The profiles in this weeks In the Works column go to two extremes: “Carol Channing: Larger than Life” explores the epitome of letting loose, in an exploration of one of the most vibrant performers under the age of 100 working in the U.S. today; and in our smaller profiles, we see explorations of prisons of all sorts: teenage confinement, a conflict that traps its combatants, and traveling down the road to death row.
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.
“Carol Channing: Larger than Life”
Dori Berinstein is a busy woman. While working on finishing up her latest documentary, a portrait of Carol Channing titled “Carol Channing: Larger than Life,” Berinstein is working with DreamWorks on projects for the stage and various other theatrical projects. Berinstein made waves in the film world with a few documentaries, her most recent foray into directing was the profile of the New Jersey Nets’ halftime senior citizen dance crew, “Gotta Dance.” From that film to her “Some Assembly Required,” Berinstein has succeeding in bringing playfulness to documentary film.
No other performer is quite as playful and vibrant on the stage and screen as the effervescent comic actress Carol Channing, who still insists on walking to the beat of her own drum at the age of 89. Berinstein has a long history with Channing: “Hello, Dolly!,” featuring Channing, was the first production Berinstein saw on Broadway. After enough time in the theater business, Berinstein became friends with Channing. After hearing a few of Channing’s quite unbelievable stories about her career and social life, Berinstein was convinced she needed to make a film about Channing. Though Channing has been approached before about being the subject of a documentary, Berinstein is sure her friendship with the actress is what made her cave in this time.
One thing Berinstein never expected to find at the heart of the Carol Channing life story was a love story that spanned nearly eighty years. Central to the film is the story of Channing’s relationship with her current husband. “It starts with the story of a twelve year old girl who’s madly in love with a boy. He has a band, and she sings in it, but then his family moves away…and they don’t see each other for seventy years.” After Channing ended her third marriage and was left with nothing after the divorce, she wrote a book about her life, the second chapter of which was “My First Love.” After hearing he was the significant character in the star’s autobiography, Harry Kullijian got in contact with Channing and within two weeks, they were engaged. “They’ve been together for seven years and they’re in their eighties,” Berinstein told indieWIRE, “but they still act like kids.”
Berinstein’s profile is more than a love story, though; it’s also about Channing’s strength of character. During the AIDS crisis, Channing was at the bedside of many of her theater friends who were lost to the epidemic. To this day, she continues to be a tireless proponent for arts education in the nation’s schools. Preparing to send the film on its festival run now, Berinstein just reached a deal with the Al Hirschfeld estate to use his drawings to animate parts of Channing’s life. The film is entering the final stages of its edit, and will hopefully premiere at festivals next year.
Logline: In remote areas across the country, thousands of teenagers are being held against their will in behavior modification programs with little or no oversight. “The Program” is a documentary about the controversial and often abusive multi-billion dollar industry centered around teenage behavior modification.
Production team: Director/Producer: Katherine Daniel; Producer/Editor: Kyle Kubler; Cinematographer: Garrett Shannon
About the film: “I had the unfortunate opportunity to learn about this issue firsthand. Seven years ago I was taken without warning by a man and woman who “escorted” me to a remote facility in upstate New York where I was held against my will for 15 months. While I was there, I witnessed some of the most bizarre and absurd forms of psychological abuse. I knew that what was going on wasn’t right, and that if I could let people know what was going on within these facilities- something could be done to stop it. I didn’t realize that what I experienced was just the tip of the iceberg.
“These programs market themselves as a one-size-fits all, one-stop-shop for a wide variety of behavioral issues common in teenagers today. They target and manipulate the fears of parents, whose “troubled teen” may be experiencing difficulty at home or in school. They promise to be able to fix any issue with a “tough love” approach. Some of the punishments being implemented in these programs include beatings, extended isolation and restraint, public humiliation, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, forced exercise to the point of exhaustion, sensory deprivation, etc. It’s all in the name of ‘therapy.'” — Katherine Daniel
Current status: The film is in the beginning stages of production, going ahead with production as their credit cards are maxed out.
For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s IndieGoGo page. The team hopes to raise $5,000 by the end of the campaign in a month.
Logline: “Nancy, Please” is a psychodrama/black comedy that explores obsession, self-righteousness, and the perverse allure of victimhood in New Haven, CT.
Production team: Director: Andrew Semans; Producer: Vinay Singh, Dave Saltzman; Associate Producer: Danielle DiGiacomo; Director of Photography: Eric Lin; Cast: Will Rogers, Rebecca Lawrence, Santino Fontana
Director’s statement: “‘Nancy, Please’ dramatizes how a seemingly mundane conflict can—in the proper psychological soil —evolve into something dangerous and explosive, and how passivity and misplaced idealism can lead to horrific consequences. The story engages the familiar trope of the man-boy on the cusp of adulthood who must choose between coming of age and emotional stagnation. However, instead of rewarding rewarding the protagonist with soulful, self-indulgent navel-gazing or an infinitely patient, angelic woman to guide him to maturity, ‘Nancy, Please’ tracks the frightful repercussions of his refusal to assume responsibility and to take effective action. In Nancy, to remain a child proves a very poor choice. Grow up, or be torn to ribbons.” — Andrew Semans
Current Status: The filmmaking team is shooting from now until mid-November in the New York City area.
“The Road to Livingston”
Logline: “The Road to Livingston” follows the journey of Delia Perez Meyer, whose brother Louis was convicted of murder in 1999 and sentenced to death row in Livingston, Texas. Delia makes the 4-hour drive from her home in Austin to the Polunsky Prison Unit to visit Louis on a near-weekly basis, which she has been doing for almost 11 years. During this time she has met and made relationships with folks all along this road – some who also have relatives in prison, and others who simply empathize with her plight. These interactions open us up to the world surrounding the prison system in Texas and a window in to Delia’s dedication to her brother.
Production Team: Erik Mauck, Chelsea Hernandez, Sally Bergom, Emily Visher. We are producing this as a filmmaking collective we call the Austin Documentary Collaborative – so we are sharing the duties of shooting, editing and producing.
About the film: “I found Delia while taping several lectures at the University of Texas that centered around death penalty issues. When she explained how she has been taking this 4-hour drive almost every week, spending her own money to get up there, stay in hotels, rent cars, eat, etc., all this after full weeks of teaching elementary school children, it was just fascinating to me. I looked at the opportunity as a way to make a movie about the prison system and the death penalty without it being a strictly political or issue-oriented piece. It was a way to see the people directly involved in the prisons and how it affects them. We have been shooting with Delia for over 2 years now.” — Erik Mauck
Current status: The filmmakers are working together to finish up shooting and editing.
Also in the Works:
Big news this week for Hollywood’s auteurs: The Wrap has Aronofsky directing the thriller “Machine Man” for Mandalay Pictures; Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” is officially staying in New Zealand, says the LA Times; and finally, The Playlist has news that James Cameron has signed on for two more “Avatar” flicks and that Christopher Nolan has finalized details on the new “Batman” film.