|Roshan Seth in Cosmopolitan.|
Nisha Ganatra (Chutney Popcorn) is headed back to screens with Cosmopolitan, a comedy about a first-generation Indian-Americans fumbling attempts to date a neighbor after his wife leaves him.
"Gopal has been married his whole life and has no idea how to start a relationship," says Ganatra. "The film is about loneliness and the boundaries hell cross to avoid it boundaries he would never ordinarily cross."
The film stars Carol Kane and Monsoon Weddings Roshan Seth as the mismatched couple, and Ganatra says she hopes the film touches a nerve. "Fiction has moved to a place film hasnt," she says. "Theres a whole wave of second generation Indian films about growing up Indian-American but nobodys told the story of what it was like here for our parents."
Cosmopolitan is based on a short story by novelist Akhil Sharma. "Its a little jewel," says producer Jen Small. "The rights to short stories are more accessible financially for small companies, and you can add where a novel demands cutting."
Small and partners Jason Orans and Brian Devine found Cosmopolitan in the 1998 Best American Short Stories collection and signed Sabrina Dhawan (Monsoon Wedding) to adapt it for newcomer Gigantic Pictures. Gigantic worked the adrift-in-America angle to get partial financing from the Corporation for Public Broadcastings Diversity Initiative and the National Asian-American Television Association.
Most of the 24P HD Cosmopolitan was shot this past January in New Jersey, but the films one Bollywood dance number was lensed in New Yorks Jackson Heights, where colorful Indian-American signage helped make a readymade outdoor set. "It kept getting pushed on the schedule because of weather, and we finally did it on the coldest day of the year with the poor actors in saris," laughs Ganatra.
Contact: Jen Small (producer) at [email protected].
DOWN TO THE BONE
Five years after Debra Graniks Snake Feed won best short at Sundance shes shooting Down to the Bone, a neorealist feature inspired by her short films weary drug addicts and their rocky road to sobriety. "This is about why, after a series of hideous experiences, one woman questions whether her life can go on in its chemically dependent state," says Granik. "Her path is treacherous, but theres a lot of poignant comedy in her efforts to stay sober."
The winning script at last years Nantucket Film Festival, Down to the Bone stars Vera Farmiga (15 Minutes) as an upstate mom who, while in rehab, falls in love with a reformed addict (Hard Core Logos Hugh Dillon) whose own relapse tests her resolve. "Its a more accurate account of recovery than weve seen before," says producer Anne Rosellini, who programmed Snake Feed for Seattles One Reel Film Festival and has been working with Granik since leaving AtomFilmss top acquisitions post.
Granik logged a decade shooting industrials before entering NYUs grad film program, where she made Snake Feed, a rare student invitee to the 1997 edition of New Directors/New Films. The micro-budget Bone was shot in Woodstock, New York, and surrounding Ulster County in February with producer Susan Leber (The Technical Writer) adding the necessary expertise to cover 20 locations in 24 days. Cinematographer Michael McDon-ough (Bowling for Columbine) used a Mini DV system with an adapter for 35mm lenses. Also in the film are Clint Jordan (Virgil Bliss) and Caridad "La Bruja" De La Luz (Bamboozled).
GONE STRAIGHT...TO HELL
|Elaine Holliman's Gone Straight...to Hell|
"I was suddenly in the spotlight as a first-time lesbian director," she says, "and then it became public that I was involved with a man. The gay press labeled me straight while I was struggling to navigate questions and assumptions about who I was. Many relationships with colleagues, friends and family foundered. I had an easier time being out as a lesbian for 10 years."
Holliman says that bisexual activist Lani Kaahumanu is the glue that holds her film together: "She is a far-out and fabulous character, kind of a white rabbit through the labyrinth of sexual identities and a grande dame narrator of the bisexual movement in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Through her leads we have shot over 50 interviews."
Holliman and co-producer Tom Kearney started Straight to Hell on grant funding and picked up the pace a year ago after getting a small-business loan, getting selected for the IFP Producers Lab and buying a Sony PD-150, edit deck and Final Cut Pro. Her other work includes an adaptation of the novel Rubyfruit Jungle and a dramatic version of Chicks plus a second doc feature nearing completion, Homeschooling: American Utopias. She is looking for editors and finishing-funds for both.
Contact: Elaine Holliman (director) at [email protected].
I LOVE YOUR WORK
"Its about the difference between getting what you want and wanting what you get," says actor Adam Goldberg (A Beautiful Mind) of his first feature as writer-director since his brooding 1998 debut, Scotch and Milk. A dark drama, I Love Your Work stars Giovanni Ribisi as a movie star whose paranoid meltdown and failing marriage to a starlet played by Franka Potente cause him to obsessively stalk a young fan. Says Goldberg, who shot in downtown Los Angeles in January and February, "the film takes place in a dreamlike space in an unspecified place, and the idea was to combine the surreal and the very realistic."
To get the cast and crew on his artistic wavelength, Goldberg began the production by handing them 350-page binders filled with everything from clinical case studies on narcissism to reproductions of Mark Rothko paintings. "David Lynch was a huge influence in terms of imagery," Goldberg says, "but Cassavetes was an influence in terms of performance."
Scotch and Milk d.p. Mark Putnam shot the 35mm I Love Your Work with anamorphic lenses. "We took our time with lighting and we were incredibly specific about color. Its remarkable what you can do on a low budget if you spend the time on details," says Goldberg. For the soundtrack, Goldberg hopes that Elvis Costello, who has a cameo, may cough up a new tune or two. I Love Your Work is the first feature from Cyan Pictures, its financier, which partnered on the low-seven-figure project with Muse Productions (Spun). Also in the cast are Christina Ricci, Marisa Coughlan, Jared Harris, Vince Vaughn, Jason Lee and Nicky Katt.
Contact: Joshua Newman (producer) at [email protected].
"Its been three years weve been trying to get this project together," says Neo Ned director Van Fischer, who discovered Tim Baughns script at Slamdance 2000, where it won the screenplay prize and Fischers own debut feature, Blink of an Eye, was a dramatic selection. "I read it once and had to option it."
What starts as a tough tale of Ned, a teen skinhead in a psych ward for murder, evolves into a tender love story between the boy and a black teen patient, Rachel, who believes shes Hitler. Whether Ned really killed anybody, or Rachel truly believes her Hitler schtick, is open to interpretation, but what Ned does for her to prove his love is the stuff of heroes.
"Ned has a confrontational swagger but its all posturing," remarks Fischer, 44, a onetime actor who spent 20 years running a construction company in Seattle before returning to Hollywood to make Blink. Fischer says Baughn, an Albuquerque elementary school teacher and first-time screenwriter, based the characters on kids he encountered while volunteering at local institutions. "It hits on so many different levels that its a hard movie to categorize," says Fischer. "We are going to tell it as a love story, but it will make Monsters Ball look like the Disney Channel."
Neds due to shoot in L.A. in early April with Tatyana Ali (The Brothers) in one of the lead roles and former New Line casting head Valerie McCaffrey producing with Mark Borman (The Woman in the Moon). "We went through several producers who loved Ned but didnt see how to get the money," says Fischer. "At various points we had Eddie Furlong and Nick Stahl onboard. Mark came up with enough cash to get the ball rolling. Ultimately well end up shooting it on 35mm or high def. David Mullen, our d.p., shot the Polish brothers Jackpot on high def, and I defy you to watch that and think it wasnt shot on film."
Contact: Van Fischer (director) at [email protected].
RED DIAPER BABY
|Josh Kornbluth in Red Diaper Baby|
"Brian and I recorded a performance super-cheap with black backgrounds and my bald head bouncing light into your eyes and sent it off to the Sundance Channel," says Kornbluth. "They said they would run it, but we wanted to do more than document a performance. Im a big fan of the way Jonathan Demme plugged into the artists he filmed in Swimming to Cambodia, Stop Making Sense and Storefront Hitchcock, so those became our models." Kornbluth hooked up with Pray last summer at the Sundance Theater Lab just as the channel came onboard with production money. "Doug got that there was an underlying sadness I wanted reflected in the way it was shot," he adds.
Red Diaper Baby was filmed with two Super 16mm cameras over two nights at San Franciscos Magic Theater in September. Digitally projected backdrops created from colorized slides of New York designed by art director Tracey Gallacher (Trainspotting) were timed to Kornbluths performance, and close-ups of those images give Pray options in cutting. A score by Haiku composer Marco DAmbrosio will highlight emotional levels as Kornbluth discusses sex, death, his parents divorce and Russian kids more interested in his jeans than his politics. "Its tough to show one man on stage for an hour and a half, but we think its going to be an ebullient, raucous and ultimately touching moviegoing experience," says Benson, whos hoping for theatrical play before the films Sundance Channel airing next year.
Contact: Brian Benson (producer) at [email protected].