Since then Ussi says there has been tempting offers and is optimistic that they will get distribution shortly. They then hope to play at festivals to attain a deal for a U.S. release.
Having already had successful test screenings, Ussi is confident that there is an audience for her film. "'Girl Clock!' is about being a woman in your forties," she writes. "It's about laughing at being in your forties. The characters are very real people that audiences are relating to. What I hope audiences will take away is the realization that every age has its beauty, and we should embrace our age, regardless of what it is."
Shot on HD by Nicola Daley, the editor is Cheryl Potter. Ussi is producing and executive producer is Margaret Casey.
[For more information, please visit www.girlclockthemovie.com]
Amir (Stephen Gurewitz) and Anne (Susan Burke) are college sweethearts who after graduation have decided to take the next step in their relationship and move in together. But the mixture of sharing a small apartment and seeing each other every waking second of the day puts their love to the test.
Writer-director Dean Peterson, 23, wrote the screenplay a year and a half ago after graduating from college. "It's kind of inspired by things that happened to me and also to people around me," Peterson says. "You change an immense amount from when you're in college to when you graduate so I've seen almost all of the relationships that have tried to make that transition just end up disintegrating." He says what really got the script ready for filming was the experience he got going on the road with fellow filmmaker (and childhood friend) Todd Sklar, who headed a DIY college tour throughout the Midwest with four films last fall.
In charge of the tour's photography and social networking outreach, Peterson was not only able to see how audiences reacted to films in different areas of the country, but passed around his script to the directors who were on tour. "The main critique they had of my script was to just be most honest," he says. "So that forced me to go back and re-access how I was writing and how honest I was being with myself."
The 14-day shoot in Minneapolis recently wrapped. The film was shot on HD by D.P. Adam Ginsberg and will be edited by Peterson. Financed out of pocket and using the fundraising site, Kickstarter.com, where he raised over $1,000, the producers are Peterson and Britni West. Executive producer is Sklar.
[For more information, please visit www.incrediblysmall.com]