A brad anderson film



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HERRICK ENTERTAINMENT, MANDALAY VISION PRODUCTIONS and MAGNET RELEASING

In Association with

CIRCLE OF CONFUSION and FOREST PARK PICTURES

PRESENT
A BRAD ANDERSON FILM


VANISHING ON 7TH STREET

Directed by Brad Anderson
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton & John Leguizamo

90 min., 1.85, 35mm





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SYNOPSIS
From director Brad Anderson (Session 9, Transsiberian, The Machinist) comes VANISHING ON 7TH STREET, a terrifying, apocalyptic thriller that taps into one of humankind’s most primal anxieties: fear of the dark.  An unexplained blackout plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, and by the time the sun rises, only a few people remain—surrounded by heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars and lengthening shadows. A small handful of strangers that have survived the night (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo and newcomer Jacob Latimore) each find their way to a rundown bar, whose gasoline-powered generator and stockpile of food and drink make it the last refuge in a deserted city. With daylight beginning to disappear completely and whispering shadows surrounding the survivors, they soon discover that the enemy is the darkness itself, and only the few remaining light sources can keep them safe. As time begins to run out for them, darkness closes in and they must face the ultimate terror.

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
VANISHING ON 7TH STREET taps into one of humankind’s most basic and universal anxieties: fear of the dark. Over the course of a few short days, that instinctive fear becomes increasingly more dangerous for the film’s four survivors, morphing into a nightmarish threat to all human existence.
The darkness itself is not necessarily what is frightening, according to the film’s director, Brad Anderson. “It’s what the darkness is hiding,” he says. “When something is veiled by darkness, we can’t describe it, we can’t put a finger on it and we can’t intellectualize it. What we can’t see becomes what we fear the most. It goes back to the days when cave bears and saber-toothed tigers were waiting to pounce on us. It’s probably genetically encoded.”
In a chilling post-apocalyptic vision of a deserted city, writer Anthony Jaswinski creates a sinister presence deep within the shadows. “I’ve always wanted to do a horror movie in a bar,” says Jaswinski. “I was trying to figure out how to do it without a monster. Essentially, the idea of nonexistence itself has become the entity.”
Jaswinski’s script captured the attention and imagination of producer Celine Rattray, president of Mandalay Vision, Mandalay Entertainment Group’s newly-formed independent production and financing division, “It was intriguing and intelligent,” she says. “The story has a combination of very commercial thriller elements that will interest a large audience, as well as some deeper things to say about existentialism”
The script’s power and originality also impressed producer and film financier Norton Herrick, chairman of Herrick Entertainment. “It was an outrageous, killer script,” he says. “The film is even better. It’s unusual for my team to agree unanimously on anything, but they all loved this script.”
Rattray approached Brad Anderson to direct based on her admiration of his earlier thrillers, which include Session 9, Transsiberian and The Machinist. “Brad was at the top of our short list of directors,” says Rattray. “He’s consistently made films that are incredibly engaging, but also deal with larger themes.”
As it happened, Anderson and Jaswinski had known each other for several years, and often discussed working together. “It was a great collaboration right from the start,” says the filmmaker. “I immediately connected with these characters and this story.”

Anderson’s innate understanding of the script’s intentions made him Jaswinski’s dream director. “He just got the tone of the movie immediately,” says the writer. “It’s a chiller, not a gory horror movie. The scariness doesn’t come from a bunch of jolts. The ideas make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. When the audience comes out of the theater, they will stay unsettled for a while.”


The quality of Jaswinski’s writing was a major factor in Anderson’s decision to take on the film. “I love the way Tony writes,” he says. “It is very lean, very austere. His descriptions are great, his dialogue’s really good. There was something especially smart about this story. It’s a classic setup—the characters are stuck in one place and trying to beat the odds. I liked the idea of putting these characters in a situation where they themselves are not exactly sure of what’s happening to them. It has a real sense of dread and the fear that comes from the unknown.”
Anderson sees himself as a director with one foot in the world of genre films and the other in the more cerebral arena of independent filmmaking. This script appealed to his commitment to melding the two. “I saw this as having enormous commercial potential, but it’s also really smart and challenging for the audience,” he says. “It’s a very dark thriller, but it’s equally about how people behave and how they deal with unusual circumstances, whether supernatural or circumstantial.”
Actress Thandie Newton credits Anderson’s academic background with giving him an unusual perspective for a filmmaker. “Brad and I both studied anthropology in college,” she says. “He approaches the work as if he’s doing field research or creating ethnography. He’s fascinated by the dynamic between the characters.”
In fact, Anderson began his cinematic career making ethnographic films. “Other cultures and rituals have always fascinated me,” says the director. “Making films that document cultural behavior somehow evolved into making dramatic narratives. I think it has helped me learn how to talk and listen to actors to help them shape their performances. Perhaps it gave me some kind of insight into human behavior.”
The ideas in the script continued to evolve for almost a year as Anderson worked with Jaswinski to develop the screenplay. “It went through a variety of iterations,” says the director. “Some of our concerns were practical, like how to achieve the effect we wanted with the limited time and budget we had. We also dealt with creative issues. There was lots of discussion about what is actually happening in the world of the movie. “We wanted to create a realistic depiction of what the end of the world could be, but we also wanted to keep people guessing,” he says. “Is it the Rapture? Has the Apocalypse arrived or is there a scientific explanation for what’s happening? We were always trying to balance maintaining some ambiguity with offering the audience a satisfying cinematic experience.”
The finished film is packed with both edge-of-the-seat moments and ideas that might challenge audience assumptions. “First of all, I hope they are utterly entertained,” says Rattray. “I want them to find it gripping and entertaining, but I also hope the themes of the movie stay with them. It’s a little more highbrow than the usual genre film. “And it’s not all fantasy,” she continues. “The narrative draws on true stories like the disappearance of every last soul in Roanoke Colony in Virginia in about 1590. There’s still no explanation for what happened to them.”
Adds producer Norton Herrick, “It is definitely not something that has been done before. It’s been great seeing it come to life. The finished film is exciting, suspenseful and thrilling. It will have audiences thinking long after they’ve left the theater.” Exactly what each audience member takes away from the film will depend entirely on the individual, according to Anderson. “What the story is really about is what these characters are experiencing,” he says. “This is a chance for the audience to live in these characters’ shoes for a couple of hours. After the lights come up, people may debate what the true circumstances are, but while they’re watching, I want them to experience the same feeling we all get when nighttime approaches and the lights flicker. It’s that feeling we have when we have to cross a dark room before we can turn a light on, that primordial feeling of dread.”

GATHERING THE SURVIVORS
When the time came to cast VANISHING ON 7TH STREET’s four main characters, Brad Anderson kept three critical factors in mind. “The film is essentially an ensemble piece,” he says. “So casting was all about weaving together the four actors we selected. Trying to predict chemistry is like matchmaking. You can never be sure how people will respond to each other on and off camera. “In addition, we wanted the cast to reflect the reality of Detroit in all its diversity,” says the director. “And finally, it’s a smaller film and we knew it would a labor of love. Finding actors who were jazzed by the script was important.”
Anderson had a list of people he was interested in working with and Hayden Christensen was at the top of that list. “I like his work and he seemed like a good fit for the Luke character,” says Anderson. “He told me he wanted to do a movie that was not completely dialogue driven, but not all action either. In our film, he plays a guy who has to use his wits to try and survive a terrifying ordeal.”
Christensen’s heroic Everyman quality works perfectly for the role, says Rattray. “Luke has to absorb all the extraordinary things happening to him, and then he must kick into high gear and become the group’s leader.”
Working with Anderson was a motivator for the actor, who first came to worldwide attention for his role as the young Anakin Skywalker in three Star Wars blockbusters.
“I’ve admired Brad’s work for a while,” Christensen says. “When he approached me with this script, I was really keen to get involved. He’s a very smart filmmaker; super analytical. Brad is on top of every aspect of the movie, and at the same time he allows himself to try and experience what the characters are going through.”

Christensen remembers being intrigued before he finished the first page of the script. “It started with the famous quote from T. S. Eliot’s poem, ‘The Hollow Men,’ ‘This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.’ That was very impactful to me.



“One of the other things I responded to was the containment of the story,” he continues. “Once all the characters get to the bar, there was an intimacy I liked.”
The script’s deft combination of emotion and intellect made the project impossible to turn down. “I was impressed by the way the film could exist on two levels at the same time. One is as a tremendous thriller that’s intended to elicit a very visceral response. On a more subtle level, it’s a medium to explore some very big ideas and philosophies. It’s kind of an examination of what it means to exist.”
Thandie Newton, who plays Rosemary, was the first actor to be cast, according to Rattray. “Thandie has the mixture of real strength and utter vulnerability that Rosemary has to embody,” she says. Newton says the combination of material and director persuaded her to join the cast. “One of the things I love about Brad is that there is a mystery and unpredictable quality to the subject matter that intrigues him. I was utterly compelled by the truth of this out-of-this-world situation.”
The lack of a tangible threat in what is essentially a horror film gave actors and director an added challenge and the opportunity to dig deep creatively, she says. “It’s all down to the performances and the atmosphere that Brad has created with lighting, suspense and strategic pauses,” she notes. “My castmates, Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo and Jacob Latimore, are all equal parts of the alchemy that’s been created. Hayden brings a real soulfulness to Luke. He ruminates on things in real life, as well as in character. John has this amazing kinetic presence and he brings that to the character. And Jacob is life at its most sweet and true. “They were a complete joy to be around,” she adds. “We had a lot of fun, which is not something you would necessarily think watching the movie because it’s so intense. This film has been—hand on heart—one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Everyone was utterly committed and really focused on the material. We all loved this project, we loved the characters and cared about creating the film Brad wanted to make.”
John Leguizamo plays Paul, a projectionist in a multiplex, whose biggest concern before the blackout was how to ask the pretty girl at the concession stand for a date. “John is in the first scene, so he leads the audience into the film,” says Rattray. “And, of course, he brings his unique sense of humor to it.” Leguizamo’s energy and honesty as a performer make him an irreplaceable addition to the film, says Anderson. “We wanted someone who could make that character come alive. John brings a bit of a comedic sensibility to his work, but always keeps it real and emotionally grounded.”
Leguizamo shares his character’s preoccupation with strange scientific phenomena. “This movie is like a lot of my nightmares,” he says. “It could happen. The things Paul talks about in the film, things like anti-matter and smashing particles, are real. People are picketing against experimentation in Geneva. There’s a legitimate fear that small black holes might be created, and if they create one that’s too big, it could swallow the entire planet.”
Leguizamo adds that the experience has given him an entirely new category of things to worry about. “I’m always paranoid and neurotic, that’s just me,” he admits. “But now Brad and Tony have added an extra layer to it with actual facts.”
The Emmy®-winning and Golden Globe®-nominated actor, known to millions as the voice of Sid in the Ice Age franchise, says he has wanted to work with Anderson since seeing his earlier film, The Machinist. “Brad creates a sense of creepiness and madness that is more than real,” says Leguizamo. “You never know where he’s taking you.

As actors, we were on a mission to do something special. We gave it everything we had. You luck into those situations sometimes.”


The film reunited Leguizamo with Norton Herrick, a producer of the 2008 Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo,” in which Leguizamo starred. “When you work with someone on a project like that you become family and it was fun to continue the relationship,” muses Herrick. “At the end of the day, this is a great team. I would work with any of them again.”
For the role of James, the filmmakers launched an all-out search for a 12-year-old actor who could handle the emotional demands of the role, holding auditions in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta before finding Jacob Latimore in Detroit. “It’s his first movie, but he has real talent,” says Rattray. “He completely holds his own with the other actors.”
Although he auditioned more experienced performers, Anderson sensed that Latimore would deliver the kind of nuanced performance the role called for. “None of the other actors were as compelling and strong. He has a real sensitivity as well. The character is a linchpin in the story, so we needed someone who seemed like a survivor and that the audience could root for.” Latimore is triple-threat, a talented actor, singer and dancer who liked to show off his moves on-set. “I’ve always wanted to be in a movie,” he says. “But I’m not too good with names. At first, I was like, ‘Who is Hayden Christensen? Who are John Leguizamo, and Thandie Newton?’ Then I saw their faces and I said, Snap! That’s them? I’ve seen them! It was very exciting.”

DARKNESS FALLS IN DETROIT
VANISHING ON 7TH STREET was shot entirely in Detroit, Michigan. The Motor City’s current economic woes have created a bleak downtown that made a convincing location for a deserted urban hub, but the vibrancy of the local community was a happy surprise for the filmmakers.
“Detroit offered the best solution to getting the look and the locations in keeping with style of the movie I was trying to make,” says Anderson. “We don’t make a big deal out the fact that it’s Detroit, but we want it to clearly be itself and not a substitute.
“I knew it would be a good place to shoot a post-apocalyptic film,” he says. “It wasn’t that complicated to make the city desolate and devoid of life. Parts of downtown are deserted. What I didn’t expect was how much I liked the town despite all its current troubles. It’s a city with a lot of soul. We were able to get a great local crew and everyone was very supportive.”
Detroit was able to offer the filmmakers a great deal more than they would have been able to create elsewhere, either in a studio or on location. The cooperation of the city and its citizens was key. “Brad fell in love with Detroit for a number of reasons,” says Rattray. “We had 23 days to shoot this film and the city gave us a lot of leeway in terms of doing the things we needed to do. There is a lot of beautiful turn-of-the-century and Victorian architecture, but there are also neighborhoods that are very desolate and derelict. There were whole neighborhoods that we could close off for our shoots. We were allowed to turn the lights out in about a four-block radius to create a mini-blackout.

They even let us shut down the highway and film with a view of Detroit in the background. It allowed us to make a much bigger movie than the budget would allow.”


Using the city as a backdrop allowed the director to blend its grand urban vistas with smaller, more intimate moments. “The day we shut down I-75 was a lot of fun for me,” says Anderson. “It’s one of the major arteries in and out of the city. I can’t explain how eerie it is to shoot a scene on a completely deserted highway. We also did a lot of big night exteriors to give the sense of a city devoid of people and contrasted that with smaller, more emotional moments, like James’ flashback scene, which is a sweet, lyrical moment with his mom.”
And while Detroit may be down on its luck currently, it is clear to Thandie Newton that the city’s vibrant community will recover. “The city has struggled in the last few years, but I met some of the most vital, spirited people I’ve ever known there,” she says. “The pockets of life and energy you encounter are even more rewarding because of the circumstances.”
Being there reminded Newton of seeing the Los Angeles hills after a series of devastating wildfires. “The landscape was absolutely black. But two days later, driving down the same stretch of road, I saw small green shoots coming up even fresher and greener than before. Nature wants to renew itself and that is what Detroit feels like to me. “That idea is relevant to the film’s theme,” she says. “It’s the end of something, but it could also be a return to innocence and hope. There is more optimism in this film than you would think.”
When Anderson first read the script, he was riveted by Jaswinski’s descriptions of the darkness that envelops Detroit. “Reading about how the darkness morphs and grows as it makes people vanish was fascinating,” he says. “It is an essential element, almost to the point of being a character in the story. How to realize that and make it work was another thing entirely.”
Bringing the darkness to life was one of the film’s great challenges. “We looked at a lot of images of slime mold and the way it grows over a rock or the way an ink blot spreads onto a piece of paper,” Anderson says. “We used ideas like that as a template for how we used the shadows and the rules we created for them.
Ironically, the filmmakers found that the most effective way to create the foreboding darkness was to flood the set with light. “Our director of photography, Ute Briesewitz, utilized all her lighting savvy and experience to create a dark world,” he says. “The light created the sense of shadows and dark areas, and then we removed the light sources digitally in post production. We went over every frame of the film to create the real sense of a moonlit night, absent of practical light. In the finished movie, the only sources of light we see are flashlights and glow sticks and torches. They become the key points in a frame and the rest is drenched in creepy grey darkness.”
Anderson also manipulated sound to animate the darkness as its presence grows more threatening. “It’s not just the way the darkness looks, but the feeling that something is out there in it,” he says. “We did things like slow down a baby’s crying by 90 percent, which makes it sound very spooky. I wanted it to seem like the wails or the groans of souls of people who have vanished are lingering in the dark. Over the course of the story, it becomes more and more sinister.”
The effect is extraordinary, according to one cast member. “What Brad and Tony have done with this script is incredible,” says actor John Leguizamo. “This is the kind of stuff that really scares me. It’s not like some other movies, where once you think about what happens, it feels ridiculous. It takes advantage of the fact that it’s your own fears that scare you most. When I read it, I was so creeped out; I was scared to be in my own house. I can’t wait to see how scary this movie’s going to be in the theater.”

ABOUT THE CAST

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN (Luke) has found success in both commercial and independent films and continues to shine in diverse and challenging roles. He is currently starring in John Lussenhop’s ensemble film Takers opposite Matt Dillon, Idris Elba and Zoe Saldana. Christensen recently signed a three-picture deal with Screen Gems where he will star in projects and develop them with his brother, Tove Christensen, under the banner of their production company, Forest Park Pictures.
Christensen will soon begin production on David R. Ellis’ upcoming thriller The Genesis Code, based on the novel by the same name written by John Case. The story follows a former national security expert (Christensen) who, while investigating the murder of his only sister and her young son, discovers that a religious sect called The Shadow of the Cross may be involved. With the help of his sister’s friend, they follow a trail of clues to a clinic in the mountains of Italy where a terrifying secret experiment has been conducted. The results are so threatening to the foundation of the Church that some will do anything to keep these secrets from being revealed.
As a young actor, Christensen gained critical acclaim for his role as a troubled teenager in Irwin Winkler’s 2001 drama Life as a House. For his performance, Christensen was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award. Christensen also received the award for “Best Breakthrough Performance” from the National Board of Review. With his breakout role as the young Anakin Skywalker in the latter two films of George Lucas’ epic Star Wars prequel trilogy, Christensen found great commercial success.
Christensen recently starred opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Rachel Bilson in Doug Liman’s sci-fi actioner Jumper, which grossed more than $220 million worldwide.
Christensen also starred in Billy Ray’s Shattered Glass, which was the first feature film produced by his production company, Forest Park Pictures.
Other film credits include New York, I Love You, George Hickenlooper’s Factory Girl, Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, Sarah Kernochan’s All I Wanna Do and John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness.
Christensen is involved with the (RED) campaign and recently participated in a PSA featuring Bono, Javier Bardem, Don Cheadle, Penelope Cruz, Claire Danes, Hugh Jackman, Julianne Moore, Gabourey Sidibe, Gwen Stefani and the Jonas Brothers, among others.
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