Monday, September 10, 2007

Variety reviews Closing Escrow

by John Anderson

Magnolia Pictures release of an Awkward Silence production, in association with HD Vision Studios, 16X9 Prods. Produced by Kristen Cox. Executive producers, Armen Kaprelian, Randall P. Dark. Directed, written, edited by Armen Kaprelian, Kent Llewellyn.

With: April Barnett, Rob Brownstein, Colleen Crabtree, Andrew Friedman, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Bruce Thomas, Patty Wortham, Cedric Yarbrough.

Considering the conversational energy we expend on real estate, it's a wonder there haven't been more comedies about buying and selling, deductible interest and subprime mortgages. (Take my house ... please!) Unapologetically modeled on the mockumentaries of Christopher Guest, "Closing Escrow" is a sometimes laugh-out-loud send-up of homebuyers' worst instincts, the extreme behavior of real-estate agents and what happens when the certifiably insane save enough for a down payment. B.O. may depend on how cutthroat the local housing market is, but cult status seems assured.

Writer-directors Armen Kaprelian and Kent Llewellyn set up three atypical couples on a collision course for the same piece of prime property; en route, they experience nightmarish encounters with agents and sellers. Not that the characters are innocents: Dawn and Tom (Patty Wortham, Andrew Friedman), for instance, are looking to move out of the home once shared by Tom and his ex, whom Dawn terrorized with dead rabbits nailed to the front door.

Tamika and Bobby (April Barnett, Cedric Yarbrough) are buppie lawyers looking for a loft; they have the misfortune of hiring as their agent the bitter, racist and hysterically funny Hillary (Wendi McLendon-Covey, "Reno 911!"). Mary and Allen (Colleen Crabtree, Rob Brownstein) want their dream home, but Allen keeps changing his wishlist, driving his agent, Peter (Bruce Thomas), crazy. No one's really in his or her right mind, and the vagaries of the market -- and home-lust -- conspire to make them even nuttier.

The style is very Guestian, with helmers Kaprelian and Llewellyn staging interviews with their characters and using omnipotent third-party observation as well. Their sense of comedic restraint is nonexistent -- no limits about character or circumstance will keep them from going for the obvious joke if it happens to be sitting there like an underpriced three-bedroom in a good school district. Who can blame them? "Location, location, location" may not be the usual motto of comedy directors, but Kaprelian and Llewellyn have no trouble finding a groove for what ultimately is an audacious satire.

Tech credits are appropriate for a film posing as a low-budget docu.

Chief Lighting Technician, Gaffer, Lighting Technician Camera (color, HD), Scott Billups; set decorator, Josh Rose; sound, Seth Gilbert; visual effects supervisor, Billups; assistant director, Mollie Stallman. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Aug. 25, 2007. Running time: 93 MIN.

from Variety

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Closing Escrow Washington Times "Pick of the Week"

Calling it a "bright new mockumentary," The Washington Times selects Closing Escrow as its DVD pick of the week. Read all about it here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

New! Dark Red Images

Randall Dark has launched a new company - Dark Red Images. Dark Red Images is designed to create content exclusively using the new RED camera with a cost effective workflow for this new technology.

All creative services will go through Randall Dark Productions, as this new venture is a system design company. More information about the RED camera may be found here.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

TV Guide review

TV Guide calls Closing Escrow "a pleasant diversion" with "a terrific cast." Read the full review about the indie mockumentary here.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Markee Magazine spotlights Closing Escrow

How to Make an Independent Film
by Christine Bunish


As a segment producer on the cable series House Hunters, Armen Kaprelian witnessed a lot of hilarious scenarios that didn't fit into the style of the show. But he thought they'd make a great movie.

Kaprelian developed the concept and approached HD pioneer Kristen Cox, president and CEO of 16x9 Productions, to see if she thought the concept had legs and to explore what the costs associated with such a movie would entail. He knew that HD would lend itself well to the reality TV look he wanted while maintaining a theatrical quality level.

Budget in hand, Kaprelian brought potential investors to a “dog and pony” show at HD Vision Studios in LA, where president Randall P. Dark, the movie's co-executive producer, answered questions about how HD technology would enable the first-time director to make a cost-effective film. Once investors were on board and the project was ready to commence, Kaprelian enlisted Kent Llewellyn to join him as co-director.

Kaprelian relied on Cox to put together a modified low-budget feature package and to work with SAG to employ union actors. “It's important to realize that the unions will try hard to make your movie work no matter what the budget is,” notes Dark. Closing Escrow, which includes a lot of improvisation, stars some cast members from Reno 911 and performers active in the LA improv scene.

Dark is a firm believer that “what makes the storytelling work is the crew you work with.” Closing Escrow aimed high, hiring the “unbelievably gifted” DP Scott Billups and his crew plus one of the industry's top DITs, Sean Fairburn, Dark points out. Dark's Sony F900 v3 CineAlta HD cameras were used for the two-camera, 14-day shoot.

“Our primary camera fed a Mac G4 with an off-line editor on site so we'd know what we were getting by the end of a set up,” Dark explains. “That's an incredibly fluid way to work; we never had to worry about having to reshoot because something didn't work or didn't match. We also had CCUs for color timing in the field.”

The on-set rough cut was used as a visual guideline for the off-line by Kaprelian and Llewellyn on Final Cut Pro HD. The on-line at full resolution, also done on Final Cut Pro HD, was done at HD Vision Studios with audio mixing at Wildwoods. The soundtrack features original music by Matt Birch and some stock tracks from DL Music.

Dark, who knows Mark Cuban, sent the HD visionary a DVD of Closing Escrow. He enjoyed the movie and recommended that the filmmakers talk to his Magnolia distribution company. Kaprelian inked a deal with Magnolia for an almost-simultaneous national theatrical and DVD release plus TV broadcast rights; Magnolia is also handling promotion.

“I think the movie will do well theatrically and exceptionally well on DVD,” says Dark who's a fan of Magnolia's policy of quick release on DVD. “How many people in America today are either buying or selling a house? I believe in getting involved in evergreen types of properties. People will watch Closing Escrow for the next 50 years and think it's funny. It's a timeless send up of the real-estate business. I also see a segment of the real-estate business buying DVDs to give to buyers and sellers telling them, 'thank goodness we're not these people!'”

Excerpted from Indie Filmmaking in Markee Magazine, September 2007