NEW YORK — While documentary films are moving to the mainstream, it remains to be seen whether doc helmers who reveal serious storytelling chops in their non-fiction projects will succeed with fiction features.
Onetime music vid helmer Ondi Timoner has boarded a spate of pics since her rock doc “DiG!” was tops at the Sundance Film Festival last year.
The helmer is attached to direct “One Percent More Humid” for “Sideways” producers Michael London Prods., as well as “The Measure of a Man,” a biopic of ex-convict and country music star Glen Sherley, which has “The Punisher’s” Thomas Jane in the lead.
Los Angeles-based Timoner will oversee a rewrite of Wendy Finerman Prods. and New Regency’s “Country Girl,” a music biz coming of age story that Timoner describes as “8 Mile” meets “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
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“There’s a lot of interest right now in filmmakers who make docs that exhibit a high level of storytelling,” says Josh Braun, an exec producer of David Cronenberg’s upcoming “A History of Violence,” and whose Submarine label repped “DiG!” with Cinetic Media. “There is a new wave of docs that are considered features. Ondi has a visual style and a lot of the work she’s done is distinctly visual.”
“DiG!” followed two competitive, ironically monikered alt rock bands, the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Pic was one of the year’s best reviewed films but failed to break out for distrib Palm Pictures.
” ‘DiG!’ is such an incredibly told story,” adds Cinetic’s Micah Green. “And telling a story is not just capturing an event. So someone like (Timoner) is a lot safer to an executive than any first-time director because she can tell a story.”
Other doc makers that the feature world is interested in include Jessica Yu (“In the Realms of the Unreal”) and Jeffrey Blitz (“Spellbound”).
While many indie insiders don’t like to admit that reality TV has helped doc makers move into the mainstream, Timoner is less circumspect.
“Reality TV opened the door,” she says of the doc boom that’s given birth to “Winged Migration,” “Spellbound” and “Capturing the Friedmans.” “That was the one good thing that happened. The human race got demeaned, but one good thing came out of it.”
The helmer isn’t giving up her non-fiction career and is working on a trio of projects, including “The History of Jamaican Reggae” for Island Records founder Chris Blackwell’s Palm Pictures. Further docs through Timoner’s Interloper Films include a pic following the creation and impending relaunch of Perry Farrell’s Lollapalooza fest, and “The Bubble,” following mercurial Jupiter Communications and Pseudo.com creator Josh Harris. Timoner says the latter will capture “the dot.com era, as well as all the hedonism in the last minutes of pre-9/11 New York.”
Just a short year ago, Timoner was laboring to complete “DiG!” for Sundance, and giving birth, quite literally, to another project — her first child, Joaquim.
Now, Joaquim has been on 70 flights as his mom has ridden the fest circuit and a wave of increased interest in docs.
“I’m really a narrative filmmaker,” says Timoner on her way to Blackwell’s new Goldeneye Film Fest in Jamaica to begin her reggae pic. “I don’t want people to get up and go to the fridge. I’ve really wanted to drive something so you don’t know what happens.”