Bang Bang Baby wraps principal photography

Producer Daniel Bekerman (pictured) discusses his latest project, which completed a 20-day shoot at Cinespace Studios in Toronto this week.
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“It’s the kind of movie that isn’t getting made that much these days,” producer Daniel Bekerman, Scythia Films, says of his latest feature film project, Bang Bang Baby, which just completed principal photography at Cinespace Studios in Toronto.

A musical that’s “Tim Burton in scope with an Ed Wood budget,” Bang Bang Baby is a rock and roll coming-of-age story that is something of a coming-of age-story unto itself.

Written by Jeffrey St. Jules – who also directs and recently won a Canadian Screen Award for best documentary short – the film’s script was the first by a Canadian to be workshopped at the Cannes Résidence du Festival, way back in 2005.

Finally taking shape in the last couple of years, Bang Bang Baby is set in the 1960s, in the style of the Elvis films of the era. It follows protagonist Stepphy, a small-town girl whose rock and roll dreams take a turn for the unexpected when a rock star’s car breaks down in town.

Shameless‘s Justin Chatwin plays rock star Bobby Shore and Suburgatory‘s Jane Levy is Stepphy; the project was also able to nab famed character actor Peter Stormare for the role of George.

The financing for the film came together in 2013, a year Bekerman likes to refer to as his “year of the labs.” Participating in everything from TIFF’s Studio program to the Berlin Talent Campus, Bekerman networked, workshopped and learned how creative financing can make an director’s unique vision come to life.

“I was able to really learn enough [in the labs] that I was able to be quite innovative with the way I put together the financing and really maximize every possible avenue that we have to finance an independent movie in Canada,” Bekerman explained.

Telefilm was the first to come on board, followed by producer Jonathan Bronfman of JoBro Films, who secured further private financing, and finally the Harold Greenberg Fund. Toronto-producer Don Allen also boarded the project, and Scythia and JoBro secured vendor partnerships with the likes of Toronto’s Urban Post, Intelligent Creatures and Cinespace studio.

Bekerman credits Telefilm with providing the foundation for the financing to come together.

“I found that once Telefilm believed in the project enough to commit, I was able to translate that and make it grow into a production that I think had the capacity to fully realize Jeffrey’s vision,” he explained. “It goes to show how that initial belief in a project can translate to something much more.”

The coproducers have also taken a different tack with sales: more specifically, they and the film’s financiers agreed not to sell the film before it was completed – despite early interest – believing that the film’s true value and potential will not be revealed until completion. As such, all territories are still open and the film’s partners are eyeing a splashy festival premiere, hopefully aided by St. Jules track record of short-film screenings and major festivals such as TIFF and Sundance.

The confidence to turn down early sales speaks to the producers’ belief in the film’s potential, despite its unconventional synopsis (which does include a Robert Rodriguez-like reference to a spill at the local chemical plant).

“I’ve never managed to make what I feel is a film with a lot of potential to reach a big audience without having to pre-sale,” Bekerman told Playback. “I’ve never seen that done or been able to do that.

“I believe there is potential for a wide audience to really fall in love with this movie,” he added. “And that’s a unique combination that really excites me – a unique vision with the potential for broad appeal.”

Scythia and Phenomenal Films’ The Husband was released theatrically this March in Canada.