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In the Works: “Tarnation” Director’s New Project, Freegans, Adapted Thriller, and Druggie Surfers

In the Works: "Tarnation" Director's New Project, Freegans, Adapted Thriller, and Druggie Surfers

This week’s in-production column takes a long look at Jonathan Caouette’s new documentary, which is not a continuation of his game changer “Tarnation,” but deals with his relationship with his mother. Also in the works, are three films looking for funds on Kickstarter: an adaptation of a New York stage hit, a doc about Freegans, and the story of drug-dealing surfers.

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.

Untitled Jonathan Caouette Project

“I’ve been spending long long post-production days in my apartment trying to cram this film together,” Jonathan Caouette told indieWIRE when he began discussing his new film, a yet untitled project about Caouette’s relationship with his mother and the rest of his family that combines documentary footage, photo montage, and fictional elements. Caouette insists though, “I don’t want to say it’s a follow-up to ‘Tarnation’…I’m plucking out b-roll that wasn’t in ‘Tarnation,’ finding other stories torn from the same cloth in time. This is going to be like five or six self-contained short films, interwoven and intercutting between each other to lead up to the same story that goes back to some of the initial stories regarding my mom and I…It’s my mother and I again, but this time under imaginary circumstances, adjacent with ‘what if’ scenarios.

“I’ve acquired more footage since ‘Tarnation.’ There are more stories I want to get out of my body. It’ll be a good segue to making narrative films.” Caouette, it turns out, has a script waiting in the wings for what he thinks will be his first “official” foray into narrative filmmaking. But before he takes that on, he’s set to start shooting this film’s narrative sequences in December. Those scenes will be shot in Unionville, Pennsylvania, where the family of Caouette’s friends owns a hotel. On his process, Caouette adds, “To talk about my process in a linear way is difficult. A lot of the way that I work is very impromptu and fragmented. It’s very pastichey. I’ll shoot something and I don’t want it to sit on a shelf — or a hard drive. I’m always trying to think of how to use something that I’ve shot even if in it’s for a totally different reason for why I shot it.”

This will not necessarily be Caouette’s first film since “Tarnation.” He made the concert doc “All Tomorrow’s Parties” in 2009, and just released a short this year. The short, which premiered at the New York Film Festival combines documentary and fictional elements, with Caouette meshing footage of Chloe Sevigny and his grandfather together. He also had a 42-second film in the omnibus of shorts sponsored by the vodka brand 42 Below. Alongside of shorts, derived from dreams or nightmares, by James Franco, David Lynch, Sean Lennon, and Harmony Korine, Cauoette himself made his contribution, which in turn has helped move along his new project. But this film is a long time coming for Caouette, “I’ve been a perpetual caretaker for so long, for my mother and my grandfather until he needed to go away to an assisted living facility, where he passed away,” he said. “My mother is in one now. I was very against institutions, but it was a sacrifice.”

Caouette is producing in conjunction with Morgane Productions and a group of friends who are helping him digitize about 1000 hours of footage. He said he intends to take his new film out to the festival circuit by March. “I’m hoping it’s not too gratuitous or self-indulgent,” he said. “Anything over 90 minutes is going to be pigeonholed as self-indulgence. There is an array of interesting stuff. And some really great stories that I’d like to tell that I think will once again resonate with those who have a loved one who suffers from mental illness.”

More Projects:

“Small of Her Back”

An image from Russell Leigh Sharman’s “Small of Her Back.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: A suicidal shut-in. A man at her door. And neither are who they seem.

Production team: Writer/Director: Russell Leigh Sharman; Producer: Cheryl Harris Sharman; Director of Photography: Noah Yuan-Vogel; Editor: Eric Balgley; Production Designer: Brandon Giles

About the film: “‘Small of Her Back’ is based on a play, produced in New York in 2008. As a screenwriter working in the Hollywood studio system, I was constantly frustrated by the glacier pace of development. This project was born, in part, out of that frustration, and really began as a very small scale, experimental production of a piece that had proven itself on the stage. But enough talented people were inspired by the script to make it a much more involved, and ultimately more satisfying, project. Nicole Beharie, the female lead, brought an incredible energy to the character of Piper, a very challenging role. She’s both off-balance and completely in control, and Nicole never allowed the character to slip into a cliche of mental illness. And Chris Domig brought such a grounded, compassionate performance to a character that, in the end, is, well, less than sympathetic. Of course, they were supported by a talented, if tiny, crew crammed into a one-bedroom apartment for 10 days. Add 4 days of exteriors, and it was a whirlwind shooting schedule on shoestring budget. So far, the results are stunning. The film is coming together as a compelling, contained thriller – a kind of dark romance – that will keep folks on the edge of their seats despite being crammed in that little apartment all night with our two main characters.” — Russell Leigh Sharman

Current status: The team is currently in post-production, looking to have a fine cut ready by February. They hope to have a version ready for festivals in the spring.

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 on November 30.

“Trashed Nation”

A scene from Catherine Rhinehart’s “Trashed Nation.” [Photo courtesy of the filmmaker]

Logline: We throw away 100 billion pounds of food annually in the US. Dig in.

Production team: Writer/Director/Producer/Camera/Editor: Catherine Rhinehart; Editor: K. Ryan Jones; Executive Producer: Rocco Cafferelli; Sound: Murray Trider

About the film: “I had been living in New York for a few years, working in the food and beverage industry to put myself through school and just couldn’t believe all the food we would waste every day. Around the same time, I heard about the Freegans, a group of people who live off food they foraged from the trash. The Freegans were claiming so much food was wasted that anyone could live perfectly well off trash. i went 100% Freegan for a month, to get the real scoop. I first decided to take on the “Freegan challenge” almost as a joke, but when I started finding a lot of food, I found myself getting angrier and angrier, and then set out to find answers. Aren’t there millions of people who could use this food instead of letting it literally rot away? Food retailers will tell you they don’t donate their excess food because of liability concerns, but they have been protected from liability since 1996. The problem seems to be a combination of laziness and unawareness. I hope ‘Trashed Nation’ can get the word out, but also tell a funny and entertaining story at the same time.” — Catherine Rhinehart

Current status: The team is currently in post-production. They need a few animation segments, motion graphics, titles, color correction and a few other finishing touches.

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 $5,000 by the end of the campaign on December 3.

“Orange Sunshine”

A scene from William A. Kirkley’s “Orange Sunshine.” [Photo courtesy of the filmmaker]

Logline: “Orange Sunshine” is a feature-length documentary film on the Brotherhood of Eternal Love: A small group of surfers and outlaws who became the largest distributors of LSD and hash in the world in the mid-to-late sixties.

Production team: Writer/Director/Producer: William A Kirkley; Cinematographer/Producer: Rudiger Barth; Animation/Graphics/Additional Editing: Chris Friend; Asst. Editor/Web: Austin Butler

About the film: “What first drew me into this tale of these outlaw surfers was the many stories and reputations surrounding the group, and the fact that their impact was so large in my hometown of Southern California…And that I had never heard of them. Known as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, this Sixties era group started as a dozen guys wanting to change the world through LSD and ended up as many as 750 members moving tons of Hash and Cocaine and inventing the modern illegal drug trade. Rolling Stone magazine later dubbed them the Hippie Mafia.

“Stories of fake surf film shoots with boards stuffed with Hash. Stories of trading thousands of pairs of Levi’s with Sri Lankan natives for tons of marijuana. Stories of paying the Weathermen and Black Panthers to break their leader Tim Leary out of prison…The Brotherhood’s tale reads like a chronological cultural reflection of the Sixties movement. Music, surf culture, art and lifestyle, the Brotherhood may not have been known on a national scale but their influence can be seen touching many Sixties and Seventies icons. As you can imagine, many of these Brotherhood members didn’t want to be found. Most felons, some have reinvented their lives and have started families and new careers absent of their past. But most others have remained true to their youthful ideals and live an extension of their younger lives. And even some remained on the run. One of the most challenging forces on this film has been tracking these Brotherhood members down and convincing them to do an on-camera interviews. Its taken nearly four years of building up relationships and trust and we’ve managed to have a pretty high success rate.” — William A Kirkley

Current status: The team is in the middle of production, planning to be completed in the summer of 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 $30,000 by the end of the campaign on December 15.

Also in the Works:

According to Deadline, the Timur Bekmambetov-produced “Apollo 18,” just picked up by The Weinstein Company, will be directed by Spanish filmmaker Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego (“El rey de la montaña”). The details are here.

Over at The Playlist, the reports are that George Clooney is contemplating the lead role in Soderbergh’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” The full report here.

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