Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.

A slew of indie actors have movies opening in the specialty arena this weekend. Alan Cumming has won festival raves for his role in Music Box Films’ Any Day Now. The film actually has a more ambitious initial rollout than most among its peers. Zoë Kravitz and Gabourey Sidibe star in Yelling To The Sky, Victoria Mahoney’s personal story of growing up in a rough neighborhood. Also hitting theaters in limited release this weekend is IFC Films’ Save The Date, which assembled its production team in what is best described as “six degrees of separation” (or less). And Let Fury Have The Hour is a Tribeca Film Festival debut that took years to  ake that only finished once festivals came knocking.

Any Day Now
Director-writer: Travis Fine
Writer: George Arthur Bloom (original)
Cast: Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva, Frances Fisher
Distributor: Music Box Films

Bloom wrote the original script about a gay couple that fights a biased legal system to retain custody of an abandoned special needs teen. “The script sat on his desk for 25 years,” said writer-director and co-producer Travis Fine. A music supervisor turned Fine onto the script and spoke with Bloom about taking it on. “George allowed me to give my perspective and allowed me to create the story I wanted to tell,” Fine added. “He said please be kind and gentle, but I think he’s pleased.” Fine cold-called actor Alan Cumming’s agent in New York who pitched the actor along with his manager. Cumming committed almost immediately. After he came on board, the other acting team easily came together. Fine found Isaac Leyva via the Cast It website. “I saw his tape online and thought he was so talented and had a natural presence. He broke down in tears when I told him he got the role,” said Fine. “One of the most important pieces of the talent process was Garret Dillahunt, who brings a quite simple but powerful presence. It wouldn’t have worked without him.”

Private equity investors including an executive producer from The Kids Are All Right brought in financing. A gay couple who’ve fostered dozens of children also provided resources, Fine said. “For some it was a deep personal connection to the story and others an opportunity to be in show biz.” Any Day Now debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last spring where it won the Audience Award. The film won similar audience prizes at a number of subsequent festivals including LA’s Outfest, Provincetown, Woodstock and Chicago in addition to other prizes in Seattle. “I thought it would be a film that would have universal appeal but others thought it would only live in an LGBT niche. But when it won the Tribeca Award and audience awards at other festivals then it validated the collective work of all the people who worked on the film and the most heartening thing was seeing audiences across the spectrum embrace it.”

Music Box Films will open the movie this weekend in 15 theaters in nine markets including New York, LA, San Francisco, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Detroit, Denver and Dallas. On December 21st the film will go to an additional six markets with more in subsequent weeks. Music Box’s Ed Arentz said the title will be in 50 markets by early February.

Yelling To The Sky
Writer-director: Victoria Mahoney
Cast: Jason Clarke, Zoë Kravitz, Tim Blake Nelson, Gabourey Sidibe
Distributor: MPI Pictures

Writer-director Victoria Mahoney used her own experiences growing up in a rough neighborhood as the basis of Yelling To The Sky, which stars Zoë Kravitz as a high schooler who must fend for herself as her family falls apart. “It’s a ‘PG-13 version’ of how [Mahoney’s] teen years really went,” noted producer Billy Mulligan. Sundance Institute took the project under their wings in 2007 in the Sundance Labs and it received its first round of funding in 2009. “It was nurtured for a few years and was in pre-production in late summer 2009, but we had four false starts,” said Mulligan. “At one point we had to sit our crew members down and said we didn’t have money for the next week and they all decided to come back, but we got money by the following Tuesday.” The shoot took place in a “rough part” of Queens and a drive-by shooting interrupted production one night though nobody was hurt. Interestingly, Mahoney insisted on shooting on 35mm film.

Mulligan came on board during pre-production serving as a creative and unit production manager. He hashed out a “five-year plan” with Mahoney. Mahoney first met Kravitz socially and then 18 months later contacted the actress who is the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet. “There’s a small pool of bi-racial teenage female actresses that have some name, so Zoe Kravitz fit that bill,” said Mulligan who added that Gabourey Sidibe accepted the as Kravitz’s nemesis following her Oscar-nominated turn in Precious. Jason Clarke was relatively unknown in the U.S. at the time. Yelling To The Sky debuted in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2011 where it was repped by Submarine’s Josh Braun. MPI eventually acquired the title. It will open in two cinemas in New York and will be available day-and-date across digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, X-box, etc. “Young people are a fanatical audience for us and they really want to see the film,” said Mulligan who noted the trailer has been viewed online more than 100K times.

Save The Date
Director: Michael Mohan
Writers: Egan Reich (screenplay), Jeffrey Brown, Michael Mohan
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Mark Webber, Geoffrey Arend
Distributor: IFC Films

Producer Jordan Horowitz came across the work of Jeffrey Brown in a comic store. He contacted the graphic novelist via an email address printed inside his book. They came up with the story that morphed into Save The Date, about a woman who confronts her own shortcomings after she rejects her boyfriend’s hasty proposal and finds herself in a rebound romance. Meanwhile, Michael Mohan had separately contacted Brown through the same email address. “Michael and his girlfriend both unknowingly exchanged Jeffrey Brown drawings,” Horowitz said. “Then they commissioned a third for their wedding, so we knew he was the right guy to put this together.” Horowitz said casting was an “oddly seamless” process. “For films of a certain budget level you can get the creative choices, but they were our first choices” and “they had previous connections already”. Added producer Michael Roiff, “Everyone says this is a labor of love, but Jordan and I have made a number of these and we’ve had great experiences, but this was one we could really say we made with friends and believed in the project.”

Roiff and Horowitz went to a number of sources “outside the beltway” to find financing. The 20-day shoot took place in the Summer of 2011 with a large number of locations throughout L.A., and it headed to Sundance in January for its premiere. IFC Films came on board soon after the festival. The distributor will open the film in New York and Los Angeles this weekend. It is already available via VOD on iTunes, Amazon, X-box, Playstation and Sundance Now.

Let Fury Have The Hour
Writer-director: Antonino D’Ambrosio
Cast: Chuck D., Ian MacKaye, Shepard Fairey
Distributor: Cavu Pictures (theatrical), SnagFilms (digital)

Antonino D’Ambrosio wrote the book (actually a collection of essays) Let Fury Have The Hour, which formed the basis for a documentary years in the making that chronicles a generation of artists, thinkers and activists using their creativity as a response to the reactionary politics of the ’80s. “It is not a traditional documentary,” said D’Ambrosio. “It’s at once an ambitious and active film and a concrete and conceptual film. The theme of the film is something I’ve coined in talking about my work and people who’ve inspired me throughout history to speak about the human condition.” D’Ambrosio took on separate projects as Fury gestated, but said those endeavors “serviced” the creation of the film coming out tomorrow. “I shot the film on every possible format including the iPhone,” said D’Ambrosio. “Tim Robbins got behind the project and said he thinks i could make a compelling film which encouraged me to continue through it.

Along the way, D’Ambrosio found what he called “patrons” who helped him complete the film, including Rob McKay. The filmmaker-artist said he doesn’t think “any project is ever really done,” but once it attracted festival attention, he realized he had to wrap it up. The feature debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. Cavu Pictures will open it theatrically at the Quad Cinema tomorrow in New York and January expansions will include San Francisco on the 18th and LA on the 25th with more cities to follow.