Breakthrough pics: “Sue,” “L.I.E.,” “Transamerica”
What we learned the hard way: “If you try to do new things all the time, you learn everything the hard way all the time,” says Bastian.
If you’re trying to survive as a producer of provocative low-budget features without any overhead support or studio backing, it helps to have a comrade-in-arms. For the past 10 years, Bastian and Moran –through their company Belladonna Prods. — have been just that for one another. “The beauty of our partnership is that we always know someone’s got our back,” says Moran, “because doing this for a living sure isn’t easy.”
Bastian grew up in Hamburg, Germany, and came to the U.S. with “a very vague plan to get involved in the arts.” After graduating from NYU, he began working his way up the production ladder on Gotham-based indies. Moran, who graduated from Columbia, started out as a singer, performing with the likes the Mick Jagger and Debbie Gibson, before transitioning to film work. They met on the set of “A Day at the Beach” in 1995 (Bastian was an A.D., Moran was the location manager) and immediately decided to partner up. “It’s been a great collaboration from day one,” says Bastian. “We just complement each other very well.”
Belladonna’s first feature, Amos Kollek’s “Sue,” premiered at Toronto in 1997 and went on to win the FIPRESCI prize at Berlin before enjoying a successful international run. In 2001, they scored at Sundance with Michael Cuesta’s pedophile drama “L.I.E.,” which was released by Lot 47. The following year, the duo took home the IFP Producers Award at the Spirits.
Belladonna’s latest pic, Duncan Tucker’s “Transamerica,” which stars “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman as a transsexual, premiered to rapturous reviews at Berlin and was picked up by the Weinstein Co. at Tribeca. It’s screening at Toronto and hits theaters in December. The duo recently wrapped “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” starring Robert Downey Jr.
“Rene and Linda do what producers need to do, which is to get the job done and give the director as much creative freedom as possible,” says Tucker. “They have a really sophisticated, hip sensibility, and they back it up with a thorough knowledge of how a movie gets made.”