While Cannes is grabbing all the shine on the Specialty front, new rollouts stateside are coming this weekend. IFC Films is opening Telluride and Toronto drama Wakefield starring Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner in a day-and-date rollout, while Imagination Worldwide is launching Paint It Black in New York and L.A. Paint It Black is Amber Tamblyn’s directorial debut. The two films headline a slower weekend of limited release openers following a large number of releases in recent weeks. Magnolia Pictures is opening Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s latest The Commune and, ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Gravitas Ventures is opening doc Legion Of Brothers.
Director-writer: Robin Swicord
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Garner, Jason O’Mara, Beverly D’Angelo, Ian Anthony Dale, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Isaac Leyva, Victoria Bruno, Ellery Sprayberry, Tracey Walter
Distributor: IFC Films
Producer Julie Lynn had produced Wakefield writer-director Robin Swicord’s The Jane Austen Book Club in 2007. Swicord wrote the screenplay for Wakefield based on a story she had read in The New Yorker several years later.
“We began this [project] in May 2012,” said Lynn. “My producing partner Bonnie [Curtis] and I knew a studio would not make this movie, so we had to package it, run the numbers and work it into a budget. This is backward from a studio movie.” Actor Bryan Cranston topped the list of stars to play the title role. The filmmaking team took some time to gain his interest. Swicord attended the stage version of All the Way with Cranston, who eventually came on board as Howard Wakefield, though the next challenge was finding a break in his schedule.
“In that time, we went to investors,” said Lynn. “We were able to get funds for about half the budget through Wendy Federman and Carl Moellenberg, who invested in his play. They have a real affinity for Bryan.”
The feature centers on Howard Wakefield (Cranston) who is outwardly the picture of success. He has a loving wife (Jennifer Garner) and two daughters, a prestigious job as a Manhattan lawyer, and a comfortable home in the suburbs. Inwardly, though, he’s suffocating. One day, something snaps and Howard goes into hiding in his garage attic. Leaving his family to wonder what happened to him, he observes them from the attic window—an outsider spying in on his own life. As the days of self-imposed isolation stretches longer than he planned, Howard begins to wonder: if it is even possible to go back to the way things were.
“We had to build around Bryan’s schedule since it’s all Bryan all the time,” she added. “We needed about 20 days.” In the meantime, the search went out for additional cast. Jennifer Garner joined as his wife. The role is quite unique in that it doesn’t require much in the way of speaking. “She spends a lot of time looking through glass,” added Lynn. “We were incredibly excited. We needed someone who was generous enough but didn’t feel the need to talk a lot.”
Producer Bonnie Curtis noted that Swicord wrote a “shadow script,” one which gave dialog to people on the other side of the glass where Bryan Cranston’s character Howard Wakefield was living. The idea was to give the other actors the sense of what their characters’ lives were like in between looking through the glass.
The title shot over 20 days in late 2015 and the beginning of 2016 in Los Angeles with two days of exterior shots in New York. Wakefield debuted at Telluride last year, followed by Toronto where it was picked up by IFC Films. It also played additional festivals including Austin and Virginia film festivals.
The film will bow at he Sunshine in New York this weekend, followed next Friday by a number of markets including Los Angeles in two locations. It will also be available via VOD next weekend.
Paint It Black
Director-writer: Amber Tamblyn
Writer: Ed Dougherty, Janet Fitch (novel)
Cast: Janet McTeer, Alia Shawkat, Rhys Wakefield, Nancy Kwan, Emily Rios, Alfred Molina
Distributor: Imagination Worldwide
Amber Tamblyn’s directorial debut is based on the 2006 novel by Janet Fitch of the same name. Comedian Amy Poehler gave her the book, which she adapted with Ed Dougherty. Initially she had thought of finding another director, but then decided to do it herself.
Paint It Black tells the story of two women from different worlds who, after losing the man they both loved, are joined in shock and grief when they are drawn into a twisted relationship that reflects equal parts distrust and blind need.
“I talked with her at the Sarasota Film Festival four or five years ago,” said producer Anne Hubbell. “We then met with Wren Arthur who [also produced].” Hubbell along with producing partner Amy Hobby, whose company Tangerine Entertainment focuses on work by female filmmakers and strong roles for women, found financing primarily through a private investor. “It was great because it came from a woman investor,” said Hobby. “The subject matter was also personal to her.”
Casting was the next step. In a rarity for an independently produced feature, Paint It Black had wide latitude in filling roles. “This was the rare indie case in which there was no pressure to cast a star,” said Hobby. “We were able to cast people who were right for the roles, which is always the bet thing that can ever happen for a producer. We worked with Vicki Thomas on casting.”
Janet McTeer was the first to come on board the project followed by Alia Shawkat. “The physicality of both actresses was important,” said Hubbell. “Alia is more petit, while Janet is very statuesque, so that made for an interesting pairing on screen. Alia had just finished a movie the day before and flew in and stated with us the next day.”
Paint It Black shot in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles over 21 days in late 2015. The feature had its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival last year and a theatrical debut this past week at MoMA. The producers began speaking to Imagination Worldwide last summer, and eventually took on distribution.
The film will bow at Village East in New York as well as Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles this weekend. On Friday, Amber Tamblyn will join a post-screening Q&A moderated by Amy Schumer. On Friday, America Ferrara will moderate another discussion with Tamblyn. In L.A., author Janet Finch will take part in a post-screening conversation Friday.
Director-writer: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Urlich Thomsen, Fares Fares, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Julie Agnete Vang, Lars Ranthe
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
One of the founders of the Dogme ’95 movement, Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s 2014 feature The Hunt was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2014.
His latest, The Commune, is a loving portrait of a family who grows into a larger family and the pain that ensues as they slowly lose one another. Trine Dyrholm and Ulrich Thomsen play Anna and Erik, an academic couple who decide to start a commune together with a group of close friends and eccentric personalities. With the family in the center of the story, we are invited into the dream of a real commune; we participate in the house meetings, dinners and parties. It is friendship, love and togetherness under one roof until an earth-shattering love affair puts the community and the commune to its greatest test yet.
“Any new film from Thomas Vinterberg is a reason to celebrate,” said Magnolia’s Matt Cowal. “The Commune is a very personal film for Thomas. It is based on elements of his own life. We were quite moved by it and have found audiences to be as well. It’s screened extensively on the regional festival circuit, as well as with cinema clubs like Key and Talk Cinema to great response.”
Released by Magnolia in July, 2013, The Hunt grossed over $613K in theaters. Vinterberg had a bigger international cast for his 2015 Searchlight release, Far From the Madding Crowd with Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Juno Temple and Matthias Schoenaerts, which cumed over $12.23M in domestic theaters and over $30.2M worldwide.
Magnolia will open The Commune at Lincoln Plaza and the Sunshine in New York as well as the Royal, Laemmle NoHo and Pasadena Playhouse in the L.A. area in a day-and-date rollout. Over Memorial weekend, it will head to Bay Area locations, Denver, Washington, D.C., and several other cities, with further theatrical runs slated for the beginning of June.
Legion of Brothers
Director: Greg Barker
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
In time for Memorial Day weekend, Gravitas Ventures is opening documentary Legion Of Brothers, which takes a look at the Special Forces units, which have played a pivotal role in U.S. involvement in troubled Afghanistan for years. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Greg Barker had unprecedented access into their earlier secret mission that followed 9/11. CNN Films produced the title.
Legion Of Brothers takes a look back at U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Immediately after the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States government initiated a secret war against Afghanistan, deploying fewer than one hundred Special Forces troops to fight back. Building a coalition with the rebels of the Northern Alliance, the US troops faced off against the Taliban and the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. They succeeded in driving both out of power by the end of 2001 with minimal casualties and without conventional, large-scale military operations. Despite this victory, the U.S. and its allies soon became mired in a seemingly never-ending war. This untold story features unprecedented access to the Green Berets who played pivotal roles in these covert missions.
“We saw it at Sundance at its premiere. Greg Barker has a great relationship with this [genre] and it continues our standing relationship with CNN Films, which really elevated it,” said Gravitas Ventures VP, Sales & Marketing, Laura Florence. “We’re concentrating the release to areas where the film’s subjects live since they have a tightness with their communities.”
Barker took the Primetime Emmy for his 2013 HBO Documentary Films title Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden.
Gravitas has been working with the Special Forces Charitable Trust on a grassroots campaign, which Florence described as “very passionate.” There will also be special screenings at the George W. Bush Library along with others.
Legion Of Brothers will open New York on Friday and in Los Angeles June 2 with larger rollouts planned for June 9 and 16. The title will go on-demand and be available at Walmarts around the country June 26. CNN will broadcast the documentary in early to mid-fall with a Hulu rollout eyed for the end of the year.