Monday, February 11, 2013

Are documentaries a pathway through the glass ceiling for female directors in the fictional narrative arena?

Consider this a slightly interesting bit of news that hopefully will be a sign of things to come.  I generally don't post every press release I receive, mostly because there are other places you can go for that kind of thing.  But the press release regarding what was basically a casting announcement for Dakota Fanning caught my eye.  The film is called Every Secret Thing and it's also starring Diane Lane,  Danielle Macdonald, and Elizabeth Banks.  It concerns "two 11-year-old girls who are convicted of murdering a baby and are incarcerated until they turn 18.  Upon their release, children start to go missing; as the police turn their attention to the duo, the mystery surrounding the original murder comes back to light." The film's director is one Amy Berg.  Okay, so you have  female-driven film starring several major female talents and directed by a female director.  Always good news, but so what?  Well, Ms. Berg is making her feature film debut on the project, having previous cut her teeth in the realm of documentary film-making.

In short, while women still very much lag behind their male counterparts in conventional narrative film making, they are making real inroads in the documentary scene. Generally speaking, the places where a would-be filmaker might get their first big break, such as the music video arena or in commercials, is very much dominated by men.  As such, the kind of projects that might attract a studio's attention tend to be those made by men in male-dominated areas of film making.  But documentary film making is slowly becoming a comparatively more even playing field. So it matters when Amy Berg, who helmed the fantastic Deliver Us From Evil and the acclaimed West of Memphis, uses her resume as a documentary filmmaker to get a feature film directing job, even a somewhat smaller scale project like this.

The director of this weekend's Identity Thief is of course Seth Gordon, who came to fame in the video game competition documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.  Joe Berlinger of course had a rockier road, snagging the Blair Witch 2 assignment and then basically retreating back into the world of making fantastic and important documentaries. But he still got that shot based on the initial Paradise Lost film.  In short, it matters that documentary films are considered a gateway to feature films, because the documentary "genre" is one where female directors are all the more likely to get noticed. It's not a female documentary director being offered a Marvel comic book movie or  $150 million science-fiction fantasy tent pole, but it's a start. The press release is below...

Scott Mendelson


Hyde Park International to handle worldwide sales at Berlin.

Los Angeles, CA – (February 7, 2013) – Likely Story, Merced Media Partners, Palmstar Media Capital, and Hyde Park International have announced that Dakota Fanning and Danielle Macdonald have been added to the cast of Amy Berg’s “Every Secret Thing”, joining Diane Lane and Elizabeth Banks.

Principal Photography begins March 25th in New York with Berg directing from a script by Nicole Holofcener, adapted from Laura Lippman’s 2004 novel.

Likely Story’s Anthony Bregman is producing with Frances McDormand.  Executive producers are Palmstar’s Kevin Frakes, Merced Media’s Raj Singh and Stuart Brown, Hyde Park’s Ashok Amritraj, Likely Story’s Stefanie Azpiazu, and Michael Bederman.

Hyde Park International’s team, led by President Eric Christenson, will handle international sales at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The story follows two 11-year-old girls who are convicted of murdering a baby and are incarcerated until they turn 18.  Upon their release, children start to go missing; as the police turn their attention to the duo, the mystery surrounding the original murder comes back to light.

Fanning and Macdonald will play the 18-year old girls, and Lane will play the mother of one of the girls, portraying a woman who has long known that her daughter is a gifted liar.  Banks plays the lead police officer who finds herself emotionally involved in the case.

Berg, who directed the critically acclaimed documentaries “Deliver Us From Evil” and “West of Memphis”, is set to make her much-anticipated narrative helming debut.

Bregman’s Likely Story and Amritraj’s Hyde Park International continue their relationship which began with the 2011 comedy “Our Idiot Brother” which also starred Banks, as well as Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, and Steve Coogan.

Likely Story is a bi-coastal production company founded by Anthony Bregman in October 2006.  In 2012 the company produced three feature films: "Can a Song Save your Life?," directed by John Carney; the Untitled Nicole Holofcener film at Fox Searchlight; and "Foxcatcher," directed by Bennett Miller.  Anthony Bregman’s past films include the Academy Award-winning “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Friends With Money,” “Our Idiot Brother,” “Synecdoche, New York,” “Please Give,” “The Tao of Steve,” “Lovely & Amazing,” “Human Nature,” “The Extra Man,” “Thumbsucker,” “The Savages,” “The Ice Storm,” “The Brothers McMullen,” “Trick,” “Darling Companion,” “The Oranges,” and "Lay the Favorite."  The company also has a first look deal with graphic novel and comic book publisher Top Shelf Productions.

Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park International, a subsidiary of the Hyde Park Entertainment Group, has become one of the most important foreign sales companies in the World and is a permanent fixture at Cannes, Berlin, and the American Film Market.  Focused on representing commercial fare such as “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” and “Machete” as well as award-winning films including “Blue Valentine” and “Bernie,” HPI continues to work with the major studios and top independent producers.  In addition to “Every Secret Thing”, HPI’s current slate includes “The Untitled Elmore Leonard Project” starring Jennifer Aniston, Roger Spottiswoode’s “Midnight Sun”, and “A Friggin’ Christmas Miracle.”

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