Plaza Preview: TAKEN IN, New feature-length indie, a throwback to Jarmusch…and sincerity

Madelaine Hoptry and Tim Brosnan play an estranged daughter and father in TAKEN IN (2011), screening at the Plaza on Mon. Aug. 22.

by Chris White
Contributing Blogger

TAKEN IN (2011); Dir: Chris White; Written by Chris and Emily White; Starring Tim Brosnan, Madelaine Hoptry; Mon. Aug. 22; 7:30 PM; tickets $8; Plaza Theatre; screening followed by Q&A with Chris White, Emily White, editor Jeter Rhodes and cinematographer Daniel McCord. Trailer here.

I’ve heard tell of cinema “revival houses,” circa 1970s, 1980s. Born in 1970, I never went.

Never watched a flickering Janus Films icon projected by carbon-arc. Never sat in a floppy, squeaky, Milk Dud-stained theater seat…cigarette smoke wafting above my head…Doc Martens propped on the seat in front…fingertips yellowed and greasy from sack-popcorn made from hydrogenated coconut oil.

Still…I make movies for such places. Toss my quarter in the fountain, make a wish for the Bleecker Street Cinema…fall 1981.

Monday night, when my new feature-length film TAKEN IN screens at the Plaza Theatre, I’ll be nearer those heady, art house fantasies than ever before.

Tim Brosnan and Madelaine Hoptry in TAKEN IN (2011).

TAKEN IN was made with funds provided by about a hundred friends in just a couple of months earlier this year. It’s a lonely film about an estranged father and his teenage daughter who have to spend a weekend together at a fading, roadside resort.

It’s the kind of film some folks refer to as “nano-budget” these days…shot on a Canon 5D digital camera and edited on a titanium-shell computer that rarely crashes. We raised enough money to make the “broken family film” we dreamed of; around $8,000 when it was all said and done. (I bet Chris Marker had less when he made LA JETEE in the early 1960s.)

TAKEN IN is an “old-fashioned” American independent film. More Jarmusch than Tarantino. Less early Soderbergh than early Hartley. It’s a film that carries itself like something lost in the Janus vault, long-overlooked by the good people at Criterion…sure of itself, but without any pretense.

I mean, we shot it in five days at Pedro’s South of the Border in Dillon, South Carolina. Nothing uppity about that.

The film originated in vivid, high definition, black and white. On the first day of the shoot, cinematographer Daniel McCord and I discussed shooting in color…making things black and white in post.

“Just in case.”

But neither one of us is much for dithering contingencies.

“Fuck that.”

I’m pretty sure that’s what Daniel said. And so we…fucked that.

Jim Jarmusch’s STRANGER THAN PARADISE (1984) was our North Star. The look, pacing, storytelling. My wife Emily and I wrote the story together…assembling a sort of “pre-writing” outline…a chronological listing of what happens next. It’s what appealed to us in STRANGER. Things unfold, unwind…take their sweet time. And this: there is nary a cynical or sentimental frame in the film. No trace of irony…or nostalgia.

“It’s a mistake to pretend that either extreme—sentimentality or irony—is more honest,” Emily said during one of those dog-walking chats that turned into a screenplay for TAKEN IN. “Let’s just tell the truth…make a film that lives in the unkempt corners where broken people try, sincerely, to love each other.”

Once upon a time, Maya Deren drove to colleges up and down the East Coast, screening her avant-garde films for any conclave of beatniks and cinephiles who’d have her.

The screening at The Plaza comes late in a month-and-a-half of makeshift screenings for friends and strangers across Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. This idea may sound like a throwback, but it came from a utterly modern need: to touch…to see…to hear people experience our film. To share and participate the film with others.

Chris White. Photo courtesy of Chris White.

Whereas TAKEN IN will mostly be seen via digital (and solitary) exhibition, it was important that we experience it as filmmakers once did…face to face, eye to eye.

I mean, feel free to tell me you’re coming to our screening on the Facebook event page…but. Do come. Let’s lock eyes. Size each other up.

There’s really nothing more 20th Century than sharing oxygen with another human being in the same room. The black and white, “nano-budget,” father-daughter film flickering up on the big screen…that’s just a place to point your eyes while we flesh and bloods share the air.

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