The Sundance Film Festival has evolved over the years, playing host to bigger names, bigger films than in its heyday. But even still, it's a place where a little indie can still go, break out and make a name for those involved. In 2011, that was the case for Bellflower, a low-budget, genre-blending movie that rattled audiences, peaked the interest of every distributor in town and found champions (Oscilloscope Laboratories) who took it on tour, released in theaters and gifted it to the world in a pristine Blu-ray package. The Sundance fairy tale in a nutshell.
Those privy to the magic of Bellflower have been anxiously awaiting an announcement from Coatwolf, the ragtag team of filmmakers who brought the movie to life, as to what they would be up to next. Now we know: Bellflower producer/actor Vincent Grashaw is moving into the director's chair for Coldwater, a feature film that "sheds light on issues yet to be brought to screen, exposing the stark realities behind juvenile rehabilitation in America." Coldwater follows a teenage boy attempting to survive a wilderness bootcamp, where "a retired war colonel and his counselors break inmate’s spirits to correct delinquent behavior." A far cry from the post-apocalyptic romance of writer/director/actor Evan Glodell's Bellflower, but a story that should fit perfectly into Grashaw's wheelhouse.
"Definitely a low budget, but much more than we had on Bellflower," Grashaw tells me. "A more focused, organized version of Bellflower." If Grashaw picked up any specific lesson from Bellflower, it was not pulling any punches or bowing down to general consensus. He recounts that early screenings of Bellflower when general reception was beyond negative, leaving him and Glodell "depressed." Then Sundance happened — and everything changed. "From November 2010 to early this year we were on the Bellflower roller coaster. It changed our lives. Everything after Sundance was Oscilloscope's doing, essentially. Adam Yauch passing away…I only knew him for a year, but it was still pretty emotional. In effect, he changed our lives." Sticking to their guns was a major of that success, and that indie spirit will continue on with Coldwater.
Grashaw has been living with the grisly story for a good portion of his adult life, noting that the script has "got more blood on it than Passion of the Christ." Grashaw began writing the movie back in '99, but only now, post-Bellflower, back when he first discovered the horrors of the detention camps. "It was interesting because the topic, the realities behind juvenile detention and wilderness programs — it was bad back then. And over the course of ten years now, more than that researching, seeing how bad it's gotten, and it's still not a topic people acknowledge or talk about. Nothings changed. If anything, things have gotten worse." The movie, to be shot in Northern California this August, will continue Grashaw's passion for raw, intense storytelling and delivering an emotional truth. There is violence. Some pretty disturbing things that happen. But it's all very real. It'll be shot with a raw, realistic approach. It's not for horror or shock value. A lot of it is based on…whether it's stuff we heard that has happened, or stuff that will get it across what really happens in these places."
"Evan and I are completely different filmmakers," Grashaw explains. "He's a visionary guy — the stuff he does, people have never seen. I like these more intimate, human condition stories that deal with choices and the consequences there are. That's the beauty of filmmakers in general, everyone's different." Grashaw's adolescent-centric script may not have room for any of the Bellflower cast, but Coatwolf's familial relationship should open the doors for further collaborations. "I've got quite a bit of the Coatwolf crew working on it. We're all kind of family. Jonathan Keevil (composer/editor on Bellflower) may help out with some of the music on this, he's trying to develop his feature which he wants to direct. That'll be a Coatwolf movie. We all take turns and help each other out." Also in line with Bellflower's sensibilities is Grashaw's decision to go with a cast of unknowns. "I don't think anyone from Bellflower is going to appear in it, but it's not going to have any names. It's always been in my gut to go without anyone recognizable. I want the focus to be on the story. But the casting process has been amazing. I've been finding these home run actors, they're all gems, they're going to be stars." The bittersweet news: Glodell is deep in his next script and won't be building any new camera rigs or muscle cars for Coldwater. That said, Grashaw's film should have no problem delivering plenty of its own gut-wrenching moments.
Grashaw describes Coldwater as an "ambitious script" with "a lot of characters, a lot going on, a lot scenes," but that isn't going to stop him from working steadily to deliver the film in time for Sundance 2013. The winter can't come soon enough.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images]
Twentieth Century Fox’s latest re-boot of The Planet of the Apes franchise is neither a sequel nor a prequel but it does have the built in brand recognition from the original series of films spawned from the 1968 sci-fi classic starring Charlton Heston. Rise of the Planet of the Apes featuring James Franco is a fresh interpretation of the original series of films and has no connection to Fox’s 2001 Planet of the Apes re-boot which starred Mark Wahlberg. There was no monkeying around with these apes as they climbed to the top of the chart with a much bigger-than-expected $54 million this weekend. The film was also a hit internationally earning $23.4 million in just 25 markets and took first place in 9 of 11 markets (where rankings are available). The film expands in 15 new markets next weekend.
Sony Pictures Animation’s The Smurfs in 3-D nearly made some cantankerous cowboys very blue last weekend when they rustled up an unexpected tie for first place with Cowboys & Aliens. When the dust settled the little blue dudes landed in a close second place finish for the weekend, but led the midweek box office race and now have a higher North American gross than their high profile competitor. A very strong 41% second weekend hold gives the film $21 million for Friday through Sunday and a domestic gross of over $75 million. In just 10 days the film has generated $128.9 million worldwide with $52.7 million from the overseas markets.
The Universal/DreamWorks co-production of Cowboys & Aliens took the number one spot last weekend after a fierce battle against the tenacious Smurfs, but landed in third place with $15.7 million in this, its second weekend. Directed by Jon Favreau and boasting an impressive talent roster both in front of and behind the camera, the film will finish the weekend with around $67 million.
The sixth R-rated comedy to hit theaters this summer and the second starring the ubiquitous Jason Bateman, Universal’s The Change-Up co-starring Ryan Reynolds puts a new spin on an old twist with a debut gross of $13.5 million. From Freaky Friday to 17 Again and countless films in between, this time the formula gets the R-rated treatment and The Change-Up capitalized on solid date crowd appeal this weekend.
Fifth place played host to three potential contenders with Paramount’s Captain America: The First Avenger coming out on top with $13 million. Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 and PG-13 rated comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. were close behind with $12.2 million and $12.1 million respectively.
Good news for the industry with a solid month of up-trending box office that puts the summer-to-date revenue advantage 4.39% ahead of last year and attendance up by just over 2%.
Specialized film spotlight: After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the critical favorite Bellflower (Dist. by Oscilloscope Films) had its theatrical debut this weekend on 2 screens and performed well with a solid $28,000 for the weekend (including many sold-out shows). The film was also a hit at SXSW back in March and has gotten rave reviews from every major news outlet with each praising its innovative storytelling, unique visual style and terrific performances from the up and coming cast. Be sure to check out Bellflower directed by Evan Glodell as it expands to over 500 theaters through August and into September. I spoke with one of the producers and stars of the film Vincent Grashaw this morning and he seemed thrilled with the results and is looking forward to the expanded release of the film in the coming weeks.
Top Movies - For Weekend of August 5, 2011 (estimates)
Movie Weekend Gross Total to Date
1 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (PG13) $54.0M $54.0M
2 The Smurfs (PG) $21.0M $76.2M
3 Cowboys & Aliens (NR) $15.7M $67.4M
4 The Change-Up (R) $13.5M $13.5M
5 Captain America: The First Avenger (PG-13) $13.0M $143.2M
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with production team of Bellflower. The film is an Official Selection for The Sundance Film Festival which starts this week and is featured in a Hollywood.com story about the Sundance Film Festival called The Films We're Looking Forward To At Sundance 2011.
I sat down in the Hollywood.com studio with writer/director Evan Glodell, Producer Vincent Grashaw and Director of Photography Joel Hodge. The team spoke with me at length about the genesis of the project including the challenges of mounting an impressive looking production on a very limited budget, how the idea for the film originated with Glodell back in 2004, how actor Grashaw became involved as the producer of the project and how DP Joel Hodge's visual style is uniquely his own.
When pressed about the movie's plot, they preferred to keep that a mystery and would only say as Grashaw put it "it's a love story with apocalyptic stakes."
To find out more about the film and the filmmakers go to www.coatwolf.com
Please listen to this exclusive podcast with the production team of the Sundance 2011entry Bellflower.