It’s been a heady year for Borderline Films, the shingle launched by three ambitious NYU film students whose latest pic “Martha Marcy May Marlene” opened last weekend to a promising $137,000 from just four theaters.
Before the pic’s successful Sundance launch, where it garnered a directing award for Sean Durkin and plenty of buzz for Elizabeth Olsen, the filmmakers made a series of creative choices that were key to the low-budget project’s look.
Despite the film’s modest $600,000 budget, Durkin opted to shoot on Super 35mm. “We make decisions based on what’s best for the film,” said Durkin. “If we feel really strongly about shooting on 35, we’ll figure out a way to do it.”
“Martha” followed the path of many underfunded indies — coin coming together at the 11th hour, donations from Kodak and Arriflex, and “a crew that made in a month what they could probably make in a few days on regular jobs,” said Josh Mond, another Borderline partner.
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“Digital was never on the table,” added d.p. Jody Lee Lipes. “For the degraded, dated look of ‘Martha’ it was the only way to go. We needed the image to be high-quality, except that we severely underexposed the film to create a milky, black desaturation and grain.”
Borderline’s Durkin, Mond and Antonio Campos first struggled to put together a feature while in school, failed, bounced back and then partnered on a series of indies: “Afterschool,” which premiered at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2008, and the upcoming “Simon Killer”; both were helmed by Campos, with Durkin and Mond producing.
On “Martha,” Durkin wrote and directed while Campos and Mond produced. Nommed for three Gotham awards, “Martha” expands to 10 more markets this week.
In the Fox Searchlight pic, a young woman escapes from a cult in Upstate New York controlled by a Charles Manson-like leader played by John Hawkes, only to discover that the past still pulls on her psyche even as it catches up with her in more menacing ways.
“When one of us directs, the other two produce,” said Campos. “When one is developing a project, the other two are working on commercials or musicvideos to sustain the group so the writer can develop the script.”
While each is also developing projects on his own, Durkin, Mond and Campos plan to continue working together in New York via Borderline, and to keep on shooting shortform projects between features, not only to pay the bills but also to develop their skills. “Any time you pick up a camera, shoot and edit — you learn,” said Durkin. Station Film reps them for commercials.
Money isn’t a primary objective, but it’s always in the background. “We don’t have the luxury to say that this isn’t about business, it’s all about the art,” said Durkin. “While you don’t go into this to get rich, you still have to figure out how to make a living. We’ve been through so much together that there’s no line between our work and our personal lives.”
Bookings & Signings
Costume designer Betsy Heimann (The Change Up) and 1st assistant AD John McKeown (“50/50”) signed with Montana Artists; producers Steve Clark-Hall (“Sherlock Holmes”) and Missy Imperato (“Twilight”) with Paradigm; and d.p. Thomas Yatsko (“Fringe”) with Global Artists Agency.
Paradigm booked d.p.’s Michael Goi on FX’s “American Horror Story and David Klein on HBO’s “True Blood”; effects makeup artist David L. Anderson/AFX Studios on J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek II”; and producer Bob Dohrmann on Rob Epstein’s “Lovelace.” Montana booked editors Steve Polivka on FX’s “Justified” and Malcolm Jamieson on HBO’s “Treme”; production designer Maxine Shepherd on TNT’s “Southland”; 1st AD’s Korey Pollard on TBS’ “The Wedding Band” and Michael Pitt on CBS’ “Person of Interest.” GSK & Assoc. booked d.p.’s Chris Seager on Joseph Ruben’s “Penthouse North” and Andy Strahorn on Jeffrey Scott Lando’s “Haunted High” and Gabriala Tagliavini’s “The Mule”; costume designers Amanda Friedland on CBS’ “The Mentalist,” Mary McLeod on John Luessenhops’ “Leatherface-3D” and Kimberley Adams on Ric Roman Waugh’s “Snitch”; and production sound mixer Mark Ulano on Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”; and editors Glenn Farr on CBS’ “The Mentalist,”Shannon Mitchell on Showtime’s “Shameless,” Josh Noyes on Salvador Litvak’s “Saving Lincoln,” Michael Ornstein on Hallmark’s “Smile as Big as the Moon,” Scott Vickrey on CBS’ “The Good Wife” and Katina Zinner on John Eschenbaum’s “Three Blind Saints.”