Introducing Our Film Column
Edgy indie filmmakers on the rise
First-time Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris carried off the 87th annual Academy Awards with his trademark comic style, while diverting the outrage surrounding a lack of diversity in this year’s all-white Oscar nominations for best actor. It was only the second time since 2000 that no black actors were nominated in any acting categories, a situation that set off a firestorm of social media trending, a Saturday Night Live skit and President Obama inviting the entire cast of Selma to the White House after the offensive January announcement.
The lack of Oscar love for Hollywood South was in stark contrast to last year, when Louisiana-shot films received Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
Industry analysts predict a comeback. Several big Louisiana-produced movies are hitting theatres in 2015, including Universal’s Jurassic World in June. Indie writer-director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) got a huge break when he was tapped by producer Steven Spielberg to direct the $150 million sequel shot in Hawaii and New Orleans (mostly inside the NASA complex; sets were amazing).
On the bright side, independent filmmakers and viewers were invigorated by the exceptional rush of indie films with real chops (including the highest grossing indie of 2014, Grand Budapest Hotel, with nine nominations). In fact, only two films out of the eight that were nominated for best picture this year were backed by big studios, American Sniper (Warner Bros.) and Selma (Paramount).
As viewers are opting for more art house films and edgier bio flicks, Louisiana filmmakers such as award-winning writer-director David DuBos have projects that are destined for that big indie wave. One of Hollywood South’s most dynamic mavericks, DuBos delves into the darker side of life and brings his passion and originality to the screen.
The New Orleans native (whose brother, Clancy, co-owns the New Orleans Gambit) is currently in production for a feature film debut, Bayou Tales, which is set during a raging hurricane. It includes psychological horror scenes based on true Katrina events with supernatural elements.
Much more promising than Bayou Tales, in my opinion, is Butterfly in the Typewriter, a gripping screenplay by Dubos that I managed to get my hands on. He is orchestrating a feature-length film (his most expensive indie to date) based on the eponymous book by Cory MacLauchlin. It chronicles the life of John Kennedy Toole, the posthumous Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Confederacy of Dunces, published with the help of Walker Percy seven years after his suicide.
DuBos is in early talks with big name actors for the film. One actor he named (off the record) is considering the role of Walker Percy. Hint: He is an electrifying four-time Oscar nominee and Golden Globe recipient starring in major studio films being released this year and next.
“My passion for this film has now become an obsession,” DuBos explains. “It’s the greatest David and Goliath story of the publishing world. The parts just jump out of Cory’s book,” he continues.
“If you look at what’s going on with the Oscars, the movies that the academy gravitates to are bio-scripts, like Imitation Game, Big Eyes and Selma,” DuBos continues. “Butterfly is that kind of film.”
DuBos directs a documentary premiering at the 39th annual Isleños Fiesta held March 7-8 in St. Bernard Village; it’s destined for history channels and PBS (which aired his prior George Rodrigue documentary starring Whoopi Goldberg as the voice of Tiffany). The Isleños Trappers War documentary portrays the St. Bernard residents’ bitter battle with political boss/segregationist Leander Perez over their lands and livelihood in the 1920s.
“Perez hired mercenaries to run the Isleños off their land, but it backfired, and he ended up pleading for his life,” recounts DuBos. “It was the only true defeat Perez ever suffered. It’s an important yet little-known part of Louisiana’s history.”
It’s a long road to Academy Award glory from documentaries and indie films, but there’s always the unexpected. Take the indie film Whiplash nominated for best picture; it was made for $3 million in 20 days.
“You always have to have three or four balls going in this industry, because you never know when something’s going to hit,” DuBos explains. As Oscar host Harris quipped, “Anything can happen … anything.”