Just in time for Halloween, Daniel Radcliffe gets some special powers and couple of appendages growing from his temples in Radius’ Horns, which will be this week’s biggest rollout among specialty newcomers. The title received a warm welcome at a Cinema Society event attended by its stars this week in New York. This week’s newbies are dominated by nonfiction fare, though with some exceptions. Kino Lorber is opening French/Swiss maestro Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye To Language following a successful festival run. It has been critically acclaimed, and the company is expecting it to be a box office winner too. The 2014 Best Documentary winners from South by Southwest and Tribeca are going head-to-head in their theatrical debuts. Radius’ The Great Invisible (SXSW) opened in limited release Wednesday in an exclusively theatrical rollout, and The Orchard is bowing Point And Shoot (Tribeca) in a single NYC run. Submarine Deluxe and Gravitas are partnering on Showrunners: The Art Of Running A TV Show (the title says it all). Also opening this weekend are IFC Films’ Magical Universe, Magnolia’s ABCs Of Death 2, Dada Films’ All You Need Is Love and Music Box Films’ Revenge Of The Mekons (on Wednesday).
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writers: Keith Bunin, Joe Hill (novel)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, James Remar, Heather Graham, James Remar
Daniel Radcliffe returns to the realm of the supernatural with Horns, but this time he becomes more of a sympathetic demon/human of sorts. Based on the novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), Radcliffe plays Iggy, who is blamed for the brutal murder of his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple). The whole town, including most of his friends and even parents, believe he’s guilty, so he sets out to find the real killer. After a drunken one-night stand, he notices that horns are beginning to grow from his temples. Naturally, he freaks out, but the horns become his ally in his quest to solve the mystery of his love’s death as they are armed with some special powers. As they slowly grow, the power continues to grow as well. “I received the book from [Hill’s] agent Jody Hotchkiss of Hotchkiss and Associates, and he said that I had to read it and that it was ‘crazier than ever,'” said Mandalay Pictures President of Production Cathy Schulman, who is a producer on Horns. “He told me I had to read it immediately. I began it at midnight after coming home from an event, and I read it throughout the night. That morning I told [Mandalay CEO] Peter Guber that we ‘have to option this book.’ He asked if he had to time to read it and I said, ‘No, but you’re going to love it.” Mandalay developed Horns in-house.
French filmmaker Alexandre Aja caught wind of the project and expressed early interest, but the folks at Mandalay wanted to hold off. “I told Alex that we wanted to go through the development process ourselves because we had been hurt too many times by directors getting involved in the development stage and then leaving us later,” Schulman told me Monday night at the film’s New York premiere at the Sunshine Theater, hosted by publicist/event host Andrew Saffir’s Cinema Society. “He had really fallen in love with the book and flew himself over from France to meet with us.” Schulman said Mandalay spoke with a number of directors, but Aja won out. “He had the most amazing notes and the best perspective on how to do it,” she added. Next up was casting, which then segued to financing. The script made its way to Radcliffe, who met with Schulman. After he was on board, Schulman’s lawyer suggested meeting with Red Granite Pictures, which was in the midst of working on The Wolf Of Wall Street. “My lawyer said they’ve got guts [and] do really ‘ballsy’ material,” said Schulman. “They optioned it from Mandalay, we crewed it and produced the movie together.”
Principal photography took place over 40 days in September and October 2012 in Vancouver. Although the project was financed successfully, the team had to stretch the dollar. “There’s an enormous amount of special effects and a lot of outdoor work,” said Schulman. “Three-quarters of it was at night, and we were in the frost zone. It was brutal but fun. We all pulled, pulled and pulled, and then we all got sick afterward.” Horns debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013, and Radius picked it up soon afterward. Radcliffe attended the premiere Monday evening along with Temple and Hill as well as a glittering crowd who then partied the night away at nightspot Jimmy at the James Hotel in downtown Manhattan (in keeping with the theme of the movie, the crowd drank ‘Devil and Angel’ cocktails, which was Qui tequila). Radius Co-President Tom Quinn, who attended with fellow co-prez Jason Janego said that the “focus” of the release is its theatrical rollout, though the film already is available via VOD. Horns will open in 100-plus cities in 65 markets and will expand in the coming weeks.
Goodbye To Language 3D
Director-writer: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Héloise Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau, Christian Gregori, Jessica Erickson, Jeremy Zampattie, Daniel Ludwig
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Among the “high” cineaste film crowd, there are few living filmmakers (or dead, for that matter) as revered as French-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard. At the Cannes Film Festival back in 2001, which Godard actually attended in support of his film In Praise Of Love, moderator Henri Behar tapped that sentimental exaltation at the start of the film’s press conference when the filmmaker entered the room, quoting a journalist who earlier that day said, “In Godard, there is ‘God.'” His perceived divinity, however, hasn’t always translated to the box office. Godard’s previous feature Film Socialisme (2011) only grossed about $33K in the U.S. and $192K globally. But his latest, Goodbye To Language, is likely to be a much more successful release. The Cannes/Toronto/Locarno/NYFF feature had eager fans clamoring to get into the sold-out screenings of the title at the recent New York Film Festival, and even some otherwise jaded attendees came back for more. “I see the press RSVPs [at festivals], and we’ve had critics returning to see it again,” said Richard Lorber, who also noted that Language has had “great” advanced ticket sales ahead of this weekend’s release. “We’re getting great press for the film and we’re expecting it to be a hit, which is always a dangerous thing to say when you’re an indie film distributor.”
The 3D feature — a first for Godard, who once dismissed technology saying he works on an old typewriter and didn’t care for such things as the Internet or email — has won praise for its effects, which some have lauded as groundbreaking. The story revolves around a married woman and a single man who fall in love, argue and fight. According to a production description of the feature: “A dog strays between town and country. The seasons pass. The man and woman meet again. The dog finds itself between them. The other is in one, the one is in the other and they are three. The former husband shatters everything. A second film begins: the same as the first, and yet not. From the human race we pass to metaphor. This ends in barking and a baby’s cries.” Kino Lorber is backing the title with more resources than it typically might allocate (not that any release has a one-size-fits-all money template). “It’s a key tentpole for us,” said Lorber. “We’re putting more resources into this film.” Part of that includes a steady stream of ads running on WNYC in New York, where the film will open theatrically this weekend. It also spent money with various press outlets including The New York Times. “We also have great GIFs we’re pushing out in social media,” said Lorber. “It has created great word-of-mouth, and we hope that will spread.”
Godard won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for Language, an award he shared with Mommy director Xavier Dolan (they were the oldest and youngest filmmakers at this year’s fest). Kino Lorber will open Goodbye To Language 3D on Friday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center in Manhattan. It will open additional markets in the coming weeks.
The Great Invisible
Director: Margaret Brown
Subjects: Latham Smith, Meccah Boynton-Brown, Doug Brown, Bob Cavnar, Brent Coon, Keith Jones, Sara Lattis Stone
Margaret Brown’s SXSW Film Festival winner The Great Invisible began after her father sent photos from near his home in Mobile Bay in the wake of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. “It was weird seeing their home look like a war zone,” said Brown. “I grew up there. It’s an area that gets hit by hurricanes frequently, but they’re a [resilient people]. They know what to do, and usually they just bunker down when they hit. But with this, there was no roadmap. They wondered if this oil was going to ruin their way of life.” Brown had been traveling for her 2008 film The Order Of Myths, and near the tail end of that project’s run she received a Peabody Award. It was at there that Brown took the next step to what would become The Great Invisible. “My producer suggested I bring a proposal to the event,” said Brown. “I gave it to ITVS’ Lois Vossen, who was also getting a Peabody, who then gave it to others. My life changed in less than a week.” Brown and a small crew headed south to embark on capturing the aftermath of the massive oil spill and its effects on people living along the Gulf. Funding came from a number of organizations including Cinereach, Sundance Institute and Chicken & Egg; Participant Media came on board further into the project. Brown already knew people in the region from growing up there and through her work on The Order Of Myths, which also is set in the area. She started out in Bayou La Batre, AL, which is a big center of the local seafood industry. “The main thing we got early on was the first day the oil hit the beaches,” said Brown. “It was so surreal at the beginning.” Brown said that her approach to the film quickly evolved from the local story about the spill to also include the macro issues surrounding energy.
Brown’s best friend had sent her a New Yorker article about the environmental tragedy which featured a boat captain. The man, Latham Smith, became her first subject. “He’s a can-do guy,” said Brown. “He was helping to clean up. It was immediately clear he would be one of the [subjects].” While they were dining at a restaurant, a drunken man approached their table and began berating Smith, who worked for the oil industry. Brown said Smith asked how the man arrived there that day. “‘By car,’ he said,” noted Brown. “We’re all [complicit] in this.” Brown found additional subjects, covering the individual stories of people coping with the deluge of oil while also giving attention to the larger framework that sustains the oil-dependent economy. “I wanted there to be a balance,” said Brown. “The last people we filmed were survivors of the [Deepwater Horizon] rig. They were initially afraid to talk.” In all, The Great Invisible shot over four years, and Participant came in with funds during the editing process. The film debuted at the SXSW, where it won the Grand Jury prize for Best Documentary Feature. Radius picked up rights to the film in August. It opened at the Village East in New York and the Sundance Sunset in Los Angeles and will expand to additional markets through December.
Point And Shoot
Director-writer: Marshall Curry
Subject: Matthew Vandyke
Distributor: The Orchard
Point And Shoot stems from a letter its subject Matthew Vandyke sent to filmmaker Marshall Curry 2 1/2 years ago. The documentary follows Vandyke as he made a 35,000-mile sojourn through Africa and the Middle East on a motorbike in a quest for adventure and a sense of “manhood.” The journey culminated in Libya, where he joined the rebellion against longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, whose four-decade rule came to an end in 2011. “I received an email from Matt Vandyke, who introduced himself and said he had footage of all his travels in Africa,” said Curry. “He and his girlfriend met my wife and me, and he told us this incredible story about his journey and the role of manhood and cameras in our lives. For me, that’s why I make docs — to [explore] questions.” Curry, who has received Oscar nominations for Street Fight (2006) and If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front (2011, shared with Sam Cullman), said he told Vandyke he had to be left with complete creative control, though he would be working with footage Vandyke shot during his travels, which began in 2007. “From the beginning, I knew I wanted to reproduce the experience I had when I met him and he told this incredible story. I didn’t want it to be like a 60 Minutes profile,” said Curry. “I wanted it to be more like (2002’s) The Kid Stays In The Picture , [in which] people walk out of there with different interpretations of what they had seen.”
Curry’s team went to Baltimore, where Vandyke lives, and went through hours of footage which helped set the stage for the interview portion of the film. Curry spoke with Vandyke over two days, compiling 18 hours of conversation. He then created a rough cut of Point And Shoot and followed that up with two audio interviews. “I was also guided by [Errol Morris’ 2003 docu] The Fog Of War,” said Marshall. Financing came through a hodgepodge of groups including ITVS, Australian network ABC, Cinereach, Tribeca and presales to BBC. An individual investor from L.A. also gave funds after seeing a cut of the film. Additional resources came via Influence Film Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts. Point And Shoot debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it won Best Documentary Feature. The Orchard picked up the title soon afterward. It will open the feature exclusively at the Sunshine Cinema in New York, followed by an expansion in the coming weeks.
Showrunners: The Art Of Running A TV Show
Director-writer: Des Doyle
Subjects: J.J. Abrams, Matthew Carnahan, Steven S. DeKnight, Chris Downey, Jane Espenson, Hart Hanson, Robert King, Anthony LaPaglia, David Nevins, Damon Lindelof
Distributor: Submarine Deluxe/Gravitas
Pillars of the small screen hit the big screen in Showrunners. As the title suggests, the documentary takes a look at some of the individuals who are responsible for the daily operation of television series and the creative forces aligned around them. “We saw it early as a rough cut at San Diego Comic-Con,” said Dan Braun, Co-President of Submarine Deluxe, the distribution label of NYC-based sales company Submarine. “I liked the idea of [showing these] television creators who don’t get the same credit as film directors, though that is changing because of the evolving role of TV. It’s a term used frequently in the trades, but it’s a title that is becoming more recognizable generally.” Braun said that on the surface, the film might not seem “theatrical” but said it is “well done” and that he liked the idea of working on an underdog story. “I wanted to take a chance,” said Braun. “I think the film offers a lot for wide variety of people because it covers a large number of TV creators.” Submarine Deluxe originally had eyed opening Showrunners earlier but decided to take the feature to the recent NY Comic-Con. The label also partnered with distributor Gravitas Ventures for a VOD release. The film will be released day-and-date theatrically and on demand.
Showrunners had its L.A. premiere Tuesday at the Television Academy. “It potentially has a fanboy base,” noted Braun, who added that J.J. Abrams and others featured in the film have sparked interest from that audience, who have made numerous inquiries about the feature’s release via its Facebook page. “We did a lot of press promotion including a Rotten Tomatoes podcast and other ‘nerdy’ comic interest [events],” said Braun. Showrunners will open exclusively at the Arena in Los Angeles this weekend and will head to New York and Chicago in the coming weeks. Added Braun, “We’re going to let it perform and do [further] bookings from there.”