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In the Works: Soldier Returns Home…With a Twist, Jobriath Doc, War on Drugs, and More

In the Works: Soldier Returns Home...With a Twist, Jobriath Doc, War on Drugs, and More

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.


Writer/Director: Liza Johnson
Producers: Ben Howe, Noah Harlan
Executive Producers: Abigail Disney, Amy Rapp, Meredith Vieira
Director of Photography: Anne Etheridge
Editor: Paul Zucker
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Michael Shannon, John Slattery, Louisa Krause

Liza Johnson, known for her short films, installation works, and avant garde cinema, is soon ready to debut her first foray into a more straightforward narrative film. “Return” follows a soldier, played by Linda Cardellini (“Freaks and Geeks,” “Brokeback Mountain”), as she returns from a tour in the armed forces. Speaking with indieWIRE about coming to the project, Johnson said, “There’s a lot of common experiences between men and women. I actually came to this story by talking to my male friend about his experiences. It was through talking with him about his divorce and stuff, that was sort of my first point of interest. He introduced me to a lot of his colleagues. Through him and through other means, I did meet a lot of women soldiers. We did a lot of research with women who have been deployed. Linda did her own research in LA at the VA hospital, through other contacts and friends. My friend is not like the character in the film.”

While Johnson doesn’t see this as an “issue” film specifically about the troubles women face coming back from military service, she does see great value in telling this kind of story, “Since I started working on the film, there’s been a little more news and a little more public understanding. I’ve been impressed with the work that women have done to tell their stories. It’s still a bit of an untold stories. What does it feel like to be such a person? The icons of these wars are these women who are strongly cast as a person who needs to be rescued or is a perpetrator. The character in my film is a regular person who just has to go back to everyday life. How do you negotiate that, when you’ve been in a very extreme world and people are in an everyday world. There can be dissonance.”

Reflecting on the process of shooting this film, Johnson added, “Over the summer, we decided to move the production upstate [New York] in Newburgh, Beacon, and New Windsor. That area reminds me a lot of the town where I grew up, an Ohio river town that has been greatly affected by the economy, which is a town like the one where the script is set. Industry and some that didn’t survive. It has the tone that the script has. On our last day of the shoot in Newburgh, a water main broke and the water started coming out brown. We looked around and it seemed like a sign that we shot in the right place.”

In addition to finding a location that fit the story, casting the main character was essential to a successful film. “I cast Linda because she’s a very warm person. That was really important. Other people who are very good actors are just inside themselves. She’s really good because she’s really warm and you can feel that in her work. She’s kind of awesome in ‘Scooby Doo 2.’ That’s the one that put me over the edge. It’s a big broad comedy, but she can do very miniature acting. So I was like, ‘Okay, she’s my girl.’ Michael Shannon plays her husband. For me, it was really exciting to watch him be a romantic lead, a non-psychopathic character. He really seems like that, the type of guy you might want to be married to. Often, I see him be a brooding person, so it was exciting to see him be a really charming guy.”

Audiences will be able to get to see the fruits of Johnson’s labor next year. The final cut of “Return” is in the works, with shooting wrapping up earlier this fall.

More Projects

“Jobriath, A.D.”

An image from Kieran Turner’s “Jobriath, A.D.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: Called “The American Bowie,” “The True Fairy of Rock & Roll” and “Hype of the Year,” Jobriath’s reign as the first openly gay rock star was brief and over by 1975. Now, 35 years later, “Jobriath A.D.” spotlights his life, music, groundbreaking influence and the new generations of fans slowly re-discovering him.

Production Team: Director/Producer/Writer: Kieran Turner; Cinematographer: Micahel Canzoniero & PJ Gaynard; Editor: Danny Bresnik

About the film: “Over the years, I had periodically come across Jobriath in a very snide way, both in reading about rock and GLBT history. He was always treated as the punchline to a very derogatory joke. About three years ago, I got my hands on the compilation CD of his music that Morrissey had recently put out on his own label and to my amazement, the music was fantastic and beautiful and haunting. I began researching his life and I found a person who had really broken ground for openly gay musicians, he was the first, and has largely been unacknowledged by that same community for so many years.

“Beyond that, I was struck by how fascinating Jobriath’s story was because he reinvented himself so many times, from a hippie flower child who had starred in Hair onstage to this glam rock creature, to a Weimar era cabaret singer who entertained in NYC bars, not to mention the various personal identities he adopted. But what I really identified with was- here was this person, all he wanted to do was make music, make some kind of art, and he was kept from doing that because whatever powers that be didn’t deem it worthy. And it destroyed him. And he’s been forgotten, which is criminal because you couldn’t have anyone from Rufus Wainwright to kd lang to Adam Lambert without first having had Jobriath pave the way. But the most important thing is- the music is incredible. And it doesn’t matter what your sexuality or gender or age is to be able to enjoy it. Finding people to participate has been both exhilarating and frustrating, but I love research and finding things so it was a great challenge. I’ve found so many people from all areas of Jobriath’s life and career and it’s been difficult because he was so compartmentalized.” — Kieran Turner

Current Status: The film is mostly shot, and the team hopes to finish the film by September 2011.

For more information and to support the film: Please visit the film’s Facebook page.

“Prohibition: A Modern Addiction”

An image from Shane Ward’s “Prohibition: A Modern Addiction.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker.]

Logline: “Prohibition: A Modern Addiction” is a cinematic feature length documentary film that charts a course through the highly‐charged, surprising, often‐controversial (and occasionally bizarre) effort that is the global “war on drugs.” Mixing animation, graphics, live footage, interview and archive material, it travels the world to examine the effects of the drug war in order to answer a simple question: What causes more harm to our world, drugs or prohibition?

Production Team: Director/Producer: Shane Ward; Associate Producer: Natalie Samson

About the film: “I had been interested in the issue for a while, and when I found myself frustrated at the slow pace of developing my other feature drama projects, I decided to take on something else that dealt with an issue that was both close to my heart and was also something where I could help make a difference. I started to research the subject and the other films that had been made in this area and found that there was a real missing link. There was nothing out there that tackled the global picture of the drug war in a joined up way, and very few people knew much about it really. I decided right there that if I could succeed in making something that was big, bold, startling and entertaining – then I could have a real chance at making a difference. When the majority of people have a common level of understanding in this issue there will be votes in it for politicians willing to address change. That is really the goal of the film.” — Shane Ward

Current status: The team is in pre-production on the film, looking for relevant groups and film professionals to work with on the project.

For more information and to support the film: Please visit the film’s Indie GoGo page.

“Billi and Theodore”

An image from Ronald Short’s “Billi and Theodore.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: Theodore shows up on Billi’s doorstep sporting a black eye. Billi hasn’t seen her best friend in three years. After some convincing, Theodore reveals that his abusive girlfriend is responsible for the bruise and that he needs Billi’s help to retrieve his things and to end it for good.

Production Team: Writer/Director/Producer: Ronald Short; Producer: Kate Calahan; Director of Photography: Clifton Radford; Cast: Jordan Mcrae, Travis Emery

About the Film: “I had originally written a film that I came to realize would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. So, I set out to write something I could make for a lot less. That’s when I came up with Billi and Theodore. The original idea was a short film where two guys go to break it off with one of their crazy girlfriends and get their stuff. But I started to give the idea more thought. Instead of two guys, why not make one a lesbian? Why not make this a roadtrip that really should have never been a roadtrip? I mean, a four and a half hour drive should take a day to complete there and back, but fate steps in and gives these two best friends who haven’t seen each other in three years a chance to reconnect. When I started writing, I found myself adding elements from my friendships in the past into the script. It started to become more personal and my desire to make it a reality grew stronger. Now, a year and one month after writing it, I’m still busting ass to make this thing a reality. It looks like we may finally be able to film in February if we can lock all the funding down by then.” — Ronald Short

Current Status: We are currently in pre-production and looking for the elusive element of funding to lock it all down.

For more information and to support the film: Please visit the film’s Indie GoGo page.

“Another Bullet Dodged”

Logline: “Another Bullet Dodged” is a short film about a wolf in sheep’s clothing who thinks he is a sheep. More specifically, it concerns a well behaved fun-loving twentysomething chap who ends up doing something absolutely terrible while trying to solve a problem with an old flame, and gets away with it.

Production team: Director/Co-Writer: Landon Zakheim; Producer/Co-Writer: Todd Luoto; Producer: Siobhan Mahoney; Director of Photography: Justin Gurnari; Cast: Anthony Deptula, Jennifer Landon

About the film: “Structured in the form of an erratic memory, “Another Bullet Dodged” is a quick and brutal examination of an event in a young relationship after it’s deteriorated. Ultimately, its a fairly bleak and relentless message – the idea that regardless of your impression of those around you, everyone you know is capable of terrible things, and life goes on no matter what, often without repercussions. It’s very important that we make this short the down and dirty way, with our entire crew and cast made up of like-minded friends who understand the spirit of what we want to do, rather than hired professionals. We’re big fans of the short form as well, as we find it one of the more interesting and innovative mediums to tell a story, as opposed to just a jumping-off point for a feature.” — Todd Luoto

“To be honest, I’m getting to an age where you begin to look at your past choices differently, and have been reflecting on the world through a more mature set of eyes. My last short was a basically an absurd 2-minute gag film, and while I’m very happy with how that turned out, it seemed about time to set a movie in the real world, and address some things that have been on my mind for a while.” — Landon Zakheim

Current status: The team is planning to shoot in December, and are aiming for a festival debut in May.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page.

Also In the Works

Deadline Hollywood has word that Andy Harries, whose production credits include “The Queen” is set to produce a film about the schoolchildren in teh chorus of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”

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