Linda Yellen has staked a claim to the independent filmmaking legacy of John Cassavetes with the film experiment “Chantilly Lace,” which is scheduled to be screened at the Sundance Film Institute’s spring benefit on June 1.
The screening will take place at the Directors Guild of America.
Shot on a shoestring budget over eight days in Sundance, Colo., “Chantilly Lace” is a seven-woman ensemble piece with JoBeth Williams, Helen Slater, Talia Shire, Ally Sheedy, Martha Plimpton, Jill Eikenberry and Lindsay Crouse.
In directing “Chantilly Lace,” Yellen worked from a 40-page outline — instead of a screenplay — to extract improvisation from her performers. The pic revolves around the reunion of old friends, and the unexpected death of one.
Sundance was considering a number of movies for its spring benefit, including the big-budget “Super Mario Brothers,” before opting to feature “Chantilly Lace” at its fundraiser.
Michelle Satter, Sundance director of feature film, said “Chantilly Lace” stands out because it explores the landscape of contemporary women’s issues with humor and honesty “unlike any American film” that she has seen. Satter said Yellen’s work is reminiscent of Cassevetes in process, style and the “remarkable honesty of the work.”
“Chantilly Lace” was developed under the auspices of the Sundance Film Institute, while Showtime president Steve Hewitt provided production financing. The pic is scheduled for July 11 broadcast on Showtime.
Yellen said she originally conceived of “Chantilly Lace” because of the preponderance of “incomplete roles for women, who are sketched instead of developed” in the movie business. Yellen produced “Chantilly Lace” with Roseanne Ehrlich.
There already has been confusion over the name “Chantilly Lace,” which has much to do with the movie’s thematic elements and tone, but nothing to do with the Big Bopper’s 1958 hit.
Yellen said she has toyed with the idea of an improvisational movie since working with Liv Ullmann on “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.” A veteran stage and television producer, Yellen’s previous credits include such titles as “Playing for Time,””Sweet Bird of Youth” and “Second Serve.”
Yellen said that the improvisational tactic and short shooting schedule allowed her to break out of Hollywood’s maw.
But that’s not to say Yellen is ditching the mainstream scene. Several projects are in development at her Century City-based Linda Yellen Co. production shingle, including the autobiographical story of Life magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White at Warner Bros., which has Barbra Streisand attached.
In addition, Yellen is prepping the adaptation of Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This” at New Line Cinema, a thriller titled “Rebound,” a kickboxing picture for MCA/Universal and “The Turing Option,” a science-fiction picture from screenwriter Don Jacoby.
In addition, there are plans afoot for Yellen to direct a follow-up to “Chantilly Lace” in September. Titled “Parallel Lives,” the pic will feature a cast of seven women and eight men. “Parallel Lives” will also be produced using Sundance’s support and resources.