Over the past 15 years, several people have waltzed into town making extravagant promises of the birth of a new film production studio. Some of these ambitious souls have been sincere, but either undercapitalized, unlucky, premature or simply naive as to the real market conditions existing in the Charleston area and its potential (or lack of same) as a movie-making hub.
Others might charitably be called pie-in-the-sky purveyors, charlatans at worst.
A number of locals, less bombastic and more cautious, also have tried. And failed.
But one is inclined to give each the benefit of the doubt. Particularly when they've been working behind the scenes for 18 months before even heralding their existence. Meet the folks behind GryphonPix Entertainment. No outrageous claims, no grandiose promises.
Though still in the formative stages, GryphonPix (or GPX) has been conceived as an independent motion picture studio by "a diverse group of writers, producers, directors, artists and technicians," whose goal is to make features and animated films in Greater Charleston.
"After all that has happened before us, we knew we were going to be regarded like the new girlfriend, an unknown, or a proof-is-in-the-pudding proposition," says Rich Carnahan, a broadcast director and specialist in interactive media marketing. "That's why we haven't made our presence known to the wider public until now."
Principal partners Carnahan, Eric Vincent, Richard Almes, Craig Hadley and Ken Welch, each a business owner with backgrounds in broadcast production and interactive technologies, have been quietly laying the foundation. The team recently completed shooting the trailer for their first feature, "The Interview," described as "a fresh take on the Hitchcock psycho-thriller." Craig Hadley wrote the script and is directing.
"We've heard about film studios coming to Charleston before, but it never happened probably because making movies isn't just about being creative," says Vincent, an author, illustrator and director. "GryphonPix's approach is different. All of our managing partners are business savvy as well as creative.
"All of us are writers with multiple projects that cover just about every film genre. We are working with (Mount Pleasant independent producer) Peter Wentworth to explore the new possibilities developing in self-distribution. The idea here is creative control and honest bookkeeping so investors get a return.
Money spent in Charleston will stay in Charleston."
Vincent says GPX further intends to employ interactive marketing strategies with The Loop, a way for the public to "help shape our projects by having the chance to express opinions about story concepts, poster designs and more," Vincent says.
GPX partners say they are currently in talks with several parties interested in providing a location for new corporate offices and sound stages. The new production facility, should it materialize as hoped, will provide GryphonPix the means to handle most aspects of the filmmaking process in-house: production and post-production, set construction, 2D and 3D animation, marketing and design.
"We have a small studio space at present, which we've outgrown," says Vincent. "We just wrapped a tour video for Patriots Point. That's the base we're starting from. But we will be moving strictly into feature films."
And we'll keep you posted.
Off With Her (Sofia's) Head!
Overall, reaction was mixed for Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" at the Cannes Film Festival. But there was no pretense to appreciation on the part of French critics, who issued a collective hiss at the young American writer-director's somewhat unorthodox interpretation of a pivotal period in the history of France. Bad enough that the government permitted an American film crew to shoot in and around Versailles, huh?
An Oscar winner for her "Lost in Translation" screenplay, a script (and a film) whose economy could be a lesson to her esteemed dad, Francis, Coppola adapted her latest picture from Antonia Fraser's biography of Antoinette, the extravagant 18th-century queen blamed with helping to incite the French Revolution.
Period costumes and settings abound, but the story is seen through the lens of 21st-century sensibilities, which didn't sit well with some stickers for historical detail. Coppola portrays the title character as a good-hearted teen poorly prepared for the social and political rigors of court life.
Starring in the title role is Kirsten Dunst. A curious choice, but not a surprising one, given the rapport she enjoyed with Coppola on the director's debut feature, "The Virgin Suicides." Jason Schwartzman also stars as Louis XVI, while supporting roles are played by Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Marianne Faithfull and Asia Argento. The movie opens in the States on Oct. 13.
Likewise getting a tepid response from Cannes was another young American director of note, Richard Linklater, whose satire "Fast Food Nation" apparently didn't whet too many appetites.
Bits and Pieces
The AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, a.k.a., Silverdocs, has announced its full slate of films for the 2006 fest, running June 13-18 in Washington, D.C. The festival will present 100 films from 22 countries selected from 1,687 submissions with 13 World, 12 North American, six U.S. and four East Coast premieres. ... Long-time features director Sydney Pollack has helmed his first documentary with "Sketches of Frank Gehry," a portrait of his architect friend. ... With "Wah-Wah," actor Richard E. Grant directs a semi-autobiographical tale of his boyhood in Swaziland. Gabriel Byrne and Emily Watson are his stars. ... Film buffs embarrassed by their inability to pronounce the name of Rome's fabled film studio, Cinecitta, take heart. It's Chee-nih-chee-TAH.
We tend to forget that Roger Corman, best known for his horror movies and for discovering Jack Nicholson, was not solely involved in producing agreeably cheesy, pseudo-exploitation films. Educated at Stanford and Harvard, Corman departed a career as a literary agent to become a director for American International Pictures in the '50s and '60s, founded his own production company New World Pictures in the '70s (distributing Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini films to American art houses) and mentoring such future directors as Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, John Sayles and Peter Bogdanovich.