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Five Projects We’re Rooting For: ACT UP Doc, “Shoplifting from American Apparel” and More

Five Projects We're Rooting For: ACT UP Doc, "Shoplifting from American Apparel" and More

In this week’s in-production column, indieWIRE speaks with Scott Robbe, producer of an untitled ACT UP project. Also in the spotlight are three films from IndieGoGo: “Shoplifting from American Apparel” (one of our favorite titles); a documentary of women in rock; and an NYU thesis project about a newly svelte, newly womanizing young man. And we put a spotlight on a Kickstarter campaign from the Wallabout Film Festival, run by students at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute.

Untitled ACT UP Project

For Austin-based producer Scott Robbe, this project is personal; he joined ACT UP in 1987 as one of its founding members. “At that point, I was producing film and television in New York. I became aware of how often I would empty out the cards from my Rolodex. I would put them in a box beside the Rolodex and that pile would grow and grow. I took out 62 cards from 1987 to 1992… I was becoming very depressed and very angry. I needed some place to funnel that anger and to do something constructive to at least address the crisis that’s occurring in my life.”

Robbe and others found that in ACT UP, which organized protests like one in which Robbe and other members chained themselves to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to protest unethical business practices of pharmaceutical company Burroughs-Wellcome, the patent holder of anti-retroviral drug AZT.

The ACT UP documentary is directed by Ellen Spiro (“Body of War”) and executive produced by Gus Van Sant, who Robbe brought on board as the after convincing him that the story of ACT UP is one that needed to be told in order to “reenergize a whole new group of young people to tell them about the people that came before them.”

Robbe hopes the film will inspire a new generation to become involved in direct-action campaigns. “ACT UP speaks about the need to turn anger into action. ACT UP had everything from stock brokers to PR executives to producers and directors, artists like Keith Haring. We took control of a situation that was completely out of hand and the government was doing nothing about it, the health care, at the national level.”

Robbe promises this project will not look like “your standard documentary,” noting the urgency of his message by saying, “There is a sense of futility and resignation, that the powers that control us are too large and too powerful to be battled. That’s never true.”

For more information on the project and to see a trailer of the film, visit Robbe’s website at http://feedyourheadtv.com.

More Projects:

“Shoplifting from American Apparel”

An image from Pirooz Kalayeh’s “Shoplifting from American Apparel.” [Image courtesy of the director.]

Logline: Part absurdist documentary and part cinematic realism, “Shoplifting from American Apparel” moves between the life of the writer, Tao Lin, who wrote the novella on which the film is based, to the mishaps of a ragtag film crew who challenge each other to create certain scenes and see their unnecessary stunts go horribly wrong.

Production team: Director: Pirooz Kalayeh; Producer: Mark Parsia; Co-Producer & Composer: Sonny Mishra; Director of Photography: Andrew Crighton; Editor: Stephanie Shyu; Animator: Brian Lee

About the film: “This film is a product of the popular novella by Tao Lin, from which it has been adapted, and the curiosity of what would happen if we melded documentary, faux documentary and narrative elements. I wanted to blur the lines between fiction and reality to see if it would change our perception of what is good and bad in film. The idea is that by having the real writers associated with the novella in the film side-by-side with professional actors, and then interplaying text, animation, improvisation, and actual documentary footage in a non-linear fashion, that what we would originally conceive of being a “good” film would broaden, and eventually be modified according to what environmental factors (low budget, missing actor, forgotten line, etc.) the production crew would face.” — Pirooz Kalayeh

Current Status: The team is currently in production. They have filmed 1/3 of the film and are hoping to complete filming in June.

For more information and to support this film: IndieGoGo Page. The team is seeking to reach their $10,000 goal by May 31.

More projects on the next page

“The Girls in the Band”

An image from Judy Chaikin’s “The Girls in the Band.” [Image courtesy of director]

Logline: When the world told them they couldn’t play, they did it anyway!

Production team: Director/Producer: Judy Chaikin; Executive Producer/Producer: Michael Greene; Editor: Edward Osei-Gyimah; Line Producer/Post-Production Supervisor: Nancy Kossock

About the film: “When I was 14 years old and playing trumpet in the junior high school band, I was daily confronted by the dread of having to sit between Don Bustamante and Dave Sinoff while they made lewd jokes about my pubescent anatomy as if I wasn’t even there. ‘Hey man, check out those mutes.’ If that happened to me today, I would like to think that as a modern girl I would just turn to them and say ‘F- off, you assholes.’ But back then, I was a nice girl. I’ve since learned my lessons. One of the things I learned is that what I experienced on a very small scale in junior high school was no different than what women musicians had been experiencing for years. (How some of these women made it through the harassment, embarrassment and deprecation that was continually heaped on them was nothing short of a miracle.)

“As happens with so many women who are not allowed to enter a field they love, I married someone in the field… in my case, a big band/jazz musician. Through him I gained access into an exclusive world of musical artistry, creative genius and the joyful exuberance that is part and parcel of that wonderful world. But, never once on that rollicking road did I ever meet a female artist who was anything other than a singer. Then in 2005 a friend told me she had met a woman who said she’d been a big band drummer in the ’40s. At first I doubted her, then I became intrigued… “Was it possible there women who had successfully cracked the male world of jazz?” That simple question led me on quest that opened up an entirely new world. Along the way I met some of the most fascinating women I’ve ever encountered and learned stories that few people have ever heard. This film is my tribute to their courage and musical artistry, which has never been properly celebrated. It’s also an homage to my 14-year-old self who has never stopped loving jazz, music and the golden sound of a trumpet.” — Judy Chaikin

Current status: The film is completed. The team is now raising the final funds to pay for the art work, graphics, duplication and packaging of the DVD.

For more information and to support this film, visit its IndieGoGo page. The team is seeking to reach their $15,000 goal by March 31.

Beds Made & Sweaters On

A publicity image from Lee Manansala’s “Beds Made and Sweaters On.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: For the first 24 years of his life, Louis was overweight, lonely and experienced rejection so often he thought he’d have to endure it his entire life. So, with his hard-earned good looks and new confidence, Louis lives the life he feels he deserves — random encounters with beautiful women, a closet filled with high-end clothing and care for little else.

Production team: Writer/Director: Lee Manansala; Producers: Ryan Heller, Bella Wing-Davey, Isabella Wing-Davey, Powder Room Films; Director of Photography: Michael Rossetti; Editor: Jeremy Brunjes

About the film: “I came to New York from San Francisco five years ago and I’m physically and emotionally unrecognizable from the person I was in 2006 — I never saw it coming (I’m just a hair under 80 pounds lighter and much snarkier and cynical than I once was). I remember getting down to 150 pounds and deciding, ‘I won’t be happy until I’m at 145.’ Then I hit 145 and thought, ‘145 is good, 140 would be better.’ I don’t know if I had an eating disorder, but I was flirting with the 130’s, running three miles a day and took particular pleasure in the fact that I fit into extra-small shirts and size 28 jeans; for whatever reason (maybe because this way of thinking was completely foreign to me until I started losing weight), I find the whole thing really interesting and see the basis for a really good character. For me, ‘Beds Made’ is really a movie about being young and living in New York, but I’ve come to know well that being a young New Yorker entails a lot of things – going through personal sea change, being self-conscious, having body image issues, and just trying to be happy with yourself.” — Lee Manansala

Current Status: The project is currently in pre-production and still fundraising.

For more information and to support this film: “We’re all cast, but wouldn’t turn our noses to anyone who’d like to volunteer on the crew! We begin lensing on the first week of April. Please write to bedsmade@gmail.com with any inquiries, and if you’d like to make a contribution, again, please write to bedsmade@gmail.com.” — Lee Manansala

Special Feature: Wallabout Film Festival on Kickstarter

An image of the audience of last year’s Wallabout Film Festival. [Photo courtesy of the festival website]

Short Description of Wallabout: The Wallabout Film Festival is Pratt Institute’s interdisciplinary student-run film festival of short student films. The third edition will take place on Wednesday, April 20 at the BAM Rose Cinemas and includes an after-party in the BAMcafé.

Wallabout’s Mission Statement: Wallabout is for students, by students. The festival is a professional showcase for the work of student filmmakers from around the country and around the world and helps provide emerging filmmakers with access to NYC’s film industry professionals.

Plans for the campaign: The Kickstarter campaign was created to supplement the small budget the students receive from Pratt to organize the entire event from scratch. All funds will go directly towards Wallabout – including contributing towards the venue rental, the reception costs, design and program materials, filmmaker hospitality and everything else not fully covered by the existing budget.

For more information and to support Wallabout: Kickstarter page.The team is seeking to reach their $2,000 goal by April 28.

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