December 24, 2011

I recently visited the set of Three Nights in The Desert, a small film co-produced by New Artists Alliance and Caliber Media, directed by Gabe Cowan and starring Wes Bentley (American Beauty), Amber Tamblyn (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and Vincent Piazza (Boardwalk Empire). The three friends and former band-mates reunite for a weekend in the desert, pushing each other to reflect on the different directions their lives have taken them in.

Look for full interviews as the film develops, but hit the jump for more info on the director’s rational approach to indie-film financing, and more details about how the project came together.

Here’s the logline for Three Nights in the Desert:

Tamblyn, Bentley and Piazza play three estranged friends and former bandmates who reunite to celebrate turning 30. They come together for a weekend in the desert and expose unresolved wounds as they struggle with who they have become and what might have been had they done things differently.

three-nights-in-the-desert-imageCowan and his producing partner John Suits, both graduates of Cal-Arts, have made several indie features over the last four years on a business model of  “one for them, one for us”, varying between more readily financed genre-films (Growth, Static) and more character driven, artistic endeavors. They aim to make four to five micro-budgeted indies a year, with priority on character-study type scripts that may attract better-name talent.

Tamblyn, who was hungry for an intensive indie project, recruited Piazza, with whom she worked on the Tilda Swinton film Stephanie Daley. She described reading the script and mulling over a few actors who she thought would be great for the role of Barry, until it hit her that Piazza was perfect. Tamblyn recalls, “I called Gabe and I told him [about Vincent]—and to Vincent’s credit—Gabe kind of went ‘Is that the guy from Boardwalk Empire?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you know even though he plays like, a hard-core thug on that show, he’s the most emotionally vulnerable actor I know.’ So they met and I think Gabe just fell in love, instantly.” The project got under development four months ago, with Piazza and Bentley signing on in the last four weeks.

Amber TamblynVisiting the set in Santa Clarita, I watched as the crew and cast rehearsed for a morning-after type of scene. The film mostly takes place in one small wood cabin, which makes for the kind of claustrophobic environment where true feelings are hard to hide. Speaking with all the actors, I was struck by how engaging and generous of spirit they all were—they seem poised for the type of film that feels more like black-box theatre work.

With the reemergence of Wes Bentley—next up as the lead games-maker in The Hunger Games—as well as the charismatic newcomer Vincent Piazza, it will be an interesting project to watch as both their stars rise. Tamblyn too, is taking on a new project in a producer and writer’s role. She recently acquired film rights to, and adapted a screenplay for White Oleander author Janet Fitch’s novel Paint it Black.

Look for our full set visit and on set interviews at some point in 2012.


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