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In the Works: Vega-Starrer “Summer Song,” Flower Taxi, Depression, Domestic Violence, Martel Adapted

In the Works: Vega-Starrer "Summer Song," Flower Taxi, Depression, Domestic Violence, Martel Adapted

This week’s profile of work in production profiles 21 year-old second time filmmaker Aram Rappaport’s “Summer Song,” starring Alexa Vega and John Savage in a dark coming-of-age drama that finished shooting in Mass. last weekend. Also in production are a slew of films from Indiegogo, including a documentary about the public art flowered taxi project in NYC, a doc/narrative hybrid about depression, a narrative about the aftermath of domestic violence, and a short film adaptation of a story by “The Life of Pi”‘s Yann Martel.

EDITORS NOTE: “In the Works” is a weekly column taking a look at upcoming films, in addition to projects in production. It spotlights films in development, as well completed films that are taking creative paths towards distribution and occasionally ventures away from films to look at other types of projects, such as interesting new film distribution, funding, or exhibition mechanisms.

Summer Song
Writer/Director: Aram Rappaport
Principal Cast: Alexa Vega, John Savage, Patrick Mapel
Producers: Alexa Vega, Aaron Becker, Shane Mandes

Twenty-one year-old director Aram Rappaport (“Helix”) recently wrapped principal photography on his second feature, “Summer Song,” starring Alexa Vega, John Savage and Patrick Mapel. The dark coming-of-age drama shot on location in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, though Rappaport had originally envisioned it taking place in the South.

“I developed the story with Alexa [Vega] while working on another story,” Rappaport told indieWIRE this week by phone. “We thought it would be a fun story to execute in the [American] South. I was inspired by 1950s-style towns and we started [on this] sometime back and then got back to it. We were going to do another movie, but then that fell through, so we went immediately into this.”

Continuing, he added, “I wanted to develop something with Alexa so that she was involved and kept her on a producer level. I wanted something that would really challenge her. [And], John Savage is a great actor and I thought he’d be great in that drunk father role. He’s an amazing, absolutely [and] fun person.”

Rappaport’s girlfriend is a cellist and his mother helped raise her siblings, providing inspiration for “Summer Song”‘s characters.

The film takes a look back at teenaged Harper (Patrick Mapel, “The Social Network”), now a grown writer whose just-released book retells the story of a special summer by the sea. Alexa Vega (“Spy Kids”) stars as his love interest, Ellie, a young and talented cellist who transcends the chaos of her dysfunctional family by immersing herself in fantasy each time she plays her instrument.

Veteran actor John Savage (“The Deer Hunter”) plays Ellie’s violent father, a failed man who controls his beaten-down wife and five children for whom Ellie must care. “Summer Song” also stars up-and-comer Caleb Landry Jones, Alanna Ubach (“Legally Blonde,” “Meet the Fokkers”) and Amy Jo Johnson, a native of Cape Cod.

Rappaport transported the story to New England after executive producers came on board with incentives to center the story on the Cape, giving the production resources it may have not otherwise had available.

“The executive producers are from [Massacusetts], so we got the most bang for our buck,” noted Rappaport who runs Windward Entertainment, an independent film and television production company based in L.A. and Chicago along with brothers Aaron and Alex Becker.

With the 18-day shoot completed as of last Saturday, “Summer Song” is now in post-production and will be about two hours in length, according to Rappaport who expects the feature to be locked by November.

“Bloom City”

An image from Christina Voros’s “Bloom City.” [Image courtesy of filmmakers.]

Logline: How much of art is politics? How much of politics is art?

Production team: Director/DP/Co-Producer: Christina Voros (one of Filmmaker Magaine’s “25 New Faces in Independent Film”); Producer/Co-Director: Sergei Krasikau; Editor: Tom Griffin; Associate Producer: Melanie Stevenson

About the film: “The Empire State Building. The Statue of Liberty. The Yellow Taxi. Few images more succinctly capture the essence of New York City than that of the ubiquitous yellow cab. And yet strangely, in September of 2007, as brightly painted flowers began to pop up on their shiny roofs, of all those who noticed, as most of us did, few had any idea what they where or how they got there.

When it was first endorsed by the City in 2006, Mayor Bloomberg announced “What the Saffron gates were to Central Park, Garden in Transit will be to the NY Taxi”. But due to a peculiar political climate in a volatile cash based industry, the city drastically reduced its support of the project at a critical stage, leaving the artists, the children and over 26,000 hand painted flower decals to flap in the wind. With unflinching perseverance, the Massey brothers pressed on and with the help of their small team, they succeeded in rallying the support of industry owners, volunteers and thousands of drivers, eventually transforming the surfaces of nearly half the fleet of New York City taxis.” — the filmmakers

Current status: The film team shot from July 2006 to January 2008. Editor Tom Griffin has finished a rough cut and is working to get a final cut for the Sundance submission deadline. The team is also working on signing deals to obtain the rights to the music they wish to use and anticipate working on the sound mix, color correction and graphics in September.

For more information and to support the film: Check out the film’s IndieGoGo page. The campaign for “Bloom City” ends in a month.

“Part Time Fabulous”

An image from Alethea Root’s “Part Time Fabulous.” [Image provided by filmmakers.]

Logline: Narrative-documentary hybrid film exposes the secrets of depression.

Production team: Producer/Co-writer/Director: Alethea Root; Executive Producer/Producer/Co-Writer/Lead Actor: Jules Bruff; Producers: Don Presley and Eleonore Dailly; Cinematography: Justin Duval; Editor: Bobby R. Poirier; Production Design: Lee Tosca; Costume Design: Marlene Guidara; Sound Design: Lauren Farley; Documentary Cinematography: Shawn Dufraine; Score: Patrick Soluri; Casting: Emily Hope Webster

About the film: “Literally and figuratively, one morning I awoke determined to face my personal battle with Depression. Having been diagnosed with clinical Depression when I was 20, I have alternately felt confused, angry, embarrassed, sad, responsible, hopeless, ashamed, and alone. I lived within that world of emotions, living with my Depression without reaching out for information or a community. I kept my diagnosis and my experience close to my chest. My nuclear family and a only a very select few friends knew about my problem, but only what I felt comfortable telling them. I never let anyone into the heart of my very real illness…I hope our film, “Part Time Fabulous,” will help illuminate what it can be like to live with clinical Depression. Once you’ve seen it, please spread the word. In making this film I discovered that most people I spoke with had a family member or friend whose life had been adversely affected by Depression. I want to spread the word: Depression isn’t your fault, nor should you be ashamed of it…help is available.” — Jules Bruff

Current status: The team is currently in post-production on the film. The sound editor/mixer and composer are working on the film currently, with color correction to follow. They hope to be included in Sundance ’11’s NEXT section.

For more information and to support the film: Check out the film’s IndieGoGo page. The campaign for “Part Time Fabulous” ends in a week and a half.

“Recovering Irma”

An image from Sandra Salas’s “Recovering Irma.” [Image provided by filmmakers.]

Logline: Sandra and her nephew Lorenzo swing open Pandora’s Box in the aftermath of domestic violence homicide, seeking to stop the vicious cycle so generations have the chance to be free.

Production Team: Director/Writer: Sandra Salas; Producer: Stephanie Watanabe; DP: David Waldman; Editor: Andrew Rozendal; Music Supervisor: Eric Hsu

About the film: “‘Recovering Irma’ is a feature-length documentary film that crystallizes in the aftermath of domestic violence homicide as Sandra and her nephew Lorenzo embark upon a road trip from San Francisco to her parent’s hometown of El Paso…I began conceiving of the idea for Recovering Irma several years ago. When faced with the news that my nephew Lorenzo had been arrested for domestic violence and was forced to take anger management classes, I knew that I had to get involved. The pain of doing nothing was greater than the pain of doing something. Thus began a whirlwind of development on the project with my Producer and fellow American Film Institute alum, Stephanie Watanabe. We brought on board cinematographer David Waldman and a stellar group of consultants and advisors and are well on our way to completing this much needed film.” — Sandra Salas

Current status: The film is in the late stage of pre-production, looking for grants and partnerships. The team plans to begin shooting Spring 2011, with festival debuts in Spring 2012.

For more information and to support the film: Check out the film’s IndieGoGo page. The campaign for “Recovering Irma” ends in two weeks.

“We Ate the Children Last”

An image from the “We Ate the Children Last” teaser.

Logline: A radical surgery transplants pig organs to humans and redefines a society as it grows from medical miracle to pop phenomenon in which a garbage diet is chic. Government agents are swift to act when a segment of this counter culture turns violent.

Production Team: Directors: Andrew Cividino & Geoff Smart; Story: Yann Martel (“The Life of Pi”); Producers: Jonathan Hodgson, Josh Clavir, Karen Harnisch; Cinematographer: Stephen Whitehead; Production Designer: Yim Hung Kung

About the Film: “We have been developing this short film for roughly two years. Andrew Cividino had approached me with six short stories that he would like to adapt into short films. One of which was called “Mud” by an American author, Geoffrey Forsyth, which we produced and is making its world premier at the Montreal World Film Festival in September. Another of the six stories stood out from the rest as being highly ambitious while conveying smart, thought-provoking messages. Nothing like we had ever read before. But alas, we found Yann Martel’s name staring at us on the front page. The story was too good for us to be scared off by the weight of Martel’s name. After months of phone calls, emails, drop-ins, we finally obtained the story rights to his short story “We Ate the Children Last” at a reasonable indie-production price.” — Jonathan Hodgson

Current Status: The film is currently being shot, with high morale and no hiccups (yet!). The film team is busy with fundraising, pre-production, and now, shooting.

For more information and to support the film: Check out the film’s IndieGoGo page. The campaign for “We Ate the Children Last” ends in a few days.

Also in the works:

Chartoff Productions, which acquired Rachel Carson’s life rights from her estate has signed Peter Bratt, the director of “La Mission,” which stars his brother Benjamin, for a film that follows the environmentalist writer as she writes her environmental activist tome that indicts the agricultural industry for using pesticides. The Hollywood Reporter reports.

This weekend at Comic-Con the complete cast of “The Avengers” took the stage with director Joss Whedon. The fans, a bit miffed that “The Hulk” star Edward Norton has been replaced for the same role in “The Avengers,” were a bit vocal when Mark Ruffalo was announced as the new Hulk. Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans took the stage as part of the cast. Anne Thompson was there.

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