LA AMERICAN FEMME is a feature film currently in development, written and directed by Charles Haine, produced by Carol Abney.
Legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc pursues the heart of a local beauty, while shooting a film in 1967 Bakersfield. Forty years later, a desperate college professor struggles to solve the mystery of why the film was buried
Documentary filmmaker and Harvard professor ERROL THOMAS finds a lost 1967 film, Things You Should Know About a Woman, by legendary French filmmaker JEAN-LUC. A pioneer of the French New Wave of cinema, finding a lost Jean-Luc film is like finding a lost Beatles album. It’s the kind of break that can make a career, and Errol, deep in a fierce rivalry for tenure at Harvard, needs just that break. If Errol can discover why Jean-Luc hid this film from the world he’s a lock for tenure. But if he can’t, he will most assuredly be passed up. And no one is asked to stick around Harvard after they’ve been passed up for tenure.
The tenure committee meets in two weeks, but Errol arrogantly refuses to show his precious project to anyone but his dean, SHELDON, until it’s finished. Sheldon pleads with him; he’s stuck his neck out for Errol and this puts him in a very difficult spot. Unmoved, Errol ignores Sheldon’s pleas. He travels from Cambridge to Bakersfield, the location of the lost film, on a quest to discover why one of the greatest filmmakers of all time would hide his most personal work from the rest of the world.
La American Femme uses Errol’s investigation as the entry to point to 1967. A disillusioned and heartbroken Jean-Luc retreats to Bakersfield from San Francisco where he’s supposed to be filming a documentary on the Rolling Stones. There he meets an achingly beautiful local girl PARKER STEWART and her feisty, activist aunt CAROL. Carol runs the Central Valley Arts Council and she knows exactly who Jean-Luc is. She commissions him to make a new revolutionary movie. In Godard’s current state of mind there is only one topic worth exploring. He chooses as his film Things You Should Know About a Woman. And he wants Parker to help him make it.
Parker is initially resistant. She wants nothing to do with an arrogant Frenchman. But as Jean- Luc and Parker explore their movie together, an undeniable attraction blossoms between them. He sees something special in the sheltered beauty, and she slowly melts the snow on his world- weary heart. Despite the fact that Parker is already betrothed to her high school sweetheart, rodeo-man BRIAN, the two fall deeply in love.
As we cut back and forth in time, Errol discovers more about that summer and the lost film, but he can’t seem to locate anyone who can tell him why it was hidden. Time is running out for him. But then he finds Carol. Unlike the gatekeepers to the other clues, Carol feels deeply about the events that summer. She has no interest in the world finding out about Things You Should Know About a Woman, so she staunchly denies any knowledge of the film, confusing and frustrating Errol. He is now surely doomed to lose everything he’s worked for.
His strength renewed by Parker’s love, Jean-Luc returns to his world renowned career. But their romance ends like so many others do: with two broken hearts. He unthinkingly violates her trust and she realizes he loves making movies more than he could ever love her. So she leaves him.
With new courage of her own, she escapes Bakersfield on a journey to find what the world offers. Devastated, Jean-Luc gives the film to Carol to show Parker that she means more to him than any film ever could. Carol is the one who then buries the film.
As we cut back to the present, Errol discovers the biggest mystery of all: Parker and Jean-Luc had an illegitimate son, GENE. Gene never knew who his father was, and exploiting the news of a secret love-child could save Errol’s career. But instead, he makes the self-sacrificing choice to leave the film with Gene to do with as he pleases. Errol returns to Harvard defeated, yet realizing his integrity and humanity mean more to him than tenure ever could.
The Director’s Vision
With my years of experience as a cinematographer and a professor of visual design, it should come as no surprise that I've been planning the directorial vision for LA AMERICAN FEMME since I started the writing process.
The most obviously element is the dual story-lines, present and past tense, Errol and Godard. My plan has always been to execute the past storyline in glorious, rich, saturated colors and within a widescreen tapestry. This style, combined with long takes and choreographed set-ups, is designed to create a romantic world for the character to inhabit and to be a sumptuous ode to the beauty of a rural world that is often under-appreciated.
This will contrast both the film within a film (TYSKAAW), which will be in 1.33x1 aspect ratio instead of widescreen (as would fit how Godard would have shot it), and will have a mix of color schemes changing with various vintage film stocks and also to fit the mood of each moment.
Errol's timeline will exist in 1.85x1, a modern, traditional aspect ratio that will give us a safe, grounded feeling in his world. His colors won't be completely de-saturated, but will be more muted and less warm and inviting as the color scheme we see in Godard's past.
My goal is to work with the actors to build realistic, naturalistic performances. I'm less interested in gigantic, bombastic, overly charismatic portrayals of these figures than I am a real exploration of what it feels like to go through experiences like this, to feel connected to another human again after you've been afraid that you might be shut off from that feeling forever.
It's that combination of sumptuous visual images with realistic emotional engagement that I feel will make LA AMERICAN FEMME a success.
By releasing a large volume of the dailies online in the H.265 codec, shooting specific footage to make fan engagement more possible, and holding contest to encourage fan-created edits of the footage and their own contribution to the project, we hope to change the dynamic of the relationship between the filmmaker and audience, and while doing so change how a film is marketed.