Robin Williams’ final theatrical release, Boulevard, opens this weekend via Starz Digital. The feature, starring Williams as a 60-year-old married man who comes out of the closet, debuted at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, but was temporarily shelved following the actor’s death. Starz will open the film in a slow traditional rollout this summer. The big screen will also pass another cinematic pillar with Magnolia’s Tangerine this weekend. The film is the first feature-length project shot entirely on an iPhone. It will open in limited release, followed by other markets well into August. Sundance Selects will open documentary Do I Sound Gay? by first-time filmmaker David Thorpe, featuring David Sedaris, George Takei and Margaret Cho in New York and on-demand, while Broad Green Pictures will bow its second-ever title, 10.000km in 11 North American cities.
Also opening in limited release are Freestyle Releasing’s The Suicide Theory, which won prizes at the Dances With Films and Austin film festivals as well as Magnolia’s Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot in a day and date roll out.
Director: Dito Montiel
Writer: Douglas Soesbe
Cast: Robin Williams, Kathy Baker, Roberto Aguire, Giles Matthey, Bob Odenkirk
Distributor: Starz Digital
Boulevard is the final theatrical release starring the late actor/comedian Robin Williams. The title had its world premiere at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival where distributor Starz first caught the film, but his death in August of that year prompted its producers to hold off seeking a release. “[They] decided to put the film on the shelf for a bit because they didn’t want it to be caught up in the press,” said Starz’s Mara Winokur. “We were interested in [the film] during Tribeca, but then it went off the market. We stayed in touch [with the producers] and picked it up in February. It’s a multi-dimensional film for a discerning audience of adults.”
Boulevard centers on a married but closeted 60-year-old bank officer Nolan (Williams), whose spontaneous turn down an unknown street upends his monotonous life and marriage. After forming an unusual friendship with a young, charismatic hustler named Leo, Nolan finds himself on a journey of self-discovery that forces him to confront lifelong secrets he has kept from his wife, Joy (Kathy Baker), and himself. Nolan’s climactic decision to confront who he really is promises to bring happiness and reconciliation to both him and his wife, proving that it is never too late to change life for the better.
“I received a copy of the script…and something about it really touched me,” said director Dito Montiel. “Probably the last thing your agent wants to hear is that you want to do [a movie] about a 60-year-old man coming out. [But] there was an aspect of the coming out I was drawn to and that was of the marriage itself. The [couple] do love each other. It’s not a ‘stand-up and cheer’ to leave ‘the evil woman.’ They did love each other.”
Both Robin Williams and Kathy Baker were involved with fine-tuning the script, bringing ‘strong opinions’ to the table, according to Montiel. Boulevard began shooting in Nashville around the end of 2013 over 23 days. The feature had initially been slated to shoot in Los Angeles and was referred to as Santa Monica Boulevard, but tax breaks and incentives lead the project to Tennessee.
“We wanted it to be like any city in America,” added Montiel. “It was special because I don’t think anyone else was doing a film like this for any other reason than they just wanted to be there… There’s a scene where Robin and Kathy’s characters lie in bed and they say they love each other. It wasn’t in the script and there was some [push back], but they were very strong about keeping it for their characters. It may seem like little stuff, but it really was important. That’s one of the magic things that happens when you’re shooting.”
Another surprise came from the owners of the house used in the film as the couple’s home. A parallel existed between the on-screen duo played by Williams and Baker with the couple who leased the production their abode. “The woman asked what the movie is about, and given the subject matter, you can’t help but get a little nervous,” said Montiel. “She had read the script and the woman was crying and said that her husband had come out [years earlier].” The owners had maintained their relationship and asked if they could watch Williams and Baker shoot the ‘confrontation scene.’ “They were both crying and Robin came over and [comforted them], saying it was ‘ok’ to leave,” said Montiel. “They’ve come to almost every premiere of the film. It shows the universal nature of the story.”
After picking up the title, Starz re-introduced Boulevard to a mix of LGBTQ events in San Francisco (Frameline) and Miami as well as the recent Montclair and Seattle festivals. The film has also screened as part of recent Robin Williams retrospectives at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York (MOMI) and the American Cinematheque in L.A. “We planned the release around a lot of things but didn’t plan around the Marriage Equality Act,” said Starz’s Winokur. “Robin’s character is 60 and didn’t have the right to live his life as he would have. It’s a fortuitous coincidence to be able to look at this movie with a fresh pair of eyes.” Starz also released the film’s trailer on YouTube, receiving about 4 million views.
Added Winokur: “It’s a testament to his fan base and the quality of the movie. It’s counter programming. There’s a whole group of people who are looking for something else to watch. Our theatrical booker has been getting daily calls in towns, so the word of mouth is really working.”
Starz is opening Boulevard in a traditional theatrical window, bowing exclusively at the Landmark Sunshine in New York Friday followed by a dozen more markets including the Sundance Sunset in L.A. the following week along with Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia and others. On-demand will not take place until the fall or later.
Director-writer: Sean Baker
Writer: Chris Bergoch
Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, James Ransone, Alla Tumanian, Luiza Nersisyan
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Producer Darren Dean has worked with director Sean Baker on other projects, including 2010’s Prince Of Broadway. “I’ve been involved with this film before I knew it was Tangerine. Sean was coming up with project ideas and the area of Santa Monica Blvd. and Highland became a main [idea],” said Dean. The gritty pic, which had its World Premiere in Sundance’s NEXT section, also has the distinction of being the first feature shot entirely on the iPhone.
Set during Christmas Eve in Hollywood, Tangerine centers on working girl Sin-Dee who is back on the street after a month in jail. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn’t been faithful during her lockup, she and best friend Alexandra set out to find him and figure out what happened. Their journey leads them through myriad L.A. subcultures, including an Armenian family dealing with their own repercussions of infidelity.
“The Duplass bros. green-lit the film and provided financing,” said Dean, who added the funds came as Baker was already well into an “extensive interview process” with the women featured in the film. “We became friends with Mark during Prince Of Broadway. It played at a festival where Mark was on the jury and we [got to know] him and Ted Hope. We remained in contact as Mark and Sean’s careers grew.” Mark Duplass spoke with Baker about the possibility of doing a ‘micro-budget’ film in 2013. “They said, ‘Let’s give it a shot,'” added Dean. “They gave us enough money to do a strong micro.”
Sean Baker met Mya Taylor at an LGBT center, later cast as Alexandra in Tangerine. Taylor also introduced the team to Kitana Kiki Rodriguez who plays Sin-Dee. “The casting process was fairly organic,” said Dean. “Sean is not a guy who does a lot of formal auditions. He goes with people he knows and trusts and people affiliated with those individuals will get cast as well. It’s a Woody Allen kind of vibe.”
Tangerine shot over 22 days along Santa Monica Blvd. with a tight crew in chronological order with many people wearing ‘multiple hats,’ according to Dean. “We were all keeping things from falling apart. But that creates an atmosphere of energy. You can feel it when you watch it on the screen.”
Tangerine‘s post was a bit of a dive into the unknown given the fact it was shot on the iPhone (something Apple has been happy with. The film was featured in an Apple podcast following an in-store conversation moderated by John Cameron Mitchell). “When you’re editing in a format you haven’t done before, you’re going to encounter things you haven’t had before,” said Dean. “The process for Sean was naturally a learning experience. It made us very nervous going in, but he was very excited about it. After [the early edit], it became a mostly standard process.”
Magnolia Pictures picked up Tangerine out of Sundance. It will open the feature at the Arclight and Landmark 12 in L.A. as well as the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Sunshine in New York in addition to the Carlton Cinema in Toronto this weekend. Magnolia will expand the film in both markets in addition to opening more cities including Chicago, Washington, D.C., Boston and San Diego. Tangerine will continue to add major markets throughout July and into August.
Do I Sound Gay?
Director: David Thorpe
Subjects: David Sedaris, Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, George Takei, Margaret Cho
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Filmmaker David Thorpe tapped into a non-fiction sweet spot when he set out to tackle the concept of the “gay voice” for his first feature film. Thorpe used charm and cold calls to lure familiar names to take part in his documentary, Do I Sound Gay?
Following a break-up with his boyfriend, Thorpe, a journalist, embarked on a “journey of self-discovery,” confronting his anxiety about “sounding gay.” Enlisting acting coaches, linguists, friends, family, total strangers and celebrities, he finds that many people, across the sexual orientation continuum, often wish for a different voice. The feature begins as a personal journey and becomes a chance to unpack layers of cultural baggage concerning sexuality, identity and self-esteem.
“I just asked — and that was particularly true of Dan Savage and David Sedaris,” said Thorpe about how he tapped famous names to take part in his film. “I laid out what the project was and why I wanted to talk to them and they both wrote me back within a couple days. I went through some connections with George Takei and Margaret Cho, but it was still a cold call from a first-time filmmaker. I think they were just all interested in the topic.”
Thorpe flew to the UK and spent a considerable amount of time with Sedaris, even sharing a bike ride with him near his home in Sussex. When Thorpe met Star Trek star George Takei and his husband, Brad, the latter spoke of his anxiety about his voice. “It was a touching moment,” said Thorpe. “It encapsulates why they said ‘yes’ to being in the film because it’s a shared experience.”
Thorpe began the project in earnest at the beginning of 2011. In early 2012, he received help from Impact Partners, a group that connects documentary filmmakers with projects related to social issues and investors. “Impact Partners said, ‘You need a producer,’ and they started talking about Howard Gertler (How To Survive A Plague),” said Thorpe. “By coincidence, we’re old friends and he’d been [informally] consulting on [Do I Sound Gay?] already.”
“David showed me footage of the film and it was [like seeing] what gay people talk about when straight people aren’t around,” said Gertler. “I also liked the pop element to it. I think it provides catharsis to gay people and others. It goes beyond sexuality.”
Do I Sound Gay? opened at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, followed by DOC NYC where it screened as the opening night film last October in addition to LGBT and mainstream festivals including Santa Barbara, Dallas, Florida, Nashville, Seattle, Provincetown and Frameline. Sundance Selects picked up the title last November. It will open the film exclusively at IFC Center and on-demand Friday with a platform roll out to follow.
Director-writer: Carols Marques-Marcet
Writers: Clara Roquet
Cast: Natalia Tena, David Verdaguer
Distributor: Broad Green
Spanish/Catalan/English feature 10.000km is the second release for distributor Broad Green following Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden, with another half-dozen or so titles on the docket for the company through the end of the year.
The feature centers on Barcelona couple Alexandra and Sergi. The two want to have a baby, but their plans are dashed when Alex receives an offer for an artistic residency in Los Angeles. Understanding this may be Alex’s last chance to re-launch her photography career, the couple decide to put their plans on hold for a year. One year apart, with a continent between them, Alex and Sergi must rely on virtual communication to keep the flame of their relationship alive. But with their realities no longer shared and the touch of one another gone, the technology that has supposedly brought the world closer together may just tear them apart.
“I started working on the script in 2009 and then started writing with [Carla Roquet] in 2011. We were working for [some time] then stopped,” said writer-director Carols Marques-Marcet, who, like his male character in the film, was a Spanish ex-pat in L.A. “A year-and-a-half before shooting, we started the script from scratch, though with the same characters and concept.”
The writing pair wrote a new draft “super fast,” according to Marques-Marcet and then set out to find financing, receiving resources via Spanish governmental sources and Spanish network, TVE. The role of Alexandra had initially been slated for another actress, who had to abruptly cancel just a short time before the shoot. “We only had a certain timeframe because of [fellow actor] David Verdaguer’s availability,” said Marques-Marcet. “Then [one of our producers] saw an interview with Natalia Tena in a magazine and we wrote a letter to her agent.”
The quick turnaround worked and the project shot over 20 days in the summer of 2013. 10.000km had its world premiere at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival, receiving a Special Jury prize for actors Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer. The title also screened at the Palm Springs, Mill Valley and Seattle festivals (winning the Best New Director prize) stateside.
Broad Green Pictures will open 10.000km in 11 theaters in 11 cities in North America Friday including the Sundance Sunset in L.A. and IFC Center in New York in addition to VOD and digital platforms.