First-Time Director Taps Luminaries for Filmmaking Advice in ‘Becoming Iconic: Jonathan Baker’

The Hollywood documentary Becoming Iconic: Jonathan Baker, due on digital, DVD and VOD from Random Media Dec. 4, could be seen as a filmmaking class for first-time directors.

“I knew that this was going to be helpful for anybody who wants to make films,” said Jonathan Baker, both the subject of and a maker of the documentary.

Featuring some of the industry’s most iconic filmmakers, Jodie Foster, Taylor Hackford, Adrian Lyne and John Badham, the film explores the process of directing a big-budget feature as each goes over the trials of their first time directing. The documentary, directed by Neal Thibedeau, was created in tandem with Baker’s preparation for and production of his own directorial debut, Inconceivable, starring Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon and Faye Dunaway. The documentary chronicles the “first time” stories of these celebrated directors, combined with Baker’s first time directing.

“To learn from the best and to touch the best you should listen to the best,” said Baker, who was able to leverage connections and friends to create the documentary.

“You’d be very surprised how available people are when they talk about their passion,” Baker said. “I’m a very persistent person. They love this industry as much as I love this industry.”

Baker said he learned something from each of his subjects.

“I learned so much from them,” Baker said. “Every one of them taught me something that I needed to know.”

Baker’s roadblocks and problems in making his first film are intercut with advice from the old hands.

“For instance, Jodie Foster would tell me about how not to get so passionate about one thing and really be malleable and really go in there and not hope that I’m going to get what I want but take what I’m going to get and make it work,” Baker said.

John Badham taught him how to deal with actors, Baker said, and “how to go into the dressing room, how to get into their head and how to take a famous person who has their own journey with this film and, as a director, become respected.”

Adrian Lyne was an instructor on lighting, as well as storytelling.

Taylor Hackford taught him to quickly make decisions and that “you are either wired to be director or you’re not wired to be a director and when you get there is the only time that you’ll ever find out.”

Baker’s trial by fire as a first-time director was a bit less searing because of the instruction from these experienced directors, he said.

“Whatever mistakes I was going to make, 50% of those mistakes didn’t happen because these people gave me the advice that you would never get in school, you would never get unless you had the experience,” Baker said.

Hollywood Doc ‘Becoming Iconic: Jonathan Baker’ Due on Digital and DVD Dec. 4 From Random Media

The Hollywood documentary Becoming Iconic: Jonathan Baker will come out on digital, DVD and VOD from Random Media Dec. 4.

Featuring some of the industry’s most iconic filmmakers, including Jodie Foster, Taylor Hackford, Adrian Lyne and John Badham, the film explores the process of directing a big-budget feature, from the ground up, through the eyes of top directors as they tell their own stories.  The documentary, directed by Neal Thibedeau, was created in tandem with Baker’s preparation for and production of his own directorial debut, Inconceivable, starring Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon and Faye Dunaway. The documentary chronicles the “first time” stories of these celebrated directors, combined with the story of Baker’s dream of making it big in Hollywood, and it includes stories on topics ranging from the pressures of financing and working with top talent, to the ultimate challenge of making sure to stay true to the film’s vision.

See the trailer here.

‘Getting Grace’ Is a Family Affair for Director

Getting Grace is not only a family film, but for director Daniel Roebuck (who also stars) it’s also a family affair — starting with the title character.

The film, due on DVD Nov. 6 from Random Media, follows Grace, a teenage girl dying of cancer who crashes a funeral home to find out what will happen to her after she dies. Along the way, Grace ends up teaching the awkward funeral director, Bill (Roebuck), how to celebrate life. Not only did Roebuck star in and direct the movie — his feature film directorial debut — but he helped rewrite the script by Jeff Lewis, infusing it with his own experience.

“Grace, as written, is my daughter Grace, who’s never been sick, thank God, but the personality of the kid is my daughter,” said Roebuck, whose face will be familiar to audiences from his long acting career. “My daughter, I watch how she interacts with the world. Sometimes people are a little bit afraid of her, but she always wins them over.”

He lifted an actual incident about his daughter for some dialog in the film about parent teacher conferences and how some teachers found her a pleasure and some hard to teach.

“My actual ex-wife said, ‘Some people get Grace and others never will,’” Roebuck says, noting the same line is recited by Grace’s mother Venus in the film. “That’s how it became Getting Grace.”

Roebuck’s daughter, who wants to be a filmmaker, was a production assistant on the film. But she’s not the only family member involved in the project. Roebuck’s son Buster plays him in a flashback in the film, his wife is one of the producers, his father appears in the movie, his mother’s voice is in the movie, and his brother in law, Cory Geryak, an experienced director of photography, shot the film.

Roebuck also angled his way into shooting Getting Grace in his hometown of Bethlehem, Pa. Bethlehem, founded in the colonial era, took a hit after the collapse of the steel industry, but the city has been able to remake itself as an art hub with such events as Musikfest.

“I just liked that Bill, the character that I played, was old-fashioned in the story and he had to change,” Roebuck said. “I thought that Bethlehem would be the perfect backdrop.”

One scene in the film was shot in “the oldest continually operating book shop in America” located in the city, Roebuck noted.

Roebuck also looked outside Hollywood for his cast.

“Those kids, not one of them had ever been in a movie, and a few of the adults had never been in a movie,” he said.

That includes the titular character played by newcomer Madelyn Dundon.

“She’s terrific,” he said. “She’s a force of nature. She’s something else that kid.”

The film has been well-received by audiences, including those in his hometown, Roebuck said, noting that it elicits big laughs (it’s a comedy after all) and has also inspired people, with at least one viewer saying it helped him handle a cancer diagnosis.

The film, of course, is about getting grace in more than one sense.

“It’s an allegory for God’s grace. That’s what it is to me,” Roebuck said. “I wanted it to represent something greater, which is that God’s grace is available to all of us whether we recognize it or not.”

Special features on the DVD include “Making Grace,” a behind the scenes featurette in which Roebuck looks back on the casting and filming of Getting Grace in his hometown, including interviews with the cast and select cast auditions; Getting Grace Lehigh Valley charity premieres, featuring the cast at three premieres benefitting local charities; commentary from Roebuck; a deleted scene; and the theatrical trailer.

Family Film ‘Getting Grace’ Due on DVD Nov. 6 From Random Media

The family film Getting Grace will come out on DVD Nov. 6 from Random Media.

Directed by Daniel Roebuck, the film follows Grace (newcomer Madelyn Dundon), a teenage girl dying of cancer who crashes a funeral home to find out what will happen to her after she dies. Instead, Grace ends up teaching the awkward funeral director, Bill (Roebuck), how to celebrate life.

Getting Grace also stars Marsha Dietlein Bennett, Dana Ashbroo, Duane Whitaker, Alexa McFillin and Diane Wagner.

The film won four Northeast Film Festival awards, including  Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actress and Audience Choice.

Special features include “Making Grace,” a behind the scenes featurette in which Roebuck looks back on the casting and filming of Getting Grace in his hometown of Bethlehem, Pa., including interviews with the cast and select cast auditions; Getting Grace Lehigh Valley charity premieres, featuring the cast at three premieres benefitting local charities; commentary from Roebuck; a deleted scene; and the theatrical trailer.

The Landing

DVD Review: 

Random Media;
Mockumentary;
$14.95 DVD, $24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Don Hannah, Warren Farina, Jeff McVey, Cindy Lou Adkins, Page Hannah, Arlene Hughes-Martinez, Craig Stepp, Joe Santaniello, Robert Pine.

Part of the fun about the history of NASA is to look over the scope of canceled projects to imagine what might have been. That includes parts of programs that still happened, but were scaled back due to budget cuts, such as additional Apollo missions to the moon.

In reality, the lunar landings ended with Apollo 17 in December 1972. The Landing tells the story of a subsequent Apollo 18 flight that turned disastrous for the crew.

This should not be confused with the 2011 movie Apollo 18, a horror movie in which the astronauts who landed on the moon were killed by living rocks. And in real life, Apollo 18 was technically the designation of the U.S. side of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

The Landing, however, is a faux documentary supposedly filmed in the 1990s about an Apollo 18 mission that experienced a mishap as it was returning to Earth, causing the capsule to land in the middle of a desert in China. While the three members of the crew were awaiting rescue, two of them became mysteriously ill and died. The third, Bo Cunningham (Don Hannah), survived and has been hounded about what went wrong ever sense.

The film starts as the examination of a tragedy before revealing new layers of information to built a circumstantial case suggesting that maybe the mysteries behind the incident aren’t so hard to figure out after all.

The Landing is a fun piece of alternate history that is put together skillfully enough that it might actually convince someone not too familiar with the space program that it actually happened. However, there are a couple of points that break the verisimilitude and give away the game. The first is that the astronaut’s names are extremely derivative of actual astronauts, with a just a few letters switched here and there — a detail that many NASA fans might find clever.

More overt is the presence of Robert Pine (father of Chris Pine, who played Capt. Kirk in the rebooted “Star Trek” movies), a veteran and highly recognizable character actor who plays a party-loving congressman who heads up the committee investigating the incident as an excuse to soak in the media attention (and provides one of the film’s best laughs when he discusses how long he served).

Still, even as a work of fiction the film serves as a nice examination of the way facts can be warped and packaged to create a narrative to obscure a viewers’ perception and make it more difficult to discern where the truth lies.

Horror Fantasy ‘Blood Child’ Coming to Cable and Digital Sept. 11 From Random Media

The horror fantasy Blood Child, from Random Media, will have a national cable and digital HD release Sept. 11.

It will be available on all major platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, inDemand, Dish and more. The film is also available on DVD via manufactured-on-demand.

Writer-director Jennifer Phillips film debut, Blood Child premiered at Toronto’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, where lead actress Alyx Melone took home the Rising Star Award.

Blood Child combines every parent’s worst nightmare with the Malay myth of the Toyol, ghost children raised by black magic, devastating all involved. After suffering a devastating miscarriage in Singapore, Ashley turns to a witch doctor to help her with the occult practice of raising a “ghost child” and finding the spirit of her lost child.  After returning to the States, Ashley and her husband Bill find themselves pregnant again. However, their happiness is short lived as the pregnancy acts as a catalyst for a series of terrifying events that start to occur within their home. The family soon learns that Ashley has brought back a lot more than just memories from Asia.  The spirit of their lost child is not about to play second fiddle to the impending new arrival.

Horror Film ‘Diane’ Coming to Digital, VOD Sept. 17 From Random Media

Michael Mongillo’s horror film Diane, the story of a wounded veteran and the beautiful corpse he stumbles across, is coming out on digital and VOD Sept. 17 from Random Media.

The film, which will have a limited theatrical release, had its U.S. premiere at the New York City Horror Film Festival and was a nominee for Best Independent Limited Release at the Rondo Classic Hatton Horror Awards.

In the film, Steve’s lingering physical and emotional scars from the war in Afghanistan plunge him into a soulless routine.  He continues his drab existence until the corpse of a beautiful singer, Diane, is dumped in his backyard, shaking him back to reality. Steve takes a photo of her before calling the police and soon becomes obsessed with the dead woman’s image. Steve is scrutinized by the police, becoming the prime suspect. Before long, the malevolent ghost of Diane begins to work a dark spell that leads Steve to strange and startling revelations.

‘Dead Envy’ Hits Digital in September After Limited Theatrical Run

Random Media on Aug. 8 announced the limited theatrical and nationwide VOD release of Harley Di Nardo’s Dead Envy, a thriller following an aging rocker who finds himself in over his head when he thinks he meets the perfect protege.

The semi-autobiographical debut feature of writer-director Di Nardo and co-writer Stacy Hullah, Dead Envy had its world premiere at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, where the filmmakers took home the prize for Best Thriller.

Dead Envy will open in Los Angeles August 24th at the Arena Cinelounge Sunset, followed by a launch on cable and digital platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play and Vudu, on Sept. 3.

Random Media is the film production and distribution company founded in June 2013 by Eric Doctorow, a home entertainment industry veteran who is a former president of Paramount Home Video and a member of the Video Hall of Fame.

Comedy ‘Across the River’ Due on Disc, Digital July 17 from Random Media

Indie Random Media will release director Warren B. Malone’s comedy Across the River on digital, DVD and VOD July 17.

The film is the story of one couple’s second-chance at goodbye. The film stars Elizabeth Healey as Emma and Keir Charles as Ryan, first loves reunited by accident as they seek to get home amidst a public transportation strike in London.

The film has been an official selection at the Manchester Film Festival, the Int’l Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema Milan, the Footcandle Film Festival, the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival, the Maryland Int’l Film Festival and the East End Film Festival.

Watch the trailer here.

‘Funeral Day’ Set for June 12 Release

In Due Time Productions and indie film leader Random Media and In Due Time Productions on June 12 will release the dark comedy Funeral Day on DVD, digital and VOD.

The movie, a film festival favorite, tells the story of Scott, a neurotic man, who thinks he found a lump on his testicles and fears he might be dying, prompting him to skip his friend’s funeral.  Instead, all in the course of a day, he quits his job; begs for a second chance at love; attempts to look death in the face; and gets his prostate checked – all in the name of “living life to the fullest.”

Funeral Day on the film festival circuit picked up several awards, including “Best Comedy Feature” at the Twister Alley Film Festival and the Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival.

The film stars and is directed by Jon Weinberg.  Also in the cast are Tyler  Labine (Super Troopers 2Tucker & Dale Vs Evil),  Suzy  Nakamura (TV’s “Doctor Ken,” “Modern Family”), Dominic  Rains (Marvel’s  “Agents  of  S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Girl Who Walks Home Alone At Night),  Tygh  Runyan (VersaillesK-19 The Widowmaker), Kristin Carey (TV’s “Scandal”), Jed  Rees (American Made, Deadpool), Rahnuma  Panthaky (TV’s “Criminal  Minds:  Beyond  Borders”) and Sarah  Adina (TV’s “The Young and the Restless”).

Although a comedy, Funeral Day ultimately deals with the serious subjects of mortality and testicular cancer.  In creating the film, Weinberg and screenwriter Kris Elgstrand joined forces with the Testicular Cancer Society (www.TesticularCancerSociety.org) during post production, and continue to work with the organization, to promote education.

Funeral Day also picked up “Best Director, Feature Film” honors at the Windy City International Film Festival and the Austin Revolution
Film Festival.

The film also was screened at the Key West Film Festival, Twin Cities Film Fest, Vienna Independent Film Festival, Gig Harbor Film Festival, Reading Film Festival and others.