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In the Works: “Silver Tongues,” the Environment, Being Big in Japan and Argentina & More

In the Works: "Silver Tongues," the Environment, Being Big in Japan and Argentina & More

This week’s profiles of projects in various stages of production spotlights “Oz” star Lee Tergesen in a story of a dark couple who use their talents for a diabolical game. Other projects look at the interaction between indigenous and environmental movements, a rock band big in Japan, community action in Detroit, and a tale of American musicians in Argentina.

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 as 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.

Silver Tongues
Writer/director: Simon Arthur
Cast: Lee Tergesen (“Oz”), Enid Graham (“Margot at the Wedding”), Tate Ellington (“Remember Me”), Emily Meade (“Twelve”), Harvey Evans (“West Side Story”)
Producers: Jared Moshé (“Beautiful Losers”), Leda Nornang (“Ghost Town”)

“I worked as a prison guard for a few months and I used the experience to learn about character,” Scottish-born writer/director Simon Arthur told indieWIRE. His feature debut, “Silver Tongues,” centers on a duo of chameleons who wreak havoc on those who cross their path. The project, starring Lee Tergesen (“Oz,” “Generation Kill”) and Enid Graham (“Margot at the Wedding”), follows a couple who use their talent for performance as part of a dark game.

Driving from town to town, the two lovers don different personas to deceive and destroy the lives of the people in their path. But each manipulation begins to take its toll. Soon the performances spiral out of control, and the game itself threatens their very relationship.

“I first wrote the story while working in the U.K.,” Arthur told iW. He noted that his experience working as a prison guard, and later as a security guard at a brothel, gave him insight into the art of assimilation, which underlies the main characters’ modus operandi.

“I would emphasize a certain part of my personality in order to fit into that world,” Arthur noted. “The idea of becoming someone else to integrate into a community interested me and the story came from that.”

“Simon was a huge fan of Lee Tergesen from ‘Oz,’ where he showed an incredible talent in his ability to show a huge range of emotions and personalities, so we went after him first,” said producer Jared Moshe (“Kurt Cobain About a Son,” “Beautiful Losers”), president of New York-based production company Sidetrack Films. “Simon and I early on agreed that we wanted to cast the film around the best actors for the roles rather than stunt cast. We brought the project to Sig de Miguel, who agreed with the strategy, and came on board as casting director.”

Arthur studied at the Screen Academy of Scotland in Edinburgh where he received his MFA in Advanced Screen Practice. He wrote and directed the short “Rebel Song” and the short version of “Silver Tongues,” both of which went on to garner accolades at various regional festivals. Arthur saw the short version of “Tongues” as a launchpad for the feature version and the project started to come together after he and Moshe met in Europe.

“We were introduced by a mutual friend at the Berlin Film Festival,” noted Moshe. “We realized we had similar interests and he sent me his script. I was up to my neck with ‘Beautiful Losers’ [at the time], but after that was finished I circled back and was able to find backers.”

“I specifically went to Berlin to find a New York producer,” noted Arthur. “And it was funny because we actually only live four blocks from each other.”

Currently in post-production, “Silver Tongues” was shot over 17 days last winter in and around Hastings on Hudson, New York.

More projects:

“Keepers of the Earth”

A scene from Aaron Soto-Karlin “Keepers of the Earth.” [Image courtesy of the filmmakers]

Logline: “Keepers of the Earth” follows a shaman’s quest to revive Mayan culture and give voice to the rain forest. Caught between the government and the rebels, he’s fighting to make a difference at the UN Climate Talks in Cancun.

Production Team: Director: Aaron Soto-Karlin; Producers: David Soto-Karlin, Aaron Soto-Karlin; Associate Producers: Sam Karlin, Shaun Dozier, Stephen Salisbury; Executive Producers: David Kupferberg, Annette Karlin; Cinematographer: Nick Perron-Siegel; Assistant Director: Valerie Caldas

About the Film: “[My brother and I] were raised on mythology from infancy. Our mother carried us to a children’s theatre every month where we watched folktales of the origins of the wind and the birth of the sun. She read to us from books on mummies. Anthropology has been my opportunity to chase after a childhood trance, [and] I’ve found my rapture reflected in the stories and beliefs of Mexican indigenous communities. A 2009 Fulbright Fellowship brought me to Chiapas, Mexico, where I helped organize a coalition of shaman and midwives. We met our main character, Juan Mendez, at a secret shaman’s summit in the sticky, remote reaches of the Lacandon Jungle. He represented his region at a meeting of master healers from throughout Mexico, Central and South America. At the summit’s conclusion, David and Aaron sat in a cattle car exhausted, attempting to hide from the oppressive sun, while from the other side of the cattle car, Juan smiled like a watermelon and offered his sombrero for shade. His eyes lit up and he began telling us of the Mayan’s reverence for the sun. We had found our main character.” — Aaron Soto-Karlin

Current status: After shooting 60 hours of footage for pre-production, the team is looking to raise money for their production, which begins in October, when their crew of nine arrives in Mexico. The team intends to debut at a film festival in Fall 2011 or Spring 2011.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $20,000 by the end of the campaign on Sept 14.

“Big in Japan”

A promotional image of Tennis Pro, the subject of John Jeffcoat’s “Big in Japan.”

Logline: An unusual invitation sends surf rock band Tennis Pro on a wild journey from Seattle, Washington, to Tokyo for what they believe is one last shot at international fame.

Production team: Director/Cinematographer: John Jeffcoat; Executive Producer: Jane Charles; Cinematographer: Ryan McMackin; Audio: Adam Powers

About the film: “It was Tennis Pro that found me. I had been shooting a series of music documentaries for MTV’s ‘$5 Cover: Seattle’ and worked as a producer on the show. Jane Charles suggested I meet a Seattle band that had a great idea for a film that could be shot in the style I’d adopted for the MTV docs. For the MTV series I was working mostly solo with a DSLR camera, minimal gear and some very fast lenses. When I met the guys we immediately hit it off and started thinking about how we could make this happen. I was in a band in high school and college, and have always been fascinated with band dynamics. It’s a unique bond that forms between people who create music together, very intense and emotional. When I first read the bios of the guys in Tennis Pro, I was sure it was all made up. The combination of a hair stylist drummer, a classically trained cellist/Karaoke master on bass and a professional card player on lead guitar and vocals heading to Japan seemed like a great set up for comedy to me.”

Current status: The team is currently in pre-production, assembling U.S. and Japanese crews.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $10,000 by the end of the campaign today.

“Street Fighting Man”

Logline: A gritty, ensemble documentary featuring stories of community action and survival on Detroit’s east side.

Production Team: Director/Cinematographer: Andrew James; Producer: Katie Tibaldi

About the film: “Instead of focusing on the broader question of why Detroit is suffering, ‘Street Fighting Man’ will hone in on the specific struggles of individuals as they fight for the future of their community. One man who personifies the day-to-day struggles of the East Jefferson community is James ‘Jack Rabbit’ Jackson, a retired cop who’s lived in the Chalmers neighborhood on the east side of Detroit for most of his life. With the recent closure of the local police station, Jack Rabbit has begun to fight back. Armed with a video camera (and a firearm when necessary) Jack Rabbit cruises the streets of East Jefferson, intimidating criminals, recording evidence, and making his presence known. He’s a community activist, a post-modern sheriff, and according to some, a ‘socially conscious vigilante.’

“Jack Rabbit is a complex and interesting figure. He’s a father, a mentor, a boyfriend, a tow-truck driver, and a deeply committed member of the community who spends 24 hours of every day in the service of his neighborhood. ‘Street Fighting Man’ will also follow several other subjects in the community as they struggle to survive and/or fight for the future of their neighborhoods. Each subject will bring a unique perspective to the story and provide different insights into the landscape, the problems, and the possible solutions. We have made contact with many different people who we are interested in participating in the project, including local business owners, pastors, homeless teenagers, drug dealers, community activists, and urban gardeners. Our goal as filmmakers is to paint a multilayered mosaic of this fluctuating landscape using real people and real stories.” — Andrew James

Current Status: The team is currently in pre-production.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $6,500 by the end of the campaign on Sept 4th.

“A Band of Rogues”

Logline: A group of American musicians are stuck in Argentina after they are arrested for drug possession. This story follows their life-changing adventures through rehab, across the country of Argentina, and finally back to the U.S. The music they write during this transforming experience will be paralleled by the album released alongside this film.

Production team: Writer/Director: T. Jara Morgan; Writer/DP: Thomas Bertin; Executive Producer: Barry Morgan; Producer: Maria Jose Perez, Luke Williams; Composer/Musical Director: Matthew Morgan; Cast: Luke Williams, Emory Goocher, Jake Ayers, Leo Santaiti

About the film: “I became interested in a film about musicians undergoing rehab after visiting a friend in a rural rehabilitation center. The original iteration of this story took place entirely in a large U.S. city. However, after living in Argentina for five months last spring, I decided that this same story set in a foreign setting would add an interesting texture to this film. The clash of cultures and the language barrier really helps hone the character arcs of the film’s band of musicians. The rugged beauty of the Argentine landscape also adds quite a sense of adventure to the film as well. Much in the vein of ‘Into the Wild,’ or ‘The Motorcycle Diaries,’ this picture will show how the sometimes trying situations encountered on the road will affect a group of 20-something guys. I am excited to watch the actors become immersed in the fascinating culture of this country, and capture the texture of the landscapes and people as they undergo their journey. All the talent in this film, being actual musicians, will give me the opportunity to shoot large segments of this film spontaneously and naturally, almost in the style of a documentary.” — T. Jara Morgan

Current status: The writer/director is currently in Mendoza, Argentina, doing pre-production, with shooting set to begin September 10.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $14,000 by the end of the campaign on September 12.

Also in the works:

Anne Thompson has the news on “Hunky Dory,” the ’70s high school musical that will allow Minnie Driver to sing, in which a high school puts on “The Tempest.”

New York-based Braven films will tackle a biopic of Gloria Trevi for its debut project, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

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