This coming weekend’s specialty releases include Samuel Goldwyn Films’ Bad Ass, starring Danny Trejo as a Vietnam veteran who takes matters into his own hands to solve a murder, while Indican Pictures’ Falling Away takes a look at a Los Angeles inner-city neighborhood reeling from the aftermath of a devastating school bus crash. Also among Friday’s limited openers is English-language foreign film Late Bloomers starring Isabella Rossellini and William Hurt as a couple confronting their pre-retirement years with divergent results. And documentary Unraveled is a fascinating look at the gilded house arrest of Marc Dreier, a convicted ponzi mastermind who plundered over $700 million from investors, a crime that was overshadowed only by Bernard Madoff’s arrest for the largest fraud scheme in American history just days before.
Director: Craig Moss
Writers: Craig Moss, Elliot Tishman
Cast: Danny Trejo, Charles S. Dutton, Ron Perlman
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
The folks behind action-drama Bad Ass didn’t get much help in terms of resources putting their project together. One jurisdiction even withdrew promised support, which prompted the production to re-locate altogether. “We developed the film in house and financed the film from our own private equity sources without pre-sales,” producer Ash Shah told Deadline. ”It actually came together pretty quickly. The only hiccup we had was after being approved for a rebate from a state (unidentified), they turned around and decided they weren’t going to honor their approval. We had a window with Danny Trejo’s availability so we decided to shoot in LA instead.” Once in LA though, the production went “pretty straightforward,” noted Shah who added that director Craig Moss delivered a “fun and action packed movie for the Grindhouse crowd.” The film centers on a vet who becomes a local hero after saving a man from attackers on a city bus. After his best friend is murdered and the police show little interest in solving the crime, he again takes matters into his own hands.
Samuel Goldwyn will handle a limited theatrical release of Bad Ass primarily in the southwestern part of the U.S. It will go out day and date with various VOD platforms including iTunes, PS 3 and Direct TV. Fox will handle all other rights for the film. “Bad Ass has generated a lot of interest on the internet and we really focused our marketing on leveraging that interest,” said Shah. “We released three trailers spaced out [over] about a month each and the response has been pretty terrific. The film will also premiere this week at Action Fest in North Carolina.”
Writer-director Michael Trozzo developed the script for Falling Away while getting his MFA at Chapman University and at the same time managed to get some private investors on board, which allowed him to go ahead with a shoot. The script had gained some notoriety, which won him grants from Panavision and Kodak, although production was nevertheless tight. “I’ll admit here, we raised enough money to shoot the film, [along the lines of] a ‘build it as it comes theory’ with a limited budget for post,” Trozzo told Deadline. “After it was shot, we put together a trailer, and with the actors involved, we were able to raise enough money to get us through post to a point that our distributor, Indican Pictures, became involved. With them attached, we were able to finalize the final finishing funds.” Even so, Trozzo and his team had little wiggle room for such luxuries as overtime or pick-up shots. “We were budgeted for 18 days and that’s what we had. But with the ‘half glass full approach’ to this, we did a lot of prep which paid off,” said Trozzo. “[The] best writing lesson I ever learned was making this film. When you really see how much every page actually costs, you will quickly learn how to write a scene quickly and efficiently. It is a ‘how do I get this point across in one page instead of three’ situation.”
Central to his story about a school bus accident that devastates an inner city Los Angeles neighborhood was the bus accident itself. But paying to destroy a school bus wasn’t in the budget. Initially Trozzo and his team tried to make a bus sway with children bouncing around, but in the end, it didn’t work, so the production decided on a different approach. “We tried many different angles, but what finally worked was the bus accident, which was originally at the end of the first act then became the opening of the film. [A real accident] actually already happened and there were children talking about it. We picked up some interviews from reporters, found some bus accident news footage…and the great thing was that from a story perspective it worked great. We were able to immediately get into the characters’ story.” Falling Away will open in select theaters across the country this weekend. The film will travel to the Cannes Film Market in May, while DVD and cable release is set for July.
Director Julie Gavras first co-wrote the script for Late Bloomers in French but then had it translated after she decided the romantic comedy about a couple who face aging in opposite ways would work better in English. “We realized we couldn’t find French actors who would satisfy the requirements of these characters,” Gavras told Deadline. “So we decided to go abroad and head to London.” Gavras immediately took to actress Isabella Rossellini whom she described as “very continental” but admitted to being initially intimidated by co-star William Hurt. “The challenge is to find yourself in your actors who are 25 years older than you,” said Gavras. “I could understand Isabella and I admire William Hurt. I assumed he knew better than me about how to shoot a film, but I realized during the course of the film that it is the director who actually has the bigger picture in their head. It was tough with Hurt, but I think I learned a lot.”
Gavras is the daughter of Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras. The story for Late Bloomers was inspired by her father’s experience traveling around festivals being honored for his 1969 feature Z. “A few years ago was the 40th anniversary of Z and everywhere we went my father received a lifetime achievement award which was great, but also sort of depressing,” said Gavras. “So my idea was to explore what happens when you’re in your 60s and you still have a good mind and are confronted with age, but don’t feel old. And I liked the idea that a woman and a man might react differently, so that’s what I did with this story.” Gavras said that she expected her audience to reflect the film’s main characters — in the 55 to 60s range — although she said that for the film’s release in France “The audience skewed younger than we thought it would. Younger people like it because they understand what their parents are going through,” she said. “Age is such a huge issue in society and people don’t want to face it. But the film is showing people who are in great shape confronting their advanced years.”
Attorney and filmmaker Marc Simon had no time to figure out pre-production or financing for his documentary Unraveled. He had only a short window in which to film his subject Marc Dreier while under house arrest in his Manhattan penthouse before he headed off to spend a lifetime in jail. Dreier’s arrest made headlines, but his crimes might have had greater awareness had he not been overshadowed by the arrest of Bernard Madoff just days before. Unraveled captures Dreier as he is sequestered in his Upper East Side apartment until his sentencing date for his own crimes in a ponzi scheme involving massive fraud that netted over 700 million dollars from hedge funds. “The court allowed the house arrest before his actual sentencing,” Simon told Deadline. “Dreier’s attorneys argued for the two-month house arrest and because of timing we didn’t have a chance to get grants” or other assistance so he went “to Showtime which had financed my first film After Innocence. I’ve had a ten-year relationship with them from a legal perspective and as a filmmaker and they jumped in based on our relationship. It was a European type structure in providing upfront money for their television license.” Simon put his legal skills to work for him, securing resources from Showtime in exchange for television rights, and he received additional funds from other groups including Ambush Entertainment. He later secured a deal with another U.S. network (which has to remain unidentified for the moment) which will feature the film after its Showtime debut and its limited theatrical rollout this weekend in Los Angeles and New York.
“Showtime and I were able to work out a mutually beneficial scenario wherein after premiering on Showtime, it will go to the other network, then back to Showtime and then back to the other network,” said Simon. “The producers and I were able to maintain remaining rights and we’ll be able to exploit the DVD, non-theatrical and foreign rights. This fragmentation will allow the film to have a great life,” he said. I’ve been able to be creative as a filmmaker and creative on the deal-making side and I’ve created new models for distribution for my clients.” One of his former clients was in fact Dreier with whom he worked in the past. “There are several reasons as to why he allowed us to film,” noted Simon. “He didn’t do it further my filmmaking career [laughs]. He’s a very strategic individual and he’s always trying to find something that is in his interest. I worked for him for six years as an attorney and we had what I thought was a good relationship, but I ended up not knowing him the way I thought I did.”