Month: February 2015
Taglines: Friendship pulled them together. Love tore them apart.
London, 1962. Two teenage girls – Ginger and Rosa – are inseparable. They play truant together, discuss religion, politics and hairstyles, and dream of lives bigger than their mothers’ frustrated domesticity. But, as the Cold War meets the sexual revolution, and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates in the Cuban missile crisis, the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered – by the clash of desire and the determination to survive.
Ginger & Rosa is a drama film written and directed by Sally Potter and distributed by Artificial Eye. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2012, and was released on 19 October 2012 in the United Kingdom.
About the Story
In 1945, teenager Nat is giving birth in a hospital bed. Whilst she is in labour, Anoushka- the pregnant woman in the next bed- reaches out and takes her hand, beginning a life-long friendship. Nat’s daughter- Ginger, and Anoushka’s daughter- Rosa, grow up and become close friends. Rosa’s father leaves whilst she’s still a child, profoundly affecting her view of relationships.
By 1962, 17-year-old Ginger and Rosa are spending all their time together, and even dressing the same. Rosa begins drinking and behaving promiscuously. Nat disapproves of their friendship, as she thinks Rosa is a bad influence (Rosa’s own mother agrees with this). Ginger’s father, Roland, takes the opposite view to Nat and encourages his daughter’s wildness and independence. Roland and Nat are having trouble in their marriage and have broken up often in the past. Roland is an attractive, free-spirited professor who is implied to have been unfaithful several times. Meanwhile, Nat gave up her career as a painter to raise Ginger, and often feels resentful and bored.
Rosa and Ginger attend different schools (due to Rosa failing the 11-plus exam, which Ginger passed). However, they often skip school to spend time together, and Ginger’s grades suffer as a result. Ginger (who dreams of being a poet) starts to become interested in the anti-nuclear movement and attends rally meetings. Despite her wild behaviour, Rosa is a practising Catholic, and she takes Ginger to church so they can pray for the world together.
Soon after this, Ginger’s parents break-up after an argument over dinner. Roland moves out and enjoys his independent, bohemian lifestyle more. Nat visits Ginger’s school and asks that Ginger be allowed to take more ‘Home Economics’ classes. Nat believes that her daughter will eventually become a housewife, and she wants Ginger to be better prepared than she herself was. Ginger and Nat argue over this, and Ginger moves in with her father.
Rosa begins spending more time with Roland (as Ginger now lives with him), and eventually begins a relationship with him. Ginger is disturbed by the romance between her father and best friend. She is tempted to leave Roland’s home and move back in with her mother, but she changes her mind after seeing Nat is happy and has begun painting again. Roland knows his behaviour is making his daughter unhappy, but while he sympathises with her sadness, he does not stop the affair. Rosa believes that she and Roland will have everlasting love, but Ginger tells her she will end up like Nat- with Roland leaving her when she gets old. Rosa tells Ginger that she thinks she’s pregnant. Ginger is devastated and runs off to a protest rally, where she is arrested.
Roland and Nat and their family friends confront Ginger, who reveals that she has a terrible fear that the world is going to end. In reality, Ginger’s growing worries about the world are masking her greater fear of what’s happening between Roland and Rosa. As Ginger blurts out the truth of the affair, Nat is devastated. Some family members confront Roland and accuse him of acting irresponsibly towards his daughter, but he replies that Ginger is an independent adult. The family members try to show Roland that Ginger still needs a responsible father figure.
Ginger and Rosa
Directed by: Sally Potter
Starring: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Alice Englert, Annette Bening, Timothy Spall, Alessandro Nivola,
Screenplay by: Sally Potter
Production Design by: Carlos Conti
Cinematography by: Robbie Ryan
Film Editing by: Anders Refn
Costume Design by: Holly Waddington
Set Decoration by: Liz Griffiths
Art Direction by: Andrea Matheson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature disturbing thematic material involving teen choices – sexuality, drinking, smoking, and for language.
Studio: A24 Films
Release Date: March 15, 2013
This is a story of two orphan girls, Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) who joins in a church by choosing a life of nun and her friend Alina (Cristina Flutur) who will join her later from Germany. In their early life they were roommate and had physical relation, that Alina will demand again, but Voichita will refuse.
There was no other way for Alina to go to the outer world, so Voichita will insists the Priest (Valeriu Andriuta) to allow her to stay along with them; on the other hand the priest will demand her to be faithful on God and for confession. There would be a psychological constrain in between the two friends. Alina will try to get Voichita out of the orthodox environment, and Voichita will try for Alina to lay down on the way to God.
Beyond the Hills (Romanian: După dealuri) is a Romanian drama film directed by Cristian Mungiu, starring Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan. The narrative follows two young women at an Orthodox convent in Romania.
The film premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where Mungiu won the award for Best Screenplay, and Flutur and Stratan shared the award for Best Actress. It was selected as the Romanian entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, making the January shortlist.
Beyond the Hills
Directed by: Cristian Mungiu
Starring: Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Valeriu Andriuta, Dana Tapalaga, Catalina Harabagiu, Gina Tandura, Vica Agache, Luminita Gheorghiu, Alina Berzunteanu
Written by: Cristian Mungiu
Production Design by: Calin Papura, Mihaela Poenaru
Cinematography by: Oleg Mutu
Film Editing by: Mircea Olteanu
Costume Design by: Dana Paparuz
Studio: IFC Films
Release Date: February 9, 2013
Taglines: There are 188 million 911 calls a year. This one made it personal.
Veteran 911 Emergency Call Center operator Jordan (Halle Berry) has the kind of job that’s not for the faint of heart: navigating the public’s distress in order to save lives. But when a young woman’s frantic report of a prowler ends tragically, Jordan is devastated. Reassessing her life, Jordan wonders if perhaps she’s experienced her last fraught-filled phone call.
With a supportive cop (Morris Chestnut) for a boyfriend, maybe it’s time to step back, enjoy life, and teach others the ins and outs of her high-pressure profession. That lifeline to strangers isn’t over yet, though. When average American teenager Casey (Abigail Breslin), is abducted by a serial killer (Michael Eklund), she manages to place a 911 call from the trunk of the killer’s car.
Jordan, leading a group of new recruits through the massive Call Center operation, is in earshot of the call. It’s an all-too familiar scenario for this experienced public servant, but before long, Casey’s situation reveals itself as eerily, shockingly familiar. There’s only one thing Jordan can do: take charge in a way she’s never done before. She must turn Casey into a partner in helping them track down the killer, and prove that this call is Jordan’s calling.
The Call is an American crime thriller film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Richard D’Ovidio. The film stars Abigail Breslin as Casey Welson, a teenage girl kidnapped by a serial killer and Halle Berry as Jordan Turner, the 9-1-1 operator who receives her call. Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, Michael Imperioli, and David Otunga also star. The story was originally envisioned as a television series, but D’Ovidio later rewrote it as a 94-minute feature film. Filming began in July 2012 and spanned a period of 25 days, with all scenes being shot in Los Angeles, mainly Burbank and Santa Clarita.
Placing The Call
Central to the effectiveness of The Call is its twofold realism: the experience Casey goes through, and the verisimilitude of the call center where Jordan works. Of the kidnapping scenes with Breslin, director Brad Anderson explains, “We literally shot her scenes in the trunk of cars, so we were able to bring the audience into her space and feel her claustrophobia and fear.”
Producer Jeff Graup says, “The abduction is in real time, so we wanted it to be as real as possible, so the audience won’t be taken out of the movie. We really wanted to have edge and grit to it, where the audience is feeling what Casey’s feeling, which is impending doom. Brad is the perfect guy to get that mood out, because this journey is one where you want the audience to feel as uncomfortable as we were reading the script.”
To that end, trunk sets were designed with removable pieces so cameras could be put where needed. A special probe lens was used so an even greater level of claustrophobic intimacy could be achieved. With realism the operative word during the shoot, Anderson aimed for a loose, hand-held style. “I’m not locking down the camera. I’m allowing the action to drive the camera as opposed to vice versa, and keeping everything spontaneous-feeling.
I guess documentary-style would be the simplest way to describe the look. We’re also shooting everything with a certain shutter speed that gives it a very kinetic feel, since eighty percent of the story, from the point where Abby’s character is abducted, to the end, is just a continuum of amped-up suspense and drama. It just spirals into craziness, so we’re trying to keep the look to match that.”
With regards to the depiction of the Emergency Call Center, a busy, console-filled room called the Hive in the film, authenticity was a high priority. The filmmakers made several visits to two Los Angeles Emergency Call Centers. Says producer Bradley Gallo, “We all spent a tremendous amount of time there to make sure we got the technical aspects correct.”
On capturing the real vibe of a call center, producer Jeff Graup says, “The way the 911 Center was portrayed was very important to us. A call center has never been seen on film. Everyone has either called 911 or knows someone who has, but no one really knows what it looks like or the process. We wanted to make sure that the entire set accurately reflects everything that goes on, from the calm to the stress.”
Production designer Franco-Giacomo Carbone (The Expendables) replicated the call center in an existing office space in Thousand Oaks, CA, which was big enough to build the entire set, including over 12 operator stations and a phalanx of monitors, as one would see in a real call center. Eighty extras were used to give human weight to the “buzziness” of the Hive.
The company Playback Technologies was also recruited to get the on-set video playback elements of a screen-filled control room right. Says Playback Technologies president Steve Irwin, “We have a crew of guys responsible for getting the right content on the monitors. And with this large number of monitors, we try to keep them all on, and the whole room up and operating like an actual 911 center. One of our areas of responsibility is to make sure that the Arriflex high-definition cameras are able to photograph all the monitors, so color temperature, color balance, exposure, whether monitors are going to flicker when they’re re-photographed, are all in control. We work with the director of photography to make sure everything looks as good as it can.”
Anderson addresses the importance of the Hive set in terms of the story’s emotional stakes. “It’s been a challenge trying to create the scale we need for these scenes. Much of [Halle’s] action is at a desk on a phone in front of a computer, but despite that, we wanted to set it in a location that, when you pull back, you realize the scope of it as opposed to just being an office space. The Hive we’ve created is as big as they tend to be, and has all the eye candy, as we like to say — monitors and jumbotrons and things that help create the sense of urgency. This is our biggest location, and we wanted to get all the details right.”
Not only did an actual 911 call center veteran consult on those details, the production used some real operators on the floor. “It’s all driving to try and create that authenticity, that realism,” says Anderson.
In the end, the filmmakers want The Call to entertain, with a story that not only pulses with excitement, but that resonates with themes of redemption and empowerment. Says producer Bradley Gallo, “Abigail’s character is a goody two-shoes who doesn’t really go outside the bounds of what you’re supposed to do, and she has to overcome that and stand up for herself, to the point where she has to take on a killer. That transformation is an awesome theme. And Halle is playing a character who loses a girl on a call, is tortured by it, and has to get redemption through another call.”
Screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio likes that the excitement of The Call is made more enriching by putting women front and center. “[Women] are always the ones being saved, and I like that the two of them save themselves and each other in the process, you know?” says D’Ovidio. “A lot of the 911 operators are women, and they’re tough, they’re strong, they’re composed, and it’s very impressive to watch.”
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Imperioli, Morris Chestnut, Ella Rae Peck
Screenplay by: Richard D’Ovidio
Production Design by: Franco-Giacomo Carbone
Cinematography by: Tom Yatsko
Film Editing by: Avi Youabian
Costume Design by: Magali Guidasci
Set Decoration by: Robert Gould
Music by: John Debney
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing content and some language.
Studio: Sony Pictures
Release Date: March 15, 2013
Taglines: Find yourselif in Oz.
Walt Disney Pictures’ fantastical adventure Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum’s beloved character, the Wizard of Oz. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — fame and fortune are his for the taking — that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting.
Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even a bit of wizardry — Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.
“This is a story of how the wizard came to be the wizard; of how a smalltime carnival magician — a faker, a charlatan — came to a fantastic world and was just the thing that they needed to save the day. It’s the tale of how an average man who was selfish became a great wizard who is selfless.” — Sam Raimi, director
L. Frank Baum, who wrote 14 novels between 1900-1920, all set in the Land of Oz he so vividly created, never fully portrayed the wizard character’s background in any of his books. Producer Joe Roth found that fact fascinating. “I love origin stories and I liked the idea of how the wizard came to be,” says Roth. “So, going back to Baum’s books to research and imagine his beginnings seemed like a great idea.”
“L. Frank Baum wrote a series of adventures with multiple characters in Oz,” states Raimi’s longtime producing partner, Grant Curtis. “I think the beauty of what Mitchell Kapner originally did, along with producer Joe Roth and executive producer Palak Patel, was that they took some of the adventures throughout these books and brought them together into one concise story that depicts how Oz became the great wizard.”
Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire’s imaginative screenplay follows Oscar Diggs, a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, who is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. There, Oscar thinks he’s hit the jackpot — fame and fortune are his for the taking — that is until he meets three witches, Theodora, Evanora and Glinda, who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use, along with some ingenuity — and even a bit of wizardry — Oscar transforms himself not only into the great wizard but into a better man as well.
“It begins with a circus con artist who gets caught up in a tornado in a hot-air balloon and lands in this magical Land of Oz,” screenwriter Mitchell Kapner elaborates about the original story inspired by the works of author L. Frank Baum. “Because his name is Oz, his arrival coincides with a prophecy that states that a new and great leader is forthcoming. Because the Wicked Witch has taken over the land, the people look to this stranger as this great Wizard. They bow down to this mere mortal when they see his name on the side of his balloon.
“This is a guy, bluffing his way through life because he doesn’t have real magic powers like these witches do, who can become their leader and get Emerald City back from the Wicked Witch,” the screenwriter resumes about the story. “I liked the dynamic that people expected him to be this powerful wizard, which he knows he’s not. Yet, he can claim this throne, and essentially be the King, if he convinces enough people. Along the way, he realizes it’s not just about him. He has to do it to save these people.”
“What I love most about this character of Oz is that he is such a dastardly heel,” says co-screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire about the film’s unlikely hero. “But, he also craves something greater, both from his life and for himself as a person. He wants to do great things, and, in the beginning, it’s only about money and power and riches. By the end of the story, he finds out it’s actually about finding love and friendship. It’s a very human story.”
Before Lindsay-Abaire joined the project, Roth sought a director to bring Kapner’s story to life before the cameras. In choosing the acclaimed Sam Raimi, no stranger to Hollywood’s arena of epic film works (the “Spider-Man” trilogy), the veteran producer and former studio executive found what he felt was the best of a small fraternity of seasoned filmmakers who could bring the necessary scope to Kapner’s script.
“In tackling the Oz story, I could think of no better director than Sam Raimi,” says the filmmaker. “Sam is one of our leading directors who has great heart as well as visual artistry. Everything makes him the right director, frankly. He’s worked on films of this size and scope. He’s worked in a world of special effects and live action combined. And more than anything, he has the heart and the sensibility of the story.”
When Raimi read the script for “Oz The Great and Powerful,” he “fell in love with it.” He says, “I thought it was engaging and that it had a great, flawed main character. His adventure was fun and, eventually, his character’s transformation gave it an uplifting quality that I really enjoyed.”
Working in 3D
“When I came on the film, the first draft of the screenplay already existed and I heard that producer Joe Roth and the Walt Disney Studios wanted to make the film in 3D,” Sam Raimi explains about his very first foray in the digital 3D realm. “I thought it was a good idea. I think that for this project, the fact that it introduces the audience to Baum’s fantastical world and can give them a sense of dimensionality, a sense of space, is very exciting.”
Not only did the project mark Raimi’s first in digital 3D, but also that for his cinematographer, another longtime ally, Peter Deming (“Drag Me to Hell,” “Evil Dead II”), who remarks that “3D is definitely a different animal. You’re working at different light levels. Your choice of lenses is much different than for a 2D film. You’re always looking for new ways to cover your scenes or maximize the 3D in the blocking and the staging, as opposed to a 2D movie.
“In taking on the project, Sam was faced with two new ventures, 3D and digital,” Deming continues. “We talked a lot about that, about what cameras to use, about shooting in 2D and converting in post-production, a practice called dimensionalization. Shooting on film and converting to digital. We probably spent a month prepping and shooting tests in Los Angeles on two different 3D systems, two different cameras, and film. And then posting all that through 2D or 3D imaging and comparing them all.
“The camera we ultimately settled on was the Red Epic because in 3D, much like your eyesight, you need two images to make a three-dimensional fact,” the veteran cinematographer explains about the 3D camera process. “Our eyes are fairly close together and there’s no way to get two cameras that close together. So, you end up with a 50 percent mirror and you have one camera conventional and one on top so they’re looking through the same mirror at the same subject.
“Yet, the center of each image is only about an inch apart, and you can vary that distance between the center to create various 3D effects. So, it ends up being quite a large structure compared to a normal motion picture camera. We obviously wanted the highest quality camera, but as compact as we could get without giving up quality. And that’s what the Epic gave us,” the camera veteran concludes.
“Our story begins in Kansas in the year 1905. It’s presented in black and white. The 3D is dialed down. The soundtrack will be mono. When we get to the Land of Oz, the screen opens up to a widescreen format,” Raimi explains about the opening 18 minutes of the film. “We’ll transition from mono into the full 7.1 sound, bring the choir up on the track, go to full color and dial up the 3D. And I hope that together these effects will be a powerful experience for the audience.”
“And, while we shot the entire film in 3D, we shot it at a very shallow depth for these opening scenes,” Deming adds. “When we get to Oz, we transition from black and white to color. We also go from 1:66 to 2:40 widescreen and we expand the 3D.”
Oz: The Great and Powerful
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, James Franco, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Abigail Spencer
Screenplay by: L. Frank Baum, Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire
Production Design by: Robert Stromberg
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Film Editing by: Bob Murawski
Costume Design by: Gary Jones
Set Decoration by: Nancy Haigh
Music by: Danny Elfman
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: March 8, 2013
Emperor is an American-Japanese post-World War II film directed by Peter Webber, marking his first film in five years. Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox star in lead roles as General Douglas MacArthur and Brigadier General Bonner Fellers respectively. It is a joint American and Japanese production.
The drama of war has long been prime cinematic territory — but it is often the hidden aftermath of war that raises the most provocative and intriguing human questions. In the shadowy gap between when battle has ended but before peace has broken out, emotions are raw, nerves and hearts are on edge and clashing agendas play out, as enemies vie to cross the vast distance between the instinct for vengeance and the dream of reconciliation.
EMPEROR, the first contemporary Hollywood film set during the U.S.-led occupation of Japan at the close of World War II, unfolds a story of both secret love and international intrigue in a post-war world where trust is in short supply and the stakes for the future could not be higher.
The story is based on the events of 1945, following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when Japan’s sacred leader, Emperor Hirohito, unconditionally surrendered. Faced with leading the Allied Powers’ occupation of the ravaged country, President Harry S. Truman tasked the American hero General Douglas MacArthur with the epic, make-or-break job of restoring order and preparing the way for democratic elections.
Yet even before he arrived in a firebombed Tokyo reduced to rubble on August 30th, MacArthur knew he faced an extraordinary dilemma: what to do about the Emperor? Should the man revered by many as a god and the living embodiment of the Japanese spirit stand trial and likely be hanged to pay for the war’s brutal crimes — or could there be any other way of moving forward while the whole world was watching?
Behind the scenes, one man was given just a few days to investigate if the Emperor’s prosecution should proceed: Bonner Fellers, an American with a deep love of Japanese culture, who would ultimately help MacArthur choose a bold course. Fellers’ story had been largely lost in the vast annals of World War II, known only to hardcore history buffs, until he became the hero of a riveting screenplay by David Klass and Vera Blasi.
Diving deep into the historical records, Klass and Blasi also opened their story up into imagined territory — as Fellers finds himself swept up not only into a dangerous political game, but into a driven search for the Japanese woman who introduced him to the soulful beauty of Japan and has haunted his heart ever since.
The Perilous Journey to Peace
The journey of EMPEROR began with producer Yoko Narahashi (THE LAST SAMURAI) who has long been interested in the fertile territory where East and West. As a child, Narahashi had been riveted by stories from her grandfather, Teizaburo Sekiya, who served in the high palace as a key member of Emperor Hirohito’s Ministry of the Interior — and played a role in bringing MacArthur and the Emperor together for the meeting that would change their fates.
Decades later, the war-scarred Japan that Narahashi’s grandfather described seemed almost unimaginable — and she became fascinated by just how it was that the most dire of enemies had been transformed with blinding speed into the closest of allies as Japan rebuilt from the ashes.
Narahashi knew there were many personal stories about how the occupation integrated the past into a new future for both Japan and the U.S., but one in particular caught her eye. This was the story of Bonner Fellers, who from the outside might seem to be a minor figure among General MacArthur’s newly arrived team in 1945 — but turned out to have made himself into a history-changing human bridge between two ways of life in those days of peril and mistrust.
“I was very intrigued by what I saw as a truly international story, a story about both Japan and the West,” says Narahashi. “I’m always fascinated by unsung heroes and when I learned about Bonner Fellers, I realized that here was someone who no one really knows yet, but he had a great deal to do with the changing of history. That was a very compelling start.”
As Narahashi began to research Fellers and to read some of his writings from the war, she found that he sometimes wrote about visiting an unnamed “friend” in Japan and she wondered if perhaps there was a love story lurking within. There could be no proof, but Narahashi saw an opportunity for a writer’s imagination to take the next step. Thus was born the seed of the fictional character of Aya, the alluring schoolteacher who reveals to Fellers a side of Japan that will forever change his mind about the country — even as the pair is star-crossed by war.
Narahashi’s instincts were affirmed when she told her 101 year-old uncle, Teizaburo Sekiya’s son, about the movie. She recalls: “He gave his blessing to us and when I asked him if he had a message to give us, he said, ‘Make it a burning love story.'”
Narahashi brought the idea of a burning, cross-cultural love story in occupied Japan to the novelist and screenwriter David Klass, known for such thrillers as KISS THE GIRLS and DESPERATE MEASURES, but who also had worked as a schoolteacher in Japan himself. Klass drafted the first screenplay.
In the meantime, a stellar production team came into place including Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff of Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment, known for a wide range of high-profile films spanning from SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and THE SOLOIST to GHOST RIDER and DAREDEVIL and actor / film producer, Eugene Nomura. Each was drawn by the potential for blending history, intrigue and romance — and by a truth-based tale that has never before been told on the screen.
“I’ve always wanted to do a movie about this period,” says Foster, “and I found the story of how MacArthur and Fellers had to make this profound decision about the Emperor in such a short period of time, under the most extreme pressures, very dramatic. Then, I fell head over heels for the script’s love story.”
Foster was especially captivated by the idea of bringing to light a part of World War II that has so far largely escaped cinematic exploration. “People have seen a lot about life during the war, but the story that hasn’t been told is how after the war ended, the peace was negotiated,” he notes. “This story is something fresh that illuminates a period many people thought they knew in a different way — and I find that very intriguing.”
Producer Eugene Nomura saw the story not only as historical — but also as compellingly relevant to our own times of international conflicts, global uncertainty as well as unprecedented natural disaster in Japan. “This is a story about how Japan was rebuilt after the war, and Japan after the tsunami of 2011 in some ways looks similar to Japan in 1945,” he observes. “So I think it means a lot to tell this story right now about the country trying to rebuild and make it work for the right reasons.”
To further hone the script, Foster brought in screenwriter Vera Blasi, known for her passionate love of history and finesse with psychologically rich characters. Right away, she found the heart of the story. “To me it’s about how justice and truth are juxtaposed with political expedience and what will be the greater good for the world,” she explains. “I just find that fascinating and it continues to be very important in our world.”
Blasi saw the love story between Fellers and Aya as the perfect vehicle to tell the story of two seemingly disparate cultures who must find common ground to co-exist. “The political story and the love story bring in two different views of the world in 1945,” she comments.
Indeed, in the final script, the depth of Bonner Fellers’ yearning to find Aya is both the source of his respect for Japanese culture and his inspiration for trying to uncover if the Emperor might have tried to halt the terrible consequences of the war. Aya’s spirit haunts Fellers’ every move, even if he does not yet know her fate.
“A love story is always universal,” sums up Narahashi, “but the beauty of the love story in EMPEROR is that it leads an American man to make a momentous decision for Japan.”
Directed by: Peter Webber
Starring: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune, Kaori Momoi, Toshiyuki Nishida
Screenplay by: Vera Blasi, David Klass
Production Design by: Grant Major
Cinematography by: Stuart Dryburgh
Film Editing by: Chris Plummer
Costume Design byB Ngila Dickson
Set Decoration by: Daniel Birt
Art Direction by: Jill Cormack
Music by: Alex Heffes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent content, brief strong language and smoking (historical).
STudio: Lionsgate Films, Roadside Attractions
Release Date: March 8, 2013
The Silence (German: Das letzte Schweigen) is a German thriller film directed by Baran bo Odar, after the German crime fiction novel The Silence (German: Das Schweigen) by Jan Costin Wagner.
The Silence begins 23 years ago on a hot Summer day, when a young girl named Pia is brutally murdered in a field of wheat. Now, on the exact same date in the present, 13-year-old Sinikka is missing, her bicycle abandoned in the same spot. As Krischan, the retired investigator of the unresolved case, and his younger colleague David struggle to solve the mystery of these parallel crimes, Sinikka’s distraught parents are trapped in an agonizing period of waiting and uncertainty.
Meanwhile, their daughter’s fate rips open old wounds in the heart of Pia’s mother, who is visited by an unexpected guest with an eerie connection to her daughter. The unrelenting Summer heat lies over the quaint family homes like a bell jar and behind closed doors, worlds begin to fall apart.
In his strikingly commanding debut feature The Silence, Swiss-born Baran bo Odar adapts Jan Costin Wagner’s bestselling novel with his own unmistakable signature. Mesmerizing performances by top European actors – headed by Ulrich Thomsen (The Celebration, Brothers), Sebastian Blomberg (The Baader Meinhof Complex), Katrin Sass (Good Bye, Lenin!) and Burghart Klaussner (The White Ribbon, The Edukators) – enrich this intense drama far beyond the crime genre.
Directed by: Baran bo Odar
Starring: Ulrich Thomsen, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Katrin Saß, Sebastian Blomberg, Burghart Klaußner
Screenplay by: Baran bo Odar, Jan Costin Wagner
Production Design by: Christian M. Goldbeck, Yesim Zolan
Cinematography by: Nikolaus Summerer
Film Editing by: Robert Rzesacz
Costume Design by: Katharina Ost
Set Decoration by: Sabin Enste
Music by: Michael Kamm, Kris Steininger
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: Music Box Films
Release Date: March 8, 2013
Taglines: If you think you know the story, you don’t know Jack.
Taglines: If you think you know the story, you don’t know Jack.
Jack the Giant Slayer tells the story of an ancient war that is reignited when a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants. Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing the young man, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) into the battle of his life to stop them. Fighting for a kingdom, its people, and the love of a brave princess, he comes face to face with the unstoppable warriors he thought only existed in legend—and gets the chance to become a legend himself.
Jack the Giant Slayer (previously titled Jack the Giant Killer) is an American fantasy adventure film based on the English fairy tales “Jack the Giant Killer” and “Jack and the Beanstalk”. The film is directed by Bryan Singer with a screenplay written by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney and stars Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor. The film tells the story of Jack, a young farmhand who must rescue a princess from a race of giants after inadvertently opening a gateway to their world.
About the Production
Fee… Fye… Foe… Fumm.
Ask not whence the thunder comes.
Between Heaven and Earth is a perilous place,
home to a fearsome giant race.
Like people of all ages the world over, director/producer Bryan Singer grew up on thrilling tales of adventure, of good and evil, and bold voyagers seeking fortune or fighting for their lives in worlds ruled by beasts and monsters.
Among them was the story of a young man named Jack who confronts a gruesome giant bent on grinding his bones into bread. “What appealed to me about the story then, as now, was how deceptively simple it was, and yet how fantastic and full of potential,” Singer says.
It’s a tale that has endured for generations. Known by different names in myriad cultures dating at least as far back as the 12th century, its details have evolved with local lore and various retellings, but its power always lay in the way it played upon our love of heroes and our deepest fears. It was this fertile ground from which sprung the big-screen adventure “Jack the Giant Slayer,” a familiar tale given new dimension, with freshly rendered characters that draw audiences into a larger world of peril and destiny.
“The impetus for me was to bring a legend to life in a big, physical way. To take what was a childhood abstraction or some illustrations in a storybook and make them real in their full scope and scale, with action and drama and a beanstalk five miles high,” says Singer, who applied the most advanced filmmaking technology available to the task, graphically depicting the interaction of man and giant, and creating the story’s rich terrains with the fullness and impact they deserve.
“We’re telling our own tale, loosely based on stories like Jack and the Beanstalk and the older and darker Jack the Giant Killer, which grew up around the legends of King Arthur,” he continues, “combining elements of both and introducing our own lore to give it a context and history and to bring these characters and this world to life in a dynamic way, with a kind of heightened realism.”
Notes producer Neal H. Moritz, “We knew we had something special with the script, but that’s only one part of it. We were lucky to have someone of Bryan’s skill and vision to take it to the next level and elevate it from the perception of being just a children’s story. When people see these images I believe they will realize this is a big, epic journey with huge giants and huge themes, humor and romance, amazing action and spectacular visual effects that anyone can enjoy.”
“Essentially, it’s everything you remember — and more,” says Nicholas Hoult, who first worked with Singer on “X-Men: First Class,” and stars in the title role. “We’re firing crossbows, zip-lining across huge divides, swinging from vines and dodging flaming trees that the giants uproot and hurl at us. You never know what to expect.”
Singer’s version begins faithfully with the classic arc of a poor, ordinary farmhand who accepts the unlikely barter of a handful of beans for his horse and soon finds himself in possession of a mighty beanstalk — a living, vertical highway that leads him into a land where giants roam. Though unprepared for the dangers that await him there, he rises to the challenge, relying not only on his strength but also on his wits and courage to face the man-eating monsters of nightmare.
“It’s important that Jack be someone who the audience can identify with,” says producer David Dobkin, who also shares story credit with screenwriter Darren Lemke, and has long been a fan of the what he calls “the David and Goliath element of the tale. I think most people see themselves as the underdog. We all share the feeling that forces in life are bigger than us and that we often have little control. Jack is not a super-hero, he’s an everyman; he has dreams and some idea of what he’s capable of, but until now he’s never been tested. So we root for him because we want him to succeed and show us it’s possible.”
“Overcoming the obstacles in his path, Jack proves, time and again, that heroes aren’t born, but made, and that — much like the beanstalk, itself — from small beginnings, big things can come,” adds Lemke.
But who exactly is Jack; where does he come from and what does his future hold even if the giants are vanquished? What would motivate a man to climb a precarious bridge into the sky? Addressing these questions takes us into the fictional medieval hamlet of Cloister, his home. Here, he fatefully crosses paths with the fiery Princess Isabelle, one of several newly introduced characters, played by Eleanor Tomlinson. The two forge a powerful and immediate connection, so that when Isabelle is taken into the giants’ world, Jack doesn’t hesitate to join with Ewan McGregor’s gallant Elmont to rescue her.
“Bryan is truly an actors’ director,” says Moritz. “He really gets in there and helps them get the soul and spirit of the characters onto the screen. I think the relationship between Jack and Isabelle — and the chemistry between Nick Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson in those roles — is an essential element and that’s something Bryan is very good at bringing out.”
Likewise central is Jack’s relationship with his would-be mentor, Elmont, which follows its own comical and ultimately rewarding path. It begins by offering Jack a glimpse of what Ewan McGregor describes as “the kind of job he would have aspired to, if he’d ever had the opportunity to achieve that kind of status in his world,” and ends with the promise of true friendship, after the two have been to hell and back together.
Jack the Giant Slayer
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Warwick Davis, Bill Nighy, Caroline Hayes
Screenplay by: Mark Bomback, David Dobkin
Production Design by: Gavin Bocquet
Cinematography by: Newton Thomas Sigel
Film Editing by: Bob Ducsay, John Ottman
Costume Design by: Joanna Johnston
Set Decoration by: Richard Roberts
Music by: John Ottman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language.
Studio: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Not long ago, Casey, Miller and Jeff Chang were as close as friends could be. Sure, Casey is a bit more buttoned-up compared to Miller’s wild child, with Jeff Chang serving as their foil, studious and ambitious, but that’s why they’re best buddies; they complete each other. Going to different colleges may have put physical distance between them, but they’re still as tight as ever.
This trip to Northern Pacific University in Seattle is about attaining newfound glory; the three of them finally being able to party freely in the eyes of the law, unencumbered by the nuisance of fake IDs and bothersome bouncers. Only problem: Jeff Chang’s overbearing Doctor-father has a Med School interview scheduled for 8AM the next morning, and he’s determined his son follows in his footsteps as a physician.
Luckily, Miller offers a compromise: only one drink, one single drink. It’s only fair since he and Casey traveled all this way to surprise Jeff Chang, and they’ll even have him back by midnight. Certainly sounds reasonable enough, until that one drink turns into many.
Barhopping for Jeff Chang’s birthday is quickly becoming a night for the ages, complete with copious shots and mechanical-bull rides. Even Casey loosens up enough to hit it off with Jeff Chang’s friend Nicole, a smoking hot coed. It’s as though nothing can go wrong! That is, until Jeff Chang starts blacking out and it’s time to take him home.
Naturally, this should spell the end of the evening, only Miller and Casey are in unfamiliar territory; they have no idea where Jeff Chang lives! With the hours till Jeff Chang’s crucial interview ticking away, Casey and Miller embark on an epic quest to put their drunken friend to bed. Along their journey, they draw the ire of a Latina sorority, the NPU mascot, an angry buffalo, and Randy, Nicole’s cheerleader boyfriend. But when their friendship is called into question, that turns out to be the biggest test of them all.
About the Production
On the heels of a resounding success in The Fighter, producers David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman were presented an exciting opportunity; not only would they reteam with the studio that helped earn them Academy Award nominations, but they would be collaborating with writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, whose work they long admired. “[Relativity] had this script that they wanted to make with Lucas and Moore and wanted to find producers for them,” said Hoberman. “We had tried to be in business with Lucas and Moore as writers many times… and really loved the guys and their voice and their sense of humor… And we loved the script and loved them. It was kind of a no-brainer for us.”
Added Lieberman, “Producing an R-rated comedy isn’t something that I’d ever done before and really wanted to. And so it felt like the opportunity to work with two guys who I really respected and wanted to work with… it seemed like kind of like the perfect situation.”
The screenplay that garnered much adulation from its producers may have a simple premise at its core, but don’t think it doesn’t dig a little deeper. “The basic premise is really three friends who get together to celebrate one of their twenty-first birthday and the whole night goes off the rails,” said Moore. “[The question we explore is] are most friendships based on proximity?” This theme permeates the story; its relevance resoundingly clear when characters’ friendships are tried by fire. “You make all these great friendships, but is it because you’re actually meeting people and having a deep connection, or is it just that you live down the hall from this guy and it’s easy to hang out with him and go out and party?” said Moore.
While outrageous scenes are the norm in this genre of comedy, 21 and Over surprises, balancing zany set-pieces with down-to-earth, relatable situations. “Really broad comedy without the grounding isn’t something that I’m necessarily interested in,” said Lieberman. “And what this script offered was both.”
After writing the monumentally successful comedy The Hangover, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore penned 21 and Over as a spec script not based on their own experiences, but about the outrageous things they had longed to do. “Mostly Scott and I write from wish fulfillment. I don’t think my 21st birthday was as crazy as I’d like to remember. I definitely made mistakes on my 21st birthday, but no where near what our heroes experience,” shared Lucas.
“We were really excited about the idea of doing a plot-driven comedy,” added Lucas. “A lot of people loved The Hangover, and we’re grateful for all of them, but I don’t think people loved it for the same reasons we loved it as writers. We loved it because it was a real; it was a comedy that was driven by story, as opposed to a comedy driven by an idea. The idea of writing mystery-comedy is exciting to us.”
“The Hangover was really director Todd Phillips’ movie and he did a great job. I’m proud to have my name on it, but this is more an expression of who we are. Our comedy comes from a slightly different place. We go for a slightly more emotional level. I saw that on the day we shot the the vomiting in the bar scene,” laughed Lucas. “But it is heartfelt.”
“We also like a thriller structure in a comedy, so you’re not just relying on jokes, because jokes are hard,” Lucas pointed out. “Successful comedies have more than just laughs, they get you engaged and caring about the characters as you’re laughing.”
“Also, Jon and I like to write movies about universal experiences,” contributed Moore. “As writers, we try to make more out of everything. We had a checklist of a couple of things that we feel pretty much everybody has gone through. Almost everyone has had a hangover, and at some point in life you will turn 21. It is this little rite of passage. So we had this notion floating around and it married really well with this experience that Jon had at a musical festival and it all came together as this movie.”
“I was in the desert at Coachella, so it’s really hot and a friend’s girlfriend’s sister got messed up beyond belief. The tickets were really expensive, it was a big trip, and then he spent the whole time carrying this poor girl,” laughed Lucas. “I’m 35 now and as a movie writer, you’re basically pulling from everything that has ever happened to you. That feeling of carrying your buddy home, you probably did it once a semester in college, like that Vietnam pose of you getting your buddy home… I was starting to fire some axons in the brain and think maybe there’s an idea there.”
“21 is a birthday you really celebrate,” added Lucas. “You’re so psyched. Turning 16 or 17 is a huge one because you can finally drive, and then turning 21 is really exciting. After that, I’m not saying it’s all downhill, but you really don’t celebrate 22. You kind of celebrate 30, but not really, and turning 40 definitely isn’t awesome.” Moore added, “Then you stop celebrating. Done.”
“But 21 is where you go out with all your friends. We call it the American Bar Mitzvah in the movie, because it is oddly this day when America recognizes you as a grownup,” explained Lucas. “You can now do everything you haven’t been able to do. That moment when you first walk into your first bar and you finally don’t feel like you have to lie to someone to get in, you don’t have to be a fraud, you can be welcomed in… it felt like fodder.”
“College is a seminal moment in all our lives because there’s that moment of freedom experienced for the first time,” said Hoberman. “Adults look back fondly on discovering what college life was really like and those who are going through it can also relate. These are three guys that haven’t seen each other in a while and have to get to know each other again. In the intervening years, they’ve changed. Each one goes through an arc: Miller has got to accept responsibility; Skylar needs to loosen up from his fast track to get into the financial world; and Jeff Chang, who is really the primary story, has gotten himself in trouble as a result of traveling in his father’s footsteps. Each of them go through a journey, but they do end up reigniting that friendship they had years ago.”
“It’s actually a really clean idea – two great friends go visit their other third friend at college on his 21st birthday, get him so wasted that they can’t find where he lives, and spend the entire night trying to find his home,” added Lieberman. “This happens and this happens and this happens, but all the obstacles are in the service of a larger goal… get that guy home because his dad’s going to kill him if he doesn’t make that medical school interview. Along the way, they encounter an unbelievable amount of crazy set pieces, but the general construct of the movie is a very simple A to B, almost a road trip paradigm, but on one college campus.”
21 and Over
Directed by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Starring: Sarah Wright, Justin Chon, Miles Teller, Jonathan Keltz, Daniel Booko
Screenplay by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Production Design by: Jerry Fleming
Cinematography by: Terry Stacey
Film Editing by: John Refoua
Costume Design by: Christine Wada
Music by: Lyle Workman
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking.
Studio: Relativity Media
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Taglines: Do not disturb the family.
Stoker is a British-American psychological thriller film written by Wentworth Miller and directed by South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook in his English-language debut. It stars Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Nicole Kidman, and was released on March 1, 2013. It was the last film produced by Tony Scott, who died after production.
When India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) loses her beloved father and best friend Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in a tragic auto accident on her 18th birthday, her quiet life on the family’s secluded estate is suddenly shattered. Exquisitely sensitive, India’s exhibits an impassive demeanor which masks the deep feelings and heightened senses that only her father understood.
India finds herself drawn to her father’s long-lost brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode), who unexpectedly arrives for the funeral and decides to stay on with her and her emotionally unstable mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman). While India initially mistrusts her charming but mysterious uncle, he fascinates her as well, and she begins to realize how much they have in common.
As Charlie reveals himself to her little by little, India becomes increasingly infatuated with her charismatic relative and comes to realize that his arrival is no coincidence. With her uncle to guide her, she is about to fulfill her unusual destiny.
Stoker’s Path to the Screen
Filmmaker Park Chan-Wook has created a singular body of work during his more than 20 years as a writer, director and producer of some of Korean cinema’s most innovative and original movies, crafting feverish scenarios that combine lyrical beauty with shattering acts of violence and operatic emotion. STOKER is a dark and disturbing thriller about a mysterious and isolated American family. Even the film’s title makes metaphorical allusion to evil, invoking the name of Dracula author Bram Stoker, whose groundbreaking novel is as much about an opportunist who preys on the innocent as it is the supernatural world of the vampire.
Fittingly, STOKER’s path to the big screen began with a mystery of its own. Scott Free producer Michael Costigan received a phone call from a top Hollywood agent offering him a new script. “But she wouldn’t tell me anything about the writer,” he remembers. “And she wouldn’t email it to me. I had to pick it up at her office. I was of course very intrigued, so after dinner that night I had to have a look. And as I read, I found I couldn’t put it down.”
Starting with the script’s opening image of a young girl playing a piano as a spider creeps up her leg, Costigan was riveted, shocked and enthralled by the story as it unfolded to its inexorable conclusion. The producer found himself lost in the eerie, improbable and self- contained world of the Stoker family.
“These people are completely pure,” he explains. “If they have an emotion, they have to follow it through, but they don’t fully understand the ramifications of what they’re doing. They are brilliant in an overall sense. They’re highly perceptive. They see things other people can’t see. But they also are obsessed with their own self-preservation, and if someone gets in their way, they’re going to do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their needs.”
The story begins as India Stoker turns 18. India, played by Mia Wasikowska, is introspective and seemingly passive. “But she is about to come into her own,” says Costigan. “She shows nothing on the surface, but clearly has an excess of emotion and perception on the inside. She actually sees and hears minute details that most of us miss, and it overwhelms her.” Of course the producers wanted to know more about the screenwriter, but the agent who sent the script refused to give more information. “She wouldn’t tell me anything,” Costigan says.
“She said he was out of town. Finally I got a call from him and I thought the voice on the phone sounded very familiar. I was shocked when I realized that ‘Ted’ was Wentworth Miller, and that this was the first screenplay that he had ever written.”
Miller, an actor perhaps best known for his work on the groundbreaking television series “Prison Break,” worked on the script over a period of about eight years. Because he believed that no one would take an actor’s first screenplay seriously, Miller convinced his agent to submit his work under a pseudonym. He decided to call himself Ted Foulke. (Foulke is Miller’s dog’s name.) The script eventually landed up on the 2010 Black List, the prestigious unofficial list of the best unproduced films available.
As the script’s reputation built, a number of top directors expressed interest in signing on. First choice, though, was a Hollywood outsider: Park Chan-Wook. Winner of the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix in 2003 for OLDBOY and the Jury Prize in 2009 for THIRST, “Director Park,” as everyone involved with STOKER calls him, is celebrated around the world for his elegant depictions of cruelty, destruction and revenge, as well as for his radiant and jarring visuals. His recent short film, NIGHT FISHING, was shot entirely with Apple’s iPhone and won the Golden Bear Award for best Short Film at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival.
The script was sent to Park, but Costigan doubted that the auteur filmmaker of some of his favorite movies would read an unsolicited screenplay. “I imagined that he wrote all his own material with a collaborator in Korea and that’s just how it was. Then we got a phone call saying that Director Park wanted to speak with us.”
During that first phone call, Park offered up unique ideas about the characters and some of the indelible visual metaphors that would come to define the film. “He started talking about the saddle shoes,” says Costigan. “He had this idea that Uncle Charlie had been sending India a present every year for her birthday. The box would be left in some remote part of the house or in the garden or in the trees. On her 18th birthday, he arrives, and this time it’s a pair of crocodile stilettoes. In his mind, she’s ready to be who he believes she really is.”
“At that point, I knew that we had to have him,” says the producer. “Not only did he understand the script, he already had incredible ideas about the characters. It was his movie to direct from that first phone call.”
Park, who has said his interest in directing began with Alfred Hitchcock’s claustrophobic masterpiece, VERTIGO, was drawn to the film’s unconventional and tautly woven love story, as well as its severely restricted physical world. “The locations are limited,” he notes. “There are a small number of characters and it takes place over a short period of time. The constant tension almost suffocates. Something is about to explode, like a kettle of boiling water with the lid on tight. A story that takes place in a confined space becomes a small universe unto itself.
“I also liked the fact that it was not a story that revolves around dialogue,” the director continues. “That was an advantage for my first English-language film. My Korean language films have not been dialogue-oriented either, so I was already comfortable with telling the story in a more visual way.”
The script fits well into the director’s existing oeuvre, according to co-producer Wonjo Jeong. “Director Park’s films are very reflective,” he says. “They deal with right and wrong, and where the line lies between them. His characters are torn between their choices. And every choice has consequences. He subverts the conventions of narrative, and in doing so, draws us into the questions about social class, ethics, morality and religion.”
Park also cites the influences of filmmakers such as David Lynch, David Cronenberg and the sleek, sexy stylized world of Brian De Palma as well as writers Edgar Allen Poe, M. R. James, and Wilkie Collins.
“In STOKER, which is a microscopic observation of these people and their universe, he tells a bigger story about the world at large,” continues Jeong. “The characters are flawed, much as we are all flawed. By putting them in such extreme circumstances, he’s reflecting experiences that everyone goes through in life, but in such a vivid and dark mirror that we want to look more closely.”
Directed by: Chan-wook Park
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver
Screenplay by: Wentworth Miller, Erin Cressida Wilson
Production Design by: Thérèse DePrez
Cinematography by: Chung-hoon Chung
Film Editing by: Nicolas De Toth
Costume Design by: Kurt and Bart
Music by: Clint Mansell
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Taglines: How far would you go to save your son?
Businessman John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) is devastated when his 18-year-old son Jason (Rafi Gavron) receives a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence in federal prison when is caught with a package he received from a friend which, unbeknownst to him, contained illicit drugs. When Jason turns down an offer from politically ambitious U.S. Attorney Joanne Keeghan(Susan Sarandon) to reduce his sentence by manufacturing evidence against someone else, John begs Keeghan to let him go undercover instead.
John infiltrates a violent gang led by ruthless drug dealer Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams), but in his efforts to save his son, he compromises another innocent man(Jon Bernthal). And when he unexpectedly exposes a major player in the Mexican drug trade(Benjamin Bratt), the already dangerous venture turns potentially deadly.
About the Production
Snitch has all the elements of a full-blown, edge-of-your-seat action thriller: an iconic hero in star Dwayne Johnson, a riveting script by co-writer Justin Haythe and co-writer/director Ric Roman Waugh, and state-of-the-art stunts. But the film, a passion project for its producers at Exclusive Media, also tells a compelling story that addresses a little-known but deadly consequence of the current war on drugs.
“The script came out of a ‘Frontline’ piece about real cases in our justice system where people were given a choice between becoming informants and going to jail,” says Matt Jackson, Senior Executive Vice President and Head of US Production at Exclusive Media and Producer of SNITCH. “Justin Haythe, a really great writer, did the first draft and we developed it over a number of years.”
The finished film is more a dramatic thriller than a typical action movie, says Jackson. “As much as there’s an action element, SNITCH is about an all-American family confronted with an unfair situation that our justice system mandates. A kid makes a mistake and his entire life is going to be ruined.”
The story focuses on John Matthews, owner of a construction company in the American heartland, whose 18-year-old son, Jason, is framed for dealing ecstasy by another kid who is trying to save his own skin. The penalty for simply receiving the package is ten to thirty years in federal prison and Jason’s only chance at lessening the sentence is turning in someone else. Since he doesn’t know any drug dealers, his only choice would be to lie and fabricate evidence against a friend. When he refuses, his father takes matters into his own hands.
“Jason is a regular teenager,” says Jackson. “He reluctantly accepts a package for a friend without knowing what the consequences are. We take the position that everyone makes stupid mistakes sometimes and that the laws should reflect the severity of the offense. And in this case, he’s an innocent kid who screwed up. John, our hero, is an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation where he has to act to save his son.”
As the script evolved, Jackson brought in Ric Roman Waugh to direct, based on the success of his previous film Felon, a different, but complementary story about another unfair incarceration.
“Ric’s knowledge of law enforcement and unique understanding of the justice system elevated the movie,” says Jackson. “He found a balance between action and drama that is perfect. Ric really has a handle on that, so there’s something there for everyone. The concept is universal. Would you, as a parent, sacrifice yourself and try to root out really, really bad guys to help your son? Most parents will do whatever they need to do to help their children and John is an example of that.”
Waugh was initially shocked, and then galvanized, by what he learned about the federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. “Under these harsh guidelines, the only way to reduce the sentence is to snitch on other potential drug traffickers,” says Waugh. “Since Jason has no one to turn in and he refuses to lie, his father goes to the U.S. Attorney and offers to help find a real drug dealer in exchange for leniency for his son.”
After reading the earlier version of the script, Waugh began to fine-tune the story and the characters. “I learned as much as I could about the true stories that inspired this,” he says. “Then I did a rewrite that I think gives the audience what it wants in terms of action, but in a grounded, realistic way. This is not a pure popcorn movie. You won’t roll your eyes because something is unbelievable.”
Waugh was born into a filmmaking family. “My father was a legend in the stunt world,” he says. “He took me onto film sets when I was a baby and I started working as a professional stuntman as a teenager. I got my training with some of the top directors out there: Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner, John McTiernan, James Cameron, Tony Scott, just to name a few. I not only gained a practical knowledge of filmmaking, but I began to form my own creative point of view.”
Part of that process was giving the film the immediacy of a first-person perspective. “You’re not only watching the characters,” says Waugh. “You’re feeling yourself in their positions. For me, the key element was seeing how far a parent would go to save his kid. I am the father of twin four-year-old sons and I believe I would move heaven and earth for them if they were in danger. That is what this movie is about.”
Executive Producer Becki Cross Trujillo, who worked closely with Waugh through preproduction and the day-to-day shooting schedule, has high praise for the writer-director. He was “fantastic to work with. As the writer, he knows every aspect of the story and has every shot in his head — he works so fast it’s almost impossible for everyone to keep up with him. He’s prepared, which makes my job easy because we know what’s coming and we can be ready for it. Things always happen on the set that you can’t control and he’s fast on his feet. He comes up with ways to make things better and make it all work within our time frame.”
Jonathan King, Executive Vice President of Production at Participant Media and Producer of SNITCH, notes that his company was developing a different project with Waugh. “As SNITCH started to move forward, Exclusive was looking for a partner on it. We knew it was a great script and it made sense for our company’s mission. Since we really wanted to work with Ric, it was an easy yes.
“No one’s easier to work with than Ric,” adds King. “And no one works harder. He has a nose for authenticity. Anything that’s phony he’ll get rid of immediately.”
It was a plus for both sides that Waugh loves research and Participant Media had the resources to help him. “We have partnerships with non-governmental organizations, non-profits, legislative campaigns, all sorts of resources we reach out to find out the reality of a situation,” King notes.
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Nadine Velazquez, Susan Sarandon, Michael K. Williams, Jon Bernthal
Screenplay by: Justin Haythe, Ric Roman Waugh
Production Design by: Vincent Reynaud
Cinematography by: Dana Gonzales
Film Editing by: Jonathan Chibnall
Costume Design by: Kimberly Adams-Galligan
Set Decoration by: Kristin Bicksler
Music by: Antonio Pinto
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence.
Studio: Lionsgate Films, Summit Entertainment
Release Date: February 22, 2013