“I AM SAM”
About The Production
Making ‘I Am Sam’ would not have been possible without the Los Angeles-Based L.A. Goal , a non-profit organization founded in 1969 that serves adults with developmental disabilities. Director/co-screenwriter Jessie Nelson and co-screenwriter Kristine Johnson made extensive visits to the center while writing the screenplay focusing particularly on mentally-challenged parents. “They were so non-judgemental,” recalls Nelson. “They were proud of every accomplishment.” Adds Johnson, “I know that many of the people we met had a lot of pain in their lives, but they were very open with us and had so much integrity as human beings.”
The project found a home at the Bedford Falls Company, producers of such recent Academy Award-winning films ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘Traffic’, when the company’s president Richard Solomon brought the project to co-founders Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. “This story is about the creation of a very unusual family, which is something we’re always interested in,” notes Zwick. Adds Herskovitz, “The script was impressively truthful and faced up to the reality of a man like Sam and what it means for him to try to raise a child. It didn’t shrink from the hard questions.”
The Journey to find the right actor to portray Sam began and ended in Milan, Italy, where Jessie Nelson was vacationing with her family while at the same time Sean Penn, who had recently read the script, was working on an another film. “Sean hadn’t formally committed yet, we were sort of circling each other, and while he was telling me about an idea he had for a scene, he stood up for a second and walked as Sam, “ Nelson recalls. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, this is too good to be true.’ In that moment and in that walk I was able to see the whole movie so clearly.”
“The script really resonated with me and touched me as a parent,” says Penn.
With Penn signed on as Sam, Nelson felt that she had an actor who could bring the unique character to life in a completely original and authentic manner. “I knew how deep Sean could go and how meticulously he searches for the truth of a character,” states the director. “To me he’s the most brilliant actor of his generation. From the moment he came aboard, I feel like it elevated the whole project.”
Penn’s involvement in the project brought him and the filmmakers back to L.A. Goal. ” When Sean got there he disappeared into the centre and immersed himself in the experience,” recalls screenwriter Johnson. “He didn’t
bring any ego with him. He was there to discover and learn.”
“I wanted to go there to observe and be around people who face the kinds of challenges that the character of Sam encounters in the story,” Penn says. “ I have a relative with Down Syndrome,but I hadn’t spent any social time with other mem of my age who where mentally disabled. There was an increasing comfort level in both directions with each visit ro L.A.Goal, as we began to realize that there’s just not that many really big differences between us about the important things in life.”
“Sean same to L.A.Goal and I think he fit in pretty well,” says cast Jose Rosenberg, a long-standing member of the organization.. “He made us feel very comfortable and everyone liked him because he is a good person, which made me feel good about being Sam’s friend in the movie.”
Rita Harrison, the high-powered, high-strung attorney who becomes Sam’s counterpart in his quest to reclaim his daughter, was the next crucial role to cast.
Nelson, who had previously worked with Michelle Pfeiffer when she co-wrote the screenplay for ‘The Story of Us’, had the acclaimed actress in mind from the start. “I love the idea of taking someone that the audience has certain expectations about the pushing it in a whole other direction,” states the director.”But I didn’t know if she would take the leap of faith with me. She is an extraordinary dramatic actress with great depth and soul, but she has great comedic timing. It’s such a rare combination.”
Like Penn, whom Pfeiffer had attended the same acting class with twenty year before, Pfeiffer found herself profoundly moved by the story. “Stories about family and what defines a parent really resonate with me,” says Pfeiffer. “But I was a little nervous about the characters. Rita is so self-obsessed and busy that it takes her ten minutes into the scene to even realize that Sam is mentally challenged in some way.”
“Michelle’s the greatest: beautiful, vulnerable, edgy and always brave in her performances,” says producer Marshall Herskovitz, “She’s certainly an easy ans obvious choice for a part like this, and a wonderful counterpart to Sean.”
The filmmakers were next faced with the challenge of finding a young actress who had intellectual and emotional maturity beyond her years while still retaining the innocence and vulnerability of a child. They found Lucy Diamond in virtual unknown Dakota Fanning.
“Dakota possesses a real strength and wisdom that is well beyond her years,” observes director Nelson. “As it turns out, she has a relative this is similar to Sam’s character, and I think growing up around him has enabled her bring a certain empathy an dimension to her character.”
Nelson adds the Fanning also surprised her as an actor: “She often come to me after a take, saying, “I think I could go farther; I think I could give your more.’ To know rhe range of her talent as 7 years old is just astounding and we were lucky to have her in the film.”
The filmmakers cast Dianne West as Annie, Sam’s helpful and nurturing neighbor. “Dianne is an extraordinary gifted actress and was our first choice for the part,” says producer Richard Solomon. “We really went after her.” “Dianne liked the material so much she was willing to fly back and forth between New York while shooting ‘Law and Order’,” says Edward Zwick. “She brought something to the role that was beyond our expectations.
To play the Country Counsel attorney Turner, the filmmakers cast Richard Schiff, one of the stars of the acclaimed NBC series “The West Wing.” “Richard is an actor we’ve worked with a lot and now, with the success of ‘The West Wing,’\ the world knows about his abilities,” says Zwick.
Laura Dern, who has starred is such controversial projects about parenting as “The Bay Dance” and ‘Citizen Ruth’, takes on the role of Randy, Lucy’s foster mother. “Laura brings such an inherent sympathy and humanity to the part, there’s no side to this character that could be perceived as arch or diabolical,” says Solomon.
To Portray Sam’s circle of friends, the filmmakers discovered their ensemble in unlikely but, in the end, ideal places. Doug Hutchinson who is best known for his chilling roles in “The X-Files” and ‘The Green Mile’, took his part as Ifty seriously enough to stay in character throughout production. “The Character of Ifty is Sam’s best friend, so there was always the the hope that someone would come in and capture that rapport and be as unique a character throughout the audition and we both thought to ourselves, ‘Does he really have this condition?’ We looked at each other and knew right in the moment he was Ifty.”
Though me came in read for a different role altogether, Stanley DeSantis struck Nelson as the perfect embodiment of the character Robert’s paranoia and anxiety while still making him such a caring friend to Sam, says Nelson.
The last pieces of the puzzle to be cast for the film were the characters of Brad and Joe, the remaining members of Sam’s group. While writing the script, Nelson and Johnson based the roles on the characteristics of Brad Allan Silverman and Joseph Rosenberg, two long-standing members of L.A.Goal. So, it only seemed natural to the filmmakers to cast the two individual as the characters in the film.
“I had always wanted to have real disabled actors in the movie, but I also wanted the right people for the role,” explains Nelson. “Brad and Joe are such wonderful actors that it wasn’t as if we had disabled people.”
Since 1990, L.A.Goal has had a pioneering therapeutic arts program that proves people with developmental disabilities a forum to express feelings that they are not able to articulate in conventional ways. Both Silverman and Rosenberg participated in the acting program, with Rosenberg appearing in Los Angeles production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cats,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Peter Pan.”
“I knew that the film would be significantly enhanced by their presence because of the whole film grew out of our experiences with them. It was so evident that they were meant to be part of it,” Nelson notes.
The filmmakers agreed they’d not only assembled a dream cast in terms of actors, they also felt everyone shared a passion for the project. “For everyone, this was a journey about doing great work and we are blessed to have these people in the film,” says producer Richard Solomon,
Prior to the start of production , Nelson knew the best way to rehearse her accomplished group of actors was to discuss the script and “make sure the actors were comfortable with the beats of the film and each other,” she says, We didn’t want to over-rehearse so that we could capture a kind of freshness, spontaneity an reality on film.”
Principal photography commenced at the Los Angles County Museum of Art, with particular drama and anticipation attached to the first day of production. “I didn’t actually see how Sean was going to play his character until the first day of shooting, “recalls Pfeiffer.
“I think it worked on many levels for both of us because we didn’t really have to spend endless hours discussing our characters. It was really just about showing up and discovering each other.”
Nelson likens Penn’s work on the film to “having Michael Jordan on the court. Everybody’s game gets elevated when Sean steps onto the set. He’s like a truth serum that has a ripple effect into every department, and you want every bit of set dressing, every prop and camera angle to completely capture the truth of what he’s doing.
Even when Sean is not on camera he’s going he’s giving so much to the other actors during their close-ups.”
The presence of cast member Brad Silverman and Joe Rosenberg also had a profound effect on the entire production. “They have a great capacity for love, which is in many ways what this movie is about,” says Penn. “You can feel their warmth and honestly when you spend time with them and they have such an inherent sweetness that is infectious and transparent in their performance.”
“On the day when Sean finally took the stand, Brad was crying because he couldn’t understand why anyone would kidnap Lucy and question Sam’s ability to be a good parent,” Nelson recalls. “He felt it so deeply, but he was also having an experience as an actor of getting so into the scene that it felt real to him. There was always that line of their own life experience and their burgeoning technique as actors. It was interesting dynamic to watch evolve.”
Production continued to work its way through the 48-day shooting schedule in such quintessential Los Angles locations as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Veteran’s Memorial Building, Echo Park, Pershing Square and Grand Central Market, as well as IHOP, Target, Payless Shoe Store and Starbucks. In the film, Sam has been working at the Starbucks bussing tables for the past seven years and the filmmakers secured special cooperation from the Starbucks Corporation to ensure an authentic experience of their work environment.
Nelson worked closely with director of photography Elliot Davis (Out of Sight) to bring an intimacy to the camerawork. “I wanted the film to have a look of moments being captured,” says Nelson, “that it was almost like watching a diary of these people’s lives, of moment that normally wouldn’t be seen.”
“Elliot is such an inspiring person to work with,” Nelson continues. “When the actors were crying during a scene, he would come up from behind the camera and be equally sad as if he was right there in the scene with them.”
Davis shot the film predominated with hand-held cameras. “The vision never wavered from Jessie’s essence of what the film was about,” says Davis. “We wanted to do a very subjective view that would allow the viewer to eavesdrop on Sam’s world. From the concept came the hand-held shooting style which allowed for time to be stretched or compressed to develop a form that would allow us to relay whatever emotional impact was needed.”
The lighting, notes Davis, was “always interpreting and expressive. It wasn’t just a passive bystander. Sam had a very fluid point of view where he would be taking in the world around him, and what he became interested or not interested in would dictate the movement of the camera and the lighting. Hand-held zooms helped us emphasize emotional impact from inside him, and the degree of movement was based on what emotions were transpiring.”
Acclaimed film editor Richard Chew(Star Wars, The Conversation) further developed the film’s unique visual and structural style. “It’s been a long journey to find a subjective cutting style to fit the story and camera movement,” says Chew. “Since it’s a very emotional story, Jessie, Elliot and I worked to impose a rawness to the film, using a loose, moving camera along with some improvisation on the set,”
Chew welcomed the challenge of the material, he says, “because I was allowed to break traditional rules about continuity cutting, a style which maintains a strict objective – representational – reality. Jessie encouraged me to explore how to maintain a subjective – psychological, emotional – reality.”
Production designer Aaron Osborne worked with Nelson and Davis in creating distinct worlds for each character to occupy. “We developed the look of the sets by trying to create a world from each one of the dysfunctional points of view and the oppositions that each of the have,” notes Osborne. “A high powered lawyer is going to live in a very different world than a mentally-challenged man.”
Costume designer Susie Desanto spent time at L.A.Goal to prepare Sam’s wardrobe, interviewing the members to help her make choices they would make. “I wanted to know where they shop and what kinds of clothes they like to wear,” she says. “I also talked to them about how they would dress a little girl.”
Desanto continues, “From there I worked with Sam in the fitting room and we found a look that he felt worked. We decided to keep it pretty muted and very simple, Khakis, soft green and pale colors.
Rita’s surrounding would also transform. “We wanted Rita to be very angular and not very friendly.” explains Nelson. “We wanted to show that she hadn’t taken the time to make a home that integrated her child. The production team created the power, money and elegance of her character, while at the same time it was cold, empty and very minimalist.”
Desanto wanted Rita’s style and colors to match her busy and streamlined lifestyle. “She is someone who doesn’t have time for shopping but has a lot of style and money,” the costume designer notes.. “There weren’t a lot of gray areas in Rita life so I wanted to keep her in black and white almost exclusively. Luckily, we had a relationship with Armani and it fit the story that her character would be the type of type of person who just goes to Armani for her clothes. When things get a bit softer towards the end of the film, we added some lavenders and pale blues, and softened the fabrics.”
“Suzy did an incredible job collaborating with Elliot Davis and Aaron Osborne on the wardrobe of this film,”comments Nelson. “She was constantly looking for ways to express the characters.”
When principal photography ended, cast and crew alike felt they had all been on a journey together. “This film was a good an experience as I’ve ever had with a director, “ reflects Penn. “Jessie offered such affection to cast and crew so that everyone really felt they were part of a group at large, all trying to make something truly special.”
“it’s been a crazy and wild ride,” adds producer Richard Solomon. “I think Sean,Michelle and all the actors were extraordinary, and to see Brad and Joe accomplish what they did was one of the most unique experiences of my life. What Jessie accomplished on this film was truly remarkable.”
For Nelson, the process of making ‘I am Sam’ was collaborative effort that touched everyone involved on a personal level. “I truly feel that this is one of these rare opportunities where the combination of what everyone brought to mix elevated the film so much so much that is turned out in a whole other way that exceeded my greatest expectations,” she concludes.
About The Cast
Consistently astounding critics, his peers an audiences with his performances of uncommon intensity, rage and intelligence, award-winning actor and acclaimed filmmaker Sean Penn has become one of the most respected and sought-after artist of his generation. With ‘I am Sam’ he delivers his most unusual and daring performances to date, starring as Sam Dawson, a man with the mind of a seven year-old but a heat of a fighter.
Penn made his feature film acting debut in 1981 in Harold Becker’s ‘Taps’ and went on to win over audiences as the ultimate pothead surfer Jeff Spicoli in Amy Heckerling’s teen classic ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’. Among Penn’s many praised film characterizations are the sleazy lawyer opposite Al Pacino in Brian De Palma’s ‘Carlito’s Way’, for which he received a Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actor; an Irish-American mobster in ‘State of Grace’; a small-town boy drawn into a life of crime by his father in ‘At Close Range’; a young man who falls in love just as he is heading off to fight in World War II in the romance ‘Racing with the Moon’ and a disillusioned American drug dealer-turned traitor in ‘The Falcon and the Snowman’.
In 1996, he received unanimous critical acclaim and Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor for his galvanizing performance as a convicted murderer awaiting execution in ‘Dead Man Walking’. More recently, Penn has garnered critical praise in Terrance Malick’s ‘The Thin Red Line’; Woody Allen’s ‘Sweet and Lowdown’ for which he received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations; the film version of David Rabe’s stage play ‘Hurly Burly’, for which Penn won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival; Nick Cassavetes’ ‘She’s So Lovely’, for which Penn was honored with Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival; Oliver Stone’s ‘U-Turn’; and David Fincher’s ‘The Game’. He also recently starred in ‘Up at the Villa’, ‘Before Night Falls’ and ‘Weight of Water’,
Behind the camera, Penn has written and directed the acclaimed dramatic feature films ‘The Indian Runner’ starring David Morse, Viggo Mortensen, Patricia Arquette and Charles Bronson; ‘The Crossing Guard’ starring Jack Nicholson, Anjelica Huston, David Morse and Robin Wright-Penn; and most recently, ‘The Pledge’, starring Jack Nicholson, Vanessa Redgrave and Robin Wight-Penn.
Penn has also received accolades for his work on the stage. He made his Broadway debut in “Heartland” and most recently was seen in Sam Shepard’s “The Late Henry Moss” in San Francisco.
Three-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Pfeiffer turns in a surprising performance as Rita Harrison, an overtly ambitious, fast-lane lawyer who is focused 100% on success – until see meets Sam Dawson.
Pfeiffer gained her first Oscar nomination for her work in ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, for which she also won a BAFTA Award. She then earned both Oscar and BAFTA Award nominations and won a Golden Globe Award for her performance opposite Jeff and Beau Bridges in ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’. Pfeiffer again garnered Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her work in ‘Love Field’. She has received additional Golden Globe nominations for ‘Married To The Mob’, ‘The Russia House’, ‘Frankie and Johnny’ and Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Age of Innocence.’
Pfeiffer made her feature film debut in ‘Hollywood Knights’ and went on to gain international attention for her work opposite Al Pacino in Brian De Palma’s ‘Scarface’. She later joined Cher and Susan Sarandon as ‘The Witches of Eastwick’, opposite Jack Nicholson.
Through her production company ‘Via Rose’, Pfeiffer has developed her own projects, including Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel ‘A Thousand Acres’. She also produced and starred in the dramatic story of a mother’s journey to recapture her relationship with her missing son in ‘The Deep End of the Ocean’. Her diverse performances also include ‘Ladyhawke’, ‘Tequila Sunrise’, ‘Batman Returns’, ‘Wolf’, ‘Dangerous Minds’, ‘Up Close & Personal’, ‘To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday’, ‘One Fine Day’, the animated epic ‘The Prince of Egypt’, ‘A Midsummers Night’s Dream’, ‘ The Story of Us’ and most recently, the summer blockbuster smash ‘What Lies Beneath’, opposite Harrison Ford.
Pfeiffer will next be seen in the screen version of the bestselling novel ‘White Oleander’.
Seven year-old Dakota Fanning starts as Sean Penn’s extraordinary daughter, Lucy Diamond, who is forced into foster care on her 7th birthday. Fanning began her career at the age of five when she was picked from thousands of hopefuls for a national ‘Tide’ commercial. She went on to land a co-starring role of televisions “ER” and to appear on such prime-time shows as “Ally McBeal,” Strong Medicine,” “C.S.I,” “The Practise,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Spin City,”. She most recently worked on writer/producer Edward Burns’ pilot “The Fighting Fitzgeralds” for NBC.
Fanning’s films roles include ‘Tomcats’, starring Jerry O’Connell, Shannon Elizabeth and Jake Busey and the AFI film ‘Father X-Mas’. Immediately after completing ‘I Am Sam’, Fanning went on to co-star in the Mandolin Entertainment/Propaganda thriller ’24 Hours’, co -starring Charlie Theron and Courtney Love. She will also appear in the upcoming Reese Witherspoon film, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’
Dianne stars as Annie, Sam’s sophisticated neighbor and the 24-hour-a-day advisor who could be his best advocate – if she could leave the house.
Wiest is perhaps best known for her unforgettable appearances in five Woody Allen films: ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’, ‘September’,’Radio Days’,’Hannah and Her Sisters’, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and ‘Bullets over Broadway’, for which she also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Ron Howard’s ‘Parenthood’.
Currently, Wiest is also seen by television viewers as direct attorney Nora Lewin in the acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning series, “Law and Order.”. Among Wiest’s extensive credits are such films as ‘I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can’, ‘Footloose’, ‘The Lost Boys’, ‘Edward Scisssorhands’, ‘Little Man Tale’, ‘The Scout’, ‘Cookie’,’Cops and Robbersons’, ‘The Birdcage’,’The Associate’, ‘Practical Magic’,’ The Horse Whisperer’ and ‘Portofino’, She also starred in Peter Cohn’s ‘Drunks’ which was screened at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, where sher was honored with the Piper Heidseick Tribute for Independent Vision.
Wiest, who began her career touring with the American Shakespeare Company, earned the Obie, Clarence Derwent and Theatre World Awards as Best Actress for her performance in “The Art Of Dining.” She made her stage-directing debut with “Not About Heroes” at the Williamstown Playhouse and starred in “The Summer House” at the Lincoln Center. On television, Wiest also starred in the Canadian series “Road to Avonlea,” for which she won a Emmy Award in 1997.
Doug underwent a profound transformation to play Sam’s good friend Ifty, was most recently seen starring with Tom Hanks in ‘The Green Mile’ and Jamie Foxx in ‘Bait’. His other film credits include ‘A Time To Kill’, ‘Batman & Robin’,’Fresh Horses’ and ‘The Chocolate War’. Hutchison can be seen in the upcoming crime thriller ‘The Salton Sea’ opposite Val Kilmer. He also recently wrapped ‘No Good Deeds’, starring opposite Samuel L.Jackson an Milla Jovovich.
Hutchison is well known for two memorable recurring roles on television – Eugene Victor Tooms on “The X-Files” and the Polaroid Man on “Millennium.” He also appeared regularly on “Party of Five” and “Space Above and Beyond” and was a series regular on “Skip Chasers,” “Planet Rules” and “Local Heroes.”
On the stage, Hutchison has won DramaLogue Awards for his performances in “The Other 5%” at the Santa Monica Powerhouse Theatre and in “The Eight” at the Circle x Theatre in Hollywood. He has also appeared at the Los Angeles Mark Taper Forum in “Julius Ceasar” and “Hope of the Heart,” with the Yale Repertory in “The My House Play” and Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon in “Sparks in the Park.”
A Detroit native, Hutchison attended the renowned Julliard School of Drama in New York City.! He has also trained under legendary acting coach Sanford Meisner and made his professional acting debut in the lead role of Garson Kanin’s play “Time and Chance.”
Stanley portrays Sam’s close comrade Robert, a man who takes paranoia to comical extremes. DeSantis received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Normal Neal Williams in the American Playhouse presentation of Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City.” Other credits for this versatile actor include ‘Ed Wood’, ‘Bulworth’, ‘Truth About Cats and Dogs’, ‘The Birdcage’, ‘Fools Rush In’, ‘Rush Hour’, ‘ClockWatchers’, ‘The Fan’ and, most recently, ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’. He will next be seen in the upcoming films ‘Human Nature’ and ‘Prime Gig’.
Brad Allan Silverman
Brad was the inspirational subject of the ABC television special “The Kid Who Wouldn’t Quit.” The tremendous response to the special led him to supporting role on “Quantum Leap” and “Life Goes On.”
Silverman has also appeared in L.A. Goal productions of “Jukebox Jam”, “ Cats”, “and “Peter Pan.”
Born and raised in Glendale California, Silverman enjoys many sports and is an active artist at L.A. Goal inside Out Productions.
Joseph has appeared in L.A Goal production of “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Cats”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “Peter Pan.” An active sports enthusiast, Rosenberg is a current member of the Los Angeles Special Olympics basketball and bowling teams. His artwork has also been featured in L.A Goal’s exhibitions.
Born in Uruguay, Rosenberg grew up in Los Angeles and is a graduate of Fairfax High School. He has been an active member of L.A Goal for over twenty years, serving as president during 2000.
Richard adds another rivh character to his roster with Turner, the County lawyer who passionately battles Michelle Pfeiffer in court. Schiff is perhaps best know as Toby Ziegler on the Award-Winning series ‘The West Wing’ for which he won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor. But Schiff is also noted for a wide variety of character-driven performances that has made him one of our most prolific character actors today.
An accomplished veteran of over 40 feature film roles, Schiff has been seen in such diverse films as ‘Malcolm X’, ‘Hoffa’, ‘City Hall’, ‘Seven’, ‘ Michael’, ‘ The Lost World’, ‘ Jurassic Park’, ‘ Deep Impact’, ‘Dr.Dolittle’, ‘Living Out Loud’, ‘Forces of Nature’, ‘Heaven’ and most recently ‘Gun Shy’, ‘Whatever it Takes’, ‘Forever Lulu’ and ‘Lucky Numbers’.
On television, Schiff has also guest starred on “Ally McBeal,” “The Practise,” “ER,” “Murder One,” “NYPD Blue,” “LA Law,” “Murphy Brown” and “Chicago Hope,” Schiff began his career as a theatre director for both off and off-off Broadway productions in New York. When he made the move to Hollywood, hre kept his ties to the theatre, joining Tim Robbin’ award-winning “Actor Gang” and starring as “Goose” in the West Coast premiere of David Rabe’s “Goose and Tom Tom,” for which he received a Dramalogue Award for Best Actor. He also garnered an Ovation Award nomination for his role in “Urban Folktales”
Laura Dern portrays Randy, a caring suburban mom, who decides to battle Sean Penn for custody of his daughter. Dern previously garnered an Academy Award nomination for her performance in ‘Rambling Rose’ and received a Golden Globe award for her starring role in ‘Afterburn’.
This past summer, the versatile, Dern was seen in ‘Jurassic Park III’ while last fall she starred in the critically-praised Robert Altman film ‘Dr.T and the Woman’ opposite Ricgard Gere. Most recently she co-starred with Steve Martin in ‘Novocaine’ and William H.Macy is ‘Focus’ based on Athur Millers’ novel.
Dern has been the recipient of numerous film awards including Best Actress at the 1996 Montreal Film Festival for her performance in Alexander Payne dark comedy ‘Citizen Ruth’. Last year, the Sundance Institute honored Dern with the prestigious Piper Heidseick Award for Independent Visions at the Sundance Film Festival.
Dern made her screen debut at the age of seven in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Alice doesn’t Live Her Anymore’. At the age of 11, she co-starred in ‘Foxes’ with Jodie Foster. Dern won the Los Angeles Film Critics New Generation Award for her performance in the coming-of-age story ‘Smooth Talk’. She went on to star in ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Wild at Heart’, which won the Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. Her other film credits include ‘October Sky’, ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘A Perfect World’, ‘Mask’, ‘Fat Man and Little Boy’, ‘Haunted Summer’, ‘Teachers and Ladies and Gentlemen’, ‘The Fabulous Stains’.
Dern made her directorial debut with the short film “The Gift”, which aired as part of Showtime’s “Directed By” series. She also starred in the Showtime’s original film “Down Came A Blackbird.”
Dern’s televsion accomplishments have been acknowledge with a Golden Globe nomination for her role in “The Baby Dance” for showtime and an Emmy Award nomination for her guest-starring rolle in the controversial “Puppy Episode” of the comedy series “Ellen.” She also starred in Showtime’s critically-acclaimed film noir series “Fallen Angel,” for which she received an Emmy nomination.
About The Filmmakers
Jessie Nelson struck a chord in the heart of moviegoers with her directorial debut ‘Corrina’, ‘Corinna’ starring Whoopi Goldberg, Ray Liotta and Tina Majorino. She followed the film by co-writing the 1998 box office hit ‘Stepmon’ starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. Nelson most recently co-wrote and produced with Alan Zweibel ‘The Story Of Us’, directed by Rob Reiner and starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Nelson began her career as an actress in New York working with the Obie Award-winning experimental theatre Mabou Mines in Joseph Papp’s Public Theater. She went on the New York Shakespeare Festival starring opposite Raul Julia in “The Tempest” in central park. Brought out to Los Angeles by Columbia Picture’ talent development program, she went on to act in numerous films and series. Used to the creative collaborative of her New York theatre experiences, Nelson co-wrote her first screenplay (about her experiences as a waitress) which sold to Disney Studios. Surprised by the lack of control writers have over their material, Nelson set out to learn how to direct.
Nelson began her career as a filmmaker when she directed the documentary, “My First Time”, which paved the way for her acceptance into the prestigious Chanticleer program, where she directed the award-winning film “To The Moon Alice” for Showtime. Nelson is married to filmmaker Bryan Gordon and lives in Los-Angles with their daughter Molly June Gordon.
Edward Zwick received an Academy Award as one of the producers of 1988’s Best Picture Winner, ‘Shakespeare In Love’, directed by John Madden, and most recently produced the Oscar winning ‘Traffic’, directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Zwich began directing and acting in high school. He trained as an apprentice at the Academy Festival in Lake Forest, and, while studying literature at Harvard, he continued writing and directing for the theatre. Upon graduation, he was award a Rockefeller Fellowship to study abroad with some of the major innovative theatre companies. In Europe, he supplemented the fellowship income by writing magazine articles and later he worked for Woody Allen in Paris on the film ‘Love and Death’.
Zwick was accepted as a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute, where he directed the short film ‘Timothy and the Angel’, which won first place in the student film competition at the 1976 Chicago Film Festival and caught the attention of the producers of the television series, “Family.” He was invited to write an episode and subsequently became the show’s story editor. He then began directing episodes, and eventually was named producer for the final season.
Zwick later directed such television films and pilots as “Paper Dolls,” “Having it All,” “Making Out” and “The Outsiders.” For his work on television movie “Special Bulletin” (as Director, Producer and Co-writer), Zwick received two Emmy Awards. It also marked the beginning of his collaboration with Marshall Herskovitz, with whom he then created the Emmy Award-winning television show, “thirtysomething.” Later, they would work together on the series “My So-Called Life,” “Relativity” and the current hit “Once and Again.”
Zwich began his feature film career with ‘About Last Night…” He then went on to direct the Academy Award winning film ‘Glory’. Following that, he directed ‘Leaving Normal’ and the hit film ‘Legends Of The Fall’, which won an Oscar for cinematographer John Toll. Zwick then reteamed with Denzel Washington in two timely and relevant films, ‘Courage Under Fire’ and ‘The Siege’.
To date, Zwich has been honored with three Emmy Awards, the Humanitas Prize, the Writers Guild of America Award, two Peabody Awards, a Directors Guild of America Award and the Franklin J.Schaffner Alumni Award from the American Film Institute.
Along with Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz created the Bedford Falls Company in 1985, which immediately made its mark in television with the Emmy Award-winning ABC series “thirtysomething.” For this work on the series, Herskovitz received two Emmy Awards, two Directors Guild Awards, a Writers Guild Award, a People’s Choice Award, and the Peabody Award, among other honors. Herskovitz and Zwick most recently produced the highly acclaimed, Academy Award winning ‘Traffic’, an intricate and moving drama about drugs in American society.
Herskovitz became interested in filmmaking while studying at Brandies University, where he wrote screenplay of “Beowulf” as his senior thesis. After graduation he wrote, produced, and directed a short film entitled ‘In Footsteps’, which gained him acceptance to the American Film Institute in 1975, at which he earned an MFA in 1978. Heskovitz then spent several years writing and directing for episodic television, including such shows as “Family” and “The White Shadow,” until he teamed up with Edward Zwick and create the multi-award winning television movie “Special Bulletin.” Herskovitz won two Emmys, a Writers Guild Award, and the Humanitas Award for his work.
Herskovitz and Zwick then teamed to found The Bedford Fall Company, named for the town in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, as a home for their film and television projects. In addition to “thirtysomething,” the company has produced such acclaimed television dramas as “My So-Called Life,” “Relativity” and the current hit “Once and Again.”
Herskovitz made his feature directorial debut with ‘Jack The Bear’, starring Danny Devito, then produced ‘Legends of the Fall’, starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, and produced the historical epic ‘Dangerous Beauty’ starring Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell.
Richard Solomon is president of The Bradford Falls Company, where he executive produced the Academy Award-winning ‘Traffic’. Under his presidency , the company also produced the acclaimed series “Relativity,” the current hit “Once and Again” and the feature films ‘Shakespeare In Love’ and ‘The Siege’.
Prior to joining the Bedford Falls Company, Solomon was president of Donner-Shuler Proudctions where he co-produced ‘Radio Flyer’, ‘Free Willy’, ‘Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home’, ‘Assassins and Conspiracy Theory’ and also oversaw the development of projects such as ‘Dave and Maverick’.
David Scott Rubin
David Scott Rubin most recently co-produced screenwriter Daniel Waters’ directorial debut ‘Happy Campers’ for Di Novi Pictures. Rubin also produced writer/director Jason Freeland’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s Brown ‘Requiem’ for Lion Gate Films, the 1997 Toronto Film Festival standout ‘Touch Me’ and ‘Cleopatra’s Second Husband’, which premiered at the 1988 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.
Kristine Johnson, who along with co-writer and director Jessie Nelson, spent several years of her life to bring ‘I Am Sam’ from idea to screen. She previously co-wrote ‘Imaginary Crimes’ with Davia Nelson, which starred Harvey Keitel, Kelly Lynch and Fairura Balk. While working with producer Larry Brezner, she was involved with the development of such films as ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ and ‘Coupe De Ville’ and was co-producer of ‘Throw Momma From The Train’. Currently working on a script with director Alison Anders, Johnson lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.
Elliot Davies bring his unique visual sensibilities to ‘I Am Sam’ with a visceral, hand-held style that takes audiences inside Sam’s unpredictable world. Davis previously won acclaim for his stylish cinematography on Steven Soderbergh’s critically acclaimed thriller ‘Out Of Sight’. Davis had earlier earned in Independent Spirit Award for his work on Soderbergh’s ‘The Underneath’ and collaborated with th director on the films ‘Gray’s Anatomy’ and ‘King of the Hill.
Davis has also collaborated with director Alan Rudolph on a number of films, including ‘Equinox’, ‘Love at Large’, ‘Mortal Thought’ and ‘Breakfast of Champion’.
Among his credits are also ‘Forces of Nature’ with Ben Afflect and Sandra Bullock, ‘Lawn Dogs’, ‘Get on the Bus’, ‘Larger Than Life’, ‘Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead’, ‘Mother’s Boys’, ‘The Cutting Edge’, ‘Bright Angel’ and ‘Miles From Home’.
Davis’s most recent films credits include John Schlesinger’s ‘The Next Best Thing’, ‘Light It Up’ and ‘White Oleander’ starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger and Robin Wright Penn.
Aaron Osborne has previously designed for numerous independent films, including ‘Luckytown Blues’, ‘Trippin’, ‘Another Day in Paradise’, ‘Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood’ with the Wayans brothers, ‘Top of the World’ with Dennis Hopper and ‘Spent’. He also served as a production designer on the 1988 television series “Wind on Water” and the 1999 teen hit ‘Drive Me Crazy’.
Osborne also has an extensive theatre background running the Los Angeles Theatre Carnival performance troupe where he is a three-year “Best of LA” Award-winner.
Susie Desanto has collaborated numerous times with Michelle Pfeiffer as the costume designer on the films ‘What Lies Beneath’, ‘One Fine Day’ and ‘Deep End of the Ocean’, as well as the recently-completed ‘White Oleander’. She also designed the costumes for the box office hit ‘Miss Congeniality’, starring Sandra Bullock and Michael Caine.
Her others films credits include ‘Hope Floats’, ‘Bad Girls’, ‘Teaching Mrs. Tingle’, ‘A Dangerous Woman’ and ‘Ruby’.
Richard Chew is an Academy-Award winner for his work as co-editor on the 1977 classic ‘Star Wars’. He was also nominated for an Oscar ans honored with a British Academy Award for ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’.
Prior to that, Chew won the first British Academy Award with Walter Murch for ‘The Conversation.’ Additional credits include ‘Hope Floats’, ‘That Thing You Do!’, ‘Waiting to Exhale’, ‘Singles’, ‘Men Don’t Leave’, ‘Clean and Sober’, ‘Real Genius’, ‘Risky Business’, ‘My Favorite Year’ and ‘Goin’ South’
Most recently he worked on ‘Shanghai Noon’, for which he received an A.C.E. Award Nomination. Chew began his career in documentaries and in 1967 worked as a cameraman and editor on ‘The Redwoods’, which won on Oscar for Best Short Documentary.
Steeped in classical tradition, yet drawn to the idea of turning it on its head, John Powell has composed a series of acclaimed motion pictures soundtracks since arriving in America four years ago. He brought out the film noir undertones of John Woo;s direction for ‘Face/Off’ and co-wrote four imaginative scores for the animated films, ‘Antz’, ‘The Road to El Dorado’, ‘Chicken Run’ and ‘Shrek’ . He’s also the created voice the hip, experimental scores for ‘Forces of Nature’ and ‘Endurance’. Powell’s most recent credits include ‘Evolution’ and ‘Rat Race’.
Powell attended London’s Trinity College of Music, where he studied composition, earning the John Halford and thee Boosey and Hawkes Music College Awards. While at Trinity, Powell joined performance art group Media Arts. With long time collaborate Gavin Greenaway . He composed music and sound for their conceptual performances. Although the duo left the troupe upon granding in 1986, they continue to co-create mixed-media installation pieces with artist Michael Petry, the most recent featuring bare-bottomed men and a German brass ensemble.
Powell made his first foray into feature films at London’s Air-Edel music in 1989. There he work long side composers Hans Zimmer and Patrick Doyle, assisting Doyle with the score of ‘Into the West’ and writing cues and working as an electronic music programmer for Zimmer on ‘White Fang’.
In 1994 Powell left Air-Edel to co-found (with Greenway) London-based commercial music house Independently Thinking Music (ITM). Together they composed scores for more than a hundred high-profile European ad campaigns.
Arriving in the States in 1997, he immediately scored two Dreamworks TV projects: the second season of Steven Spielberg’s “High Incident” and the pilot “For the People.” He also arranged songs composed by Stephen Schwartz for Dreamworks animated feature ‘The Prince of Egypt’.
Some of Powell’s other film credits include ‘With Friends Like These’ and ‘Just Visiting’, as well the upcoming films ‘Eye See You’ and ‘Pluto Nash’.