KickStarter

Bluebird film

A few days ago, I happened to walk past a small school bus in Manhattan. It was parked on a quiet, shady street, in front of a brick-built public school. On its back window, a small sign declared “THIS BUS HAS BEEN CHECKED FOR SLEEPING CHILDREN.” If you know anything about Lance Edmands‘ debut film, Bluebird, you’ll understand why this kind of sign (and the kind of practice it’s meant to encourage) is so necessary. You might also find yourself getting sniffly while looking at a random school bus in the middle of the day, but that’s something for later. Edmands’ film is set in snowy and desolate northern Maine, where a small town is rocked by the revelation that one of its beloved school bus drivers didn’t check her bus after a morning run, and all the horrifying consequences that follow from that. The drama of the film relies on the interconnectedness of its many characters, along with some stunning scenery and big moral questions that drive its narrative ever onward. The film has a stellar cast to recommend it, including Amy Morton, Louise Krause, Emily Meade, Adam Driver, Margo Martindale and John Slattery. It’s a stunner of a debut, and now it needs your help to get distributed (presumably to a theater near you, where you can cry about it in the dark). Edmands has just launched a Kickstarter for the film, aimed at helping distribute a film that has already played to plenty of enthusiastic film festival crowds.

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little feet panda head

“I am positive that if my mentor John Cassevetes were around today he would use Kickstarter to make his films.” Whether Alexandre Rockwell‘s statement about Cassavetes is true or not (we’ll never know), it hardly seems implausible as we see yet another indie film legend going the crowdfunding route. It’s been a long time since Rockwell was a significant name in cinema, but he’ll always be remembered as an important member of the Sundance class of ’92, his quirky black and white feature In the Soup winning the grand jury prize that year over strong contenders like Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Allison Anders’s Gas, Food Lodging. He then came up with the idea for the anthology feature Four Rooms, on which he collaborated with Tarantino, Anders and Robert Rodriguez. More recently, he directed the Peter Dinklage comedy Pete Smalls Is Dead. His latest project, which is on Kickstarter with a goal of $35K is titled Little Feet, and boy does it look adorable. It stars Rockwell’s young children, Lana and Nico (both with second wife Karyn Parsons, star of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and was even co-written by 8-year-old Lana. Unlike some films in which the director co-writes with his kids (Rodriguez’s The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl; Francis Ford Coppola’s Life Without Zoe), this one is not at all terrible, according to reviews and awards its received already. That’s right, Little Feet is already complete and has been seen, but it needs some post-production costs taken […]

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foxy merkins 2

“Oh, it’s a merkin salesman!” “What’s a merkin?” “It’s a toupée for your vagina.” Writer/director Madeleine Olnek has a gift for titles. The Foxy Merkins is her newest, a moniker just as ridiculous but more succinct than that of her last film, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. It’s a buddy comedy about lesbian hookers in New York, starring Lisa Haas and Jackie Monahan, who also co-wrote the film. The synopsis invokes “bargain-hunting housewives” and “double-dealing conservative women” among their clients, both of which promise a certain degree of hilarity. Jo (Monahan) is the more experienced of the two, and resolutely identifies as heterosexual. Margaret (Haas) is the newbie, down on her luck and looking for cash. If this sounds a bit like Midnight Cowboy, that’s because it’s likely a satire, at least in part. Space Alien, which also starred both Monahan and Haas, was an irreverent send-up of old science fiction B-movies, complete with dirt-cheap sets and entirely unbelievable flying saucers. There’s a wonderful sense of love and wit in Olnek’s brand of spoof, which was recognized by IFP as one of 2011′s best undistributed films and part of that year’s Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You series. Its comedy is as understated as its production, which planted its absurdly dressed bald-headed lesbian aliens in diners and gay bars around Manhattan. The ensuing awkwardness, both in dialogue and visual juxtaposition, make it one of the most interesting indie comedies of the last few years. And you can rent it on […]

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Devil

The dream is to get famous on YouTube and translate that success into a feature film career, but so far the only group to truly do that is Radio Silence. The filmmakers behind the found footage uterine horror Devil’s Due made a name for themselves on the site where a bajillion hours of video is uploaded every second, and now they’re staking that reputation on the big screen. We’ll talk to them about that jump and what goes into making a baby. Plus, Geoff and I attempt to sell each other on two debatable ideas: the rising power of fan clubs to demand content from creators and the need for aspiring screenwriters to avoid reading scripts-in-progress. You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #46 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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loving vincent 1

This could be the most ingenious mix of animation and the documentary style since Nick Park’s Creature Comforts. Is it technically a documentary? I don’t know, but I’m calling it one for now. “Mockumentary” doesn’t seem to fit, and anyway the film will be dealing with a genuine investigation into the circumstances of Vincent Van Gogh‘s death. The expert talking heads here are from long ago. They are the people whose portraits were famously painted by the artist (including Postman Joseph Roulin and Adeline Ravoux), and their testimonial dialogue is based on actual letters and diaries and other artifacts telling of what they knew of him, much of which comes from his own words. There is likely some fictionalizing involved, but that’s fine. Docs aren’t always fact-exclusive. Loving Vincent is like time travel by cinema, and I’m certain it’s going to be an incredible trip. From the producers of the wonderful Oscar-winning stop-motion short Peter and the Wolf (watch it here) and directed by Dorota Kobiela (The Flying Machine), this new animated feature may be one of the most ambitious ever made. The plan is to have it completely consist of oil paintings on canvas, for every frame, the number totaling 56,800. Even with 40 painters on board it’s going to take a lot of time, though they’re hoping for a 2015 release to coincide with the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s suicide (or murder?), and it’s also going to take a lot of money. The latter is where you might come in, as […]

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originalgangstas01

There continues to be talk of the all-women version of The Expendables, so why not an all-black version? Actually, there already kinda was one way back in 1996. Blaxploitation stars Fred Williamson (Black Caesar; Hell Up in Harlem), Pam Grier (Foxy Brown; Coffy), Jim Brown (Slaughter; The Dirty Dozen), Ron O’Neal (Super Fly) and Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and director Larry Cohen (Black Caesar; Hell Up in Harlem) came together for a movie titled Original Gangstas. It was sort of what The Expendables is all about now — nostalgia for the action movies of the ’80s and early ’90s with a round up of legendary action heroes who are now middle-aged or older — but then, it was in tribute to the African-American-focused genre of the ’70s as well as an answer to the rise of the urban crime films that broke out through the early work of John Singleton, the Hughes Brothers and Mario Van Peebles, the son of Blaxploitation legend Melvin Van Peebles. Eighteen years later, Original Gangstas is getting a sequel called Original Gangstas 2: Old School Gangstas. And it’s looking to the fans to help get it off the ground. Williamson, who is at the helm this time and also the writer of the script, has gone on Kickstarter to ask for $1.2M. That may seem like a lot, but it’s only a third of the budget of the original (which sure doesn’t look like it cost that much) and still $50K less than Spike Lee’s Kickstarter goal for […]

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kungfury

Probably the best thing about Kickstarter is that it’s given weird people a platform to support the artistic endeavors of other weird people who never would have had the chance to make their weird art under the iron fists of the economic models of the past. No longer do questionable eccentrics have to pitch their strange visions to uptight men in suits whose only concern is to maximize profit. Now they can just be like, “Hey, fellow freaks, check out this completely dumb thing I thought of that would make the world a sillier place if it existed. Why don’t you all give me a couple of bucks and then we can enjoy it together?” The latest project to catch everyone’s attention [via The Verge] for being too weird to live and too rare to die is a film called Kung Fury that a guy named David Sandberg has been trying to cobble together using his background in visual effects, a whole lot of gumption, a good chunk of money out of his own pocket, and a little help from his friends. So far his efforts have resulted in an absolutely bonkers 80s-inspired kung-fu movie teaser that involves time travel, Nazis, dinosaurs, and vikings, and it turns out that with a little bit more help from you, the guy can turn the already insane teaser that he’s created into a full-fledged 30 minute short that will tell a complete story and make the world a slightly more juvenile place to […]

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spike-lee

To watch Spike Lee’s feature narrative films is to only understand a fraction of his career as director. If you count his documentaries, Spike Lee has, when next week’s Oldboy remake hits screens, helmed 32 features in the 27 years since She’s Gotta Have It. And that doesn’t even include the numerous shorts, music videos, commercials, and TV pilots he’s directed. Of all the things that are misunderstood about Spike Lee, his largely under-recognized and uniquely prolific output of work might be chief among them. As both public figure and producer of culture, Lee has meant many things to many audiences: co-pioneer of the 1980s American independent film renaissance, restless observer of popular culture, connoisseur of African-American popular music, firebrand provocateur, native new Yorker, and brand name. He has also helped define and expand the possibilities for contemporary African-American filmmakers inside and outside Hollywood. It’s difficult to imagine what American cinema of the past quarter century would look like without Spike. So here’s some free advice (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man behind every Spike Lee joint.

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Fay Grim Scene Still 027

In the history of indie film, sequels haven’t been very common. If we exclude horror movies, that is. And now documentaries. There’s Clerks II, S. Darko, John Duigan’s Flirting, Wayne Wang’s Blue in the Face, Lars von Trier’s Manderlay, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? and I guess The Road Warrior (and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome). There tend to be weird circumstances and technicalities for a lot of them, too. One of the purest examples of an indie sequel is, of course, Before Midnight, which is even rarer for being a third part. It’s possibly the most beloved and critically acclaimed film of the year, and it could very well lead a new wave of follow ups to indie favorites and cult classics that aren’t necessarily easily banked genre flicks. Back in May we learned of another indie threequel in the works, Hal Hartley’s Ned Rifle. The sequel to Henry Fool and its first follow up, Fay Grim, will complete a trilogy about the Grim family with stars Liam Aiken, Parker Posey, James Urbaniak and Thomas Jay Ryan all returning. And the means to finance this film, which is highly anticipated among Hartley’s core 25-year-strong following, has now been announced as falling on the shoulders of that fanbase. The Kickstarter campaign began yesterday with a goal of $384k. And it’s already taken in 10% of that amount. Apparently some of his devoted — of which I was once a huge one — weren’t as turned off by the second installment as […]

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multiplayer 1

Who knows if Multiplayer will be any good? Well, we can look at the past video projects of Squidjib Productions. I like their minute-long zombie chick shorts (they need to make more than the two). We can also watch the teaser trailer, which looks really low budget but promises a clever idea in place of great acting, cinematography and art direction. Also, we can sense the spirit coming from the people making it. I know, spirit doesn’t equal quality, but this is the kind of spirit that leads to at least fun cult classic, which brings movie and video game geeks together at, say, a Drafthouse theater for a good time and a special menu item of ketchup sandwiches. I love the concept here, which is a four-part anthology revolving around old Nintendo and Sega products. As the headline states, there is one story featuring a time machine made from a Genesis console. And yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s a story with a Power Glove — at least there’s one in the teaser. Another features a haunted NES cartridge and is inspired by W.W. Jacobs’ classic horror short story “The Monkey’s Paw.” Still another is said to be a combination of The X-Files and The Ring. Bridging them all together is a campfire-set foundation said to be in the vibe of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a reference I’m too old to get. The comparison made to Twilight Zone: The Movie makes more sense to me.

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the man from earth

I’d never heard of The Man From Earth before the Kickstarter campaign for its sequel came across my desk. At first, I thought I was reading about a follow-up to Nicolas Roeg’s sci-fi classic starring David Bowie. What surprised me more was that none of my FSR colleagues knew what it was, either. Yet this 2007 movie has a 7.9 rating on IMDb with nearly 82k votes. And not even enough reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to result in a score. The reason is that a lot of its fans discovered it through torrents, a fact that director Richard Schenkman and producer Eric D. Wilkinson admit they’re okay with considering the awareness and eventual success it brought to the film. Wondering if the sequel, The Man From Earth II: Millennium, would be worth promoting in this column, I watched the original this week. It’s streaming on Netflix if you’re interested. Scripted by the late Jerome Bixby, who wrote favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek as well as the basis for Fantastic Voyage, The Man From Earth is thinking man’s science fiction about a professor who confesses to his friends from the university that he’s been alive since prehistoric times. The acting (from an ensemble including Tony Todd and Richard Riehle) and directing is a little cheesy and given the single setting and all-talk narrative it seems better suited to be a short story or a play (it actually has now been adapted to the stage) rather than a movie — […]

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No Pay Nudity

I’m not exactly sure what I’m selling here. At first I thought No Pay, Nudity was a documentary about actors. I thought Laurie Metcalf, Nathan Lane, Ted Levine and others were appearing to talk about the positives and negatives of their profession. Then I thought maybe they were at least playing themselves in the movie. After watching the Kickstarter campaign video I don’t know what the finished result will be. It has a scrip by Ethan Sandler (Whitney… wait, don’t go away yet), so it’s fictional. And in addition to the actors already mentioned, the huge ensemble on board includes Lewis Black, Brent Spiner, Jessica Hecht, Austin Pendleton, Boyd Gaines, Mark Blum, Peter Jacobsen and many more whose face you’d recognize before their name. It’s basically a movie full of “that guy” non-stars. But not Curtis Armstrong, apparently, though he does show up in the campaign video. I guess having someone in your Kickstarter video who isn’t in your movie is like today’s equivalent of having a ton of people in the “Ghostbusters” music video who aren’t in Ghostbusters. Too bad, I like Curtis Armstrong. I had wished Teri Garr was in Ghostbusters, too. Anyway, I’m just typing filler here because there’s not a whole lot to say about No Pay, Nudity except that it will have music by Loudon Wainwright III and it has a pretty funny video hosted by director Lee Wilkof (another character actor himself) and it has some pretty neat incentives, including voice mail greetings from […]

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Breaking Bad Writers Room

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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BadKickstarter

This is probably the worst Kickstarter campaign ever made. Granted, it doesn’t have pay-me-to-stalk-Adam-Sandler comic appeal (or that project’s success!), but it does feature an individual with purported ties to the industry failing at every single level and offering a great teaching moment for people seeking crowdfunding (or a rubbernecking opportunity for everyone else). That’s the good news. There’s a lot of advice buried in the rubble. According to her website, Linda Stuart is a former lecturer at the American Film Institute, a former staff story analyst at Paramount and a script consultant for hire who will provide a full script overview (with handwritten and typed notes) for only $1,200 (a steal! (note: not a steal)). Now she wants $5M to make a comedy called Kate Allen is Getting a Life that might star several actresses who were popular in the late 1990s. She emailed us asking to publicize the campaign, and I can honestly say that we’re going to do that. Just not in the way she was probably hoping for. Fortunately, others can learn from these mistakes and find themselves on their way to crowdfunding success. If that’s your goal, check out everything Stuart did and do the opposite.

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Manson Family Vacation

This past Thursday was Werner Herzog‘s birthday. We wanted to get him something special, so I’ve made Manson Family Vacation the subject of this week’s Fund This column, because he really wants it made. “I want you to give them money for this film about murder and love,” he can be heard saying in the project’s Kickstarter campaign video. Oh wait, no, that’s just Linas Phillips doing his impersonation of the German director. Phillips, who you may know from his commentaries as Herzog for Tango and Cash and Every Which Way But Loose or his documentary Walking to Werner, in which he personally walks from Seattle to Los Angeles to meet the cinema icon, is one of the two stars of Manson Family Vacation. Here’s hoping he finds a way to slip the voice in this movie, too. Phillips also made the indie road movie Bass Ackwards (which our own Rob Hunter did not like, to each his own), but here he’s simply an actor, playing opposite filmmaker Jay Duplass (Cyrus; Jeff, Who Lives at Home), who is also mainly just in front of the camera this time around (well, he’s executive producer, too). At the helm for this one is J. Davis, an editor making his directorial debut. In the film, Phillips and Duplass will be estranged brothers, one with his shit together and one not. Duplass is the former, a husband, father and lawyer in L.A. whose adopted older sibling (Phillips) shows up out of the blue wanting […]

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Stallone Kickstarter

Yes, Sylvester Stallone is the latest major celebrity to hit the crowdfunding circuit. But it’s not his own project; he just stars in the film. The real man behind the campaign is Sly’s old buddy John Herzfeld. These guys are a pair. They were roommates in college, made a short western film using live ammo, appeared together in Cannonball! and Cobra and finally got to work together again recently on The Expendables (Herzfeld helmed the making of feature included on the DVD and Blu-ray). Now they’re united again with Reach Me, an ensemble drama we’d been tracking the casting of last fall. It turns out one of the main investors backed out during filming and now the post-production financing needs to come from pledges via Kickstarter. Reach Me doesn’t look too bad, and it does have an impressive cast (at least in size and B-level status) consisting of Stallone, Kelsey Grammar, Kyra Sedgwick, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane, Tom Berenger, Kevin Connolly, Cary Elwes, Danny Aiello, Terry Crews, Danny Trejo, Nelly, The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan, True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten and Frank Stallone. Herzfeld is no amateur, either. He’s the writer and director of 2 Days in the Valley and 15 Minutes, and his last major directorial gig was the 2007 Paul Walker movie Bobby Z. But don’t think just because he and his actors are all well-known that they could foot the bill among them. Let’s not forget, this is a job for that cast, not an act of charity.

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news michael williams joins spike lee

Spike Lee‘s Kickstarter for The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint (here’s hoping he announces a real title soon and I can stop typing out all that word salad) ended just a few hours ago, more than $150,00 over its $1.25m goal. But even before the Kickstarter ended, Lee was hard at work assembling a cast for his crowd-funded feature. First came Stephen Tyrone Williams, a stage actor with a handful of film credits to his name (Children of God, Restless City), but a few hours later came a far more famous Williams. Michael K. Williams of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire has joined the film too. This casting alone guarantees that hordes of obsessive Wire fans will turn up to see Lee’s latest joint, which will be a love story about “human beings who are addicted to blood.” Williams (Michael K., that is) will not be playing the lead- that role will go to the other Williams (Stephen Tyrone), with Zaraah Abrahams as the female lead. But lead role or not, any mention of The Wire‘s Williams is enough to put plenty of butts (mine included) in seats.

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Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis‘s novels have had an interesting path to the big screen: the only novel that fully captured his writing is The Rules of Attraction, a movie that divided audiences; American Psycho is a cult favorite that Ellis isn’t entirely pleased with; Less Than Zero, although featuring a great performance from Robert Downey Jr., is a terrible adaptation; and the less said about The Informers, well, the better. However, The Canyons is a film Ellis had a very different relationship with. The LA noir is one of many original scripts he’s written, but it’s the only one that has made it to the screen with the help of Kickstarter, producer Braxton Pope, and director Paul Schrader. The movie is as much a statement about filmmaking as it is anything else, and Ellis had his own statements to make about modern cinema culture and adapting the unadaptable.

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Paul Schrader The Canyons

In The Canyons Schrader has the camera zero in on abandoned movie theaters while Bret Easton Ellis’s script has its characters discussing whether they actually “like movies” anymore. What all that has to do with the plot is up for interpretation, but it doesn’t take a genius to see Schrader and Ellis are talking about the emergence of VOD and new media amidst the piles of old curtains and velvet-backed chairs. Schrader won’t let his camera show hopping movie theaters and audiences eating up popcorn, because that’s not the world Ellis’s characters see. They’re cold, monotone 20-somethings who could care less about today’s movies or movies in general (even as they make one). Maybe Schrader also feels that way about today’s major theatrical releases, but, one thing is for sure: The Canyons is a movie that wasn’t made for 2,000 screens. It’s true low-budget, crowdsourced  indie filmmaking, and because of that (and some other obvious reasons), it didn’t have the smoothest production. That chaotic frenzy was all fuel for the media, and Schrader was holding the match.

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spikelee_oldboy

From the start of his career to the height of it, Spike Lee has never had an easy time getting projects off the ground. In some cases it’s because he was ahead of the curve — like when he had hopes to make a Jackie Robinson biopic, but the financing never came together because studios didn’t feel there was an audience  for a black baseball film. This year, 42 would beg to disagree. Of course even though it appears like an order form for free money, the Kickstarter funding route isn’t easy either. For established filmmakers it takes a combination of thick skin for backlash and vulnerability to ask fans for money that studios and financiers won’t give. Within a few months time, Lee will have taken the trust fall of asking the public to fund a movie for which he’s given very few details and then debuted a high-profile (yet non-mainstream) reinterpretation about proper hammer usage. Facing the contradictions head-on, we spoke to the filmmaker about this new, same-as-the-old chapter in his career:

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