Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
While the masses will head to the likes of Despicable Me 2 and The Lone Ranger this Fourth of July weekend, some who beat to a different drum will seek new specialty films taking a break from the heat and the BBQs. Fox Searchlight is opening The Way, Way Back with Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell, probably the weekend’s highest-profile limited-run title. Millennium Films will debut Stuck In Love this weekend. The filmmaker with Kristen Bell, Jennifer Connelly as well as a surprising addition the cast. The filmmaker lured his childhood hero, author Stephen King to join the project after relaying a childhood story. First Run’s A Girl And A Gun is one of the weekend’s nonfiction offerings, spotlighting guns and women. Cohen Media Group’s Just Like A Woman is the first U.S. production of France-born filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb. And Magnolia’s Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me spotlights ’70s band Big Star. Its release will mirror a slew of special events.

The Way, Way Back
Directors-writers: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Cast: Steve Carell, AnnaSophia Robb, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Producer Kevin Walsh had been a fan of The Way, Way Back script since it first appeared on the Black List. Walsh met co-writer/co-director Jim Rash and began putting together a plan for the project in 2010. He had been looking for a project that was under $5 million. “The timing was great,” said Walsh. “We spent a year attaching people and were able to get [Steve] Carell. That propelled us when he became attached.” Initially, production was set for North Carolina but moved to south of Boston to accommodate Carell. The shoot ran pretty smoothly minus some bumps. Photography took place at a water park where regular customers were present. “We couldn’t afford to close the whole thing,” noted Walsh. “At one point Sam Rockwell used the PA system for one scene and didn’t realize his voice was being broadcast throughout the whole park. The owner of the park ran over and grabbed the mic from him.” The production also battled rain, including torrential downpours in the last eight hours of the shoot. “We joked that it was Nat and Jim’s baptism,” said Walsh.

Fox Searchlight came on board during Sundance. Rash had worked with the distributor on The Descendants, which he co-wrote. “They were well attuned to what was happening and stayed in touch while we made the film,” added Walsh about the film, which centers on a 14-year-old boy who finds an unexpected friend at the Water Wizz water park. “The Sundance premiere was an out-of-body experience,” added Walsh. “It was cathartic and an emotional experience for us. The Eccles Theater was very intense.” Added Searchlight’s Frank Rodriguez, “The film played in 12 film festivals across the United States between April and June, winning the audience award at both Nashville and Newport Beach.” The Way, Way Back also closed out the L.A. Film Festival last month. Nat Faxon and Rash have gone to 20 cities for word-of-mouth screenings in the lead-up to the film’s release this weekend, and they will continue on an East Coast bus tour, which began Monday. Rodriguez noted that the film will open in eight cities for a total of 20 runs including L.A., NYC, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, D.C.

Stuck In Love
Director-writer Josh Boone
Cast: Kristen Bell, Lily Collins, Logan Lerman, Jennifer Connelly, Stephen King, Greg Kinnear, Nat Wolff, Spencer Breslin
Distributor: Millennium Entertainment

Producer Judy Cairo received an e-mail on New Year’s Day two years ago from Josh Boone, pitching her the screenplay for Stuck In Love. Her company, Informant Media, had produced Crazy Heart in 2009. “I told him in a quick e-mail that this is the hardest kind of film to be financed, just so he knew,” said Cairo. “But I knew after reading a few pages this was something special. So I wrote him back again and said, ‘I’d like to meet you.’ It is a personal story, and he’d been preparing his whole life to tell this story. It’s always about the material.” The film centers on an acclaimed writer, his ex-wife and their teenage children, who face the complexities of life over the course of one tumultuous year. Aside from praising the quality of the material, Cairo noted that the storyline has near-universal appeal, which gives the film a chance in the international market. “We knew it would be relatable to not just people in US but around the world,” said Cairo. “With indie films, you can’t just deal with what’s relatable to US. But divorce is something that can be relatable.” Informant closed financing fairly easily ahead of the shoot in North Carolina. Also Boone scored author Stephen King as a cast member after he related a story from his childhood. “Josh was raised in religiously conservative family but was a fan of King’s though his parents didn’t allow him to read his books,” said Cairo. “One day a big box of books showed up at his doorstep, which [King] had signed. Josh’s parents changed their mind and allowed him to read the books. So we told him the story, and Stephen King said he’d be happy to be involved.”

Stuck In Love debuted at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, where it gained notice from a number of companies including Millennium, which picked up the title. It played stateside at festivals including Newport Beach and Seattle. It opens this weekend in New York at the Sunshine as well as Orlando and Kansas City, where it will have multiple runs. It will expand July 26.

A Girl And A Gun
Director: Cathryne Czubek
Writer: Amanda Hughes
Cast: Stephanie Alexander, Lyn Bates, Jennifer Bishop, Emily Blount, Violet Blue, Laura Browder, Karen Copeland
Distributor: First Run

Director/producer Cathryne Czubek was photographing in Maine when she noticed a group of girls at a shooting range. Fascinated, she decided to investigate and ended up shooting her first gun with a 10-year-old girl. After returning home to New York City, she found an underground shooting range in Chelsea, which also had a women’s league, which frequented the establishment. “I met women from all backgrounds and persuasions,” said Czubek. “In 2005 I started filming with that group, and one of the women appears in my film. [I later] went to gun control conferences, gun rights conferences, prisons — all over the place so I could understand the gun issue in America through the eyes of women.” The project lasted over a decade, which Czubek worked on in between other pursuits. “It was interesting how the stereotypes were shattered about guns generally and about guns and women,” noted Czubek. “I decided to remove the politics from the film as much as possible because when I did feature people with a political agenda [in test screenings] threw off the audience. I worked with editor Amanda Hughes to reveal the human story.”

Hughes funded the project in part through credit cards but also found help from the New York Council for the Arts, the Hot Docs Documentary Forum also lead to some funding as well as a Kickstarter campaign. A Girl And A Gun debuted in November at DOC NYC, where First Run picked up rights. Additionally, Gravitas partnered with First Run on the film’s digital rights via its partnership with Warner Digital. The film will open July 5 at the Quad in New York before heading to L.A., Richmond, Washington, Portland, New Orleans, Denver, Chicago and other cities.

Just Like A Woman
Director: Rachid Bouchareb
Writers: Joelle Touma, Marion Doussot
Cast: Sienna Miller, Golshifteh Farahani, Bahar Soomekh
Distributor: Cohen Media Group

The impetus for Just Like A Woman came out of distributor Cohen Media Group’s very first release, Outside The Law, which Rachid Bouchareb directed. The Paris-born filmmaker mentioned Just Like A Woman to Charles Cohen during the release of Outside The Law. “It is their first U.S. production, and I was into it,” said Cohen. “They had the idea to have Sienna Miller, who came on board after the completion of the script.” Cohen Media group contributed to the budget for the drama about two women who head to Santa Fe, N.M., with dreams of winning a contest hosted by a famous bellydancing company. “We shot in early 2012 near Santa Fe. The acting is great and women will really respond to it,” added Cohen.

To grab its audience, Cohen Media Group did both online and print marketing. It is also the company’s first day-and-date project. The film will open 15 theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will head to other major cities. It will continue its rollout based on performance. “I think Rachid did very well with Just Like A Woman,” said Cohen. “We’re also involved with his next film coming next year.”

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
Directors: Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori
Subject: Big Star
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

The folks at Magnolia Pictures caught wind of documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me at DOC NYC, which takes place annually in November. The feature spotlights the commercial failure, subsequent massive critical acclaim and enduring legacy of one of pop music’s biggest cult bands, the Alex Chilton-led Big Star. “Several of us have been longtime fans,” said Magnolia’s Matt Cowal. “It’s an excellently well-made film and good for fans.” The pic’s rollout comes in the wake of a tribute concert of Big Star’s third album in Central Park. Magnolia is hoping to piggyback on the event and others, which has brought out the long-gone band’s fervent fan base. “They never quite made it when they were around in the ’70s, but they generated legion of followers,” said Cowal. “Their fans are very loyal, and it has been great publicity.”

The band’s last surviving member, Jody Stephens, attended word-of-mouth screenings in New York and L.A. Magnolia will focus on event-style bookings for the film’s theatrical showings. The title is already available via VOD and will bow at IFC Center in New York and the NuArt in L.A., where Stephens will attend screenings Friday. It will expand throughout July with weeklong runs and one-off screenings in most major markets.