Andre Gregory spent 14 years rehearsing the play. Jonathan Demme took one week to film it. The extraordinarily engaging result is A Master Builder, which went into limited release today at New York’s Film Forum. It’s a movie that benefits from one director’s obsession with allowing his actors to live in their roles over time with another’s burst of creative energy. You can sense both up on the screen in this film of a story that might easily have seemed dated but instead comes across as a chilling tale — a “haunted house story” as Demme describes it. And perhaps just as important, it should mark the second time Gregory has introduced an actress who gives every sign of becoming a star. Her name is Lisa Joyce.
“She’s astounding,” Gregory told me in an interview from his home on Cape Cod. “I am hoping that my work with Lisa will have the same impact as my work with Julianne Moore did.”
A little history, then. In 1994, the late French director Louis Malle filmed Gregory’s equally long-aborning production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, starring Wallace Shawn in the title role and Moore as Yelena, the object of his (and every other male character’s) desire. It remains arguably the best film adaptation of a Chekhov play, and it figured prominently in launching Moore’s stellar career. Read More »
Indulge me for a minute: what is the least amount of money to make a film? In this day and age of big budget complexity in the movie biz, there’s something incredibly cool about this kind of ingenuity. Pics are being made by shooting video on an iPhone and editing on a desktop. Today, the 25-year-old son of Deadline contributor Ray Richmond is screening a film shot entirely on one of those nifty 4-inch, 6-ounce Flip UltraHD camcorders that cost well under $200. Then writer-director Josh Richmond spent less than $10K on casting, shooting, editing, and producing his first feature, the mystery Diamond Bar. Knowing he couldn’t land a distributor, he hit on the idea of paying a theater to screen it rather than vice-versa. He’s forked over a few hundred bucks to premiere the film on the big screen at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood at 5 PM. UPDATE: Springing up all over are film festivals specifically for micro-budget pics made by young filmmakers. One of them is The YoungCuts Film Festival.
UPDATE: Lloyd Kaufman disputed my assessment that The Toxic Avenger doesn’t belong on the short list of the elite indie films of the 1980s. I’m letting him have his turn, though I can’t say he has changed my mind.
Your article impugning the integrity of the IFTA Board of Directors, suggesting that its choices of the 30 “Most Significant Independent Films” have been foisted upon it by me, its Chairman, is absurd and an insult to the entire Board.
Everyone on the 27-member IFTA Board of Directors voted by secret ballot and I had absolutely no influence on the outcome. In fact, there was no politicking involved at all. These are the Board’s choices and the board’s alone. It is ridiculous for you to state that a group that includes film icons like Roger Corman, Avi Lerner and Mark Damon would be led around by me!
IFTA, for whom I’ve had the honor of serving as chairman for the past three years, is recognizing the “Most Significant Independent Films” in terms of both art and commerce. Nowhere did IFTA say “Best” or “Top” independent films. In fact IFTA took great pains to avoid using those terms.
Regarding you dismissal of The Toxic Avenger, I really wonder if you have seen the film. In every respect, The Toxic Avenger is worthy of receiving an honorable mention as one the “Most Significant Independent Films” of the past 30 … Read More »
In a pre-Toronto blow to the indie film community, Bill Pohlad’s Apparition has let go almost the entire staff that hadn’t been laid off in July. That means about 8 staffers have followed the original cut of about 15 staffers. They got two weeks severance. Not sure what the skeleton crew will draw. Tom Ortenberg remains as a consultant as Pohlad figures out whether to restructure or not.
This development validates talk I’ve been hearing that Pohlad has been showing the Terrence Malick-directed Tree of Life to distributors. I understand the film will land shortly. That means Malick has finished it and it will likely factor into an Oscar race which has suddenly gotten interesting with films that include Black Swan and The King’s Speech. Tree of Life, which stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, was originally going to be the big title on the Apparition slate, but that scenario collapsed when Bob Berney made a surprise exit on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival. Berney is expected to start an indie distribution company at GK Films, though this hasn’t been confirmed.
I’m told the latest layoffs were done because there were no films to distribute, but it doesn’t necessarily mean Pohlad is out of the distribution game, though I wonder if his heart is in it. While it was clear … Read More »