Indie Roundup is your weekly guide to what's new and upcoming in the world of independent cinema. Pictured above: The People I've Slept With.
Opening / Expanding. With distribution channels tightening and specialty distributors becoming ever more cautious, some filmmakers are assuming -- or resuming -- the role in order to find the widest audience possible.
At his site Film Hustler (an apt moniker), writer/director Quentin Lee details his "adventures in self distribution." (Full disclosure: I first met Quentin when his scrappy drama Ethan Mao debuted at AFI Fest, where I was employed at the time in the programming office. Last year I called it one of the top ten indie films of the decade.) His latest labor of love, a romantic comedy entitled The People I've Slept With, stars Karin Cheung, Archie Kao and Wilson Cruz, and is a lovely, very funny, and piercingly honest story about an admittedly promiscuous woman who must come to grips with her true feelings about love and romance when she becomes unexpectedly pregnant. It played very well with a full house as the closing night presentation of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, where I saw it.
The People I've Slept With grew out of Lee's friendship with Cheung after they met on the set of Justin Lin's Better Luck Tomorrow. They decided they wanted to work together, sparked on an idea, developed the story over a couple of years, recruited Koji Steven Sakai to write the script, and raised the financing (just ahead of the stock market crash of 2008). The happy result has been making the festival rounds in anticipation of a distribution deal.
Things didn't work out as Lee had hoped. He wrote in part: "As the late Fall cable premiere date pushed closer and closer, I realized that having a theatrical [release] was more and more improbable. As I saw my colleagues Dave Boyle and Tze Chun hired people to do theatricals for their features White on Rice and Children of Invention, I wondered why I just didn't do it myself because I did theatrically distribute all my past features and other people's features in the past with mixed success.
"And I do have the experience in distribution and contacts to exhibitors. Most importantly I have perseverance [emphasis added] which is what this game is about. The only thing is that there's often so much pressure to deal with exhibitors and press. Look at this as your summer job!
"So I took the plunge. I knew it would be important for the film and everyone involved to have a theatrical release, as limited as it would be."
Obviously, Lee is willing to do whatever it takes to get his films made and seen. At the post-screening Q&A in Dallas, he described how he stripped naked on set and crawled around on his hands and feet, to make the other actors more comfortable with filming their intimate, revealing scenes. (And, it should be pointed out, he took on the role of the 'naked crawling dude' when others were reluctant to do so.) Thus, when it came time for distribution, he simply rolled up his sleeves and got the job done.
The People I've Slept With is now playing at the Clearview Chelsea in New York; Lee will introduce the film and do a Q&A for two screenings tonight. It will open in Los Angeles on August 27 and in San Francisco and San Jose on September 3. Check the film's official site for more details.
Also opening and/or expanding this weekend, via the handy release schedule from our friends at indieWIRE and this week's list of theater counts from Box Office Mojo, with links to our coverage, where available:
- Animal Kingdom: A ferocious drama set in the criminal underground in Melbourne, Australia.
- Peepli Live: Two farmers, desperately in debt, receive shocking advice from a local politician.
- Restrepo: Soldiers in Afghanistan, live and on the ground; expands to 52 theaters.
- Life During Wartime: Todd Solondz's dramatic sequel to Happiness; expands to 20 theaters.
- The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Tense kidnapping thriller; expands to 12 theaters.