Ezra Caton (Will Arnett) has the mayor's beautiful daughter (Brooke Smith) for a lover and the church for a vocation but he's still struggling with his family's dark history. Into his life comes Clio, an ethereal 20-year-old runaway (Naked Angels member Missy Yager) fleeing a father whose affection has crossed the line into abuse. "Life is complicated and Ezra makes choices based on his own spiritual state rather than for the good of his community," says director Nagy. "Some of his actions may be ambiguous but [I think] that's more interesting than being obvious - explaining everything away can be reductive."
After graduating from Yale in '92, Nagy spent a year managing a family farm in Maryland and honing his writing skills. The Broken Giant got off the ground when Nagy joined forces with Yale pal Jeff Clifford, a Wall Street consultant turned director of distribution for Troma, and his lawyer friend Jon Cohen, also a refugee from Wall Street. Cohen's parents had a house on Isleboro - an island off the coast of Maine - the filmmakers could use as an operational base. Nearby was a deconsecrated National Historic Landmark church they could also use. The Wall Streeters then solicited equity shares in a limited partnership. "It's certainly less than a million but not credit card shoestring," says Clifford.
The 35mm Giant shot on Isleboro for 24 days this past fall, relocating 40 New York cast and crew to a town with an off-season population of 500. "Inexpensive lobster was a huge bonus and a selling point for the crew coming up from New York," says Clifford. NYU film school cinematography star Garrett Fisher (Secret Santa) served as Giant's d.p. and David Leonard (Palookaville, Nadja) as the film's editor. Will Oldham, whose band Palace is known for its off-kilter bluegrass tunes, is composing Giant's score and contributing four original songs. The filmmakers expect to screen a finished print in late March; all rights are available.
Cast: Brooke Smith, John Glover, Missy Yager, Will Arnett, George Dickerson, Chris Noth, Joseph Coleman, Fritz Michel. Crew: Producers, Jeffrey Clifford, Jonathan Cohen; Screenwriter/ Director, Estep Nagy; Director of Photography, Garrett Fisher; Production Design, Michael Krantz; Editor, David Leonard; Casting, Carder Stout; Music, Will Oldham. Contact: Jeffrey Cliff-ord, Blue Guitar Films, 181 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013. Tel: (212) 941-9059, Fax: (212) 966-3975.
Seventeen-year-old Lincoln Bloom has a girlfriend but he suspects he might be more interested in men. His quest to discover his true self collides numerous, disparate communities - large Jewish families, suburban teens, Vietnamese immigrants and small-town gay life.
Sachs spent his first 18 years in Memphis before leaving for Yale and has spent the last decade in New York working in theater and film, including stints reading scripts for Martin Scorsese and as an assistant to both Eric Bogosian and Norman Rene. His 1994 half-hour short, Lady, a Warholesque meditation on sexual ambiguity, premiered at Sundance and screened extensively on the festival circuit. Sachs and producer Margot Bridger raised the "somewhat under half-a-million" necessary to shoot the 16mm Delta through a limited partnership and headed south last spring for sixmonths' immersion in the Memphis youth scene to soak up local ambience, cast, rehearse and scout locations.
"We were looking for kids who could instantly create characters and stay with them, naturals who wouldn't be self conscious in front of the camera," says Sachs, who trolled clubs, rave parties and pool halls to find non-actors with the goods. He also looked for original regional music - local rave, punk and old rhythm and blues bands - he could get cheap for Delta's soundtrack. All other costs had to be contained to allow for the high shooting ratio Sachs says had to be his number one priority. Sachs expects to have a finished film in May; all rights are available.
Cast: Shayne Gray, Thang Chan, Rachel Zan Huss, Nhan Van Dong, Colonius Davis. Crew: Producer, Margot Bridger; Screenwriter/Director, Ira Sachs; Director of Photography, Ben Speth; Production Designer, Bernhard Blythe; Editor, Affonso Goncalves. Contact: Margot Bridger, Charlie Guidance Productions, 225 Lafayette Street, #602, New York, NY 10012. Tel: (212) 431-0147, Fax: (212) 431-5135.
Fame cuts between three interwoven stories examining our culture's lust for that elusive state when everybody knows your name. The triptych includes an all-American tennis star hounded by rumors that he's gay, a trust-fund brat on a demonic quest for celebrity and an idealized innocent so isolated he's created a six-foot Saint Bernard as an imaginary friend. "To me, the 1990s are all about fame - cruising to claim it, desperate to hold on to it, trying to resuscitate it," says Moritsugu. "The tennis subculture is at least as weird as the punk underground, and the movie's an indictment of our obsession with celebrity and fame.
Moritsugu was the bad boy of the Brown semiotics program - whose '80s grads include some dozen major indie influences like Todd Haynes and Christine Vachon. He'd made five shorts before the 70-minute My Degeneration got him anointed as a talent to be reckoned with at Sundance '90. Around then Moritsugu got a $100,000 settlement from a 1988 industrial accident in which he almost lost an arm; Fame is the third no-budget feature he's financed since.
To get Fame made Moritsugu reunited with Mod Fuck Explosion producer Andrea Sperling (Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day, Doom Generation). They shot the 16mm color film over 15 days in San Francisco last November, including a week in a $1,200-a-day suite at a five-star hotel they got for free.
At press time Moritsugu was editing Fame in his living room on a six-plate KEM. Benny Goodman trumpet player Mel Davis, Moritsugu's father-in-law, is composing a jazz score for Fame's tennis section and Moritsugu's planning underground punk rock and public domain music and effects for the film's other sections. He says Fame will be finished by July; all rights are available.
Cast: Peter Friedrich, Victor of Acquitaine, Amy Davis, Jason Rail, Michael Fitzpatrick, Izabela Wojcik. Crew: Producers, Andrea Sperling, Jon Moritsugu; Screenwriter/Director/Editor, Morit-sugu; Director of Photography, Sarah Leech; Production Designer, Jennifer Gentile; Sound, Adrian, Roko Belic. Contact: Andrea Sperling, Blurco, 1933 Grace Avenue, #14, Los Angeles, CA 90068. Tel/Fax: (213) 850-7538.
Elaine's an aggressive, overachieving black attorney with a shambles of a love life; Sarah's a free-spirited New Yorker; and Annie's an ever-understanding lesbian earth mother. The drama unfolds when the trio stumble upon a holdup and Elaine turns out to have a gun. ("I'm your worst nightmare: a black woman without her housekeys.")
Carruth grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from Williams College, and had successful careers in banking and advertising before her search for a creative outlet led her to Northwestern's film program (where she met producers Jonathan Adler and Kelly Luchtman). On a whim, she called John Canning, Jr., a top Chicago venture capitalist and lunch partner from her banking days, and gave him Girlfriends' script. Canning came in, committing the "under a million" dollars necessary to shoot Girlfriends in 35mm and launch Carruth's ISS (I'm Still Standing) Productions.
Girlfriends shot for three weeks in October with Scott Erlinder, a second unit d.p. on many studio shoots, behind the camera; other crew members learned on the job. "Our wardrobe mistress may not have had any film experience, but she definitely knew clothes," says Carruth. Most of the film takes place outside with Magnificent Mile, Chicago's Fifth Avenue, a key location.
The filmmakers expect to have an answer print in March. Lisa Brooks, who Carruth describes as an undiscovered female vocalist in the vein of k.d. lang, is writing five original songs that could be the basis for a soundtrack album. All rights are available.
Cast: Jaqueline Fleming, Bethany Anderson, McKinley Carter, Michael Spitz, Ethan Kent, Linda Fontaine, Eric Danson. Crew: Producers: Marlies Carruth, Kelly Luchtman, Jonathan Adler; Screen-writer/Director, Carruth; Executive Producers: John A. Canning Jr., Marlies Carruth; Director of Photography, Scott Erlinder; Costumes, Josie Miner; Editor, Scott Marvel; Music, Lisa Brooks. Contact: Jonathan Adler, ISS Productions, 155 North Michigan Ave., Suite 623, Chicago, IL 60601. Tel: (312) 616-4461, Fax: (312) 565-7118.
Director Rod McCall's second feature starts out with convicts-on-the-run Lewis and Clark stranded in the desert and looking for gold. Meanwhile, femme fatale George uses her waifish wiles to scam rides and steal cars. George is full of secrets, and her biggest one is whether she can't talk or just won't. Clark falls fast and hard the minute he lays eyes on George. Lewis knows she's trouble and doesn't buy her story, but there's an undeniable sexual tension between the two of them too. "It's about rediscovering America but it's also a real metaphor for where the country's at today - romantic, greedy and violent," says McCall.
McCall had created segments for tv shows like "Sesame Street" and "Saturday Night Live," made a short that went to the New York Film Festival (Pinball Wizard) and had an illustrious career as a commercial director (five Clios) before he turned to features. His $1 million first film, Paper Hearts, starred Sally Kirkland and played Sundance '93; Trimark gave it a brief release last year as Cheatin' Hearts.
McCall says Lewis & Clark sprang from his regular commute across the desert between his home in rural New Mexico and L.A. After several false starts he hooked up with Denise Calls Up producer J. Todd Harris, who'd formed Davis Entertainment Classics with established Hollywood producer John Davis (The Firm) to produce low-budget films. Like Denise, Harris raised the $1 million to shoot Lewis & Clark in 35mm from private equity.
Lewis & Clark shot for three weeks last November in and around McCall's New Mexico home town. The filmmakers will have a rough cut by the time you read this; all rights are available.
Next up for Harris is a March start for another $1 million film, Ghost in the Machine, an adaptation of Steppenwolf Theater playwright David Gilman's piece about the disintegration of trust and friendship between two couples who spend a weekend together at a Northeastern college.
Cast: Rose McGowan, Salvator Xuereb, Dan Gunther, Art Lafleur, James Brolin, Paul Bartel, Aki Aleong. Crew: Producers, J. Todd Harris, Dan Gunther; Executive Producer, John Davis; Screenwriter/Director, Rod McCall; Director of Photography, Michael Mayers; Production Design, John Huke; Costumes, Kari Perkins; Music Supervisor, Bob Knickman; Composer, Ben Vaughn. Contact: J. Todd Harris, Davis Entertainment Classics, 2121 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 2900, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Tel: (310) 551-2266, Fax: (310) 556-3760.
First-time director Paul Bernard snagged the likes of Corey Glover, Giancarlo Esposito and soap opera star Robin Strasser for supporting roles as well as a cameo by Charlie Sheen; Sherry Ham, Bernard's wife and Women's author, plays Rachel.
Bernard, 27, studied film at the University of South Carolina and apprenticed as a director with five years of production gigs, including first a.d. stints with John Badham, Terry Gilliam and Neil Jordan. "When you spend 90 days as right hand to these guys, you learn," he says. "And since all the films I've done have been $50 million and over, I've met a lot of big names - technicians as well as actors - who agreed to sign on when I took my shot."
Loose Women's crew is studded with names like supervising editor Mercedes Danevic, who got an Oscar nod for editing Amadeus and happens to be Bernard's sister-in-law (his brother's Sony Pictures Classics partner Tom Bernard).
Because Bernard worked rock shoots between movies, he also made musician friends like Hootie and the Blowfish guitarist Mark Bryan, who'll write several songs for Women's soundtrack. "It's a $2 million film that will look like $5 million," says Bernard.
For all Bernard's connections, financing Loose Women depended on a chance introduction to indie director J.D Matonti (Cassian's Kids) and his new production company, INMotion Entertainment last fall. Matonti and partners Chris Matonti, his brother, and James Scura had secured an investment fund to produce low-budget films and agreed to send Loose Women out of the gate first. Bernard rehearsed his actors for three months before Women's three-week shoot started February 10. Locations ranged from Grand Central Station and The Hewitt School on New York's East Side to a New Jersey mansion and a "vampire" bar, Boom. Bernard's planning an '80s music soundtrack and should have a finished film this summer. All rights are available.
Cast: Sherry Ham, Melissa Errico, Marialisa Costanza, Corey Glover, Tom Verica, Amy Llyod, Keith David, Giancarlo Esposito, Stephen Lang, Robin Strasser, Mark Metcalf, Dechen Thurman, Victor Collicchio and Charlie Sheen. Crew: Producers, Chris Matonti, Paul Bernard; Executive Producers, J.D. Matonti, James Scura; Line Producer: Sylvia Caminer; Director, Bernard; Screenwriter, Sherry Ham; Director of Photography, Peter Reniers; Production Designer, Tim Sheehy; Supervising Editor, Mercedes Danevic; Editor, Marie Pierre. Contact: Chris Matonti, INMotion Entertainment, Inc., 375 Greenwich St., Suite 524, New York, NY 10013. Tel: (212) 941- 2002, Fax: (212) 941-2439.
Berenger plays an ex-cop fumbling towards salvation after being shot in the kidneys and finding himself dependent on dialysis. Retired and leading a reclusive life teaching crime writing at a small southern college, Berenger is forced to get back on the horse when a beautiful widow (Four Rooms' Valeria Golino) comes to him for help clearing her name in her husband's murder.
Now 28, Breziner first raised Hollywood eyebrows when her highly stylized 20-minute short, Lifted, aired on Showtime and The Movie Channel in 1992. Although Breziner had already acquired rights to Harry Crews' novel Car and intended that project as her second feature, she was still struggling to pay off Tollbooth debts when Robert Greenwald and New Regency producer David Matalon came to her with Hell last spring. "I thought I could do something really different with the material and I'd always wanted to work with Tom [Berenger] - I pitched it to him verbally and he said `yes,'" says Breziner.
The $5 - 6 million Hell is the first project for the producers' new Greenlight Productions, which they've financed to the tune of a $22 million credit line for four features with an average budget of $5 million. Whereas New Regency productions come out through Warner Brothers, Matalon and Greenwald can shop Greenlight films at their discretion. In January, Initial Entertainment Group - Small World Sales principals' Cindy Cowan and Graham King's year-old production venture - acquired international rights to sell Hell on Greenlight's behalf.
The 35mm Hell shot in Charleston, South Carolina for seven weeks this fall, wrapping out by Christmas. Breziner reports that the inconsistent weather at that time of year - day-to-day fluctuations between a frosty 30 degrees and a brilliant 80 degrees - lent the look of the film a kind of odd majesty. The film should be finished by the end of April and rights are available through Initial. At press time Breziner was scheduling an April start for her third film, the absolutely independent Fast Sofa, described as a nihilistic Gen-X road trip and slated to star Jake Busey (Gary's son), Fairuza Balk and Rose McGowan. Tollbooth comes out from Arrow in late May.
Cast: Tom Berenger, Valeria Golino, Kari Wuhrer, Robert Davi, Stephen Lang, Richard Edson, Geoffrey Lewis, Danny Comden, Ellen Green. Crew: Producers, David Matalon, Robert Greenwald, George Moffly, Allan Apone; Executive Producers, Tom Berenger, Bill Macdonald; Screenwriter, Randall Silvis; Director, Salome Breziner; Director of Photography, Mauro Fiore; Production Designer, Mauricio De Aguinaco; Locations, Arthur Howe; Editor, Gib Jaffe. Contact: David Matalon, New Regency, 4000 Warner Blvd., Building 66, Burbank, CA 91522. Tel:(818) 954-3838, Fax: (818) 954-2636.
Rudy Blue's a 30-year-old high school history teacher still living at home in New Jersey with his domineering mother, a self-styled opera diva, and his brother Karl, a concert prodigy until a car accident scrambled his synapses. The crash also killed Rudy's father, a prominent composer, and Rudy has let his sense of culpability - he was behind the wheel - define his life since then. An odd man out in his family for his absence of musical talent, Rudy's acutely aware of his mom's resentment and when the possibility of a way out of his tortured life at home arrives in the form of a romance with the school's sexy new librarian, he makes some choices.
"People can get trapped in situations beyond their control like this," says Werner. "The film's about what happens if you wait too long to take a chance on your life."
At 35, Werner's a seasoned production vet who's mostly made a living writing, directing and producing commercials and promos. After a higher-budget project stalled, he wrote Rudy specifically for locations he knew he could get and an actor, Brian Sullivan, he'd known since film school at the New York Institute of Technology.
Werner and Sullivan put up the bulk of the "under $100,000" to get Rudy Blue in the can on 16mm themselves, and say they'll seek completion financing in post once Werner's wife Barbara, a freelance AVID editor, cuts a trailer. Rudy Blue's 21-day New Jersey shoot began February 12 in Maplewood, New Jersey. The actresses playing Rudy's mom (Lauren Klein) and Eve (Tari Signor) come to the film from off-Broadway's Death Defying Acts; Peter Stebbings, who plays Karl, co-starred in "The X Files" (and stars in the Canadian tv series "Madison"), and Spike Lee regular George Odom, the dad in Straight Out of Brooklyn, has a small role.
Werner's planning to hire musicians to record classical and opera music in the public domain for Rudy's mix and Kenny Musto is scoring blues music. Werner expects to have a rough cut and polished trailer by early April; all rights are available.
Cast: Brian Sullivan, Lauren Klein, Peter Stebbings, Tari Signor, George Odom, Kevin Nagle. Crew: Producers, John Werner, Brian Sullivan, Mary McCarthy, Kevin Hewitt; Associtate Producer, Thomas Werner; Line Producer, John Sullivan; Production Manager, Michael Albanese; Screenwriter/Director, John Werner; Director of Photography, Kevin Hewitt; Production Designer, Isen Robbins; Editor, Barbara Werner; Musical Supervisor, Pete Demeo. Contact: John Werner, Full Moon Films, Inc., 28 Nassau Road, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043. Tel/Fax: (201) 783-5266.
Sam's a 17-year-old small town girl who arrives in New York to study architecture with nothing but the pack on her back. Sam's entranced by the East Village, but soon finds herself out on the street with no cash or resources. She can't call her parents - they didn't want her to leave - and the grandmother who prepaid her first semester's tuition has died, so Sam's forced to fend for herself as best she can.
Vetter started as a studio musician and moved into record production in 1975 when he opened Blank Tapes Recording Studios - for ten years one of the country's top studios and the source of breakthrough albums for Madonna, the Talking Heads and the B-52s. He sold Blank Tapes in 1987 to concentrate on film and has since produced or line produced several indie features, including current fest circuit entry Sweet Nothing, starring Michael Imperioli, and concert films like Stolen Moments and Red Hot + Country, both for the Red Hot Organization.
Vetter called in a lot of chips to get experienced crew for a price he could afford (read defer) and hired editor Amanda Pollack after calling seasoned editors and quizzing them about assistants ready to cut a feature solo. Vetter picked the debuting actress who plays Sam out of 500 hopefuls and used local band members and club kids in small roles for authenticity.
Sam was shot on Super-16mm this December for minimal hard cash. ("We paid for film, processing and lunch," says Vetter.) Sam's soundtrack, which Eddie and Shane Vetter are producing along with Bobby Heller, will be released by a new independent music label, featuring cuts from staple East Village acts Shift, Orange 9mm, Home 33, Sweet Diesel, Killing Time, Moses, Loaded, VOD (Vision of Disorder), The Stitches, and Samsara, in which Shane Vetter plays guitar. At press time Vetter was editing on a rented Steenbeck in his office and planning two days of pickups; all rights remained available.
Cast: Victoria Spiro, Shane Vetter, Karen Stanion, Jay Ecker, Alethea Allen, Doug Gorenstein. Crew: Producers, Richie Vetter, Mark DeAngelis; Executive Producer, Bobby Heller; Screenwriters, Richie Vetter, Shane Vetter; Director, Richie Vetter; Director of Photography, Robert Lechterman; Locations, Peter Foley; Costumes, Leah Levine; Casting, Meredith Jacobson; Editor, Amanda Pollack. Contact: Richie Vetter, Last Resort Films, 101 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011. Tel/Fax: (212) 627-9020.
David Hitchcock's losing his wife, Lily, because he's become so obsessed with recording their lives on video. Filtering everything through the camera lens, he deals with reality only in playback mode. Shooting Lily's about his obsessive attempt to understand their break through old tapes which document the progress of their marriage. Shades of Sex, Lies and Videotape? Borman says not. "I use the home movies to mock their history and play with point of view, and the tone I'm trying to establish is closer to Albert Brooks."
A native of Detroit and graduate of UCLA's School of Film and Television, Borman cut his teeth directing PSAs and music videos for Motown Records before meeting producer Richard Raddon, who put together the "low six-figure" budget to shoot Lily mostly in 35mm color through private investments. (The video/home movie sequences we see David shoot and watch, roughly a third of the total film, were shot in Hi-8 before being blown up to 35mm.) Borman reports much of the film's actual cash budget went for travel - scenes were shot in Paris, Mexico and Las Vegas. Because Lily is the story of two people who want to be together but part company at the beginning of the film, Borman had to use David's videos to depict a nuanced relationship that makes the audience root for an eventual reunion, and that meant the videos had to be more engaging than the average vacation diary. "We mocked five years in this couple's life in three weeks," says Borman, "changing hair styles, furniture and cars and staging their wedding, bridal shower and birthday parties." At press time the filmmakers were locking picture and gearing up to mix sound; all rights are still available.
Cast: Matt Winston, Amy Smallman, Roy Jenkins, Mike Hitchcock, Deborah Theaker, Kelly Kidneigh, Burt Goodman. Crew: Producers, Richard Raddon, David Baxter; Screenwriter/Director, Arthur Borman; Director of Photography, Mark Parry; Production Designer, Jamie Foley; Casting, Maryclaire Sweeters, Editor, Danny Canovas; Composer, John Massari. Contact: Richard Raddon or Arthur Borman, Home Movies Productions, P.O. Box 3463, Los Angeles, CA 90078. Tel/Fax: (310) 208-8008.