Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Paul Schrader‘s The Canyons is probably the most talked about film this year that relatively very few people have ever seen. There is some irony here given that the film uses the movie biz as a backdrop, but everything gets ensnared by a soap opera played out by the rich and beautiful, sound familiar? After its world premiere earlier this week in New York, the film is heading out to one big screen location before going to select runs elsewhere, but the film is most likely to be seen in a post-exhibitor world much like the filmmaker expects. Sundance 2013 comedy-drama The Spectacular Now culminates its long lead-up to release this weekend with a film that made it there through the steadfast will of its producers. Stand-up comedy makes its return to the big screen with When Comedy Went To School, a historical look look-back at the art. But unlike its “filthier” cousin, The Aristocrats, which came out in 2005 via now defunct ThinkFilm (and with big b.o. success), this one has a decidedly different angle. And French-language title Our Children joins the Specialty newcomers this weekend with a praised but dark drama along with The Artist And The Model set in the south of France.
Before the likes of Zach Braff and Spike Lee turned to Kickstarter, veteran filmmaker Paul Schrader launched a campaign on the crowd sourcing site for The Canyons after kicking in some of his own cash. It raised $160K for the project (the entire film is believed to cost around $250K), which seemed to almost instantly fascinate the media sphere from the New York Times (magazine) all the way through to the blogosphere both because of star Lindsay Lohan and her male counterpart, porn star James Deen. “We knew all along there would be a polarizing effect because of the sheer nature of Lindsay’s celebrity,” noted IFC Films president Jonathan Sehring. “There’s a group of haters out there that I don’t understand, but people like [Film Society of Lincoln Center’s] Kent Jones and [Variety’s] Scott Foundas like it.” Sehring also said the NYT Magazine piece had “set a tone” for others well, adding, “Some people have an axe to grind and have a pre-disposition, but [Lohan] is a great actress.” Schrader added Monday night at Lincoln Center, “Not even the New York Times is immune to the hurricane force of this celebrity phenomenon.” The film had a public spat with SXSW before plans were unveiled about its festival strategy and release. It had its world premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center Monday night (Lohan’s mother attended, but she still had one more day before leaving rehab) and though it will reach audiences Stateside this weekend, it will also go to Venice where it will screen out of competition.
The drama/thriller centers on L.A. trust funder Christian who learns of a secret affair between girlfriend Tara and the lead of his film project, causing him to spiral out of control. “We obviously think the film will do well across all platforms, which is what it is designed to do,” said Sehring. IFC Films picked up the title in February. The Canyons will open day and date, with an exclusive theatrical showing this weekend at IFC Center in New York. It will head to Los Angeles next weekend where Schrader will be on hand for Q&As. The film will head to additional markets, but Sehring said the company will be selective in how it proceeds over the next 6-8 weeks, emphasizing he expects the film to have an extensive and robust life over VOD and other digital platforms.
The Spectacular Now
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Dayo Okeniyi
The roots of Sundance ’13 comedy-drama The Spectacular Now came from a story that was flagged for producer Tom McNulty to read. Initially he liked the story but was concerned about its commercial potential. On his way through LAX though, he saw the book. “I bought it and read it of course, and absolutely loved it,” said McNulty. “Different directors came and went and different actors came and went.” The project also had different backers. Initially Searchlight picked up the title, but then ultimately decided to pass. “It didn’t match their overall [strategy] so my producing partner Shawn Levy and I begged for it back and we made it wholly independently,” said McNulty who said fellow producer Andrew Lauren provided the funding. “He’s an absolute gem and was a part of the creative process every day along with [producer] Michelle Krumm.” Actress Shailene Woodley had initially talked to a previous director attached to the project and circled back after James Ponsoldt came on board as director, while others followed.
“I’m lucky. It could have gone eight different ways and I give credit to the book, screenplay and James’ direction,” said McNulty. One stipulation Ponsoldt asked for was to shoot in Athens, GA. The film revolves around a hard-partying high school whose outlook on life transforms when he meets a not-so-typical nice girl. “I think it’s an adult film that happens to star teenagers,” said McNulty who added that the film is rooted in the present-day but is not time specific. “The demographic is an older teen audience, but adults can certainly appreciate it.” A24 picked up the film out of Sundance. “They’ve done an amazing job with us,” said McNulty. “They’ve done a ton of film festival and word of mouth screenings and audiences of mixed ages have been showing up.” A24 will open The Spectacular Now in LA and New York this weekend with select cities added through August. McNulty said the title may take some time to find its footing, expecting word of mouth to catapult the film over the next month. ” This is opening weekend but the story won’t be written Monday morning, it will be discovered over the month of August and I hope people really like it.
When Comedy Went To School
Directors: Mevlut Akkaya, Ron Frank
Writer: Lawrence Richards
Subjects: Sid Caesar, Mickey Freeman, Dick Gregory, Larry King, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Stiller
Distributor: International Film Circuit
International Film Circuit’s Wendy Lidell saw doc When Comedy Went To School as a finished film in April. The film captures the start of the modern stand-up comedy in the Catskill Mountains, considered a boot camp for some of the best known Jewish-American comedians. “It’s clearly going to hit the sweet spot for the Jewish audience and also elements for anyone who’s a fan of comedy,” said Lidell. “There’s a wealth of archival clips that are just gems and much of which haven’t been seen by the general public. It’s an interesting look at the history of how our current comedic culture grew out of a hotbed of performers in the Catskill Mountains after the war.” The distributor has been working with Jewish and comic organizations to spread the word ahead of its initial rollout Wednesday, and of course social media. It also closed out the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival in June.
The film opened IFC Center and JCC in Manhattan Wednesday. It had been scheduled to play New York’s Malverne, but was pushed out by the expansion of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. It will open in Kew Gardens, Denver, and Atlanta this weekend before heading to L.A., Philadelphia and Irvine the following week. It will continue to expand to other markets throughout August.
Director-writer: Joachim Lafosse
Writers: Thomas Bidegain, Matthieu Reynaert
Cast: Niels Arestrup, Tahar Rahim Émilie Dequenne, Stéphane Bissot, Mounia Raoui, Redouane Behache
Distributor: Distrib Films
Our Children was Belgium’s official entry for Best Foreign Language consideration at the Oscars and, according to Francois Scippa-Kohn of Distrib Films, “One of the best reviewed French-language films [in France].” The drama revolves around a couple with children who decide to give up their autonomy by living with the wife’s well-off adoptive father. “The theme of the movie is a tough sell when you just try to talk about it,” said Scippa-Kohn. “The [established] distributors in the U.S. passed on it, but it has a strong cast and is well-directed.” Still, Scippa-Kohn acknowledges that it has a dark theme. “The movie has been well-received in both England and France and we expect the word-of-mouth will be its main marketing force,” he said. “It’s so strong and we’re confident of this.” The film played last year’s New York Film Festival and more recently at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Distrib Films is fairly new to the U.S. market, which will open an official office on this side of the Atlantic in the near future. It is focusing on French-language titles that haven’t secured pre-sale. “We focus on certain filmmakers and authors,” said Scippa-Kohn. “We are new for the States but we know the [players] of French movies.” The company plans to release four movies this year increasing it to 6 – 8 titles annually. Our Children will open New York, L.A. and Pasadena this weekend and will expand based on performance.
Set in the south of France, drama The Artist And The Model is likely a composite of several artists. The film centers on Marc Cros, an elderly sculptor who lives with his wife Lea who gives shelter to a beautiful Spanish political refugee who poses for him. “I’m drawn to the filmmaker and to date you can see there’s a strong connection to the filmmakers we’ve worked with,” said Cohen Media Group’s Charles Cohen. “I learned about the film through a meeting with [director] Fernando Trueba.” The Oscar-winning director of Chico & Rita (2010) had been screening the film in Cannes and Cohen moved in for North American rights. “It’s a counter-programming movie that older audiences should gravitate to,” said Cohen. The film was nominated for multiple Spanish Goyas and won a Best Director prize at last year’s San Sebastian Film Festival.
“[The Artist And The Model] will have a very careful platforming release plan in New York at Lincoln Plaza, the number one art-house showcase on the East Coast and its counterpart in L.A., the Landmark, which will get word of mouth going,” added Cohen. He added the film will go to “cities that movies of this style go to.”