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In the Works: “Vamps,” Decimated Village, Laughing at Cancer, Gay/Black Marriage

In the Works: "Vamps," Decimated Village, Laughing at Cancer, Gay/Black Marriage

In this week’s in-production column, “Vamps,” from “Fast Times at Ridgemont Hight” director Amy Heckerling, a group of vampires indulges in New York nightlife. Also in the works this week, a stylized story of a desecrated village, a comedic take on cancer, and documentarian Thomas Allen Harris’s short about the intersection of civil rights and gay rights in the contemporary marriage movement.

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.

Director: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Johnston, Wallace Shawn, Justin Kirk, Dan Stevens, Todd Barry, Malcom McDowell and Marilu Henner
Producers: Maria Teresa Arida (exec. prod.), Adam Brightman, Stuart Cornfeld, Molly Hassell, John Jencks (exec. prod.), Julie Kroll (exec. prod.) and Lauren Versel
Cinematographer: Tim Suhrstedt
Editor: Debra Chiate

Director Amy Heckerling is re-uniting with Alicia Silverstone for “Vamps,” currently filming in Detroit. The “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Clueless” filmmaker is also being joined by Krysten Ritter (“Confessions of a Shopaholic”) as well as Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Johnston, Wallace Shawn, Justin Kirk, Dan Stevens and Todd Barry in her latest project centered on vampires living in the Big Apple, which she also wrote.

“Currently, we’ve just begun Week 3 of shooting, so we’re almost halfway there,” Heckerling told indieWIRE via email from Motor City. “We’re shooting a majority of the movie in lovely downtown Detroit, but it’s set in New York, and thankfully, we’re lucky enough to be shooting for a few days in New York City.”

“Vamps” is described as a modern day tale of two young young beautiful female vampires (Silvestone and Ritter) who live it up in NYC’s nightlife scene until love enters the picture and each has to make a choice that will jeopardize her immortality. Weaver, meanwhile, portrays Cisserus, a bloodthirsty “stem” vampire who has created a dynasty.

Johnston portrays Mrs. Van Helsing, a posh British woman who is suspicious of her son’s new love interest Stacey (Ritter); Shawn will portray Dr. Van Helsing, a well-known vampire expert and hunter; Kirk will portray Vadim, a Russian vampire always on the prowl for a good time; Stevens will portray Joey Van Helsing, a college student smitten with Stacy (Ritter) and; Barry will portray Ivan, blood-thirsty vampire Cisserus’ (Weaver) loyal assistant.

“I’ve worked with a lot of them before, so obviously it’s great,” noted Heckerling. “Krysten is a new friend and I find her to be adorable. Dan Stevens is wonderful. I’ve known Richard Lewis for some years, but have never had the pleasure of working with him until now. He’s a wonderful actor and very funny, of course. We haven’t started shooting with Sigourney Weaver yet, but I’m very much looking forward to that.”

“I wrote [the screenplay] while my parents were sick,” Heckerling told iW. “I was thinking about the kind of lifestyle I’d like to live and that it would be fun to be eternally young, go to school, have a job, and horse around with your friends in New York at night.”

“Vamps” began shooting August 2nd and Heckerling said she expects the film to wrap the last week of September. The film is produced by Red Hour Films (“Tropic Thunder,” “Blades of Glory,” “Dodgeball”), Lucky Monkey Pictures’ Lauren Versel and Maria Teresa Arida (“City Island”) and Molly Hassell (Sundance Award winner, “Big River Man”). Executive Producers include Julie Kroll.

Foreign sales are being handled by Lisa Wilson, President of Distribution, Parlay Films LLC, which is a GK Films affiliate.

More projects:


An image from Aaron Schimberg “Hulk.” [Image provided by filmmaker.]

Logline: A village is mostly destroyed by a mysterious foe. The village-dwellers’ attempts to stave off this nonspecific disaster are largely symbolic; a doctor practices a senseless kind of medicine, a priest delivers a hopeless sermon, soldiers camp in the forest, only to wait.

Production team: Writer/Director: Aaron Schimberg; Producer: Vanessa McDonnell; Co-Producer: Caroline Oliveira; Director of Photography: Jimmy Lee Phelan, Director of Photography; Production Designers: Kate Rance and Sia Balabanova

About the film: “We’ve been very lucky in finding talented and like-minded collaborators to work on this film. The film takes place in a strange village that is mostly destroyed, which was a logistical challenge. We wanted to create an environment that was surreal and Expressionistic, and after driving around the Northeast looking at abandoned towns we decided to create the village from scratch in a 10,000 square foot warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We were lucky to find two amazing production designers (Kate Rance and Sia Balabanova) who threw themselves into the project and worked day and night to create an entire elaborate world. We built a tavern, church, movie theater, and six or so other interior spaces, and a graveyard and forest. We also built a 12-foot-square scale model of the village which we shot with special lenses donated by Panavision. Casting the film was a long, hard process because there are over 30 speaking roles in the film and many monologues. In the end we assembled an outstanding ensemble of people that included professional actors, interesting people we found on the street, subway musicians and some real eccentrics.” — Vanessa McDonnell

Current status: The film finished shooting last week, and the team is now syncing the sound to the footage so they can start editing.

“Catch It Early”

Logline: Love and life are yours if you…catch it early.

Production team: Writer/Lead actor: Sarah Warren; Producer: Lynsey Stewart; Director: Graeme Bakker

About the film: “I was motivated to write this film because I thought to myself, what is the one universal thing that connects us even more than being in love … it’s cancer, or it’s looming threat. On the upside, I realize the other common global link – we love to laugh. Difficult subject matters are being explored in a comedic way in films. I was interested in the idea of people reconnecting because of cancer, or the disease inspiring us to live a fuller life, and investigating the humour in the overwhelming epidemic of the disease in terms of not being able to escape it. Hence our tagline – ‘What can we do but laugh?’ Within this world, I also wanted to explore the idea of a romantic comedy in the middle of winter, a romance between a tall woman and a short man, and falling in love in a graveyard versus a bar.” — Sarah Warren

Current status: The film is currently in pre-production and plans to start shooting on a Red Camera in Toronto this winter. The team is finishing up casting and is creating teasers. The team has devised an outreach strategy that would include showing the film to professionals and patients in hospitals.

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

“Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the Fight for Fairness”

An image from Thomas Allen Harris’s “Marriage Equality.” [Image courtesy of the filmmaker.]

Logline: “Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and The Fight For Fairness” is a documentary about Massachusetts State Representative and Civil Rights Movement veteran Byron Rushing, who together with a group of progressive Black clergy and activists, successfully won hearts, minds and votes on the emotionally divisive issue of same sex marriage, which is now legal in Massachusetts. Byron, a Black straight man of strong faith and Christian values, is perhaps an unlikely gay hero, but he proves, as one of the subjects in the film states, that “allies can be anywhere, heroes can be anyone.”

Production team: Director: Thomas Allen Harris (“Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela”); Producers: Thomas Allen Harris, Ann Bennett, Don Perry; Associate Producer: Gregory Warren, Jr.

About the film: “‘Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing And The Fight For Fairness’ is a fifteen-minute documentary that highlights the often overlooked diversity within the fight for same-sex marriage and illuminates the role of African American LGBT and progressive allies during events surrounding the pivotal Massachusetts state constitutional convention which gave new momentum to the national gay marriage movement as a civil rights issue. At the center of our story is Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing, a veteran of the civil rights movement who took the campaign for same sex marriage into African American communities, confronting the hostility of many religious leaders and defining the right to same sex marriage as a civil rights issue on par with the campaigns of the 1960s. An unlikely gay rights hero in some respects, Rushing, a heterosexual man of strong faith, has spent a lifetime championing the causes of the under-served, overlooked and oppressed. The film aims to highlight the successful strategies, methodologies and lessons learned from the Massachusetts effort that can be emulated elsewhere. In addition, Marriage Equality is working with several LGBT organizations as part of a nationwide outreach campaign that will launch with the film’s premiere and speak to both gay and African American communities about this basic civil right. “Marriage Equality” was commissioned by Tribeca Film Institute and the Nelson Mandela Foundation to inspire people through compelling content to mirror Nelson Mandela’s values in one’s day-to-day life and local community.” — Thomas Allen Harris

Current status: The team has completed production and is raising money to finish editing the film in time for its debut as part of the Nelson Mandela Day activities scheduled for later this year.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s United States Artists project page. As with all projects funded through the United States Artists site, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $10,000 by the end of the campaign on September 15.

Also in the works:

Two films from The Little Film Company recently wrapped up principal photography. Fred Schepisi’s “Eye of the Storm,” which stars Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, and Charlotte Rampling and shot in Australia, and Donavan Marsh’s “Spud,” which stars John Cleese & Troye Sivan, based on the novel by South African writer John Van De Ruit.

As the Hollywood bloggers tossed around names in contention for the role of Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s English-language adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Anne Thompson takes us into the life of Rooney Mara, Fincher’s choice for the role. Mara has a role in Fincher’s upcoming Facebook pic “The Social Network” and starred in “Tanner Hall.”

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