Indie Corner

INDIE CORNER: SUMMER 2004

By • Aug 1st, 2004 •

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This summer we saw independent films like NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, SUPER SIZE ME and OPEN WATER reach their coveted goal of a nationwide theatrical release. What about the many other independent films that are still struggling to land on the screen? Here at ‘Films In Review’, you can get a first peek at currently undiscovered films looking for good homes.

One could shoot a comic horror movie about the making of Jerome Courshon’s comedy/drama, GOD SEX AND APPLE PIE. This independent film focuses on a group of thirty-something friends trying to kick back and reunite in a secluded house. Conflicts, kinky madness, and high drama results. I’ve seen numerous BIG CHILL styled independent films like this before. Filming lots of dialog in one house is a very cheap and easy way to shoot. But, for the audience, you better have some snazzy dialog. I just wish the characters in this film grabbed me more. The making and marketing of GOD SEX AND… was far more fascinating and crazier than the antics shown on the screen. It took years for writer, co-star and co-producer Courshon to assemble a budget, a cast and a crew to shoot this very simple film. Name talent like Jon Cryer and Jennifer Tilly committed, than backed out. Courshon finally funded the production mostly with credit cards. While shooting, the Weather Gods provided snowstorms that delayed production. Courshon received a promise for extensive post-production funding, but that investor went bankrupt, and it was back to Uncle Master Card and Aunt Visa. Courshon learned his publicist fibbed about arranging for Roger Ebert to review the film. They tried sending the film to various distributors, but hardly anybody called back expressing interest. Finally, Courshon arranged a showing of the film in early autumn at a Manhattan theater. This is it! Now, distributors can very easily hop across town and watch audience reaction.

Courshon’s print of GOD SEX AND APPLE PIE was finally set to arrive in Manhattan – on September 11, 2001. Despite the horrors unfolding several blocks south of the theater, the film played, and managed to bring in $ 5,300 at the one theatre. (The film so far cost $ 300,000 to make and market) Finally, Courshon secured a deal with Lightyear Entertainment and with Warner Brothers for a DVD release. All the work finally paid off for Courshon. You have to keep knocking on doors, making those phone calls and sending those e-mails. It’s a decent film, but a great lesson in persistence.

WASH DRY AND SPIN OUT is another independent film we watched. While SEX GOD AND APPLE PIE had moments of sharp dialog, WASH, DRY…. drives you up the wall with aimless tough guy talk. Its video box heralds 85 minutes of watching three over-grown juvenile delinquents, called “The Three Ass-Keteers”. The video box also promises that they become involved with “impotence, homosexuality, molestation” and much more. Basically, we watch these three hoodlums getting drunk and venomous at a nearby all-night Laundromat. They torment customers, drift off into “tearful” flashbacks and have sex with hookers in the rest room. When it seems director/writer Dan Patton runs out of material, he has policemen rush in and conveniently arrest the “Ass-Keteers”. WASH, DRY seems like a homage to films about fashionable, but dangerous anti-social folk, like PULP FICTION or CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

Too many independent filmmakers feel they have to pay homage to their favorite film-makers. (Do we need another no-budget horror director shooting scenes in the style of Dario Argento, Quentin Tarantino or Mario Bava?) When will they learn audiences are more interested in story and content, not a lesson in film theory.

We wonder if this is the break-through summer for mini budgeted digital video features? First you have SUPER SIZE ME, director/producer/star Morgan Spurlock’s home-made, entertaining poke at the McDonald’s empire and the fattening of America. Then you have OPEN WATER, a minimalist thriller set mostly in shark invested waters. (For the record, I loved Spurlock’s docu-comedy. OPEN WATER was drowning in logic problems) Both films were made for under $140,000 each. Both films generated millions at the box office.

These are great numbers independent filmmakers can use when approaching investors. Remember, a potential film investor (and their accountants) are only interested in numbers (budget, potential box office) The passion or love of filmmaking doesn’t do much for them.

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