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Young Turks of the East End
Eliza Bishop, Anne Marie O’Connor and Tom Clavin | Photo: Justin Jay | August 28, 2013
The Hamptons has always attracted renowned artists, writers and celebrities—but it’s also a haven for fresh-faced screenwriters, producers and directors making a name for themselves on the big and small screens. With October’s Hamptons International Film Festival in mind, we present five filmmakers who all call the South Fork home.
Much of what has made the film The Spectacular Now the summer’s breakout indie hit are its refreshing young protagonists who don’t fit any stereotype or category. The same can be said for the movie’s producer: Andrew Lauren. Instead of being known as the “son of”—which in this case means of designer Ralph Lauren—Andrew Lauren is very much the lead in his own life.
Though he grew up in the fashion business, at a young age Lauren decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps and took a harder route instead. He had been interested in film since age 12 when he helped his father play old movies on his family’s projector. So after graduating from Brown University, he moved out to Los Angeles to pursue acting. There, he met agents who asked him, “Do you really want to be an actor?” They advised that as a producer he might have more freedom. “Even guys like Bruce Willis call every day because they’re worried about their next job,” they told him. “They’re not necessarily empowered.”
So Lauren, now 44, looked into producing, which was daunting, too. “People have a very strange perception of what a producer is,” he says. “They think you’re a money guy, but the other part is about having taste, trying to find great material and fathering a project all the way through—it’s the harder road.”
The first film he produced came out of his love for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. He noticed rap stars moving to East Hampton near where his family had a house. “These artists started living the American dream, saying, ‘Hey, Ron Perelman, I’ve made it just as much as you, I’m moving right next to you’—that’s today’s Gatsby.” He decided to make a modernized version in which Gatsby was African-American. The film, G, came out in 2002, after years of effort to convince the film community to embrace the idea.
His next film came from a chance meeting with producer-director Wes Anderson, who he met on a train from New York to L.A. (both preferred trains to flying). A friendship was born, and Anderson convinced Lauren to be an executive producer of The Squid and the Whale.
In the next few years he would go on to produce two documentaries, This is Not a Robbery and Life 2.0, until the script for The Spectacular Now came across his desk in 2012. One of the writers, Scott Neustadter, had interned for Lauren and went on to write 500 Days of Summer. Lauren signed on immediately. That fall, after reworking the film, recasting and editing it, they made it into Sundance, where it went on to win a special jury prize. “It reminded me of the nostalgic days of the ’80s seeing The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” says Lauren.
A24 Films bought the distribution rights to The Spectacular Now at the festival and released it this summer in a handful of theaters to an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
“You just hope that it builds and builds,” says Lauren, while in his office on a Saturday, as he works on expanding the film’s release. “This is a marathon, not a sprint, based on word of mouth.”
So far the word has traveled fast. Just a few days before, producer Judd Apatow had tweeted: “See it.”
The Local Legacy
His dad may be best known for his role in Jaws, but Christian Scheider is definitely not afraid to go in the water, whether it’s the ocean near his house in Sagaponack, or the deep, shark-filled waters of moviedom. Already, the 23-year-old has had a number of theater roles and landed his first part in a major feature film, Words and Pictures, a Fred Schepisi-directed movie in which he shares screen time with Clive Owen.
Scheider also believes in creating his own acting opportunities. “The only downside of being an interpretive artist is that I don’t originate my own projects,” he says. “But I’ve sort of circumvented that.” Last year he produced, directed and performed in a reading of 8, Dustin Lance Black’s dramatization of the Prop 8 trials, in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
This summer, Scheider teamed up with a friend and visual artist, Tucker Marder, to adapt a short story by Ray Bradbury into a play, The Murderer, which was performed in Sag Harbor in August. “It had music and serious drama and puppets and comedy and all sorts of crazy stuff,” Scheider says.
Though he’d been planning to move to the city after graduating from Bard (philosophy major, theater minor) in 2012, Scheider changed his plans when his mother remarried and moved to Vermont. “My sister Molly wanted to finish up her senior year at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor,” he explains, so he ended up moving home instead. “Part of me hated it, part of me was grateful. It’s unfashionable to say, but I really love living out here. There’s a way in which the water and air and light make it impossible not to be inspired, no matter what the medium.”
Surprisingly, Scheider decided to become an actor relatively recently. “Only when my father died [in 2008] did I become interested in why he loved it so much. Before you try acting, the whole thing gets this air of unbelievability when your own father is on-screen.” Which is why Jaws never scared him, even when he first saw a snippet of it when he was 10. “Plus, I grew up on the ocean and have seen actual sharks—and an actual shark and a mechanical shark are two very different things.”
This fall, Scheider plans to pursue film, theater and other projects, but always maintaining his ties to a place he loves. “I grew up out here,” he says of the East End. “To me, it’s not about ‘having a place in the Hamptons,’ or about the scene. It’s my home.”
The Wave Runner
Surfers cannot live by board alone—which is why Mikey DeTemple went from riding waves to making films about them. DeTemple, 30, who was raised on Long Island, became a professional surfer when he was 16.
“I competed on the world tour for the better part of 10 years,” he says. But by his mid-20s, he was burned out. “So I started traveling to do photo shoots. After a while, I thought it would be pretty amazing to do a film of my travels.”
The result was Picaresque, shot on Super 16 and High Def and released in 2009. His second film, Sight/Sound, came out in 2011. Both are artsy, dreamy travelogues, featuring shots of stunning locations all over the world, with no dialogue or narration. “I just let the locations and the editing tell the story,” DeTemple says.
But you don’t have to be a surfing fanatic to enjoy them. “They’re basically just travel pieces,” he says. “Surfing is almost an afterthought. It’s beautiful imagery, and surfing is just what ties it all together.” He’s shot in places as diverse as Australia, Nicaragua, Maine, France and the Bahamas. For each location, he recruits his surfer friends to be filmed riding both longboards and shortboards. “They’re usually the same kind of surfers I am—riding everything you could ever ride.”
Though there’s better surfing elsewhere, DeTemple is staying put on the East End. “For me, it’s where I grew up and where I learned to surf. It’s brought me everything I have.” And there’s another huge draw for him. “There’s also a fun community and a fun vibe,” he says. “The East End and Brooklyn are the two most creative places in the world. A lot of my friends do film and art, and I’m definitely very inspired by everyone around me. My editor, Isabelle Freeman, is amazing—she makes me want to work on more and more visually amazing pieces.”
In the future, DeTemple would love to move into films that are—shocker—not about surfing. “So far, though, I haven’t really had the right idea,” he says. In any case, he’ll never give up riding waves.
“As long as I can stand on my own, I’ll be surfing.”
With her pedigree, it was perhaps inevitable that Rachael Horovitz would have a career in the arts. Her father is playwright Israel Horovitz; her mother, Doris Keefe, was a painter; and a brother, Adam Horovitz, is a member of the iconic Beastie Boys. Even that wouldn’t guarantee that your first two major projects as an independent producer would be front and center at the Emmys and the Oscars—but that’s what happened to Horovitz with Grey Gardens and Moneyball.
The part-time Springs resident has blazed her own trail, and it’s an especially hot one right now.
From an early age she was exposed to the Hamptons and to movies, and fell in love with both. “I discovered the East End in the 1980s through my very dear friend Priscilla Morgan, who was close to Bill and Lisa de Kooning,” recalls Horovitz. “And my mother’s main influence on me was her love of life and art—she was the one who first showed me the documentary Grey Gardens.”
That 1975 film by Albert and David Maysles—about Big Edie and Little Edie Beale and their decaying East Hampton estate—stuck with Horovitz. But there was a lot to learn about the film business first. She was an executive at New Line Cinema and Revolution Studios, where she was involved in such projects as State and Main and About Schmidt, when she did two bold things: She struck out on her own as a producer, and she made NYC the headquarters for her production company.
“After years of working for other people, I was in a position to work on whatever film I wanted, and I went back to the idea of the Edies,” Horovitz says. “I called Al Maysles and the rights were available and off we went. It turned out well, because we had the right combination of creative collaborators... and the gods on our side.” The award gods took an interest too, as the 2009 HBO movie garnered six Emmys, including one for Jessica Lange, and a Golden Globe for Drew Barrymore, and the Producers Guild awarded Horovitz with producer of the year.
Two years later, Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, hit the big screen. Much has been written about the changes the production went through, but the constant during that time was Horovitz, who, though a baseball fan, saw the film about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane as “a love story between a man and his job.” Critics raved, and best picture was just one of the six Oscar nominations it received.
She has just begun production on two movies: one in Paris, involving her father and Dame Maggie Smith, and the other in Detroit, directed by a young filmmaker from Paris. “They’re both wonderful scripts and I’ll work with people I care about,” she says. “I’m learning a lot every day. Imagine not learning, that would be time to stop.”
Brainteaser: What do Moses, Cleopatra, Moby Dick, Doc Holliday, George Washington and the Hamptons have in common? Answer: Bill Collage. The Sag Harbor resident, along with his screenwriting partner, Adam Cooper, are on a run right now, with well-known figures from history contributing to what looks to be a very bright future.
For up-and-coming players in the feature film and cable TV game, the duo already has an impressive scorecard. Collage and Cooper wrote the first-draft screenplay for Exodus, to be directed by Ridley Scott, with Christian Bale as Moses. For BBC America, they’re writing a 38-episode series on Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. They’ve also written a screenplay for a new version of Herman Melville’s white-whale tale. Doc Holliday, the Western gunman so dangerous he made his pal Wyatt Earp look like Mr. Rogers, is the title character of an HBO miniseries they’ve scripted for Ron Howard to direct. And the screen scribes have embarked on the script for a feature on George Washington, to be directed by Black Swan’s Darren Aronofsky.
Collage and Cooper—who lives in L.A., where they’re probably referred to as Cooper and Collage—may be the new kids on the Tinseltown block, but they don’t have a first-class film pedigree. Cooper was raised on Long Island, and Collage grew up on a 10-acre farm outside Erie, Penn., that wasn’t wired for cable but did have “a VHS that looked like the Millennium Falcon,” he says, referring to the junkyard-ready spaceship piloted by Harrison Ford in Star Wars. “I’ve watched everything that Steven Spielberg has done mega-mega-multiple times, with Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List being two of my favorite movies.”
Collage connected with Cooper at the University of Michigan in 1989 over their love of film. Upon graduation, they got busy. “We wrote about a dozen scripts before getting a break,” Collage says. “I think it’s now 34 movies sold and five TV shows created since then.”
Up until 2008, most of what the pair did wasn’t, well, HBO or BBC material. “We did a combo-plate of funny and serious stuff. Mostly, the funny/action stuff got made, with Tower Heist, Get Smart and Accepted being among the biggest. When the Writers Guild strike happened, we decided to focus on very, very serious stuff. It was a major risk. But the good news is that, with screenwriting, the proof is in the pages. You turn stuff in, people dig it, hopefully, and you get to keep doing it.”
One example of that is Exodus, which is to begin shooting this month for a December 2014 release. “The exhilaration of it getting made can’t be measured,” Collage says. “And who doesn’t want to stand on set and watch the parting of the Red Sea?
“It literally has us pinching ourselves to make sure it’s us getting these opportunities. We take nothing for granted. And we still love this industry, for all it can give to worldwide audiences to think about and enjoy.”