There may at long last be light at the end of Haiku Tunnel, Josh Kornbluth's late-'80s autobiographical monologue about a male temp at a law firm. In its star-crossed journey from stage to screen, Haiku Tunnel was invited to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, optioned by Miramax, tire-kicked by wannabe directors Peter Weller and Bronwen Hughes (Harriet the Spy), and dumped by Miramax when the studio abandoned quirky small films for the shiny lucre of Shakespeare in Love and Scream. For a while, S.F. filmmaker David Munro (Bullethead) teamed up with Kornbluth, before wearying of the financing hunt.
Last fall, Kornbluth organized a screenplay reading at Z Space Studios with his younger bro, Jacob, and top local actors like Helen Shumacher and Nancy Carlin. "Our goal was to come up with a character-based, actor-based independent film," says Jacob, a screenwriter and theater director who's worked as an assistant director on six L.A.-shot features. "We're dangerously close to going into preproduction -- just a few checks away. If everything goes perfectly, we'll be in preproduction at the beginning of March and in production one month later."
The Kornbluths will share directing chores (they're weighing the allure of DV against Sundance's standing offer of a 35mm package), while Carlin stepped up as producer. "Asking for money for a film Josh wrote is a positive experience," she says. "People like Josh, and he has a lot of fans." The time is now, says the only extant movie producer without a cell phone. "The next couple of weeks are crucial for getting all those promised checks in hand," Carlin says.
Hope and Glory
The charming Belic brothers were in Tuva showing Genghis Blues when they got the news that their crowd-pleasing documentary had copped an Oscar nomination. Says Rick Norris of Roxie Releasing, the film's distributor, "I have to say it was expected. It always felt like something the Academy would go for." Norris is mulling strategies to procure a slot on the Oscar telecast for the film's star, throat singer Paul Pena. "One of the things we're hoping is not only that he attend the ceremony but that he perform with [Tuvan master] Kongar-ol Ondar. Imagine if you had Buena Vista Social Club [of Wim Wenders' Oscar-nominated doc] and Paul Pena. God, what fun that would be."
Norris had booked Genghis Blues around the country through April, and expects the nomination to push bookings solidly through the summer. One of the nine existing prints, however, is permanently out of circulation since the Academy keeps a print of all nominated films. Higher TV, foreign, and home video revenues -- driven by that coveted Oscar nod -- presumably will ease the pain.
In & Out
The UCLA Film & Television Archive chose Rob Epstein and the late Richard Schmiechen's brilliant The Times of Harvey Milk for its ongoing preservation project. The restoration includes bumping the Academy Award-winning 1984 documentary (which I've trumpeted more than once in this space) from 16mm to 35mm. NYC's Film Forum is interested in playing the fabulous new print this fall in repertory with Paragraph 175, Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's brand-new Sundance prizewinner. (San Francisco dates have yet to be determined, but we know the location: the Castro.) Also on the horizon: the DVD release of The Celluloid Closet.
Michael Fox is host ofIndependent View, which airs Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on KQED Channel 9.