Bad Moms, starring Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell, hits theaters today! The raunchy New Orleans-shot comedy is getting rave reviews in publications like The New York Times and Variety. Click here for more.
The latest project from BIC Media Solutions, entitled “Rock Bottom and Back: From Desperation to Inspiration,” is set to be released this summer.
Published by BIC Media Solutions and written by The New York Times bestselling author Susan Mustafa with Earl B. Heard, “Rock Bottom and Back” depicts the incredible lives of 22 people who hit rock bottom and then came back from profound despair to help others in extraordinary ways.
When asked about his inspiration behind the book, Heard explained, “I went to rock bottom in the early 1980s and others who have been to rock bottom before me were my best supporters. After that experience, I vowed to do the same thing and this is something I’ve thought about for decades.”
“Earl realized that a book about people who hit rock bottom and then turned their lives around to help others would be a wonderful tool to inspire people,” said Mustafa, the book’s co-author. “When he approached me about writing the book, I thought it was a great idea. Earl and I had known each other for many years, and I knew as soon as he shared his vision with me that this would be a worthwhile endeavor.”
Mustafa, a Louisiana native, is an award-winning true crime author, penning books like “The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching For My Father and Finding the Zodiac Killer.” While it may seem like a leap from true crime to the inspirational genre, Mustafa explained, “I’ve ghostwritten inspirational books in the past, and I enjoy writing them. Also, researching and writing books about serial killers means I get up close and personal with the worst that people can be. I like to write something positive or inspirational while I’m writing true crime in an effort to counteract the horrors I witness. For me, it’s like balancing the worst in people with the best in people.”
“Rock Bottom and Back” features celebrities and ordinary people alike, each with a unique story of tragedy, perseverance and, ultimately, success. The book comprises a wide range of people, diverse in age, race and life experiences. “The key thing I was looking for was not how far they had fallen but who had inspired them to rebuild their lives and help others to do the same,” said Heard, who chose the book’s participants with the help of Mustafa and BIC’s media manager Rose Gladner.
Once the subjects were selected, Mustafa began interviewing them for the book, calling this “the most incredible back-to-back series of interviews I’ve ever done.”
“Everyone seemed to grasp the importance of this project, and they were all very honest about even their darkest moments,” she explained. “To hear how these heroes turned their lives around and then to learn about the wonderful things they now do to help others was very inspiring to me on a personal level.”
While the book was being written, BIC Media Solutions partnered with David Bottner and Steven Scaffidi at the New Orleans Mission to help produce a companion DVD. The New Orleans Mission is the largest faith-based private service provider to the homeless population of the greater New Orleans area and the economically disadvantaged residents of Central City.
“Our strategy is to rescue people from homelessness, strengthen the recovery efforts of the people seeking our support, and foster their successful re-engagement into society as healthy, disciplined skilled people ready to lead a sustainable, productive, purpose-driven life,” said Scaffidi.
As such, Scaffidi had the idea to form a production company at the New Orleans Mission that focuses on film, television and other creative projects.
“The goal was to give the homeless living at the mission an opportunity to learn all aspects of film production and create and produce original projects at the mission,” he explained. “I went to Mission Director David Bottner with the idea and soon after our first meeting, Mission Media Productions was born.”
After meeting Heard and signing a deal with BIC, Mission Media began production on the “Rock Bottom and Back” DVD. Guests at the New Orleans Mission, called Mission Disciples, made up the entire production crew.
“I produced and directed the production and they worked in all departments including camera, sound, grip and electrical,” said Scaffidi. “They also handled post production at our mission office and did all of the editing, music, graphics and everything else needed to finish the production.”
He added, “My goal (at Mission Media) is to produce high quality and thought-provoking films, television and other creative projects including photography, music and other art forms that will inspire people across America and around the world. My goal is to allow people who have hit hard times the opportunity to get back on their feet and achieve their dreams through film and the creative arts.”
The collaboration between Mission Media and BIC doesn’t end there. The two entities are currently working on a “Rock Bottom and Back” TV pilot.
“We are excited about the progress (of the pilot) and especially how great the folks at Mission Media have been to work with,” said Heard. “It also is a wonderful feeling to know that in addition to a great film about hope and second chances, we are helping folks who are homeless learn a profession.”
The ultimate goal for the “Rock Bottom and Back” project—which now includes the book, the DVD and the TV show—is “to give hope to those who are facing adversity and despair, and to ignite a spirit of gratitude among those who have been blessed with success and resources,” said Heard.
“There is something in this book to which everyone can relate, and we hope it helps those who are hitting bottom realize that they can live productive lives, that people really do care about them, and that they must never give up hope…” added Mustafa. “Earl and I hope that this book will inspire positive change in everyone who reads it.”
For more information, visit www.rockbottomandback.com.
Story by W. H. Bourne
Photos courtesy of Free State of Jones and STX Entertainment
Louisiana Film & Video Magazine had the opportunity to speak with writer/director/producer Gary Ross about his work here last year on Free State of Jones.
“Unlike a lot of people who shoot in Louisiana, this story was set, literally, about 150 miles from where we ended up shooting it. Between swamps and the woods and everything Louisiana had to offer, it was great. There was an amazing crew base, which we found the local crews to be as good as anybody I worked with in Los Angeles, and also the deep, deep pool of casting talent you have there, especially for a movie set in the South,” explains Ross. “I really enjoyed this process so much, and I loved being in Louisiana. And I’m not just saying that because you’re a Louisiana magazine.”
“I had a great, local casting director (Dawn Jefferson) along with Debra Zane who was great. Then, also, Brent Caballero, who cast a lot of the extras, was terrific. It’s an amazing pool of actors. I was just very happy with what the resources were,” adds Ross. “We also had a lot of great people come down from Mississippi to be in the film, to be extras, so that was a nice thing.”
Ross continues, “The biggest challenge we fought was around the weather. We had a tornado one day… We had no rain cover… Even though we had a lot of money, around $50 million, there were budget challenges. We were very tight leashed. That’s not a lot of money for a big, period, war epic so to do this movie for $50 million was difficult, but I think we achieved it.”
Location scouting was extensive. Ross notes, “The hardest part was finding a hill near New Orleans. The construction of that battle sequence is based on men coming over the ridge of the hill. We had to scout. There’s, literally, one hill in a couple hundred miles.”
As far as finding the right swamp, Ross had a multitude of choices. He recalls, “We found one estuary which was privately owned, by a doctor, down the river from New Orleans… It was a great, beautiful estuary, and we shot a lot of stuff there. But, we also shot a tremendous amount in Chicot State Park, which is just an amazing looking swamp. You know, it’s so funny, because when I scouted (the location), there was no duckweed. When we went to shoot, they said, ‘I don’t think you’re going to want to shoot in Chicot. It’s all covered in duckweed.’ There was this green stuff on the surface, and I looked at these pictures and thought, ‘This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen; I wouldn’t want to shoot without it!’ I was so fortunate there was duckweed at the time… I found it (Chicot) a really fantastic place to shoot.”
“You know, working in the swamp, I love that stuff,” says Ross. “The last few movies I’ve made have all been outside. I hate being inside, so I really, really, liked it! It’s one of the things that is very exhilarating. Getting out of the city, away from the soundstage, getting away from movie making, into the trees, dragging the equipment around in the mud, I enjoy that! Maybe I’m crazy but I really did like this. Honest to God, it’s better than being on a soundstage. Tough is the 25th day on a soundstage! You walk in; it’s dark and everyone’s lounging around around the craft service table; you trip over the cables; I kinda like being outside.”
Of course the cast and crew of Free State of Jones did have to contend with swamp-centric issues. “Termites,” exclaims Ross. “In one particular place, you almost couldn’t breathe from the hours of 6 to 8, and then they would just disappear. We had a while where we were just, literally, inundated with termites. Then, for people like me, who weren’t as vigilant as we should be, we all had chiggers pretty badly, but it was worth the price.”
Free State of Jones uses all of its outdoor locations to paint a stunning, visual picture. Cinematographer Benoît Delhomme (Theory of Everything, 1408) did a fantastic job of keeping the scenes filled with numerous extras and epic battles intimate.
“I watched Barry Lyndon during the prep,” admits Ross, “as much for the Napoleonic battle scenes as anything else. The way Kubrick was able to stage the tension of what seemed like a suicidal march forward, the regimentation of that… The biggest thing I took from Kubrick was the decision not to shoot widescreen on what people consider to be a war epic… When you attain the width (for widescreen), you’re giving up height; when you’re shooting in the swamp, I wanted the larger frame of 1:1.85, not the current widescreen… From a cinematic point of view, that’s the most heretical thing I did, but I’m really glad I did it.”
“We shot (Free State of Jones) on the Alexa. On Hunger Games, I think, I shot a million and a half feet of film. On this it’s digital but the equivalent would be two and a half million feet of film. There was just a lot that got shot on this movie. It was a big, big, undertaking, but I felt in it every day, I felt exhilarated every day, and I think we arrived at a very good way of getting the story done.”
“The cinematography in the movie, which is, I think, the best I’ve done makes it come alive,” adds Ross. “One of the reasons I think the cinematography does work is that we created a very real environment. A lot of that is my production designer Philip Messina, as well. I also really enjoyed working with Juliet Welfling, my editor.”
Ross continues, “The changes to the film credits didn’t affect us, but I understand it’s shifting a lot of stuff to Atlanta, which I think is too bad, because New Orleans can be a wonderful center for filmmaking. It’s certainly a very practical place for us to spend some time. I spent six months in Louisiana, and I loved every minute of it. I made lifelong friends. New Orleans is a sophisticated, exciting, wonderful place to be; I loved living in the city. I think it’s just too bad that, for reasons I don’t even know, for how small the shift in the cap was, you’ve lost so much more business than you’ve saved in reducing with the cap, which was obviously done for political reasons. I think a lot of business is leaving the state now, way more than the money you’re saving by lowering the cap. It was a really wonderful experience, and I hope you all get your rebates (tax credits) sorted out so it can continue.”
“Being down there, in Louisiana, being part of it,” muses Ross, “I loved New Orleans; it’s one of my favorite cities in the country. I will be back!”
STX’s Free State of Jones opens nationwide on June 24, 2016.
Story by W. H. Bourne, Odin Lindblom, and James Mercel
Photos courtesy of Deville Photography
MediaFusion Entertainment and Carbin Pictures just wrapped principal photography on their independent film, Cut Off. The psychological thriller, previously titled Born Again Dead, was featured for both Indiewire‘s Project of the Day and Project of the Week.
Headlined by Oscar nominated, character actor Brad Dourif (Bad Lieutenant, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), he is joined by John Robinson (Lords of Dogtown, Elephant), and César Award nominated actor Jean-Marc Barr (Big Sur, Europa). Actor William Baldwin (Squid and the Whale, Backdraft) even makes a cameo in the first feature by writer/director Jowan Carbin. Louisiana Film & Video Magazine had an opportunity to speak with actors Brad Dourif and Billy Baldwin about their work on the project.
“In Cut Off, I’m playing an older Cajun guy who’s at war with his brother. He’s just trying to keep the family together. He lives in Cut Off (Louisiana), and he wants to keep all of those traditions alive,” explains Dourif.
“I did speak a little Cajun French (in the film); of course, I worked very hard on the accent,” admits Dourif. “I have a dialogue coach who I’ve used previously… I got a worksheet from him… First, I requested that somebody do all the lines, whoever they thought had the right accent. I wanted him to just flat read the lines. Then I used that every day to get it, syllable by syllable, so that I, mechanically, just couldn’t help but say the lines in the correct manner… This is just one of those boring, tedious tasks of doing the same thing over and over for hours and hours everyday. Eventually, I just talked in that accent until yesterday evening (when the film wrapped).”
Dourif continues, “Yeah, I’m a Method actor, whatever that means. I prepare; I spent a lot, a lot of time on the accent of words, and really making sure I got everything. This part was (and) feels mostly technical to me, but then, I definitely did dig in there and try to catch what’s important to these people and to my character; in that sense, I’m very Method. I mean in the beginning, Method was just Stanislavsky studying what all the great actors had in common, and he kind of discovered they had a powerful inner life. So that was the beginning of the Method. How do you develop the inner life of your character, of yourself when you’re working? That’s what we all learned when I was young.”
“The first thing I do is memorize the lines because the words themselves are what really tells you quite a bit about a character. It’s all about the language,” explains Dourif. “Then, I try to figure out what the core of it is. What job does the character have in the story? What kind of light is he going to shed, overall, on the idea of what’s going on? I try to get very close to that. Start at the center, the core of the whole thing, then slowly work my way out.”
“If it’s a straight offer, they send me the script. When I’m deciding, because you sometimes have to decide rather quickly, I’ll just read the part,” says Dourif. “Cut Off was a straight offer. Eventually if I’m going to do something, I have to read the whole script. I can’t not read the whole script because I have to know what’s going on. I’ve got to know if anyone says anything about my character and what they think about my character, just shoring up relationships and being very clear about what’s going on so that I’m properly prepared. You know, you’ve really got to read the script, but they’re just dreadfully boring. They’re not made to be interesting; they’re dialogue skeletons. What’s really going to happen is in the mind of the director. It’s where he puts the camera. That’s what makes it happen.”
“This is at least the third time I’ve filmed in Louisiana, maybe the fourth; I can’t remember. The last one I did here was a Werner Herzog movie, Bad Lieutenant,” recalls Dourif. “It’s great in Louisiana if it’s not in the middle of summer. It’s really hot then. It’s really hard to handle. But I enjoy filming anywhere.”
“The cast seemed pretty good,” adds Dourif. “I didn’t really see any weakness whatsoever. Everybody was really bringing it, as they say.”
“Brad Dourif, he’s just a staggering actor; he’s incredible,” exclaims actor William “Billy” Baldwin. “I’m just in to do a cameo for a few scenes for a few days. I was shooting for a couple of days in the Irish Channel. I finish this week, and I’m heading back to California to my wife and kids. I just was working on a project in New York, so I’ve been on the road lately.”
Baldwin continues, “Cut Off is definitely a psychological thriller, sort of in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby, about a family that’s coming apart at the seams. They allow their emotions to get the best of them and that contributes to the sort of downward spiral that this husband and wife take. It’s really a beautiful piece written by the writer/director Jowan Carbin. He’s written dialogue that really captures the spirit, the essence, and the energy of New Orleans. It’s more rhythmic and melodic like lyrics than it is like dialogue. I’ve got some stuff that very distinctly can only come from my character. It’s very special, very unique dialogue.”
“I had to channel a character that was slightly different than me because he’s from the South and I’m not,” adds Baldwin. “He’s covered in tattoos. He’s someone who’s rough but kind and sensitive and sweet, all at the same time. It was all laid out for me in the writing.”
Baldwin talks about the challenges of independent, low budget productions saying, “Every department is under staffed and under funded. As an actor you want to shoot 5, 6, 7, 8 takes every shot that you’re doing, and if you ever see a 3rd take, you’re lucky. You have to be really, really, really prepared coming in. It’s not like the old days,” says Baldwin.
“I played a cameo and wished I could have played one of the leads and been around for a month because I love New Orleans, and I really enjoyed working with Jowan,” explains Baldwin. “The stuff he wrote for me was obviously very different than anything I’ve ever done. It was the way in which he communicated that I liked. Keep an eye on this guy (Jowan Carbin); he’s someone to watch because he’s very bright and talented.”
The Louisiana Film Prize runs October 1-4 in Shreveport/Bossier! Who will win the $50,000 grand prize for best short film in the world?