Look, the latest in a series of collaborations between Los Angeles-based Brad Wyman and Adam Rifkin, has opened up new creative and business vistas for the prolific indie producer and the genre-hopping writer-director.
The film mixes raunchy comedy with serious drama to tell five overlapping stories that unfold over a week in a random US city. The attention grabber, though, is that the action is shot to look as though it was captured by the sort of surveillance cameras that are becoming an increasingly prevalent fact of urban life.
The idea came from Rifkin, the writer of studio films including Mousehunt and Underdog and director of cult favourites such as Detroit Rock City.
Caught out by a traffic camera, Rifkin received a photo of himself in the mail. 'Something about it felt like a violation. I started paying attention and every time I looked over my shoulder there was a camera looking at me. It made me feel a little paranoid; and that made me excited as a film-maker.'
Turning the idea into a reality, Rifkin insisted on putting his high-definition digital cameras only in spots where real surveillance cameras would go. But then, he points out, he had to fight his instincts to use close-ups and camera movements to help tell the story.
'Everything I had learned I had to throw out the window and make this in an entirely different way.'
Wyman, whose producing credits include Monster, Freeway and his next Rifkin collaboration Homo Erectus, faced his share of production challenges as well. But the project also gave him the opportunity to initiate a new business relationship.
The relatively low-budget Look was fully financed, as his first movie venture, by internet pioneer and former AOL chairman/CEO Barry Schuler.
Schuler, Wyman explains, 'is a friend, and I've spent two or three years prior to making this picture talking to him about disruption in the industry, about how to do things differently.'
One result of those discussions is Liberated Artists, Schuler and Wyman's new North American distribution operation that is about to make Look its first release, with Vitagraph Films' David Schultz acting as booker. For the rest of the world, Wyman has sold the film to AMG for Japan and says he is in negotiations with international sales companies to handle other territories.
The domestic release - which follows Look screenings at the Chicago and AFI festivals and prize-winning appearances at CineVegas and the Lone Star film festival - will be relatively conventional, though with an emphasis on viral rather than TV or print marketing.
But Liberated already has other films ready for launch, says Wyman, and future releases might reveal more radical strategies.
'Ultimately we have grand, out-of-the-box ideas about how theatrical and distribution will work in all media, everywhere,' the producer enthuses. 'Barry and I have talked about aggregating things on phones, about the internet and China, about all sorts of ways to disrupt the industry.'
- See Look review, p30.