Utopia Announces ‘For Madmen Only’ Release Date — Film News in Brief

Courtesy of Utopia Distribution

‘For Madmen Only’: Utopia To Release Documentary About Improv Guru Del Close — EXCLUSIVE

Utopia Distribution announced that the feature documentary “For Madmen Only” will be released on Altavod and Apple TV on July 27.

Co-written by director Heather Ross and Adam Samuel Goldman, the film will take a hilarious and poignant look at the titular comedy trailblazer Del Close from his “human torch” sideshow act to his influential and contentious rise at The Second City. Close has mentored comedy legends such as Bill Murray, John Candy and Tina Fey, among many others.

Inspired by his semi-autobiographical DC Comics anthology “Wasteland,” the film delves into the inner workings of Close’s wacky mind through inspired reenactments and archival clips. The result is a lively, multi-layered picture of a man and his mission, riding on the edges of genius and despair, creativity and insanity.

The film will also feature interviews with Matt Walsh, James Urbaniak, Patton Oswalt, Jason Sudeikis, Lauren Lapkus, Bob Odenkirk, Tim Meadows, Jason Mantzoukas, Ike Barinholtz, Adam McKay, Lennon Parham and Paul Scheer.

“We knew that to make the definitive movie about this icon/unknown, we would need to take the same kind of creative risks that he was famous for,” Ross said. “As someone known for breaking down genres and experimenting with form—not to mention playing fast and loose with the truth – we decided to apply the same ideas to our film and try to break new ground with the documentary genre. This resulted in constructing a set of scenes imagining the creative process behind ‘Wasteland,’ Del’s comic book autobiography.”

“For Madmen Only is a singular film reflecting a singular man — a creative and joyful exploration of one of the lesser sung heroes in all of comedy,” said Danielle DiGiacomo, head of content for Utopia. “We at Utopia can’t wait for viewers to be taken on a much-needed escape into hilarity and genius.”

Native American Media Alliance Accepting Applications For 4th Annual Native American Feature Film Writers Lab

The Native American Media Alliance announced that they are accepting applications for the 4th annual Native American Feature Film Writers Lab.

The 10-week program will take place from late August through early November. Five Native American writers will be selected to participate in the program, which will consist of daily workshops with established screenwriters and peer workshopping sessions.

The purpose of the lab is to further develop the skills of each writer and prepare them for employment in the industry. Each selected participant is expected to complete at least one script by the end of the 10-week session, which will be showcased at the 15th Annual LA Skins Fest in November.

“Since its inception, this lab has developed incredible scripts, supported talented Native American writers and brought a deeper collaboration between the industry and our community,” said Ian Skorodin, director of strategy, Native American Media Alliance. “It’s always exciting to see emerging indigenous writers with fresh vision and a bold voice as we look forward to hosting a new group this year.”

The Native American Feature Film Writers Lab addresses a growing need in the entertainment industry. According to a 2020 Writers Guild of America Inclusion Report, Native Americans only represent 0.8% of screenwriters currently working in the industry. This program hopes to offer a new opportunity for Native American writers seeking to break into Hollywood.

The final deadline for the Native American Feature Film Writers Lab is July 16. Applications are available here.

‘Bridgerton’ Star Phoebe Dynevor To Lead Sony’s ‘I Heart Murder’

Phoebe Dynevor has been cast as the lead in Sony’s female-driven thriller “I Heart Murder.”

Details are being kept under wraps, but Matt Spicer is directing and co-writing the screenplay with Tom O’Donnell and Spicer. Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher’s Red Wagon Entertainment will produce.

After captivating audiences as Daphne in Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” Dynevor will make her big-screen debut in “The Colour Room.” She recently completed shooting the film with Mathew Goode for Sky Cinema Original.

Dynevor is repped by United Agents, the Gersh Agency and Luber Roklin Entertainment. Spicer is represented by CAA and Jackoway Tyerman. O’Donnell is repped by Verve, Circle of Confusion and attorney Julian Zajfen.

This news was originally reported by Deadline.

Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Documentary “Who We Are”

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired worldwide rights to “Who We Are— A Chronicle of Racism in America.” From directors Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler and writer Jeffery Robinson, the documentary interweaves lecture, personal anecdotes, interviews and shocking revelations to draw a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the U.S., from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial country. “Who We Are” first premiered at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival premiere where it won the Documentary Spotlight Audience Award. It will be released on Jan. 14, 2022 and then expand throughout February . The acquisition deal was negotiated by ICM Partners on behalf of the filmmakers.

“We recently saw a large number of our elected officials vote to make Juneteenth a national holiday while also advocating for laws restricting what can be taught about the causes and aftermath of Juneteenth. The unvarnished truth about the role anti-Black racism has played and is playing in our country is needed now more than ever. Our ‘Who We Are’ team is thrilled that Sony Pictures Classics will help us bring accurate, verifiable information to our youth, our leaders, and our broader community,”  Robinson said.

Casting Society of America’s Equity In Entertainment and Theater Committee

CSA’s Equity in Entertainment & Theatre Committee is teaming up with Ring of Keys and Backstage for the upcoming virtual discussion “The Intersection of Casting and Queerness – Expanding Voices,” which will celebrate queerness in the casting and rehearsal rooms across television, theater, film and commercials.

The casting director panelists will include Judy Bowman (she/her), Kim Montelibano Heil (she/her), Xavier Rubiano (he/him), Catherine Miller (they/them), agent Judy Boals (she/her), manager Harold Lewter (he/him) and music director Anessa Marie (she/her).

This event will be followed by a training event for Ring of Keys members and CSA members from the theatre committee.

Moderated by Backstage’s Christine McKenna Tirella, the live event will take place on June 28 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Click here to register.

Gravitas Ventures Acquires North American Rights To ‘Good’

Gravitas Ventures has acquired the North American distribution rights to “Good,” which will release in theaters and on-demand on Sep. 3

Director Justin Etheredge stars as Payton, who becomes the caretaker of Gregory Devereaux (Keith David), a wealthy man facing his final months. As the pair become close, Gregory’s past sins force Payton to decide between his dreams and a pregnancy that could squander them all.

Tribeca Festival to Release Behind the Festival Short Film

In celebration of the festival’s 20-year anniversary, Tribeca Festival and director Lance Oppenheim teamed up to create a behind the scenes short film to capture the making of the first in-person North American film festival since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Shot completely on iPhone, “2021 Tribeca Festival: 20th Anniversary Film” is a love letter to New York that found support from Robert De Niro, Fran Leibowitz, John Legend, Lin Manuel Miranda, Jon Chu, Stacey Abrams, Whoopi Goldberg, Darren Aronofsky, Steve Buscemi, Patti Smith and Delroy Lindo, among others. It includes opening night of “In the Heights,” intimate green room moments and one-on-one close ups with talent and friends of the festival.

Overall, Tribeca Festival hosted over 250 events with 100,000 attendees across 12 days. Extending its digital reach, Tribeca at Home brought in an additional 115,000 views for its online presentation of features, shorts and conversations.

Scarlett Johansson Producing Tower of Terror Adaptation for Disney

Scarlett Johansson is producing an adaptation of the Disney theme park attraction Tower of Terror, through her production company These Pictures, with Jonathan Lia. “Toy Story 4” director Josh Cooley is writing the screenplay.

Johansson, who will next headline the Marvel Studios feature “Black Widow” in July, has not yet committed to star in the production.

Originally branded with the classic sci-fi TV series “The Twilight Zone,” the Tower of Terror is a favorite thrill ride for many Disney park fans, with locations at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, DisneySea in Tokyo, and Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. The location at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim was replaced and renovated in 2017 for a ride connected to the Marvel Studios feature “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

The news was first reported by Collider.

Sam Abbas Releases Trailer For LGBTQ Feature ‘Alia’s Birth’

Sam Abbas has released the trailer for the LGBTQ feature “Alia’s Birth,” which will release exclusively in theaters this December.

The film will feature a live home-birth with a resuscitation as well as a live set by queer superstar Nicole Moudaber in a New York warehouse hosted by Teksupport.

The cast includes Poorna Jagannathan (“Never Have I Ever”), Nikohl Boosheri (“The Bold Type”), Samuel H. Levine (“Minyan”) and Maya Kazan (“Boardwalk Empire”).

Abbas is an Egyptian-American director who recently worked on “Erēmīta,” an anthology of short documentaries produced during the COVID-19 pandemic. He produced the film with Tatiana Bears, Nicole Townsend and Neal Kumar.

In an official statement, Abbas discussed why he chose to not promote his film at a festival.

“I’m really excited to start working with a theatre booker and bring the film to cinemas in December,” Abbas said. “I think it’s very important to note and promote that this film has not had a film festival life. While the major ones showed interest, it simply didn’t work out. Filmmakers and Festivals have very different agendas and when the two don’t meet, there’s nothing wrong with splitting paths. Many filmmakers think film festivals are the ultimate token of success, this is not true. No matter how it’s spun nowadays, and regardless of their prestige; film festivals are and always will be a way for filmmakers to present their films to audiences. Having a film attend a festival can be great for many reasons but a film’s true success is having a large audience.”

Watch the trailer below:

Marco Bellocchio’s ‘Marx Can Wait’ To Be Presented At Cannes Film Festival

Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio will present “Marx Can Wait” in the official selection at the Festival de Cannes.

The director will attempt to understand the death of his twin brother, who committed suicide at the age of 29. Blending excerpts from his films and conversations with people close to him, Bellocchio investigates this fraternal figure that never ceases to haunt his filmography.

“Marco has always questioned institutions, traditions, personal and collective history,” Pierre Lescure, president of the Festival de Cannes, said. “In each of his works, almost involuntarily, or at least as naturally as possible, he revolutionizes the established order.” Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate, adds: “We are proud to distinguish Marco Bellocchio, one of the great masters of Italian cinema after 56 years of fascinating work, in succession to his director friends Bernardo Bertolucci, Manoel de Oliveira and Agnès Varda. He is a filmmaker, an auteur and a poet. Honoring him with the Honorary Palme d’or is self-evident for everyone that admires his work.”

ARRAY Crew Hosts First Below-the-Line FYC Conversation

ARRAY Crew hosted their first Below-the-Line FYC conversation over the weekend.

Variety senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay moderated the conversation featuring Lawrence Davis, Hair Department Head (“Underground Railroad”); Robert Ulrich, Casting Director (“The Boys”); Jennifer Moeller, Costume Designer (“Dickinson”); Jennifer Bryan, Costume Designer (“Genius: Aretha”); Carlos Rafael Rivera, Composer (“The Queen’s Gambit”) and Gersha Phillips, Costume Designer (“Star Trek: Discovery”).

Producer and director Ava DuVernay launched the database in February with the goal of elevating women, people of color and other underrepresented film and television professionals. The database features thousands of qualified crew members across more than 450 below-the-line positions. ARRAY Crew partners include Amazon, Apple, Disney, FOX, Lionsgate, NBC Universal, Netflix, Sony, ViacomCBS and founding partner WarnerMedia.

Watch the full conversation below: