Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Spain’s maverick filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar returns to U.S. shores with his latest film, which is a departure from his most recent work. I’m So Excited!, which opened the recent Los Angeles Film Festival but skirted Almodovar’s usual Cannes world premiere slot this year, is a throwback to the director’s 1980s comedies, and Sony Pictures Classics begins its opening in platform release. The director called the film recently “his most gay” — perhaps fitting given yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions and the flurry of gay pride events around the country this weekend. The feature will be joined by several documentary newcomers in the specialty arena Friday including Tribeca Film’s How To Make Money Selling Drugs, which includes a host of notables including 50 Cent, Eminem, Woody Harrelson and Susan Sarandon. Screen Media’s The Secret Disco Revolution also boasts figures from the era, which combines storytelling and comic-irony to recall the disco days. A Band Called Death is also a music-focused nonfiction, spotlighting seminal “pre-punk” band Death. And self-distributed Some Girl(s) stars Adam Brody, Kristen Bell and Zoe Kazan in a new comedy-drama.
I’m So Excited
Director-writer: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Javier Cámara, Pepa Charro, Lola Duenas, Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva, Miguel Ángel Silvestre
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Almodóvar fans are some of the most loyal around. His most recent film, the dark The Skin I Live In debuted in six theaters in October 2011, with a per-screen average above $37K (nearly $3.2 million cume), while Broken Embraces (2009) bowed in a pair of runs, averaging $53,556 on its way to a $5 million U.S. gross. Those films, however, were outshined at the box office by the Spanish filmmaker’s 2006 release, Volver, which cumed nearly $12.9 million ($39,540 first weekend PSA). His latest, I’m So Excited!, harkens back to early Almodóvar, so how it will be received in 2013 remains to be seen. “I wanted to return to a genre that I was very familiar with in the ’80s,” said Almodóvar at a recent preview screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. “It’s a light comedy and discussion… And the discussion is mixed with a lot of alcohol and sex.” The story centers on a group of passengers aboard an ill-fated flight from Spain to Mexico City who look to overcome their anxiety in the face of danger, with hefty amounts of booze, pill-popping and carnal satisfaction as the secrets of their lives are revealed. “Pedro Almodóvar has made the perfect summer movie,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker. “We’re always thrilled when he wants to switch gears. This is our 10th or 11th movie with him and his instincts are always correct.”
Barker said the LA Film Festival was a great place to debut the film, saying it has grown in prominence. He also said Almodóvar’s audience has grown over the years, with new generations of people coming out to see his films. “The thing about Pedro’s audience is he grows with every film and grows across demographics,” noted Barker. “A lot of younger people have been going to his [recent] films that hadn’t seen his [previous] films. He’s become a rock star in a way.” SPC will open I’m So Excited in three New York theaters and two LA locations this weekend. It will head to an additional 8 to 10 cities over the next couple of weeks and will likely be in 100 markets within the next month.
Writer-director Matthew Cooke and producer Bert Marcus worked together on 2010 doc Teenage Paparazzo and immediately began working together on How To Make Money Selling Drugs. The docu takes a look at an array of sides in the drug war including users, dealers, prison employees and lobbyists. It also includes interviews with celebrities on the topic, which Marcus calls “the biggest public policy failure of the past half century.” “My company funded the film fully,” said Marcus. “We have great investors who have put together a film fund for this and other documentaries going on in the year. Everybody’s been touched by this — no matter who you are — everyone’s been touched.” Marcus said a number of people appearing in the film had hesitance before agreeing to participate, but expects some of the celebs will appeal to younger audiences. He said previous efforts to bring the war on drugs to the big screen appealed to particular demographics, but hopes Selling Drugs will cross over to several demos.
“Our goal is to encourage educational and creative solutions. Also interested in getting a perspectives covered which is why we worked with DEA to street dealer and cartel lords,” said Marcus. “It’s tough because whether they’re drug dealers, drug addicts and recovering it’s hard to get them to talk. It’s not the most pleasant, but once they saw where we’re going with this, they opened up. Docs are always a challenge generally, but our goal is to have a positive experience but not by preaching, and to really inspire change.” Tribeca Film bought the film soon after its debut at the Toronto Film Festival last September. It debuted in the U.S. at the Tribeca Film Festival and has been available on demand since June 18th. It opened in New York on Wednesday and will add an additional five markets Friday and continue its rollout through July.
Filmmaker Jamie Kastner initially approached a broadcaster in Canada where he lives about doing a profile on a figure from the disco era, but the company suggested he do a look at the era generally. “As my research began, it came together,” said Kastner. “I’ve done a number of music docs before and something I learned was a bit of revisionist history happening with some [academics] saying it was a time of protest. [This film] is a comic/ironic look at disco’s history and thankfully I had the budget to put this together and get historical footage.” Kastner first sold the film to Bravo in Canada followed by additional broadcasters, which helped him with production. “Doc filmmaking isn’t easy anywhere, but it’s easier here than in the U.S.,” added Kastner. “These sales then triggered private and public funds such as Rogers and Telefilm.”
Kastner said the film combines classic and “off the wall” elements and less verite stylistically than his previous work. “I always knew I wanted as much stock coverage in there because it’s so ‘yummy’ — I think is the best way to describe it,” added Kastner. “There’s also complete fiction which instills an ironic take. I wanted to juxtapose the academics with the disco stars, but the challenge was in editing which took a good six months.” The Secret Disco Revolution opened at the Toronto Film Festival last fall where Screen Media picked it up for the U.S. via eOne’s Charlotte Mickie. It will open tomorrow in New York, LA, San Francisco, Berkley, Minneapolis, Seattle, Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Palm Springs, Portland and Columbus.
Drafthouse Films picked up docu A Band Called Death out of last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival where it debuted. The film takes a look at Death, a band formed by three teenage brothers in the early 1970s. Fans and music aficionados look at the group as punk before punk existed, pre-dating the Ramones, Sex Pistols and Bad Brains. “There’s a similarity with this film and Searching For Sugar Man which came out last year,” said Drafthouse Films’ James Shapiro. “It fits our brand [which is] is definitely off center with a dark edge to it.” The docu, which is already available via digital download/VOD and iTunes, played Monday night for a Q&A post-concert show. “It may be a movie about punk, but it’s the most audience-friendly ‘mainstream’ of all of our movies,” said Shapiro. “The name of the band is Death, but not in the Alice Cooper terms. Death isn’t seen as dark or evil. The band wasn’t successful because of the name ‘Death.'”
Theatrically, Drafthouse Films will open in 15 locations in New York, Los Angeles and Austin this weekend. The band will attend Q&As in LA on Friday and Saturday as well as Sunday in New York. Added Shapiro: “Most of our films have a dark edge to them, but this isn’t so much that. You’ll be laughing and crying and excited about the music.”
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Writers: Neil LaBute (screenplay and stage play)
Cast: Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan, Mía Maestro, Jennifer Morrison, Emily Watson
Producers Patty West and Chris Schwartz were looking for a project that would work on a limited budget. They spoke with producer Andrew Carlberg who brought them a play written by filmmaker Neil LaBute. The story, about a writer who travels across the country to meet up with ex-lovers in attempt to make amends on the eve of his wedding, seemed achievable and the three took on the project. “Neil was willing to take a chance with new producers,” said West, who added that casting was also fairly easy because actors are drawn to LaBute. Added West: “From a creative perspective, we wanted the [male character first] so we could cast the women based on his personality. We wanted a diverse cast that complimented him. [The actors] shared their own break-up stories and Neil was very collaborative. Everything was shot in 18 days. Adam [Brody] was having a demanding month, but each woman would come in [intermittently] and be done.” Money was raised through private equity, though the casting and LaBute’s participation made the effort comparatively seamless. Production faced a challenge when the original director had to exit the project after a family emergency, but von Scherler Mayer took it on. The film was shot on a soundstage beginning with Fruitvale Station cinematographer Rachel Morrison. Production also moved to Seattle where they encountered a somewhat riotous May Day celebration and pouring rain forced shooting to stop in the LA soundstage.
Some Girl(s) premiered at SXSW in March to four sold-out screenings. West and Schwartz noted that they had some interest from distributors but decided to go the DIY route for its release. “We thought the companies were great but we thought the film deserved more so we decided to go the route we did,” said West. That will include a theatrical release at New York’s Cinema Village and LA’s Laemmle Noho 7 this weekend. The filmmakers are also capitalizing on social media, which they said would have been harder to do had they gone with a 2014 release as some companies had wanted. In addition to the film’s release in NYC and LA, the film will have a one-night event screening in Chicago. It will also be available day-and-date through the new Vimeo On Demand service.