Category: Focus Features
Taglines: Dare to live.
In 1986 in Dallas, a man diagnosed with HIV (Matthew McConaughey), began smuggling alternative medicine with Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman (Leto). It is loosely based on the true-life tale of Ron Woodroof, a drug taking, women loving, homophobic man who, in 1986 was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and given thirty days to live. He started taking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved AZT, the only legal drug available in the U.S, which brought him to the brink of death. To survive, he smuggled , anti-viral medications from all over the world, but still illegal in the U.S.
Other AIDS patients sought out his medications forgoing hospitals, doctors, and AZT. With the help of his doctor, Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) and a fellow patient, Rayon, Ron unintentionally created the Dallas Buyers Club, the first of dozens which would form around the country, providing its paying members with these alternative treatments. The clubs, growing in numbers and clientele, were brought to the attention of the FDA and pharmaceutical companies, which waged an all out war on Ron. DBC follows Ron Woodroof’s personal fight to survive, which had lasted 2191 days when he died on September 12, 1992, six years after he was diagnosed with HIV.
Dallas Buyers Club
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts
Screenplay by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Production Design by: John Paino
Cinematography by: Yves Bélanger
Film Editing by: Martin Pensa, Jean-Marc Vallée
Costume Design by: Kurt and Bart
Set Decoration by: Robert Covelman
Art Direction by: Javiera Varas
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use.
Studio: Focus Features
Release Date: November 1, 2013
Taglines: They see your every move.
In the international suspense thriller Closed Circuit, a high-profile terrorism case unexpectedly binds together two ex-lovers (Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall) on the defense team – testing the limits of their loyalties and placing their lives in jeopardy.
One morning, a busy London market is decimated by an explosion. In the manhunt that follows, only one member of the suspected terrorist cell survives: Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), who is arrested and jailed. Preparations begin for what promises to be the trial of the century.
But there’s a hitch: the government will use classified evidence to prosecute Erdogan, evidence so secret that neither he nor his lawyers can be allowed to see it. Hence the need for the Attorney General (Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent) to appoint a Special Advocate, an additional government-approved defense lawyer (Claudia Simmons-Howe, played by Golden Globe Award nominee Rebecca Hall), one who has clearance to see classified evidence and who can argue for its full disclosure when the trial moves to “closed” session. The rules for the Special Advocate are clear: once the secret evidence is shared with her, Claudia will not be allowed to communicate even with the defendant or with other members of the defense team.
But just as the case is on the eve of going to trial, Erdogan’s lawyer dies suddenly, and a new defense attorney, Martin Rose (Eric Bana), quickly steps in. Martin is tenacious, driven, brilliant – and an ex-lover of Claudia’s. The two lawyers make an uncomfortable pact to keep their former affair hidden. But as Martin begins to piece the case together, the outlines of a sinister conspiracy emerge, one that will draw him and Claudia dangerously close again.
About the Production
Making Closed Circuit, a thriller rooted in the world of today, required knowledge and expertise not only about filmmaking but also about an idiosyncratic criminal justice system.
Working Title Films principals Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner had produced a number of successful contemporary thrillers, including The Interpreter. Since 9/11 in the U.S. and 7/7 in the U.K., Bevan found himself aware of how “the U.K.’s criminal justice system has changed enormously. This was something I had been discussing with my barrister friend Tim Owen, QC [Queen’s Counsel]. Over the years, he has worked on fascinating criminal cases and I had mentioned doing a dramatic film in that setting. It’s an arena not often explored on the big screen. Defence of the Realm, from 1986, was a film I had in mind as precursor because it is about a conspiracy inside the corridors of British power.
“I gravitated towards exploring what would happen today in a highest-priority terrorism case within the context of the British legal system. The ins and outs of its courts are actually quite cinematic; as Tim pointed out, not all legal work takes place in court. Deals get cut in offices ‘behind the scenes,’ and the outside world doesn’t really know about it.”
Bevan contacted another filmmaker well-known for acclaimed contemporary thrillers: Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things screenwriter Steve Knight. Bevan says, “I knew that Steve would be able to impart relatable characters into a compelling story while remaining in the realm of believability.”
The screenwriter was eager to collaborate with Working Title on the idea. After conferring with Bevan and Owen, Knight began to hone his original screenplay around a U.K. terrorism trial’s defendant’s legal representation — a barrister and a Special Advocate (SA).
Bevan remarks, “When the trial gets going, each is not allowed to know what the other one is doing; they’re ‘the defense team’ and yet they cannot coordinate efforts. The evolution of the SA has been significant for the legal system.”
Knight elaborates, “This was a change in the law for particularly sensitive, and usually terrorist-related, cases. In such cases, the defense barrister and the SA are not allowed to interact or even speak outside of court. This is to prevent secret evidence that the SA is given from being socially passed on to the defense barrister — whether accidental or not. The person being tried, the defendant, will never have all the facts in front of him.
“I thought that if the defense barrister and the SA were a man and a woman who had a personal history that wasn’t known to the world, this was ripe for a thriller treatment. There would be overlap among the legal profession, the workings of Parliament and of government forces, and human beings working at relationships.”
Knight clarifies, “Closed Circuit is a story of skullduggery and things gone wrong. I do feel that the British judicial system is in pretty good shape, but it needs to be examined every now and again. In writing this screenplay, I spoke to many people in the legal profession who care that it be just and right. I hope this comes across in our movie.
The screenwriter’s research included attending trials, during which he closely observed “people in pressure-cooker situations: someone facing 20 years in prison, for instance.”
Work on the script continued over a two-year period. In 2011, producer Chris Clark, who had started his career at Working Title, joined the project. Clark had been with the company back when the idea took shape, and “Tim Bevan mentioned that there was now a script and showed it to me. It had a very modern take on paranoia, as there is a lot of fear in society today including at the government level. I loved how, as the story progresses, the romance aspect complicates things in an unusual way. I thought Steve Knight had taken the original idea of a contemporary legal thriller and ran with it.”
Knight admits that he found “the world of the legal profession to be particularly fascinating to write about because it is enclosed; this is not only in that you have a set of buildings, the Inns of Court, but also archaic traditions and methods of dress.
“In writing scripts, especially London stories, I try to find paths that haven’t been trodden particularly heavily in movies before. Usually these are right under your nose, and as a writer you have to identify them and then try to tell the story.”
Clark adds, “What Steve is brilliant at in his scripts like Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises is taking you into different parts of London, parts we may think we know something about but which we don’t. He layers in complexities yet always makes the story entertaining.”
John Crowley was approached to direct. “We were very keen to work with John, and had developed projects with him in the past,” notes Bevan. “In the films he had directed, he was able to conjure up a lot of tension in unexpected moments. That’s what we were looking for a director to bring to Closed Circuit; we wanted the audience’s comfort to be challenged over the course of the movie, as a sense of unease seeps in and the heartbeat rate goes up.
“John is also well-known for his stage work, which shows his strength in eliciting subtlety from actors — something that was absolutely appropriate for our movie.”
Clark agreed: “I could see John directing our movie because of how he is able to tap into — and how he is able to get actors to tap into — psychological aspects of the characters. He always elicits truthful performances.”
“John has a European sensibility,” assesses Knight. “He and I spoke about structure, and I was able to make changes so the script worked better and it was ready for filming.”
Crowley remarks, “When I first heard about the project from Working Title, my ears pricked up. I’m a fan of Steve’s screenwriting. Thrillers are perhaps my favorite genre of film, and to do an intelligent web-of-conspiracy tale in a London setting felt like fresh territory. I wanted to try to make the film with degrees of authenticity in both location and story.
“I have always been curious about the law because it feels drenched in ritual and in a codified language. Of course, a lot of people in the legal world work hard to try and de-mystify it. Yet its structure remains a source of fascination.”
The director committed to the feature not least because he feels that “there are a lot of people who feel very strongly that there are dangers to having closed court hearings, and that these fly in the face of due process. If you cannot have revealed, in open court, the evidence that someone has against you and have it tested, are you suspending something which is central to a fair legal system?”
Directed by: John Crowley
Starring: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciårán Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Anne-Marie Duff, Kenneth Cranham, Denis Moschitto, Julia Stiles, Jim Broadbent
Screenplay by: Steven Knight
Production Design by: Jim Clay
Cinematography by: Adriano Goldman
Film Editing by: Lucia Zucchetti
Costume Design by: Natalie Ward
Art Direction by: Matthew Gray, Dominic Masters
Music by: Joby Talbot
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief violence.
Studio: Focus Features
Release Date: August 28, 2013
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is an American independent documentary film about the organization started by Julian Assange, and people involved in the collection and distribution of secret information and media by whistleblowers. It covers a period of several decades, and includes considerable background material.
Filmed with the startling immediacy of unfolding history, Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks details the creation of Julian Assange’s controversial website, which facilitated the largest security breach in U.S. history. Hailed by some as a free-speech hero and by others as a traitor and terrorist, the enigmatic Assange’s rise and fall are paralleled with that of Pfc.
Bradley Manning, the brilliant, troubled young soldier who downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from classified U.S. military and diplomatic servers, revealing the behind-the-scenes workings of the government’s international diplomacy and military strategy.
In seeking to expose abuse in the corridors of power, Assange and Manning were undermined by forces within and without, as well as by their own human failings. We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks is a riveting, multi-layered tale about transparency in the information age and our ever-elusive search for the truth.
The Story of Wikileaks
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Starring: Julian Assange, Adrian Lamo, Chelsea Manning, Heather Brooke, Robert Manne, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Birgitta Jónsdóttir
Cinematography by: Maryse Alberti
Film Editing by: Andy Grieve
Music by: Will Bates
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violent images, language and sexual material.
Studio: Focus World
Release Date: May 24, 2013
Taglines: One moment can change your life.
The daring movie from the director of Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines is a sweeping emotional drama powerfully exploring the unbreakable bond between fathers and sons.
The Place Beyond the Pines is an American crime drama film directed by Derek Cianfrance, written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder. It stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, and Ray Liotta, with Ben Mendelsohn, Rose Byrne, Mahershala Ali, Bruce Greenwood, Harris Yulin, and Dane DeHaan in supporting roles. The film reunites Cianfrance and Gosling, who worked together on 2010′s Blue Valentine. The film was scored by Mike Patton.
The title is the English meaning of the city of Schenectady, New York, which is derived loosely from a Mohawk word for “place beyond the pine plains.” The film featured previously written music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.
Luke Glanton is a locally famous motorcycle stuntman working in a traveling act for state fairs. During the fair in Altamont, New York, Luke is visited by his ex-lover, Romina, and learns he is the father of her infant son. Luke quits his job as a stuntman to stay in town and provide for the child, but Romina does not want him in the child’s life, as she has become involved in a relationship with another man named Kofi. Luke turns to Robin, an auto repair shop owner, for part-time employment as he continuously attempts to insert himself into his son’s life.
Making only minimum wage, Luke asks Robin for more money to care for his son. Robin reveals he was once a bank robber, and offers to partner with Luke to hit several banks in the area. The duo perform several successful heists, in which Luke does the robbery, then uses his motorbike as a getaway vehicle and drives it into an unmarked truck driven by Robin. Luke uses the new money to win back Romina’s trust and visits her and his son more often. Kofi objects to his presence and the two get into a fight at Kofi’s house, resulting in Luke’s arrest after he hits Kofi in the head with a pipe wrench.
After Robin has bailed him out of jail, Luke wants to resume their bank robberies. Robin objects, not wanting to press their luck, and the two have a falling-out that results in Robin dismantling the motorbike and Luke taking back at gunpoint the bail money he owed Robin. Luke attempts to rob a bank alone and is pursued by police. He falls off his bike during the chase and seeks refuge in a resident’s home, where he is pursued by Schenectady Police Officer Avery Cross. Luke corners himself upstairs and calls Romina. Just before Avery confronts him, Luke asks Romina not to tell their child about who he was. Avery enters the room and fires the first shot; Luke falls out of the second-story window after shooting Avery in the leg. Avery looks out the window to find Luke dying on the pavement.
Avery gains hero status after his takedown of Luke. Avery feels remorse about shooting Luke, especially as Avery’s fellow officers Scotty and Deluca illegally seize the stolen money from Romina’s home and give him the lion’s share in honor of his newfound hero status. He later attempts to return the money to Romina, but she rejects his offer. Avery eventually tries to turn the money in to the chief of police, who dismisses him, wishing not to get involved. Following the advice of his father, a retired judge, Avery records a fellow officer asking him to remove cocaine from the evidence locker Avery is supervising for use in a separate case. Avery uses the recording to expose the illegal practices in the police department and pressures the district attorney to hire him as assistant district attorney.
Fifteen years later, Avery is running for public office and has to deal with his now-teenage son A.J., who has gotten into trouble with drugs. Avery has separated from his wife Jennifer and agrees to take A.J. into his home. A.J. transfers into the high school in Schenectady. There A.J. befriends a boy named Jason; neither A.J. nor Jason know that Jason is Luke’s son. The two are arrested for felony drug possession, and when Avery is called in to pick up his son, he recognizes Jason’s name. He uses his influence to get Jason’s charge dropped to a misdemeanor and orders A.J. to stay away from Jason, but the boys continue to talk.
The Place Beyond the Pines
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Cynthia Pelletier-Sullivan
Screenplay by: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Production Design by: Inbal Weinberg
Cinematography by: Sean Bobbitt
Film Editing by: Jim Helton, Ron Patane
Costume Design by: Erin Benach
Set Decoration by: Jasmine E. Ballou
Music by: Mike Patton
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference.
Studio: Focus Features
Release Date: March 29, 2013
Taglines: Let someone in.
Every spring, high school seniors anxiously await letters of college admission that will affirm and encourage their potential. At Princeton University, admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is a gatekeeper evaluating thousands of applicants. Year in and year out, Portia has lived her life by the book, at work as well as at the home she shares with Princeton professor Mark (Michael Sheen). When Clarence (Wallace Shawn), the Dean of Admissions, announces his impending retirement, the likeliest candidates to succeed him are Portia and her office rival Corinne (Gloria Reuben). For Portia, however, it’s business as usual as she hits the road on her annual recruiting trip.
On the road, Portia reconnects with her iconoclastic mother, Susannah (Lily Tomlin). On her visit to New Quest, an alternative high school, she then reconnects with her former college classmate, idealistic teacher John Pressman (Paul Rudd) — who has recently surmised that Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), a gifted yet very unconventional New Quest student, might well be the son that Portia secretly gave up for adoption years ago while at school. Jeremiah is about to apply to Princeton.
Now Portia must re-evaluate her personal and professional existences, as she finds herself bending the admissions rules for Jeremiah, putting at risk the future she thought she always wanted — and in the process finding her way to a surprising and exhilarating life and romance she never dreamed of having.
About the Production
What draws storytellers to explore a unique and specific high-stakes world? In the case of ADMISSION the pull of Ivy League academia, according to producer Kerry Kohansky-Roberts, provides “the perfect setting for blending deftly nuanced comedy with drama.”
Novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz thought so too, writing her 2009 novel ADMISSION as a multilayered exploration — not only of the intensely competitive world of the college admissions process but also of the attendant emotions at the center of the experience.
Korelitz reveals, “I’m married to a Princeton University professor, and had myself worked for a couple of years as an outside reader in the university’s Office of Admissions. There were about 10 of us each year, and although we did not make the acceptance decisions we commented on the applications after reading them. I was fascinated by the intense emotion surrounding the applications, and very curious about what it must feel like to have to make these decisions.
“I’d watched a generation of Princeton students come through my house and my husband’s classes. They’re fantastic young students — but they’re not the only fantastic young students out there. I remember going through a very competitive and intense college ADMISSION process myself; from what I’ve observed, it’s only gotten crazier.”
The author felt that the protagonist should be neither a student nor a professor. She notes, “I wanted to look at the kind of person who becomes an admissions officer, someone whose job it is to fend off the anxieties and loathing of all of us on the outside. Who does that, and what’s it like to be them?”
Since that latter question of self-knowledge is at the heart of many of Academy Award nominee Paul Weitz’s movies, his longtime associate Kohansky-Roberts recognized ADMISSION as material that the director would gravitate towards. She reflects, “While Jean’s novel pulled back the curtain on the college admissions process, it delved into themes of rediscovery, family, and parenthood — all of which Paul is always addressing in his films.
“I loved the concept of an admissions counselor who has her confirmed opinions on parents and the lengths they go to in order to place their kids in the right university — and then, ironically, ends up behaving in a more extreme way than any of them.”
Screenwriter Karen Croner also read and admired the book. She and Kohansky-Roberts had met years earlier, and had long been hoping to work on a project together. They met anew to discuss the book “and joined forces to bring it to Paul,” says Croner.
Korelitz remembers, “When I discovered that Paul, who had made ABOUT A BOY, was interested in ADMISSION, I was beyond elated. I couldn’t imagine anyone better to direct the film based on my book.”
For Croner, the novel’s themes resonated. She offers, “I felt a highly personal connection to the story. One of the first things that really struck me in reading the book was, here is a woman who is on the wrong path in her life. Well, I had been writing dramas and I woke up one morning and said, ‘I want to write comedy. What am I doing?'”
Croner had also recently endured a stressful admissions process. She says, “Having just gone through the process of getting my son into middle school, which in West Los Angeles is a blood sport, I was doubly curious and wanted to dig deeper into who these officers are — or might be. In interviewing admissions officers while working on the script, I found that they fell into one of two groups: people who were truly passionate about finding the right kid for their school, and people who absolutely overwhelmed, looking for any reason to say no.
“So, right there I found inspiration taking dramatic material and making it funny. I got to work straight away on the script and, right from the start, working closely with Paul Weitz on the adaptation was absolutely wonderful — a dream come true.”
Croner made sure to meet with Korelitz and discuss the adaptation process. The screenwriter remembers telling the author “that I would be true to the themes of her book, although a lot was going to change with the story. For example, much of the book is told in the past tense, and the movie would play out in the present.”
Kohansky-Roberts adds, “Some characters were eliminated, while others were enhanced. Quite a bit of plot was put in. What didn’t change was the sense of connection to these characters.”
“The essence of the story has remained the same,” confirms Korelitz. “The script reflects Karen’s interpretation of Portia, and the movie reflects Paul Weitz’s interpretation. At this point, I’m the grandmother of the character!”
Incorporating the dramatic and comedic elements of the story, the movie’s Portia became, says Croner, “a woman with a genuine desire to launch kids into their lives, yet she herself stays imprisoned in her own well-ordered life. I felt Portia’s story could be universal, and inspiring for anybody who has imposed limits on themselves and wonders if they have the guts to say ‘I’m going to break out of this.'”
Kohansky-Roberts comments, “It’s only after receiving a jolt from the past does Portia begin to reset herself and strike out on a new path, with a new outlook and a budding maternal desire that supersedes her previous way of thinking. There transpires a series of events by which she acts like a parent, something that she had openly disdained.”
Croner concurs, “When she begins to behave like a mother with Jeremiah, she allows herself to have feelings that she had been afraid of.”
While Kohansky-Roberts and Weitz coordinated on the initial pitch with Croner, they simultaneously approached their top choice for the lead role. Kohansky-Roberts notes, “We had heard Tina Fey was interested in doing a comedy/drama, and we thought the combination of her wry humor with the more serious undertones in the story would make for a movie that was substantive and also entertaining. Once we thought of Tina in the role, there really wasn’t a second choice for us.”
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Tina Fey, Wallace Shawn, Sonya Walger, Ann Harada, Gloria Reuben
Screenplay by: Karen Croner, Jean Hanff Korelitz
Production Design by: Sarah Knowles
Cinematography by: Declan Quinn
Film Editing by: Joan Sobel
Costume Design by: Aude Bronson-Howard
Set Decoration by: Susan Perlman
Music by: Stephen Trask
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual material.
Studio: Focus Features
Release Date: March 22, 2013