- Thursday, May. 4, 2017
- LOS ANGELES
The feature filmmaking side of the equation that was envisioned by director/writer/producer Ted Melfi (Hidden Figures, St. Vincent) and executive producer Rich Carter when they teamed to form commercial production/branded content house brother in 2014 is now being realized on a pair of fronts. For one, lensing has begun on brother’s first feature, El Camino Christmas, with Melfi serving as writer/producer and Carter as an EP. Dave Talbert has been brought on board to direct the Netflix movie, a dark comedy with a cast that includes Tim Allen, Vincent D’Onofrio, Luke Grimes, Dax Shepard, Kimberly Quinn and Jimmy O. Yang.
El Camino Christmas additionally marks the beginning of what promises to be an ambitious feature slate for brother in that the company has separately entered into a development deal with movie studio Broad Green Pictures to help bankroll scripts and intellectual property, opening up long-form opportunities for select directors.
Melfi originally purchased the script for El Camino Christmas from Chris Wehner in 2005. Melfi began applying his writing chops to the story while seeing the project encounter various stops and starts over the years. But with the recent critical and box office success enjoyed by Melfi (as director/writer/producer) on St. Vincent and Hidden Figures--the latter earning him Oscar nominations this year for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture--the filmmaker has seen his stock soar, helping him to get a green-light on El Camino Christmas which began 26 days of shooting in Greater Los Angeles on May 1 and is scheduled for release during the Xmas holiday season.
Produced by brother and Goldenlight Films (Melfi’s company through which he and Quinn are producing), El Camino Christmas is set in the fictitious town of El Camino, Nevada, and introduces us to a young man (portrayed by Grimes) who, seeking a father he’s never met, winds up barricaded in a liquor store with five other people on Xmas eve.
Dating back to his acquiring Wehner’s script some 12 years ago, Melfi had planned all along to direct El Camino Christmas. But the timing was off as he is currently in the throes of writing a script for Fox 2000 which he hopes to direct in the fall--with the possibility of that too involving brother. So Melfi brought colleague Talbert into the fold to direct El Camino Christmas. Talbert’s credits include Almost Christmas, a Universal feature which Melfi was involved in as a writer.
Once El Camino Christmas is wrapped, Melfi would like to see Talbert on the brother directorial roster for commercials and branded content, though that arrangement has not yet been finalized. The prospect of connecting with Talbert in the ad arena reflects, though, the kind of cross-pollination Melfi and Carter aspired to attain when they launched brother.
Carter said he sees the evolution of brother as “a win-win” scenario for all involved, citing select commercial directors who can access feature storytelling opportunities via their own scripts, acquired properties or even Melfi screenplays. Meanwhile feature activity could in turn prove to be a pipeline for brother connecting with movie directors and helping them to diversify into select commercials and branded fare.
The roster of brother already includes filmmakers whose work spans spots and features, a prime example being Moorhead & Benson--the directorial duo consisting of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson--whose feature The Endless, a thriller/drama/suspense genre hybrid, debuted at the recently concluded Tribeca Film Festival. This marked Moorhead & Benson’s second run at Tribeca, the first coming for their horror/mystery feature Resolution in 2012. Bookended between those two Tribeca premieres was the directors’ Spring, an unconventional romance picture which screened at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Moorhead & Benson diversified into commercialmaking via brother, the most notable credit being a quirky comedy spot for Olympus Cameras out of Boston agency The Fantastical.
Also part of brother’s spot directorial lineup are Melfi (who got his start in commercials and remains active in the ad arena), Ben Falcone, James Foley, Shana Feste, Giovanni Messner and Tim Story. Established in spots and branded content, Messner is looking to enter the feature world, with Carter exploring various opportunities for him. Among Foley’s many credits are the features 50 Shades Darker and Glengarry Glen Ross as well as TV exploits spanning multiple episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards and Showtime’s Billions. Feste’s filmography as a writer/director includes The Greatest, which earned her a Humanitas Prize nomination, Country Strong and Endless Love. Falcone’s latest feature is the upcoming Life of the Party starring Melissa McCarthy. And Story has to his credit such features as Barbershop, Fantastic 4, and Ride Along.
Melfi is keenly aware of how commercials and longer-form fare can mesh, helping to advance and enhance a filmmaking career. He said that brother is poised to help open up doors in spots and/or cinema for its directors. “Everything for me has come from commercial work--wanting to shoot, needing to shoot anything I could get my hands on,” affirmed Melfi. “This experience helped inform me as a feature director and now as a producer for other directors.”