Oscar-nominated director John Hancock (Weeds, Bang the Drum Slowly, Prancer) features his hometown LaPorte, Indiana for the fourth time in an untitled film shooting there and also in South Bend and Southwest Michigan June 21 through Aug. 13.
“I’ve shot three movies in the LaPorte area, including Prancer,” Hancock says. “The people here really take ownership in these pictures because they believe in them. They help provide everything from sets, to cars, to locations to, most importantly, their time.”
Hancock’s wife, screenwriter Dorothy Tristan, stars as Karen, a former actress struggling to connect with her orphaned 13-year-old granddaughter Julie, until Julie’s transcendent voice lands her the lead in a production of Alice in Wonderland, and Karen begins to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
“This leads to sort of an emotional race against time for the grandmother to impart all her wisdom and, more importantly, her hopes onto her granddaughter,” Hancock says.
The story hits close to home for Hancock and Tristan. “Dorothy and I have reached a point in our lives where we’ve thought a lot about what we’ve accomplished, and what kind of legacy we hope to leave behind once we’re no longer here,” says Hancock, 74.
“You always hope you’ve had some type of impact on people, that what you did with your life meant something to people. That’s what this story is about: reaching out to those closest to you and imparting on them all your knowledge, all your life lessons so a part of you lives on.
“You’re preparing the next generation for greatness. That’s true not just for the characters in the film, but for Dorothy and me, that maybe we can inspire a new generation of filmmakers to create movies that mean something to people.”
Film represents a mix of old and new faces
Hancock cast LaPorte native 13-year-old Grace Tarnow in the role of Julie from open auditions. “I had the same reaction to her that I did when Robert De Niro read for the part in Bang the Drum Slowly,” Hancock says. “She’s that good.”
Some of the supporting roles are fleshed out by “a mix of old and new faces, so you have this whole family of people who have worked with me before.”
Hancock and Tristan are producing through their FilmAcres Productions. Coproducers are Allen Turner, board chair of Columbia College, where Hancock teaches, and Media Arts dean Doreen Bartoni. Film department chair Bruce Sheridan is an advisor on the project. Coproducers Kelly Daisy and Andrew Tallackson are from the community.
“In keeping with the theme of the movie, we have seasoned pros working with the next generation of filmmakers, all of it happening in the Midwest,” Hancock says.
Hancock regulars DP Misha Suslov and composer Orville Stoeber are onboard once again. Victor LaPorte, creative partner at LaPorte & Victor LLC and a former Leo Burnett creative director, is production designer.
The rest of the crew comes from throughout the region, assisted by interns and alumni from Columbia College, Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.
Cameras are from Fletcher Camera, which has been supplying digital gear to Hancock since his 2001 film Suspended Animation. Optimus is handling post-production.
The film is raising funds on IndieGoGo.