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In the Works: “Darling Companion” from “Big Chill” Director, Social Anxiety Monsters & New Docs

In the Works: "Darling Companion" from "Big Chill" Director, Social Anxiety Monsters & New Docs

This week’s production column takes a look at “Darling’s Companion,” starring Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline as an aging couple coping with an empty home and a lost dog. We also look at “Nerve,” a new film from J.R. Sawyers about a man battling with social anxiety disorder, ending our column with a couple of documentaries on cult music legends Big Star and an inspiring feat that occurred during the 2010 AIDS Walk of Los Angeles.

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.

“Darling Companion”

Lawrence Kasdan, the mind behind the angst-filled nostalgic looks at life’s stages “The Big Chill” and “Grand Canyon,” returns to this form with a film about a couple who must confront their empty nest. Beth, played by Diane Keaton, finds a dog on the side of the road and brings it home. With all of her children out of the house and a self-involved husband, Joseph (Kevin Kline), Beth develops a strong relationship with the new pet. After Joseph loses the dog during a wedding at the couple’s mountain house, Beth sets up a search party to find her new companion. A comic and emotional search for both the dog and the couple’s reason for being together quickly ensues.

indieWIRE spoke with one of the film’s producers, Elizabeth Redleaf of Werc Werk Works, on the set in Park City, Utah, this week, where the film is currently shooting. Redleaf, who heard about the script from a friend, read it, and was impressed by the film’s bold storytelling about a period of life that is rarely explored on film. While Redleaf noted that she doesn’t think about the history of a script, where it came from, while she initially reads it, she later learned that the film was based on the life of the film’s co-writers, Lawrence Kasdan and his wife, Meg. Said Redleaf, “They were running through the woods — this actually happened, their dog actually bolted and they were frantic in finding it. This was the starting point for them to write the script.”

“It’s another world working with a director with his experience and caliber. He has absolute confidence with these world-class actors,” Redleaf added. When she read the script, Kline and Keaton were already in talks to star, but since the project was greenlit, Dianne Wiest (“Bullets Over Broadway,” “Law & Order”), Mark Duplass (“The Puffy Chair”), Ayelet Zurer (“In Treatment,” “Angels & Demons”), and Sam Shepard (“The Right Stuff”) have all joined the project in supporting roles.

For Kline and Kasdan, this is something of a reunion. The film, as Redleaf pointed out, makes something of a trilogy about the stages of life, with Kasdan and Kline as constants through “The Big Chill,” “Grand Canyon,” and now “Darling Companion.” Redleaf noted, “It comes back full circle to what a family is and how a family stays close, the aspects of a marriage that get ignored while your raising kids. It’s just us two again — I think there’s some closure here. We’re thinking about death here, not having a baby out of wedlock like Glenn Close — he does so well, the comedic element is there and so true. That’s why we like those movies so much.”

As for Redleaf and her production company, they just wrapped up work on their film, Jill Sprecher’s “The Convincer,” starring Billy Crudup, Alan Arkin, and Greg Kinnear.

More projects:


An image from J.R. Sawyers’ “Nerve.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: With the help of a girl, a young man with social anxiety disorder learns to discover humanity in himself and others… for better or worse.

Production team: Producer/Director: J.R. Sawyers; Cinematographer: Sike Huls; Camera/ Steadicam Op: David Shawl; Assistant Camera: Jameson Jordan; Associate Producer: Jeff Zielinksi

About the film: “There’s no doubt most of us love movies about vampires and crime lords. However, we also hunger for character studies that can be just as cinematic in their own right. With the fears of the subconscious as the main antagonist, Josh is dealing with something infinitely more terrifying than any monster. I can’t recall a movie dealing with social phobia so head on as this one does. But this is not just a story about a scared man. His real conflict is finding a happy medium so he can function normally and find love. It’s the way Josh deals with these conflicts, that cinematic gold can hopefully take place.” — J.R. Sawyers

Current status: The team is ready to start production in November 2010.

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

“Walk On”

An image from Mark Bashian’s “Walk On.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: “Walk On” follows Joseph Kibler, 21 and HIV positive, as he and his severely handicapped legs train to walk 6.2 miles in the AIDS Walk of Los Angeles.

Production Team: Writer/Director/Producer/Editor: Mark Bashian; Producer: Brooke D. Hansohn; Producer/Subject: Joseph Kibler; Director of Photography: Scott Thomas Crawley

About the film: “‘Walk On’ is a feature length documentary that takes you on Joe’s journey as he trains to walk 6.2 miles in the 2010 AIDS Walk of Los Angeles. He begins training one month before the race, walking miles every morning; battling exhaustion, scrapes, and numerous medical prescriptions. Because of his participation in the same AIDS Walk last year, Joe was severely injured and confined to a wheelchair for a month. We travel with Joe as he participates in help groups, chat forums, interviews, and lectures with the help of celebrities, vendors, and community officials, and strives to help those severely affected by AIDS/HIV. He offers his trademark smile and confidence. His openness about his disease and life console patients and help the survivors of those whom have passed away.

“35 million people are infected with AIDS/HIV throughout the World. Over 25 million have passed since its introduction in 1981. Joe wants to live, to help, to find a cure, and to be strong. Walk On shows the world his strength, his heart, and most importantly, his soul. Please join Walk On in documenting his amazing journey…to live.” — Mark Bashian

Current Status: “Walk On” takes place in Los Angeles, California with a Release Date sometime in winter of 2011. We are filming everyday and will continue to do so even after the AIDS Walk is completed.

For more information and to support the film: Check out the film’s IndieGoGo page. The campaign for “Walk On” ends in three months.

“Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me”

Logline: “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me” is a feature-length documentary about the massive critical acclaim, dismal commercial failure, and enduring legacy of pop music’s greatest cult phenomenon, Big Star.

Production team: Director/DP/Editor: Drew DeNicola; Director/Producer: Danielle McCarthy; Executive Producer: Gill Holland; Executive Producer / Music Supervisor: John Fry; Producer: Olivia Mori; Camera: David Cavallo, Kentucker Audley; Assistant Editor: Meghan Sims; Audio: Patrick McCarthy. Featuring interviews with: Jody Stephens, John Fry, Andy Hummel, Jim Dickinson, William Eggleston, David Fricke, Mike Mills, John Doe (of X), Evan Dando, John King, Carole Manning, Mary Lindsay Dickinson.

About the film: “I’d been a Big Star fan since college but after a life-altering trip to Memphis, TN – the birthplace of rock, soul and the blues and Big Star – I wanted to know everything there was to know about where this incredible music came from. It turns out the story of Big Star is one helluva tale – a group of extremely talented musicians craft some of the best albums of their generation only to find their record label is unable to properly distribute the records and the airplay they do get seems to fall on deaf ears. Fast forward to the early 1980’s during the independent, underground music scene in America bands like R.E.M. and the Replacements are name-checking and even writing songs about band leader Alex Chilton and voila – arguably the first “cult band” is born into the pop culture consciousness. Big Star’s resurrection is a testament to the fervor of music fans the world over. The band even reunited in the mid-1990’s to rapturously received audiences. Sadly, the deaths of founding members Alex Chilton and Andy Hummel (Chris Bell died in a car accident in 1978) this past year has left only Jody Stephens to carry the Big Star mantle. But who knows what’s next for the Big Star legacy? We hope this film introduces the band to a whole new generation of fans.” – Danielle McCarthy

Current status: The documentary is currently in the editing stage and the team expects to debut at a film festival in Spring 2011 or Summer 2011.

For more information and to support the film: The team successfully raised $14,000 dollars for the production via Kickstarter but further funding is needed to complete the film. If you’d like to make a donation or an investment in the film please contact Danielle McCarthy at info@bigstarstory.com.

Also in the Works:

Liev Schreiber has signed on to play minor-league hockey enforcer Ross Reardon in Michael Dowse’s “Goon” according to The Hollywood Reporter . The comedy, written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, also co-stars Sean William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill and Marc-Andre Grodin.

Deadline reports that Luke Evans and John Cusack are set to star in James McTeigue’s revisionist take of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. Production is set to start later this year in Eastern Europe with Alice Eve (“She’s Out of My League”) rumored to play the female lead.

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