The shoot for The Miseducation of Cameron Post coincided with the 2016 election, which gave the cast a crew a sense of urgency. Chloë Grace Moretz plays the title character in a story about a teen forced to attend gay conversion therapy. The FilmRise release is among the weekend’s rather limited slate of Specialty newcomers. A24 is opening Texas-set Never Goin’ Back, which debuted at Sundance before going to SXSW this past spring, while Magnolia Pictures bowed music bio-drama Nico, 1988 about the singer and Warhol superstar on Wednesday. The film is playing at the newly renovated Film Forum in New York and will head to the Nuart in L.A. Friday. And television veteran Lee Aronsohn makes his big screen feature debut with doc 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie, opening Friday via Paladin.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Director-writer: Desiree Akhavan
Writer: Cecilia Frugiuele, Emily M. Danforth (novel)
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher, Jr., Jennifer Ehle, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck
Distributor: FilmRise

Drama-romance The Miseducation of Cameron Post is based on the novel of the same title by Emily M. Danforth. Filmmaker Desiree Akhavan optioned the book and told producers Michael Clark and Alex Turtletaub about the project in 2015.

“Cecilia [Frugiuele] and Desiree said they would write the script and would come back to see if [we liked it],” said Clark. “Then we met, and really liked it.”

The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) as she is sent to a gay conversion therapy center after getting caught having sex with the prom queen. Run by the strict Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother, Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) — himself an example of how those in the program can be “cured” — the center is populated by teens “struggling with same-sex attraction.” In the face of outlandish discipline, dubious methods, and earnest Christian rock songs, Cameron forms an unlikely gay community, including the amputee stoner Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck), a Lakota Two-Spirit.

Clark and Turtletaub financed the film once they boarded the project. The next step was to find who would play Cameron Post. “We started working with Jessica Daniels,” said Clark. Trevor Moretz read the script and gave it to his sister.

“We received a call from Chloë Grace Moretz who asked to meet with Desiree,” said Clark. “Within the course of a half hour [of their meeting] I had an enthusiastic call with Desiree and also with Chloë’s people. Within six weeks of that meeting we were on set.”

Originally set in Montana, the decision was made to shoot at a resort in upstate New York to take advantage of the state’s incentives. Clark and Turtletaub also have crew they work with consistently in the state. The Miseducation of Cameron Post shot over 24 days in the fall of 2016.

“We were shooting during the election,” said Clark. “I remember going out and buying balloons and helium tanks and having the PAs decorate. And slowly sitting together we were watching the promise of this future fall apart. Chloë had also campaigned for Hillary Clinton. We woke up the next morning and everyone was heartbroken.”

Clark added that Desiree Akhavan gave a “rousing” speech to the crew and cast to rally everyone back to the shoot. “We knew we were making a movie that is a cause and at that moment, it became more urgent,” said Clark. “[Along with Trump] America had elected a Vice President who had been [supporting] LGBT conversion in his own state.”

The Miseducation of Cameron Post debuted at the Sundance Film Festival where FilmRise caught the film. It was important to the filmmaking team to find a distributor that would give the feature a theatrical window. Added Clark: “There was plenty of interest in the movie, but after talking to people and getting their ideas, it was obvious FilmRise should be our partner.”

The company will open The Miseducation of Cameron Post in New York Friday at the Landmark 57 West and The Quad. Akhavan, Moretz and other cast will join for Q&As through the weekend at select showings. The feature will then head to ten markets on August 10 including L.A., Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and Austin ahead of a further expansion around the country.

Never Goin’ Back
Director-writer: Augustine Frizzell
Cast: Maia Mitchell, Camila Marrone
Distributor: A24

Never Goin’ Back filmmaker Augustine Frizzell was a cast member in Pete’s Dragon from producers Toby Halbrooks and David Lowery around the time she shot an early version of Never Goin’ Back. The producers urged her to go back and work further on the project. She re-worked the script and changed some cast and Halbrooks and Lowery boarded the second version.

“We came on two years ago and put together financing from the same team who [worked with us] on A Ghost Story,” said Halbrooks. “We shot over 20 days last summer in the Dallas [area].”

Never Goin’ Back follows the friendship of Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone), who both dream of escaping their waitressing jobs at a low-rent Texas diner, even if it’s only to Galveston. Taking place over just a few days, the film follows their hilarious and unpredictable misadventures on the streets of suburban Dallas as they scheme to raise some cash.

Before the shoot, the producers took the project to a number of agencies in L.A. to find cast. Halbrooks said they had an “overwhelming response” for the key roles, but they held out to find the right pair to play friends Angela and Jessie.

“We weren’t looking for ‘names,’ we were like, ‘Let’s see who is out there,’” said Halbrooks. “After we saw [Mitchell and Marrone] we had no others in our minds.” Halbrooks said that the biggest difficulty was finding the right original music for the feature. “The girls live in their own worlds and we wanted music [to reflect that] but we ended up putting together a half dozen original tracks.”

Never Goin’ Back premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and A24 picked up the feature afterward. Added Halbrooks: “We hoped they would be interested and luckily they were.” A24 will open the feature in select New York and Los Angeles locations this weekend before heading to other markets.

Nico, 1988
Director-writer: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Cast: Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair, Anamaria Marinca, Sandor Funtek, Karina Fernandez, Calvin Demba, Francesco Collela
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Bio-drama Nico, 1988 debuted at last year’s Venice Film Festival where the film’s reviews caught the attention of Magnolia Pictures, which picked up the title shortly after the event. The company also liked filmmaker Susanna Nicchiarelli’s take on the life of the model turned Warhol Superstar and singer Christa Päffgen, known as Nico.

“Nico’s music and her life story are fascinating and enduring,” said Magnolia Pictures’ Matt Cowal. “We thought Susanna’s film successfully avoided the trappings of a conventional biopic and got to the heart of Nico’s persona. And most of all we were blown away by Trine Dyrholm’s transformative performance, which is one for the ages.”

Nico, 1988 follows the singer-songwriter, approaching 50, leading a solitary existence in Manchester, far from her ‘60s glam days as a Warhol superstar and celebrated vocalist for The Velvet Underground. Her life and career on the fringes, Nico is convinced by new manager Richard to hit the road again and tour Europe to promote her latest album. Struggling with her demons and the consequences of a muddled life, she longs to rebuild a relationship with her son, whose custody she lost long ago.

Magnolia Pictures opened Nico, 1988 on Wednesday, coinciding with the opening of the newly renovated Film Forum, which returns after a construction hiatus. Leading up to the pre-weekend launch, the company is staging a musical event in Manhattan for fans and the music press.

“We are holding a tribute concert at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC this week in honor of the film, featuring performances by some exciting contemporary artists that have been inspired by Nico: Marissa Nadler, U.S. Girls, L’Rain, Julie Byrne, Lizzie Bougatsos from Gang Dance and Tammy Faye Starlite. And Trine will be performing as well,” explained Cowal. “This has been a great opportunity to build awareness in the music press for fans of Nico, as well as a way to engage younger audiences who may be less familiar with her but are fans of the performers.”

Nico, 1988’s debut at Film Forum will anchor a traditional release of the title, which also includes a Friday start at the Nuart in L.A. Magnolia will expand the feature to top regional markets throughout August.

40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie
Director-writer: Lee Aronsohn
Distributor: Paladin

Veteran television writer-producer Lee Aronsohn found inspiration for his debut on the big screen from a band that used to play on his college campus in Boulder, CO, in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. The local group, Magic Music, were popular among the students for their acoustic instruments and light harmonies, which brought them onto the brink of success, according to Aronsohn, but they never signed a record deal before breaking up in 1975.

“For 40 years I’ve had their songs in my head,” said Aronsohn. “I always wondered what happened to them and after retiring from television, I was looking for something to do and it occurred to me to find out.” Through Google, Aronsohn was able to find one member of the band.

40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie chronicles how Aronsohn and in the process makes a dream come true for himself, fellow fans, and the band, by bringing them all back to Boulder for a sold-out reunion concert that preserves their legacy for posterity.

“I wanted to tell their story and for their music to be heard,” said Aronsohn, noting that the band had recorded music in the ‘70s though their work was never commercially released. “I came back to work on the last episode of Two And a Half Men and then in March, 2015 I started doing the documentary.”

Initially, the first band member Aronsohn contacted didn’t respond to his email, but after persistence — and establishing his credentials — the group was gathered. “It was important that they trusted me,” said Aronsohn. “One of the reasons they hadn’t made a record was because they didn’t trust ‘record people.’”

Aronsohn shot 40 Years in the Making in five phases in 2015 and 2016 with individual interviews in band members’ homes, culminating in the concert Aronsohn helped organize in Colorado. He financed the project himself.

“It was a long slog,” he said. “I had 100 hours of footage and it took a year-and-a-half to edit. I locked picture last August.”

Paladin came on to handle its theatrical release, while The Orchard will spearhead the title’s ancillaries. The soundtrack will come out in September. Theatrically, 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie will bow exclusively at Village East in New York this weekend and will head to the Laemmle Music Hall next week.