Rialto Movie: Mean Creek Released On NZ
Mean Creek is R13 - contains violence, drug use, and offensive language - Opens nationally 23rd June.
Director: Jacob Aaron Estes
Cast: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder,
Runtime: 89 minutes
Censor's rating: R13 - contains violence, drug use, and offensive language
Film release date: 23 Jun 2005
Available formats: film
Set in a small Oregon town where secrets are hard to keep and lies even harder, Mean Creek flows with the simple elegance of truth and consequences as it follows a crisis in the lives of its teen characters.
The journey begins as a plot for a playful payback on a local troublemaker; the journey begins on a river, as a ragtag group of troubled-and-not teenagers set out on a boat trip to celebrate the supposed birthday of a member in their group. As a sort of Heart of Darkness trip develops, cracks in the crew form when some of the teens have second thoughts about what they have come here to do.
Mean Creek is an allegorical tale that probes the moral dilemmas we all face. Ultimately, it is the story about the balance between friendship and responsibility.
About The Production
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? -- Abraham Lincoln
First-time writer/director, Jacob Aaron Estes’ Mean Creek turns the classic tale of an American bully on its head. When a group of bold, yet trustworthy kids seek playful revenge on the bully who has tormented them, nothing turns out the way they expected. What begins as a trip down a river and a childish prank soon turns into an eye-opening encounter with the enemy – a harrowing journey into wilderness and an event that will force them to grapple with the very meaning of friendship and responsibility.
With Mean Creek, Estes won the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting for his script. Most recently the film was awarded the Humanitas Award for a Sundance feature film. This cast of rising young stars have created not only a suspenseful morality tale but a rare and revealing portrait of a new generation – capturing the swagger and hidden insecurities, the posing and the yearning to fit in, the savvy and the barely contained aggression and, perhaps most of all, today’s fierce search for moral ground without any clear compasses. Using a handheld camera and a raw, visceral visual style that sets the audience adrift with the characters, the film provides a gritty, authentic and thought-provoking peek into growing up. It all begins in a small Oregon town, when shy Sam (Rory Culkin) confesses to his protective older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) that he is getting pummeled daily by the towering school bully George (Joshua Peck). Together, they plan the perfect payback, inviting George on a birthday river trip tailor-made to end in the bully’s humiliation. Rocky’s pals Clyde and Marty (Ryan Kelley, Scot Mechlowicz) and Sam’s budding girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) also join the journey, which starts almost immediately with misgivings. Seeing George in a new light, as a lonely kid desperate for friendship and attention, Sam wants to call the whole thing off. Yet the boat and the plot are already in motion, and no one can foresee the surprises and accidents that are to come. Like an adolescent Heart of Darkness, this adventure down the river turns a shadowy corner, kicks off a search for personal redemption and leads to sharply contrasting decisions that will haunt each of their lives forever.
A Group of Fearless Actors
From the start, Estes and the producers knew the film would hinge on finding a group of young actors who could embody the naturalism, physicality and emotional fearlessness required of the characters. Things started off well when the highly regarded Rory Culkin came on board in the role of Sam, the kind-hearted student who unwittingly sparks a revenge plot that gets out of hand. Once Culkin was cast, the filmmakers and casting agent Matthew Lessall sat through auditions with some 500 young actors and actresses to find the other leads. Early into the audition sessions, the filmmakers discovered new face Scott Mechlowicz for the role of the troubled but smolderingly charismatic Marty. “We were incredibly taken with Scott,” explains Rosenthal. “He really has that star quality, that kind of young Brad Pitt-Matt Dillon essence, and though we saw many wonderful young actors, nobody popped off the screen like he does. I think this is a real breakout role for him. He and Rory were both such strong personalities, we then matched the rest of the cast to them.” For Estes, the key triumph of the casting process was finding Joshua Peck to play George, the motor-mouthed, emotionally erratic bully upon whom the entire weight of the story hinges. “I knew I needed a brilliant young actor to play George,” says Estes, “and I feel really lucky that we found him.” Estes continues: “I feel now that if I hadn’t found Josh, I could never have made this film. No one else of his age that I’d seen came even close to capturing the combination of palpable sadness and ugliness and need necessary to portray George. Josh did all of that and then some. He even did his own camerawork, shooting George’s video diaries himself – and proved to be quite a good cinematographer.” The whole ensemble came together piece by piece – with each young actor chosen for their ability to give starkly natural and complex performances – including Trevor Morgan of The Patriot, who plays Sam’s older brother, and Ryan Kelley, who has appeared on “Smallville,” as Clyde. Last but not least, the filmmakers began a lengthy search for an actress to portray the one female among the boys: Culkin’s conscientious young friend Millie. “We were looking for someone who could not only match Rory Culkin physically but who could capture the very essence of 13, of being right on that cusp between total innocence and the angst of adolescence,” says Estes. “The very last girl we saw was Carly Schroeder [of “Lizzie Maguire”] and she was amazing. She had an unusual combination of self-confidence, maturity and importantly a great sense of childishness, in the best sense of the word, that I felt would allow her to make huge changes in the course of the story.” Producer Susan Johnson remembers that Schroeder demonstrated immediate bravery. “When we asked Carly how she would feel about being away all summer in a cast of all boys, she informed us of her brown belt in karate,” Johnson recalls. “We knew right away Carly had the right attitude for Millie. And I think it was a great experience for her as well. We laugh that we both learned more about boys during the shoot than we ever imagined was possible.” Once the cast was set, it was apparent to everyone involved that they had created an ensemble with its own high-energy dynamic. “We not only put together a group of people with real chemistry, but a group that each brought their own memorable and distinctive colors to the whole,” says Johnson. Sums up Estes: “I felt extremely lucky to work with such an extraordinary group of actors all of whom proved themselves to be willing to go into very difficult and dark places with a great deal of trust and respect for each other as people and as actors. Everyone was a complete joy to work with, totally committed to the project.” In addition to the cast, the filmmakers have an accomplished group of behind-the-scenes talent. Joining cinematographer Sharone Meir are veteran filmmaker Greg McMickle as production designer and Cynthia Morrill making her debut as costume designer after assisting on such films as The Last Samurai. Madeleine Gavin (Manic, Signs & Wonders, and Sunday) also contributes her vast experience in independent film as the film’s editor. “Madeleine has a tremendous eye for storytelling,” says Johnson. Finally, Tom Hajdu composed the starkly emotional score for Mean Creek. Notes Rosenthal: “Tom’s score is at once supportive of the story and compelling in its own right – it’s the best of both worlds.”
On The River
Before production even began, Estes knew it was vital to have his young cast completely prepared for the emotional and physical challenges ahead. Shooting a low-budget, fast-and-furious independent film entirely with actors under the age of 18 was not going to be easy, and Estes wanted their performances to remain instinctual and inspired in spite of the tough work ahead. He brought the entire cast up to Oregon’s wilderness a week before shooting began and started by playing theatre games with them with an emphasis on fun and camaraderie. “I wanted them to trust me right off the bat as their friend and their guide on this journey, so we started our rehearsal week with a game of whiffle ball and I immediately assumed the role of the coach,” says Estes. “Later, we started talking about the characters motivations and some of the themes in the story. We did rehearse a few of the more complex scenes just to work out the blocking, but for the most part we kept the process casual and exploratory. The result was that the actors felt free to be spontaneous with me on set and that translated to the screen.” Adds Producer Hagai Shaham: “We wanted to give them time to bond as cast and director, but we also had to teach the cast about the river. It was important to the film that issues of safety were not scary, but became second nature to them.” “We all lived together in one big apartment complex and that only added to the incredible bonding that went on between the actors. Any down time was spent in the complex’s pool. They formed their own kind of summer-camp atmosphere. Instantly it seemed as if they had been friends forever – and that feeling came out in their performances,” says Johnson. Once production began, approximately half of the film was shot on the water – using the swampy Lewis River near the Oregon/Washington border as well as portions of the Clackamas River just Southeast of Portland. Shooting on the water is challenging under any circumstances, but the Mean Creek crew faced daunting obstacles beyond those that nature provided: little money, short days and a cast that had to work under strict child labor laws. “One of our main sources of support was a couple of guys who owned commercial fishing boats. Without those guys, we would have literally been dead in the water,” laughs Estes. Another thing that kept cast and crew together under tough circumstances was a communal spirit. “There was a real old-fashioned kind of indie filmmaking going on where everybody pitched in to help in all kinds of different ways,” says Rosenthal. “Even our cast’s parents pitched in.” Although the production used platforms and flotillas as camera-boats, Estes himself spent a good portion of the shoot standing in the frigid water – wearing a wetsuit to keep from freezing – so that he could be near the cast in the boat. “I could have stayed in the camera boat but I felt a need to be close to them when we were shooting such intense and emotional scenes,” he says. Director of Photography Sharone Meir shot Mean Creek almost entirely with natural lighting and with a handheld camera that seems to be a part of the teens’ inner world as opposed to a non-reactive observer. “I wanted the film to feel like a raw experience,” says Estes. One element that did work in the production’s favor was the usually mercurial Pacific Northwest weather. “It was basically a miracle that we got almost no rain during the 24 days that we shot,” comments Estes. “But the really amazing thing is that just before we shot the final scenes, on the one day we really needed it, we got rain and this incredible bank of mist that sets the mood for the climax. We really felt then that someone was looking out for us.
Portrait of An Unexpected Bully
There have always been bullies. Ironically, bullies are often kids who don’t fit in . . . and they in turn beat up, ridicule, intimidate and psychologically torment other kids who don’t fit in. It’s a vicious circle, fueled in large part by a youth culture characterized by rampant consumerism, sexuality and, most of all, the overwhelming pressure to dress like, look like and act like everybody else. Writer/director Estes came face-to-face with the personal horror of being bullied when he was a young writer living in San Francisco. It happened on the local basketball court where Estes found himself battling an aggressive opponent who taunted him and attempted to injure him at every opportunity. Every time Estes played basketball, this same guy would try to make his life a living hell. “This guy would come to the court drunk and verbally abuse me,” says Estes. “He was a hateful guy who inspired a lot of anger in me.” Estes’ anger soon gave way to elaborate and escalating vengeance fantasies. “Of course the only revenge plots I acted on were of a creative, non-violent nature, but the more I sought my revenge, the worse things got,” he recalls. “It was getting out of hand, and then suddenly I started to wonder about the guy who was the bully: Who was he? Why was he doing this? And why had I let him affect me in such a profound way? These were really interesting questions to me – and they became more interesting than just getting back at this guy.” Estes continues: “At that same time, I had been trying to write a screenplay about kids’ lives in today’s world – about how they cope with making the tough decisions they have to make, how they develop a real sense of morality in a world filled with moral ambiguity – and I realized that this was a great match with the theme of the bully. That’s when I got the idea of a revenge plot that goes very wrong.” As he wrote, Estes began to turn the typical notion of a black-and-white bully on its head. He created the deeply complex character of George, who comes off at first as a detestable villain, then as a poignant social outcast, and finally as the catalyst who changes the lives of everyone around him, whether defender or attacker. “I wanted to explore the bully as a human being rather than just the typical bad guy,” he says. “George is someone who desperately wants to be a part of something – he’s just like all the other kids.” Further inspired by classic cinematic tales of modern adolescence – from The Outsiders to River’s Edge to Stand By Me – Estes also wanted the story to expose the complexity, intimacy and intelligence of the teenage world. Estes notes: “Teenagers are so often underestimated and misrepresented in media as simpletons and know-nothings with no sense of responsibility to the world they live in. I wanted to explore a world inhabited by the kind of kids I remember from my teenage years – intelligent kids, troubled but sensitive beings, people who knew that their actions might count for something. I wanted to see how kids like these would behave under intensely difficult conditions – how their sense of duty, their relationships and loyalties to one another could be tested in an extremely stressful, dramatic situation. I think these kinds of moral questions are something that teens, as well as parents, really want to see in stories right now.” Estes’ first draft of Mean Creek garnered an invitation to the renowned Eugene O’Neil Theater Center’s National Playwright Conference, where Estes developed and completed the script. He was then accepted into the American Film Institute’s directing program, which turned out to be a fateful turn in the development of Mean Creek. There, he would form a close relationship with the film’s eventual producers: Rick Rosenthal, who was Chair of the Directing program at the AFI’s Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies (CAFTS), and Susan Johnson and Hagai Shaham, who were fellow classmates. (The film’s cinematographer Sharone Meir was also an AFI alum, although he attended many years before Estes.) Rosenthal actually read Estes’ script as part of his application to the AFI. “I remember sitting at the dining room table reading it and thinking, ‘This is really great,’” he says. “I mean what a journey these young characters take in less than 90 minutes and you’re carried along with the suspense as they go through the very complex process of developing their morality. But since the screenplay was part of the application process, I didn’t feel it would have been right to e-mail him how great the script was – I mean, what if he hadn’t been accepted?” Nevertheless, while Estes was studying directing at the AFI, the screenplay for Mean Creek won the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, an international search for new talent administered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This brought Estes attention from Hollywood, and another director soon optioned the script. But in the wake of Columbine, Estes’ unblinking tale of kids facing the aftermath of a violent moment seemed far more risky, and the option was dropped. This only inspired Estes, who realized he now had the skills to bring his own vision of the film fully to life. Estes and Shaham brought the screenplay back to Rick Rosenthal and Susan Johnson who had just formed Whitewater Films, a production company devoted to giving a voice to new talent. They were thrilled to have the chance to work with Estes as a writer/director. Says Estes, "After seven years of maybes, nos and false starts, Whitewater Films said yes to this risky, difficult project. I really have to thank them for having the courage to say yes without any assurance except their hearts that the project would succeed. They took a huge risk to finance Mean Creek with a first time director like myself, which shows a lot of character." “I told Jacob that if he wanted to make a down-and-dirty independent film, we were the people to help him do it,” says Rosenthal. “Ultimately though, I think the film became up-and-dirty. Although it was very low budget, we were able to attract a very talented, experienced young cast who brought the story to life with extraordinary skill.”
Having attended AFI, Estes and the producers already had a lot of common creative ground. “We spoke the same artistic language,” says Rosenthal. “We all share a very strong love of filmmaking, in all its aspects, and the committed work ethic to back that up.” Mean Creek also synched up perfectly with the kind of projects Whitewater hoped to produce. “We’re interested in great, dynamic storytelling that has something to say,” says Rosenthal. Mean Creek is a very entertaining story that also takes a deeper look at the big choices we face in life. It’s very gritty and real, but I think it has a very positive message about the struggle to do the right thing that will appeal to all kinds of audiences.”
About the Cast
RORY CULKIN (Sam) Rory Culkin was born in New York City as the seventh child in a family of seven. He recently wrapped on two independent films, Mean Creek and In Control of All Things. Last year Rory was seen in It Runs in the Family where he starred opposite Michael and Kirk Douglas. He appeared in the feature films, Signs, opposite Mel Gibson, and Igby Goes Down. Prior to that, he co-starred in the Showtime film, “Off Season.” Rory was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his performance opposite Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo in the Paramount Classics release You Can Count On Me, directed by Kenneth Lonergan. His first film appearance was in 20th Century Fox’s The Good Son; other films include Getting Even With Dad, Amanda and Warner Brothers’ Richie Rich, playing the four-year-old Richie. He also appeared as Denis Leary’s son on the ABC television series “The Job,” as well as a stand-out guest star role on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
RYAN KELLEY (Clyde) The Hollywood Reporter named Ryan Kelley as a “Ones To Watch,” placing him on a select list of young actors who are expected to draw more attention with upcoming feature film work, as well as primetime network television exposure. The recognition followed Ryan’s acclaimed appearance as “Ryan,” a recurring character who can read other peoples’ minds on The WB’s hit show, “Smallville.” In fact, Ryan’s character is the only role in the show’s history who knows Clark Kent’s “true identity.” Ryan had previously guest starred on the CBS series “Early Edition.” Ryan has recently completed a lead role in the independent film Mean Creek with Rory Culkin and Trevor Morgan. Just prior to that project, Ryan played the lead role in another film, The Dust Factory, opposite Hayden Panitierre and Armin Mueller Stahl. Ryan appeared in a major role in the first Project Greenlight movie, Stolen Summer, produced by HBO/Miramax. Ryan’s other movie credits include a lead role in Stray Dogs, and a supporting role in Charming Billy. Ryan’s first movie success came in 1995 as “Mo” in Roommates, an Interscope/Disney film with D. B. Sweeney, Peter Falk and Julianne Moore.
SCOTT MECHLOWICZ (Marty) After graduating with honors from the UCLA Conservatory Acting Program last May, Scott landed the lead role in the Dreamworks picture, Euro Trip, directed by Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Shaffer. Euro Trip will be released in February 2004. Immediately following production in Prague, Scott flew to Portland, Oregon to begin production on the independent film Mean Creek with Rory Culkin. Scott is one newcomer that everyone has their eye on.
TREVOR MORGAN (Rocky) Trevor Morgan has distinguished himself as one of the busiest and most talented young actors in Hollywood today. Morgan began his career at the age of five, filming a string of national commercial campaigns. Morgan has recently completed the independent film Mean Creek playing a lead role opposite Rory Culkin, which opens nationwide from Paramount Classics on August 20th 2004. Morgan is currently finishing production on HBO’s, Empire Falls, starring opposite Paul Newman, Ed Harris, and Helen Hunt and has just been cast in the feature, The Prizewinner of Defiance Ohio, opposite Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson, which begins filming this month. Previously, Morgan won a lead role in the Viacom Pictures family movie Family Plan, and hasn’t stopped working since. His film credits include I’ll Remember April, The Sixth Sense, The Patriot, The Glass House and a lead role opposite Academy Award-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave in A Rumor of Angels. Morgan also starred in Jurassic Park III, for which Steven Spielberg handpicked him after seeing his work as Mel Gibson’s son in The Patriot. That performance garnered him a Hollywood Reporter Young Star Award nomination. He is featured as the young Jim Morris in Disney’s The Rookie, for which he learned to pitch left-handed, and played a starring role in Uncle Nino, playing Joe Montegna’s troubled son. Morgan is known to television audiences for his portrayal of young cancer victim, Scott Anspaugh, in the 1998-1999 season of NBC’s Emmy-winning drama ER. His performance won him a Screen Actors Guild Ensemble Cast Award and another Young Artist Award nomination for both ER and his starring role in the Disney Channel film Genius. Morgan lives in Los Angeles and in his free time enjoys playing the guitar and participating in active sports such as basketball and boxing. Recently, he directed a short film entitled Northern Comfort and plans to continue his career in acting and directing.
JOSH PECK (George) Josh Peck readily admits that he and his sitcom counterpart are cut from the same cloth. “We’re both great guys who are fun to be with but maybe a little out of touch with generation Y. And I like to think I’m less nerdy,” says the amiable 17-year-old show biz veteran who derives inspiration from old-time comedy kings like Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton and Milton Berle. Peck, who graduates from ensemble player on Nickelodeon’s The Amanda Show to headliner of his own series, diversifies his resume with the role of a bully who gets his comeuppance in the upcoming feature film Mean Creek opposite Rory Culkin and with the part of a punk kid in Barbara Kopple’s just-wrapped Havoc. It’s all a far cry from his first foray onstage as an eight-year-old in Boca Raton, Florida, where a tiny part in The Music Man kicked off a career. “I became enamored with performing when my mom took me to plays and comedy clubs on a regular basis. She’s hilarious, so I guess I come by it naturally,” says Peck, the only child of career consultant Barbara. When the pair moved back to their native New York, Peck enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School, found an agent through an ad in Backstage and launched a stand-up comedy career by performing in a kids’ troupe linked with the Audrey Hepburn Foundation. As a pre-teen, he appeared in top-flight New York comedy clubs including Catch a Rising Star, Caroline’s Comedy Club and Stand Up, New York and performed in musical productions of the children’s theatre company TADA. “I had fun every second,” says Peck who also made multiple appearances on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and auditioned at Nickelodeon on Broadway “practically every day.” It paid off. He made his feature-film debut in the Nickelodeon/Paramount movie Snow Day and segued into the cast of Nick’s hit series The Amanda Show. Moreover, he was the Nickelodeon correspondent at the Republican and Democratic conventions for Kids Pick the President. Since then, Peck has appeared in such feature films as Max Keeble’s Big Move and Spun; guest-starred on ER, The Guardian and The Sopranos and voiced roles on Whatever Happened to Robot Jones? and Fillmore. Now an 11th grader in the Options for Youth program in Burbank, Calif., Peck spends his off-hours playing chess, ice hockey and paintball; performing magic tricks; playing classical piano, working with charitable organizations like Elizabeth Glazer’s Pediatric AIDS Foundation -- and “doing my best to be cool.”
CARLY SCHROEDER (Millie) Currently, Carly Schroeder is starring in Mean Creek. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, and screened the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. It has also played the Stockholm Film Festival, London Film Festival, and the Los Angeles Film Festival. Recently, the film received the very prestigious Humanitas Award. In Mean Creek, Schroeder plays Millie, best friend to Sam (Rory Culkin),, and Rocky (Trevor Morgan), who embark on a haunting teenage take on deliverance in which a prank turns to tragedy. The film will release in August, 2004 and is distributed by Paramount Classics. Previously, Schroeder portrayed Serena Baldwin, the adorable daughter of Scotty Baldwin and Lucy Coe, on General Hospital and the sister-show Port Charles. She has completed over 480 episodes in six years as Serena Baldwin. Schroeder added comedy to her resume by recurring on Disney Channel’s number one show Lizzie McGuire. She resumed her role as Melina Bianco, a devilish, free-spirited, prankster and best friend to Matt McGuire in The Lizzie McGuire Movie. She also stepped into the ring with THE ROCK for the Best D*** Sports Show Period. Schroeder has guest starred on The George Lopez Show for ABC, as well as on Dawson’s Creek for the WB Network. She has provided her voice in two movies, Babe Pig in the City and Toy Story II, and played Cindy Brady in the movie Growing up Brady. Schroeder has appeared in dozens of commercials, her favorite being GOT MILK. Schroeder lives in Los Angeles with her parents and younger brother. In her free time she enjoys horseback riding, fencing, karate, scuba diving, and surfing.
About the Filmmakers
JACOB AARON ESTES (Writer/Director) Jacob Estes won the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting for his script, Mean Creek. He has been selected twice to develop his scripts at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference under the artistic direction of Lloyd Richards, most recently in 1999 for his screenplay Free Lessons. In 1997 Jacob wrote, produced and directed a short film called Positive which had its premier at The Frameline Film Festival and went on to play at OutFest and several other festivals around the country and the world. Jacob earned a Master’s Degree in Film Directing at The American Film Institute, where he wrote and directed three short films including his thesis, Summoning. While a fellow at A.F.I., Jacob also wrote the first draft screenplays for two of his classmates’ thesis projects, including Maria & Jose, a script which garnered the Colin Higgins Production Award for the team. Summoning premiered at the SXSW film festival and won the Best Actor Award and Silver Medal for Best Film at Mexico’s Expression En Corto festival. Jacob began writing and filmmaking while attending The University of California at Santa Cruz, where he was given The Dean’s Award for the Arts for the script and production of his one-act play Leigh's Outrunning Her Mefa and Pefa Tonight. His interest in storytelling and theatrics began in Chicago, in grammar school, when he began writing short stories and acting in school plays, first starring in a musical rendition of Peter Pan in which he was type-cast as Captain Hook. He studied acting at The Young Conservatory Theater at A.C.T. and improvisation at The Second City of Chicago. Jacob recently wrote a script titled Nearing’s Grace for director Rick Rosenthal which sold to John Wells and Killer Films.
RICK ROSENTHAL (Producer) An industry veteran, Rick Rosenthal has directed eight feature films including the critically acclaimed Bad Boys starring Sean Penn, and well over fifty hours of television on such shows as “Life Goes On,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “The Handler,” “The District,” “Providence,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Crossing Jordan” and “The Practice.” Rick got his start filmmaking as a documentary director/cameraman for the New Hampshire Network, a PBS affiliate, after graduating cum laude from Harvard with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies. Before attending the American Film Institute, Rick worked as a metal sculptor, a cabdriver, a carpenter, an assistant to a U.S. Senator, a deckhand on an 82-foot ketch and a tennis pro on the French Riviera, all of which he says “prepared him perfectly” for Hollywood. Rick’s AFI thesis film Moonface, based on the Jack London short story, aired on PBS and jump-started his directing career. In 1989, Rick directed the pilot of the ground-breaking ABC series “Life Goes On” starring Patti LuPone, Chris Burke and Kellie Martin and stayed on as co-executive producer for the first two seasons. Rick’s other film credits include American Dreamer starring JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti; the pre-Glasnost film Russkies, starring Whip Hubley and introducing Joaquin Phoenix; Distant Thunder starring John Lithgow and Ralph Macchio; last year’s indie Just A Little Harmless Sex, a low-budget indie starring Allison Eastwood, Jonathan Silverman, Kimberly Williams and Lauren Hutton; and last summer’s hit Halloween: Resurrection, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Busta Rhymes, Thomas Ian Nicholas and Katee Sackhoff. This was a little bit of “deja vu all over again” as Rick made his directing debut with Halloween II twenty years ago. Committed to helping new filmmakers find a voice, from 1998-2001, Rick served as Chair of the Directing Program at the AFI’s Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, where his students included Patti Jenkins (Monster) and Brian Dannelly (Saved). He has also taught at the International Film and Television Workshops in Maine and has been an adjunct Associate Professor at USC. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, three kids and a Golden Retriever named Elle. An avid hockey player, he skates on a team oxymoronically called “the L.A. Canadians.”
SUSAN JOHNSON (Producer) Susan Johnson serves as Vice President of Production/Partner at Whitewater Films. Susan began her career at the William Morris Agency. Eager to get into production, she left the agency after two years to work for British producer Stephen Woolley in both the US and UK. After several features, Susan returned to Los Angeles to form a music video production company through which she directed, produced and edited more than 60 videos. Her music video work has been nominated for awards from MTV, VH-1, CMT, Billboard Magazine and the Music Video Producers Association. In 2000 Susan worked with writer-director-producer Nancy Meyers on What Women Want. Susan attended USC and earned an MFA in Directing at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, where she was awarded the prestigious Robert Duvall/American Express scholarship. Susan’s thesis film, Destiny Stalled, was one of only four US short films selected to premiere internationally at the Milan International Film Festival and it premiered domestically at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The film also won awards at Mexico's Expression En Corto Festival and Houston’s Worldfest. Currently Susan is producing Nearing’s Grace for Whitewater Films, with partners Killer Films and John Wells Productions. Partner Rick Rosenthal will direct the script, adapted by Jacob Estes for Whitewater from a novel by Scott Sommer, in 2004. Other Whitewater projects in development include features Levittown, Bulldogs and Burnt Bridge Road, as well as the pilot for a dramatic series entitled “Going Long.”
HAGAI SHAHAM (Producer) Hagai Shaham produced films in Israel, before coming to the U.S. to pursue a Master’s Degree at the American Film Institute. Upon leaving AFI, Hagai served as Associate Producer on the indie feature Funny Ha-Ha and produced Hungry Hearts for Director Rolf Schrader.
JACOB MOSLER (Co-Producer) Jacob Mosler attended the University of Washington on a full ride as an Evans Scholar. He graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a certificate in Film & Video Production. He began working immediately in Seattle’s local film industry, doing everything from location management, assistant directing and talent coordination, to office and key set production and apprentice editing. During Mosler’s three years in Seattle, he worked for over 50 production companies making commercials, music videos, television, documentaries and feature films for Disney, Miramax, MTV, Universal, PBS and NBC, including feature films Substance of Fire, Prefontaine and Turbulence. After a few years of professional experience Jacob became a regular fixture in the local independent film scene. With numerous credits as a production manager, assistant director and location manager; Mosler began his career as an independent producer. His Seattle credits include the short film Stall, official selection at the One Reel Seattle Film Festival, and feature film Love My Guts, official selection at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and Seattle Underground Film Festival. In the summer of 1998, Jacob was accepted to the American Film Institute (A.F.I.) Producers program. During his first year at A.F.I. he produced short films Visual Resistance, C3, Illegal in 12 States, in addition to assistant directing and production managing 10 other short films. In the spring of ‘99 Mosler completed an internship in development at Jon Landau’s (Titanic) Blue Horizon. During the summer, Mosler stayed busy by producing a spec commercial for the A.F.I.’s directing chair Rick Rosenthal (Bad Boys, Halloween II) and produced three music videos for OffWorld Music. The latest two videos for artists Nynex and Digital Assasins spent time in rotation on MTV. A year after arriving in LA, Mosler co-produced Hands: The Anti-Documentary, starring Timothy Speed Levitch (The Cruise), official entry at the Burning Man Festival and Ojai International Film Festival. During his second year at A.F.I., Mosler produced two thesis films: Spirit Rising, winner of Best Short at the Atlantic City International Film Festival, and The Secret Sea, winner of the Audience Award for Best Short at the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival. In March of 2003, Mosler completed co-producing the feature film Winter Break starring Milo Ventimiglia (Cursed, Gilmore Girls, Opposite Sex), Maggie Lawson (Model Behavior) and Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie, Off Center, Black and White) which is being distributed by Screen Media and Universal Pictures. In May of 2003, Mosler produced How Did It Feel..? starring Blair Underwood (Full Frontal, Malibu’s Most Wanted) and Natasha Gregson Wagner (Wonderland, 2 Girls and A Guy). This project is currently in post-production. Most recently, Mr. Mosler co-produced the feature film Mean Creek.
SHARONE MEIR (Director of Photography) Sharone Meir was born in Israel in 1965. After graduating with honors from the Jerusalem Film and Television School, he moved to Los Angeles where he studied at the American Film Institute for one year. Since then, he has been shooting films, commercials and television. Prior to Mean Creek, Mr. Meir served as the D.P. on Steven Bochco’s television series, “Philly,” and the CBS show “Hack.” He is currently shooting a film for Paramount Pictures starring Samuel L. Jackson.
GREG McMICKLE (Production Designer) Though Greg McMickle makes his debut as Production Designer for Mean Creek, this 25-year veteran of the entertainment industry is indeed no newcomer. He began making short films at age 12 and soon moved on to documentaries and music videos while still in high school. After getting his degree in Film & Television Production, McMickle first worked as an Account Executive with an AAAA ad agency where he brought the first 10-second TV ads to air and introduced the first all natural potato chips to the marketplace. He would later father the concept of flavored sparkling water. During the1980s, McMickle split his time between production and the music industry and received a platinum album for “We Are The World.” Since 1985 McMickle has worked primarily as an art director and property master. While having his hand in some 40-odd films from The Onion Field to Elephant, some of his more memorable work can be seen in Twin Peaks, I’m Gonna Git U Sucka and Mr. Holland’s Opus. In another turn, his on-screen debut was in Gus Van Sant’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. When not in production, McMickle plays trumpet in a big band, mentors film students, sits on the Executive Board of IATSE Local 488 and pens an Op-Ed column for their newsletter.
MADELEINE GAVIN (Editor) Madeleine Gavin recently edited Jacob Aaron Estes’ feature debut, Mean Creek, which will premiere at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Previously she edited the documentary, What I Want My Words To Do To You, which received the Freedom of Expression Award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and premiered on PBS/POV on December 16, 2003. The film focuses on playwright Eve Ensler’s writing group at a maximum security women’s prison and features performances by Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei and Rosie Perez. Madeleine’s other editing credits include Jordan Melamed’s Manic and Signs & Wonders, starring Charlotte Rampling and Stellan Skarsgaard (also Second Unit Director); Jonathan Nossiter’s Sunday, which received the Grand Jury Prize at both the Sundance Film Festival and at Deauville in France; and the award-winning documentary Inside Out. Madeleine’s work can also be seen on PBS, Bravo, A&E, Discovery, Lifetime and MTV. Madeleine has written for projects with both Bravo and Court TV. Her screenplay, No Train Stops Here (with Alex Vargas) received a development grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Her play, “Rats,” has been produced by Expanded Arts and Pulse Ensemble Theatres, both in New York City. Madeleine received her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her M.F.A. from New York University, where she taught for three years.
CYNTHIA MORRILL (Costume Designer) Cynthia Morrill has been designing and crafting costumes for theater and film for the past fifteen years. After receiving her Master’s Degree in Costume Design from the University of Texas at Austin, Cynthia moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. Specializing in period and sci-fi costumes, Cynthia has worked with some of the best designers in the business on such films as Wild, Wild West, The Patriot, Planet of the Apes, and The Last Samurai. After designing many theater and short film projects, Cynthia was pleased to work with such a talented group on her first feature film as costume designer, Mean Creek.
DESSIE MARKOVSKY (Sound Designer) Dessie Markovsky graduated from L’Insas in Brussels, Belgium, with an MFA in Film & Theater. She has worked in Hollywood as a sound designer, post-production supervisor, associate producer and music producer. She and Emile Razpopov founded Hollywood Global Studios in 1994 which supports the independent filmmaker’s vision. Her feature film credits include Beat the Drum, Dancing in September, Swingers, It’s My Party, To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday,Wild Orchid, Big Top Pee Wee, 9 1/2 Weeks, A Soldier’s Story and Blue Lagoon.
XAVIER SOL (Sound Editor) Xavier Sol was born in Poitiers, France in 1971. He moved to Los Angeles in 1989, where he attended Le Lycee Francais de Los Angeles high school. He went on to study at Marymount College and CSU Dominguez Hills where he earned a degree in organic chemistry. After graduation he began working with Turbosound. His film credits include Saving Jessica Lynch, The Devil & Daniel Webster, Woman Thou Art Loose, Red Riding Hood, Beat the Drum, R.S.V.P., Virginia’s Run, Dancing in September, The Rising Place, Target Earth, Bliss, To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday, It’s My Party and Wagon East.
ROBIN URDANG (Music Supervisor) Robin Urdang started her career in New York City, working in the music industry for music managers, agents and promoters. She then moved to Los Angeles and began music supervising. She started by working on Mambo Kings as the music coordinator and has since music supervised The Prince and Me (2004), Cavedwellers (2004), Rose and The Snake (2004), The Emperor’s Club, People I Know, Glitter, The Anniversary Party, 3000 Miles to Graceland, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Out To Sea. Robin is the music consultant for the independent film company, Serenade Pictures.
TOMANDANDY (Composer) Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn studied at Princeton University where they received a graduate degrees in music composition. Since Princeton, they have collaborated on literally thousands of music projects. Their first projects were for MTV shortly after tomandandy’s birth in 1989, where they discovered the joys of multimedia subversion. With offices in New York and L.A., tomandandy has worked on several feature films, CDs and soundtracks, fashion shows, music videos, video games, interactive museum kiosks, art installations and hundreds of television commercials. The team continues to create music for any and every application they can find. They have also developed proprietary AI music composition software which expresses itself in many of their compositions. Tomandandy ‘s feature film credits include The Rules of Attraction, The Mothman Prophecies, Arlington Road, Waking the Dead, Killing Zoe, Natural Born Killers and JFK.