Brian Brooks is managing editor of MovieLine.
As the specialty industry is focused on the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend, RADiUS will have a chance to display its theatrical muscle with the rollout of Bachelorette, which it picked up out of Sundance earlier this year. Roadside Attractions will give its action-mystery Branded a more extensive initial release for a specialty title, taking it into a few hundred locations. Oscilloscope picked up Hello I Must Be Going, which will bow in limited release but will head for expansion through September. The Inbetweeners, meanwhile, will take a more cautious approach after it opens this weekend, while Keep The Lights On from Music Box will platform in New York and Los Angeles.
This often racy story written by writer/director Leslye Headland made the Black List back in 2008, although the honor didn’t immediately get the studios calling. Headland segued the script to screen via the independent route and was encouraged by a friend to use her vision after it first manifested in an off-Broadway play. “The idea was that could I make a romantic comedy that I would want to see. It’s not overly dire, but it’s dramatic and they’re acting like people. They’re making mistakes and they’re learning from them,” she said. “I wanted to make a film about women that treated them like people and not paper dolls.”
In the film version, Headland said she let her stars play with the characters and they embraced the sometimes outrageous elements that may make some audiences uncomfortable. “Kirsten, Isla and Lizzy never thought they should tone down their characters,” Headland said. “They even improved stuff where even I didn’t know if we could use some of the things they did.” The Weinstein Company’s RADiUS label picked up Bachelorette out of Sundance where it debuted in January. It was edited again after Sundance and a more streamlined, snappier-paced version screened in June at the Provincetown International Film Festival. The title has been available on VOD and will bow in 47 locations in major markets including LA, New York City, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami and Atlanta, among others.
Roadside picked up North American rights to this dark and mind-bending journey into a surreal, dystopian society where corporate brands have unleashed a monstrous global conspiracy to get inside minds and keep the populace disillusioned, dependent and passive. “We’re releasing Branded nationwide in a moderate pattern of 306 screens,” Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen said via email from the Toronto International Film Festival this week. “We have been doing a long-lead marketing campaign targeting fanboys and sci-fi fans, including a panel at Comic-Con. We had multiple trailers and a lot of different web content.”
“We emphasized [Quick Response Codes] in our advertising, especially posters and online, which got a lot of positive comment and feedback since they haven’t been used that well so far for other films,” he said. Cohen added that the film’s second trailer has been viewed more than 2.7 million times.
Producer Mary Jane Skalski initially planned a period project with director Todd Louiso that eventually fell through. Later, on his way to Sundance in 2011, Louiso called her and asked her to read a script he had written. At the fest, the duo decided to take on Hello I Must Be Going together. “I asked him, ‘what’s the perfect way for this movie to be made?’ and he said, with Melanie Lynskey’ and I had just made a movie with her, Win Win,” said Skalski. Louiso and Lynskey had met while he worked on his script at the Sundance Writers Labs prior to Skalski reading it.
The filmmakers decided to shoot in summer despite the precarious finances. Writer Sarah Koskoff’s parents loaned their house and the team pulled financing together through “private equity sources.” “It wasn’t an easy film to make,” said Skalski. “But we premiered at Sundance a year to the day later from when we first sat down together” in Park City. Oscilloscope came on board to distribute the film about a young divorcée who moves back in with her parents and falls for a much younger guy who revives her passion for life. The distribution deal closed for the film just after festival ended. Oscilloscope will open in New York and Los Angeles this weekend with what Skalski described as “an aggressive rollout” proceeding over the next four weeks.
The folks at Wrekin Hill first saw the British comedy last year at the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie, based on a British television series about four troubled 18-year-olds on holiday, played strongly in the UK, Australia and Germany. Wrekin took on the title for the U.S. at the end of last year, but admits it remains to be seen if the British pic will translate on this side of the pond. “The challenge is it’s British and British humor,” said Wrekin Hill’s Chris Ball. “We’re going after the core followers of the series.” Despite the perceived challenge, the title has an extensive following. There are 100,000 U.S. followers on Facebook (compared to 4 million in the UK) and it has grown significantly of late. “Young people here are discovering this,” said Ball. “MTV’s remake of the series has also caught interest.”
To further drum up talk, the four leads recently traveled to LA for a “bus tour” and a packed promotional screening that left 150 people waiting outside with no way in. The cast also hosted an event at Santa Monica’s Old King’s Head pub. “We’ve done similar events at pubs in other cities,” noted Ball. “Some people describe The Inbetweeners as the British American Pie.” Wrekin Hill will platform the title in eight cities on ten screens over the weekend, but will hold off on further expansion until after gauging its performance in its initial run.
Writer-director Ira Sachs envisioned Keep The Lights On after a tumultuous multiyear relationship he experienced around the turn of the century. While it’s not an exact re-telling, he used some key elements to formulate the script for the film, which he shot in July 2011. He approached an agency in Hollywood about possibly casting one or both of the main characters who play male lovers in an obsessive relationship that is ultimately doomed by a toxic cocktail of drugs and sex. “I got the response that no one in the agency would be available for this,” said Sachs who ultimately cast a Danish actor for the key role of Erik.
Financing the film also took a non-conventional route (if there is a conventional route to be had among indies). He committed to start shooting in July no matter what. “With that kind of fire under my ass, I went out and raised $700,000 to make the film.” He used his own Manhattan apartment which is a big focus in the film and he said he “got a lot of love” in the form of free clothes from Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs and “friends donating artwork for an auction.” He also noted, “People opened their apartments, opened their bank accounts and Kodak said to us, ‘Make this film…’ ” Post Factory took a producer credit and helped with post-production. “This is the kind of film a lot of people, I think, came to New York to be a part of. Distributor Music Box Films picked it up shortly after it won the Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. It will open in two locations each in New York and Los Angeles this weekend.