Untitled Sam Project (working title)

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: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


In 2006, film producer, Sam, began a 24-year prison sentence leaving behind his young son. Now, they’re rebuilding their relationship by writing a film together.


In 2006, Sam Bader, a film producer, began a 24 year prison sentence leaving behind his family, including his eight-year- old son, Omar. After years of estrangement, father and son embark on a new project together - developing a short screenplay- forging a new relationship that transcends their physical separation.


Just as my short doc, Paraíso, (Best Short Doc - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) elevated its working class characters with visually compelling cinematography, Untitled Sam Project will tell Omar and Sam’s story with cinematic dignity. The British narrative filmmakers Andrea Arnold’s and Lynne Ramsey’s film have been references, in which they capture a rough hewn beauty in their working-class characters and locations and often find unexpected details with metaphoric potency. We have been shooting with fast vintage lenses, allowing us to capture an aura of warmth and intimacy in locations that are normally filmed with a grittier style: such as the prison and the construction site. The visual is political for me, and I feel this choice helps to retain the humanity of our characters whose class or ethnicity might be represented in more stereotyped ways in other media. This humanistic visual approach will also be used in the tasteful recreations that bring to life Sam’s stories of growing up on the Southside of Chicago in the 1980’s. With a few exceptions, these recreations will not be used to illustrate scenes literally. Instead they will mostly help us to establish the texture of the world he grew up in. Sarah Polley’s Super-8 recreations in Stories We Tell is an excellent reference for the feel I’ll be going for (although ours will not be recreated home movies but more from Sam’s point of view). I have had extensive conversations with Sam about the sights and smells of his childhood to help inspire some of those details. At specific dramatic moments, we will land on recreations using actors, but it will be focused less on emotion and more on character actions. The third section in our Proof of Concept illustrates this approach well. I have also been exploring the use of music video tropes to convey Omar’s larger-than-life hopes for success. Without getting over-indulgent, they will help us get into Omar’s fantasies which often collide with reality in a painful way. There is a scene in our excerpt that demonstrates this approach: we cut from a dreamy slomo sequence of Omar in the snow to the harsh reality of him having to shovel that snow in the morning as part of his job working for his uncle. Lastly, archival footage plays an important role in this film, especially since filmmaking plays a pivotal role at certain key plot points of the film. We have traditional home-video archival material from the Bader family but also a sizable collection of material from the making of Street Thief including stills, behind-the-scenes footage of Sam and Malik, as well as the film’s original 16mm dailies. It will be compelling to watch Omar look for answers in these out-takes, especially later in the story, when he becomes more curious to know the full truth about his father and family’s past.


Nadav Kurtz - Director
NADAV KURTZ (Director, Producer) Nadav is an Israeli/Japanese/American filmmaker born in Israel and raised in Europe and the United States. His work has shown at such festivals as Sundance, True/False, Sheffield, and have been showcased by The Criterion Channel, PBS’ POV, the NYTimes Op-Docs, Vimeo Staff Picks and Sundance Doc Club. His directorial debut, PARAISO, which he also produced, won Best Documentary Short at multiple international festivals (Tribeca, Chicago, Seattle, Melbourne, ZINEBI, AFI-Silverdocs), as well as was nominated for a Cinema Eye award and short-listed for an Academy Award. His campaign, ONE CHICAGO, for the City of Chicago, directing thirty-five short, personal accounts of immigration, won three Gold Pencils at the One Show. He also has two decades of experience as an editor on docs, branded films, and feature fiction films (STREET THIEF, BOLDEN). His editing work for brands has won multiple AICP and AICE awards for editing and sound design and his directing work was featured in DGA/SHOOT’s 2019 New Directors Showcase. His career began in Chicago where he was involved in the theater community including acting in an equity show and improv at Second City, ETC. He is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective and is on its steering committee. He has a BA with Special Honors in English Literature from the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing an MFA at Killer Films/Stonybrook University’s Film and TV Writing program.

Diane Quon - Producer
DIANE QUON (Producer) Academy Award-nominated producer, Diane Quon, worked as a marketing executive for 17 years at NBC and at Paramount Pictures before moving back to her hometown of Chicago. Diane is producing multiple Kartemquin documentaries including the Oscar and Emmy nominated, Peabody and Sundance award-winning film, MINDING THE GAP directed by Bing Liu; THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE with Peabody Award-winning director Maria Finitzo (SXSW 2020 premiere); FINDING THE YINGYING by first time filmmaker, Jiayan “Jenny” Shi (SXSW 2020 premiere; SXSW Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Voice); and FOR THE LEFT HAND along with Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich, and co-directed by Leslie Simmer and Gordon Quinn. In addition, she is developing a fiction film based on the New York Times best-selling book, HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET. Diane is a recipient of the 2020 Cinereach Producer Award and is a 2019 IFP Cannes Producer Fellow, a 2019 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow and a 2017/2018 Film Independent Fellow.


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