The weekend is offering a bounty of Specialty newcomers, though most will likely see out their releases in a niche capacity. Tribeca Film is bowing Bryan Poyser’s Love & Air Sex, combining a contest with a not quite real simulation to accompany its roll out. SenArt and Paladin are teaming for a unique release for Kids For Cash in Pennsylvania, while fellow doc Afternoon Of A Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq will go a more traditional route. Well Go USA is doubling up with Cavemen and The Attorney, though there should be very little audience overlap, while Dada will open The Pretty One in limited release. Also opening this weekend is Drafthouse Films’ Field In England. The specialty distributor will open the film in select cities theatrically as well as on VOD/digital platforms.
Love & Air Sex
Director-writer: Bryan Poyser
Writers: David DeGrow Shotwell, Steven Walters
Cast: Ashley Bell, Zach Cregger, Sara Paxton, Michael Stahl-David, Addison Timlin, Marshall Allman, Justin Arnold
Distributor: Tribeca Film
Director-co-writer Bryan Poyser debuted his latest film in his hometown, Austin, at last year’s SXSW Film Festival. The comedy centers on Stan who attempts to alleviate his broken heart by flying to Austin for the weekend, hoping to “accidentally” run into his ex-girlfriend Cathy. When he arrives, he finds his best friends Jeff and Kara in the middle of their own vicious breakup. “It’s a script that came to me through Preferred Content and optioned through a couple of writers,” said Poyser. “The fact that it’s set in Austin was intriguing to me, and so the original writers and I did a couple of drafts. We got it to the point where we started to send out to cast. It’s an ensemble piece, so it took about a year to get them together.” Poyser and team spent a year sending the script out, even doing Skype calls with potential cast ahead of its starting shoot date in May 2012. During the lapse, some actors signed on, but had to drop out as other projects emerged. “We loved the project and wanted to see it through. But I think we ended up with the cast we were meant to have all along,” said Poyser. Love & Air Sex had some financing in place when the script landed on Poyser’s doorstep. After the cast was set, the project was able to secure additional funding. “We only did crowd-sourcing on the back end to take it on a road show,” said Poyser. “After the festival run was over the crowd-sourcing went to supplement the release we’re doing right now.”
The production took advantage of Austin’s ambience, but limited shooting to weekdays since the Texas capital’s nightlife can become oppressive when also trying to manage a shoot, but otherwise it went well. “It was a blast,” said Poyser. “We shot in 23 days but had a lot of fun. Many of the cast hadn’t spent much time in Austin and it was challenging for sure. It was the biggest production I’d been at the helm of.” Tribeca Film caught Love & Air Sex at last year’s SXSW Film Festival. The distribution deal came through last October and Poyser and team have been involved with the lead up to its theatrical roll-out. As the film rolls out, the film’s producers and a group called “Air Sex World Championships” will host air sex contests (think air guitar as a reference point). “We’ve been answering a lot of questions about ‘Air Sex,’” said Poyser. “It’s a real thing…It’s a unique thing about the movie that piques interest.” Tribeca Film will release the feature in New York and on demand this weekend. It will head to Austin, TX next week with an L.A. roll out planned for early March.
Robert May has produced a number of films including The Fog Of War: Eleven Lessons From The Life Of Robert S. McNamara, The Station Agent, The War Tapes and Bonneville, but Kids For Cash is his first directorial. The documentary is an emotional roller coaster behind a notorious judicial scandal that made headlines. A small town celebrates a charismatic judge who is hell-bent on keeping kids in line — until one parent dares to question the motives behind his brand of justice. “It’s a very personal film and it takes place in Pennsylvania where the events took place,” said Paladin’s Mark Urman, whose company is serving as a consultant in the film’s release. “[His company] SenArt did theatrical distribution of Bonneville (with Kathy Bates) and he felt in this instance he needed to steer the ship, so he reached out to me because of what we do and my experience with documentary specifically. He wanted to come up with a plan that is in no way shape or form knee jerk. It’s important to present the film to the every man audience and to not make it precious or ‘specialty’ which is how most non-fiction films are presented.” Making an effort to stay clear of being pigeonholed, SenArt and Paladin are reaching out to “mainstream” exhibitors in Pennsylvania, where Urman said the story is as well known to its residents as other bigger studio fare being released today. While that may be appropriate for other movies, the two companies are attempting to capitalize on the story’s local relevance, by giving it a “wide” strategy in PA. “In state of PA, the Kids For Cash name and story and extent to which it had an impact on many is about as big a story as The Wolf Of Wall Street,” said Urman. “So often documentaries have the wind taken out of their sails by doing the conventional thing of having one art house in Manhattan and hoping that critical consensus will give it critical mass. We didn’t feel it was appropriate for this story that affected an enormous audience.”
Kids For Cash will open in Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and the Philly suburb of Cherry Hill. “We’ll add more markets in PA including Regal Theaters at high-end complexes the following week,” added Urman, adding that this has “probably not happened before” in terms of release strategy. “We have a huge premiere red carpet for 500 people with many luminaries in Philadelphia and print, electronic, TV and radio covering the opening. It’s equivalent to a studio debut. It will be fun to see how it works, but our whole posture is to be muscular and at least for purposes of PA a mainstream experience. At the end of February, we’ll take on other major markets. Again we’ll favor theaters that play high profile independent films. We’re not sneaking into town to that place that typically plays your usual documentary. It’s a gut punch of a movie and we see no reason to treat it as if it were for the only discerning few.”
Afternoon Of A Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq
Director-writer: Nancy Buirski
Subjects: Tanaquil Le Clercq, George Balanchine, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jerome Robbins, Jacques d’Amboise
Disbributor: Kino Lorber Films
A world premiere at the New York Film Festival last fall, doc Afternoon Of A Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq is returning to Film Society of Lincoln Center for its theatrical run (it opened Wednesday). The doc, by Nancy Buirski (who founded the annual non-fiction showcase, Full Frame in North Carolina), chronicles the story of Tanaquil Le Clercq who transcended talent on the stage with her extraordinary movement. She mesmerized audiences and choreographers alike with her stage personality until it all came to an abrupt end. “I was simply seduced by her as a dancer and a bouffant,” said Buirski. “She appeared so extraordinary to me the way she carried herself physically and emotionally. What came through in her dance was unlike anything I had seen in dance before, and I had followed dance over many years.” After obtaining footage of Le Clercq she approached supporters, including Martin Scorsese who became excited about the project and served as an advisor. “He kind of fell in love with her the way I did,” said Buirski. “I have to admit when I came across Tanny’s story, the first thing I thought of was [Julian Schnabel's] The Diving Bell And The Butterfly. I thought this is an opportunity to tell the story in a creative way. I didn’t even think of documentary as much as the creative expression for this experience…”
Kino Lorber opened Afternoon Of A Faun Wednesday and it has ticket sales of $4,824 so far for the weekend at its exclusive Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center engagement. “We’ll have special Q&As on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday — all following the 6:45 PM screening — with dance luminaries like Arthur Mitchell and Jacques D’Amboise (both dancers and choreographers) and Randy Bourscheidt,” noted Kino Lorber this week. “All of them knew Tanny very well, and can speak about her life and legacy.”
Writer-director Herschel Faber morphed his living situation in his last year at graduate film school at Columbia into Cavemen, taking some inspiration from his living space at the time, which he and his roommates called “the Cave.” “There were no windows or walls, only curtains hung up to divide the space…,” said Faber. “It was a very unusual living situation with some fairly interesting characters, which morphed into a story that explores the perils of dating and mating in the big city.” The feature revolves around the lives of somewhat single, somewhat unemployed guys living in a warehouse converted into a living quarters. Set in the Arts District of L.A., they meander around adulthood and love. Faber’s script won a number of awards during his last year at grad school. His producer convinced him to move to L.A. and sell it, which he did. But the film languished on a shelf, until he jumped at the chance to intervene. “The script got my career going as a screenwriter, but wound up sitting on a shelf – various producers threatening to make it, but none ever getting to the finish line,” said Faber. “It was only after I had a chance to get back behind the camera, ten years later, that I realized that I should be the one to direct it. This was thirteen years after the screenplay was initially written.” After tapping resources from family and friends he collected what he said is a “very meager” sum to make the movie. The filmmaking team also caught a break when the script caught the attention of Emmy winning casting director John Levey and his partner Melanie Burgess. That resulted in a different caliber of talent. “It wasn’t me auditioning them, but rather, them auditioning me, getting a sense of what my vision was for the movie,” said Faber. “Fortunately, I was able to enroll them all in the idea of making a traditional Hollywood rom-com, but for a remote fraction of the cost.” Cavemen shot over 18 days in downtown L.A.
Fast forward, the filmmakers held a screening for buyers in L.A. last May. Well Go gave them “an amazing offer” soon after and distribution was set. “Nate Bolotin of XYZ Films represented us on the deal,” said Faber. “Doris Pfardresher (pres. of Well Go) and her team are incredible at what they do on the distribution front, no doubt because they are all true fans of independent film and genuinely supportive of indie filmmakers.”
Well Go USA has worked with Korean-based sales company Fine Cut, which was behind such films as 2013 film New World. Well Go came across fellow Korean title The Attorney through the company. It centers on Son Woo-seok, a man with an appetite for money and business. He’s a successful attorney, but changes course after a family friend is falsely accused of a crime. “The film did really well in South Korea,” said Well Go USA president Doris Pfardrescher. “We can ‘guess-timate’ how the film will do here based on its performance in Korea. There is a correlation.” Pfardrescher said that their previous Korean title, The Thieves, was also a hit and grossed over $700K at the box office Stateside. Well Go will, of course, target the Korean-American community, but will reach out to a more mainstream audience in some markets. “A lot of the Korean audience come out to the theaters so that will be our focus,” added Pfardrescher. “We have a Korean-speaker on our staff reaching out to websites and papers that target Koreans [in the U.S.). We're also doing some Korean television advertising."
Well Go USA will open the film in 32 theaters this weekend. Pfardrescher said they're anticipating a $200K box office this first weekend. "It's one of the most successful films in South Korea with 10 million admissions," said Pfardrescher. "It's about someone who is really pushing for what he believes in. It's a good heartwarming story that people are gravitating to it. The main actor is pretty popular as well so that's another draw."
Dada Films caught comedy The Pretty One at the Tribeca Film Festival. The feature follows Laurel who experiences a tragedy, though the circumstances allow her to reinvent herself as her idolized twin sister, Audrey. As she gets used to her new life, she has to choose between continuing to live a lie or revealing herself. "Eighteen-plus filmgoers looking for unique, smart and engaging stories and appealing actors like Zoe Kazan and Jake Johnson [are the film's core audience],” said Dada exec MJ Peckos. “There’s been a lot of interest in Zoe and Jake and they are doing a couple of press days this week.” Meckos said the film will bow exclusively in NYC this Friday and will head to several other cities February 21 including L.A., San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Portland.For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...