FILMMAKER
The Magazine of Independent Film
25 NEW FACES OF INDEPENDENT FILM

PHOTO: JULIA FISHKIN
David Guion & Michael Handelman — writers

Nodding toward writing partner David Guion across a nouveau-Belgian bistro table in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, Michael Handelman characterizes their collaboration by saying, "I pretty much write the scripts, and he just stops by with the sandwiches."

All kidding aside, though, Handelman says the reason the two improv comedian-turned-screenwriters’ collaboration works is that "we know each other so well we always know where the other is going. It’s two minds doing the work of one!"

"Not the most efficient of economic models," Guion wryly retorts.

Clever dialogue, unexpected storytelling and freshly downtrodden characters are what distinguish Guion and Handelman’s spec screenplay Mondo Beyondo from a sea of gross-out American Pie ripoffs. Replace the implied marijuana use of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with the mind-numbing effects of corporate wage slavery and set the thing in a Road Warrior—style post apocalypse and you have Mondo Beyondo, the story of two 20-something losers for whom Armageddon is just one obstacle on the way toward meaningful employment and PG-rated romance. Says Guion, "We wanted to write a funny action movie" with, as Handelman adds, "two heroes who are totally contrary to the aesthetics of the genre."

Guion and Handelman met 10 years ago at Yale University, where they both performed in the improv comedy troupe the Purple Crayon. They later renewed their friendship in New York, where they performed with another improv comedy group, Circus Maximus, at places such as Caroline’s and the West Bank Café. Just eight months ago the two decided to write a screenplay, hatched the idea for Mondo Beyondo and looked to a "friend of a friend," manager Kassie Evashevski of Brillstein-Grey, for advice. She provided constant feedback on their various drafts and then, when the script was finished, sent it out as a spec. It scored immediately, with Film Four buying it for Good Machine to produce.

The pair next drew on their performing background and pitched a new script, Fast Track, which Guion describes as a comedy about "two young people who are trying to be adults." Sort of a postmodern Mr. Mom, the project has become the first film set up by Good Machine at Miramax under the New York company’s new deal. Looking ahead, Guion says, the two want to direct "as quickly as possible. We didn’t start off wanting to be writers. We just want to tell funny stories." – Scott Macaulay

[contact: k.evashevski@bgent.com]

 

PHOTO: ROBERT ZASH
Agnieszka WoJtowicz-Vosloo – director

Since we featured Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo and her short film Paté in the winter issue of Filmmaker, the energetic senior won N.Y.U. Film School’s Wasserman Award, had her film screened at Sundance, where she was the focus of a six-minute CNN profile, picked up a Grand Jury Prize at the Houston International Film Festival and signed as a feature director with Robert Newman at ICM. Not bad for this Polish-born New Yorker and former child actress, who is now trying to determine how much of Pate’s baroque style and button-pushing narrative she can work into her first feature.

"Paté has really divided people," she says, both surprised and gratified by the strong response the film has received at festivals. A post-apocalyptic tale featuring two young children and a cannibalistic mother, the short is a visual tour de force with its no-budget evocation of a once opulent future world. But for all of its disturbing themes and antisocial behavior, the film has garnered Wojtowicz-Vosloo a significant amount of industry attention. "It’s a paradox," she says. "If I had been trying to make a ‘calling-card’ film, I would have made something very different. This film comes from passion and from simply enjoying the filmmaking process."

Although she still hopes to direct her original feature script, Dreaming of Red Fish, Wojtowicz-Vosloo is considering her options. "I don’t want to rush things," she says. "Ultimately, I want to strike a balance between Hollywood aesthetics and the kinds of characters and ideas found in films by people such as the Coen brothers, David Lynch and Ridley Scott." – Scott Macaulay

[contact: agnieszkavosloo@onebox.com]

 

PHOTO: LINDA FARWELL
Doug Sadler – writer/director

Although he didn’t set out to become a regional filmmaker, Doug Sadler – whose chalk-blue first feature, Riders, is currently making the festival rounds – admits that he has a strong attachment to his adopted home of Easton, Md., beside the Chesapeake Bay. "They’ve got that whole crew down in Austin," says Sadler, who is originally from New Orleans. "Why couldn’t we have a similar ongoing creative community right here in Maryland?"

Riders is about a teenage girl (Bodine Alexander) and her younger sister (Sarah Stusek) whose lives are disrupted when their mother (Jane Beard) takes up with a menacing new boyfriend, played by Don Harvey, whose hardened mug was featured in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. "I’ve known both of the girls pretty much all their lives, and I wrote the film with them in mind," explains Sadler, who describes his writing approach as "character-based."

Sadler and d.p. Rodney Taylor, an award-winning cinematographer with several IMAX films to his credit, shot the film in digital video over a period of five weeks, on locations in Maryland, Nashville and New Orleans. "I first met Rodney when he was working on a documentary about fishing as a way of life on the Chesapeake Bay," Sadler says. He plans to shoot his next film, Swimmers – a Malick-influenced piece narrated by a young girl – on the bay as well.

After studying at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, in 1993 Sadler founded The Lab, an experimental retreat for artists in placid rural Maryland. "The Lab is not just for filmmakers," Sadler says, "but for artists from all disciplines who want to explore and experiment with sound and visuals of all kinds."

Among them are novelist Dan Robb (the forthcoming Crossing the Water) and Trans’s director Julian Goldberger and composer Eliot Houser, who contributed to the score of Riders. Sadler’s other recent work includes a DV production of Samuel Beckett’s teleplay Eh Joe, in which he also stars. – Chuck Stephens

[contact: d.sadler@earthlink.net or visit www.riders-thefilm.com]

 

PHOTO: KATE GARNER
Ryan Gosling — actor

At the center of Henry Bean’s The Believer, a psychological portrait of a Jewish neo-Nazi that won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is the stunning lead performance by Ryan Gosling. Simmering and intense, he is able to imbue a character you might otherwise despise with an wounded humanity.

Gosling seemed to come out of nowhere. Well, not exactly nowhere. At six, in London, Ontario, he had a small act as an Elvis impersonator. Then at 12, he hit the big time, beating out 17,000 hopefuls for a part on The New Mickey Mouse Club. For two years he performed with other young hopefuls such as Keri Russell and Britney Spears as a singing citizen of the Magic Kingdom. Returning to Canada, he spent his adolescence popping in and out of various teen TV shows, from The Adventures of Shirley Holmes to Goosebumps to an ongoing role on Breaker High. Finally leaving Canada for Hollywood, he landed the starring role on Young Hercules.

Despite all of his acting experience, though, Gosling didn’t know if he could get the lead in The Believer. "When a script like that comes along in Los Angeles with a part for a 25-year-old, every actor comes out. But I felt if I could just get in to read, I would be very good. As it turned out, I was the last kid. And even though they needed a name actor, I think they were just tired of casting." Although the character is a far cry from his previous work, Gosling felt connected to the film’s theme: "The movie for me was just about faith. He was choking on faith. It could really be about anyone living a contradiction. I identified with that; I saw beauty in the idea of beings so weak."

Those who marvel at Gosling’s performance in The Believer can look forward to two more notable turns – as an alienated teenage football player in Alex and Andrew Smith’s The Slaughter Rule and playing opposite Michael Pitt in Barbet Schroeder’s Fool Proof, a film Gosling describes as "a retelling of the Loeb and Leopold case in which two boys attempt to commit the perfect crime."

But after that Gosling will disappear for a while. He is traveling back to Canada with his best friend, Mike Warner, to write a movie that he plans to direct in the future. – Peter Bowen

[contact: Carolyn Govers, managercgartsmgm@earthlink.net]

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