By Indiewire | Indiewire December 23, 2011 at 11:07AM
Every week throughout the year, Indiewire takes some time to talk to directors and producers of in-production projects. Many of these films are coming to this year's Sundance Film Festival; many of their premieres have yet to be announced. As an end-of-year treat, here's a list of 30 projects we've profiled in 2011. Keep your eyes peeled for these films!
HEADED TO SUNDANCE
Katie Aselton, director and star of Sundance '10 low budget breakout "The Freebie," got on the phone with indieWIRE while on location in Milbridge, Maine, preparing for production on her new film "Black Rock." Says Aselton, "In a town of 350 people like Milbridge, 20 people shooting a movie is taking over the town."
Christopher Neil was drawn to the film industry because it's in his blood; Francis Ford Coppola is his uncle. He was drawn to adapt Mark Jude Poirier's book "Goats" because it's in his blood; he grew up on a goat farm.
For "Valley of Saints" producer Nicholas Bruckman, the recent announcement that he was the recipient of the 2011 Sloan Producer's Grant was a validation that the foundation really believes in the film. It was an early NYU screenwriters' grant from Sloan that got the ball rolling on the production of the film with Kashmiri-American screenwriter/director Musa Syeed.
On "LUV" producers' slate of upcoming films: "LUV" will premiere at Sundance 2012 and the duo has arranged a theatrical run for their film "Dysfunctional Friends." Their films "Cherry" (the James Franco-Heather Graham pornography drama) and the apocalyptic brunch film "It's a Disaster" are being pitched to premiere at film festivals; meanwhile, films from Neil Labute, John Stockwell, and York Shackleton will begin shooting in the spring.
"On the day this relationship ended, I knew immediately that it was a story," Ira Sachs told indieWIRE about his new project, "Keep the Lights On." Sachs, the Sundance award-winning director of "Forty Shades of Blue," continued, "It's an autobiographically inspired story about my last relationship and a story of gay life in NYC over the last decade. I don't see images of my New York -- as an artist, as a filmmaker, as a member of a multisexual community -- I don't see that side of contemporary gay life on screen."
"ME at the ZOO" takes its name from the first ever YouTube video. It's an unconventional documentary about Chris Crocker, who made the infamous viral video "Leave Britney Alone!" Chris Crocker was bullied out of school in the 8th grade and was, by his account, raised on the Internet.
"The short version was written by Christopher D. Ford," [Schreier] said. "He and I were friends in school, and I produced the short. When we were looking for projects to develop, something that had a hook and could be produced on an independent film, I remembered this concept."
"After hearing a number of stories, I started looking into immigration issues," Marshall Lewy said when asked how he came to the story for his new film, "California Solo." "You hear stories of people who have green cards and have lived here for 20 years being removed from the country. It's incredible."
RELEASE DATE UNKNOWN
Jennie Livingston has been working on her film “Earth Camp One” since 2000, when she was spurred to make a film that explored her relationship with her family after four close family members died within five years…“Earth Camp One” is her way of confronting death head on.
Christian describes "Petunia" as "'American Beauty' meets 'Burlesque' meets 'Sister Act 2' meets 'Gone with the Wind.'" Suffice to say it's difficult to sum up. It centers on a number of unorthodox, anxious and panicky characters, each working out their own place in their family, with their lovers or with the world. Christian wrote the script with Theresa Bennett, elaborating on and embellishing what began as a family story.
"Split," Jamie Buckner
After producing a short on a shoestring budget based on the first seven pages of his feature-length script for the bowling comedy "Split," Buckner took the film to Kentucky, where the film is set, to get a reaction from the local crowd. The Louisville crowd loved it, so Buckner took to Kickstarter to raising money to get to the next stage of the production process -- paying the legal fees and overhead to incorporate the production company needed to make the film and raise more of the budget for the film.
After deciding to adapt her stage play "Facing East," Carol Lynn Pearson teamed with producer Duane Andersen ("Surrogate Valentine," "White on Rice") to work on the script and find a director. They found him in Tony-nominated Broadway star Will Swenson ("Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," "Hair").
"About ten years ago, a friend of mine found the novel and showed it to me," "Buddy Holly" producer Molly Mayeux told indieWIRE. "There was one existing script that wasn't a great adaptation, so at that time, we spent a good year or so writing a new script, showed it to a few studios, and the visual effects scared all the studio execs. It would have been a big huge Terry Gilliam kind of movie. I'm not sure that's the kind of movie I want to make."
"Being Flynn," Paul Weitz
Paul Weitz's directorial credits are diverse; he's directed "American Pie," "About a Boy," the American Idol spoof "American Dreamz," "Little Fockers," Chris Rock-starrer "Down to Earth," and the Dennis Quaid-Topher Grace young boss/potential son-in-law flick "In Good Company." According to frequent collaborator Andrew Miano, who is producing this new project, Weitz and his team are often drawn to stories where the conflict resides between father and son.
"Lumpy," Ted Koland
"I had heard a story about a guest of a wedding who died at the wedding and I began to think about how there must be more to his life than his death at that wedding," Koland says. "But that's all I'll ever know about him."
Sean Gallagher pitched the film's eventual star and producer Jonny Mars the idea for his project in Mars' backyard in 2002. "The director and I have a long-standing relationship," says Mars."He grew up with my younger brother, and I watched him make movies with my younger brother. We started making short films together that played at larger festivals like Rotterdam."
Mariachi Gringo" tells the story of a white guy (Shawn Ashmore) in the U.S. heartland, feeling stuck in a rut. He is inspired by a Mexican man in town to run off South of the border and become a mariachi singer. Mexican star Martha Higareda stars as a young woman he meets when he arrives.
Director Tamar Halpern ("Shelf Life") and her crew had it rough last summer, filming the indie "Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life" during the hottest August on record in Manhattan in mostly un-airconditioned locations. Lucky for them, the film is a family geared tale centered around two 12-year old children. "What's great about shooting with kids is that they don't sweat at all," Halpern told indieWIRE. "They're not like us gross grownups. They don't complain."
Set around 1980, "Computer Chess" is the fictional account of the computer programmers and chess players that tested artificial intelligence through computer-human chess tournaments. These were the days of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, slightly before the IBM computer Deep Blue took reign.
Haunted by a recurring nightmare from childhood, writer and director Amy Seimetz attempts to actualize that very dream in her upcoming "Sun Don't Shine." Though she's keeping mum on plot details, we did get a sense of the film's themes and atmosphere in indieWIRE's interview.
"Mystery White Boy," Jake Scott
As indieWIRE reported in June, two films are currently in pre-production based on the much-loved, gone-too-soon singer-guitarist Jeff Buckley. One of those films, "Greetings from Tim Buckley," has cast Penn Badgley, of "Gossip Girl" and "Easy A" fame, as Jeff Buckley. This week, the as-yet untitled Jeff Buckley project found its Jeff in Broadway's Spider-Man: Reeve Carney.
"'King Kelly' began because we [Neel's production company SeeThink] had been pitching a documentary television series about the Internet," director Andrew Neel said. "We did all this research about these young women who create a fan base on the Internet using their sexuality to get people signed up for their sites."
For S.V. Krishna Reddy, making a Hollywood film has always been a dream. With a Hindi film co-writing credit and dozens of films in his native Telegu (in the prolific film industry nicknamed Tollywood, which is centered in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh), Reddy has an impressive filmmaking resume. He's about to add his first American feature, "Divorce Invitation," to that list.
In the middle of mixing his latest film, "Vito," a documentary about Vito Russo, author of "The Celluloid Closet" (it premieres at NYFF later this month), Jeffrey Schwarz spoke to indieWIRE about his even more recent project. This one, for which he has shot the majority of the interviews and accrued most of the archival footage needed, centers on the life of Harris Glenn Milstead -- better known to the world as Divine.
"Winter in the Blood" tells the story of a man, Virgil First Raise who comes home from a bender and realizes his wife has left him. He heads on a journey across the small towns of Montana trying to find her -- always just missing her, but his trip leads him to reflect on his own life and his priorities in it.
The theories of Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek might not be the first subject you'd think could be easily translated into a documentary, but in her 2006 film "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema," Sophie Fiennes accomplished just that. The film inserts Zizek into footage of classic movies like "The Birds," "Blue Velvet" and "City Lights," creating the illusion that he is speaking from within each film. With this technique, Fiennes strived to create a deeper connection between Zizek's words and cinema.
It's not everyday you hear of a film directed by a former commercial airline pilot from a script written decades ago by an Emmy-winning screenwriter. "Any Day Now" is just that.
In 1972, Jane Weiner was just beginning her career as a filmmaker and she asked her mentor, Ricky Leacock, if she could document him and his work. He said yes, but instituted two rules: 1.) No interviews. 2.) She could only shoot on small formats (which at the time was a Super 8 with Synch Sound).
Plenty of movies feature a bevvy of characters with seperate plots whose stories converge over the course of a big event. So what makes Matthew Watts' New York-set comedy about seven intertwining stories stand out from the pack? Each story was written by a different writer.
Hannah Jayanti isn’t the only one to be affected by Norton Juster’s children’s adventure novel “The Phantom Tollbooth” (with illustrations by Jules Feiffer), but she is the only one on Kickstarter raising money for a film that will celebrate the book’s legacy.