Indie filmmaker and Slamdance Film Festival co-founder Dan Mirvish has just wrapped principal photography on his new feature film, “Open House.” The film, a real estate musical, features a large multi-generational ensemble cast that includes Oscar-nominee Sally Kellerman (“MASH”), Kellie Martin (“ER”, “Life Goes On”), Anthony Rapp (A Beautiful Mind, “Broadway’s Rent”), Ann Magnuson (Panic Room), James Duval (“The Doom Generation,” Donnie Darko), Jerry Doyle (“Babylon 5”), Ian Whitcomb (“The Cat’s Meow”), Robert Peters (Ocean’s Eleven), Hedy Burress (“First Monday”), Jenna Leigh Green (“Sabrina the Teenage Witch”) and Branden Williams (“Can’t Hardly Wait”) among others.
The film was produced by director Mirvish and Stephen Israel (Exec Producer, “Swimming with Sharks”) under their respective Bugeater Films and Neofight Films banners. Mirvish co-wrote the screenplay with Lawrence Maddox.
“Open House” follows a larcenous group of people as they make their way through a series of real estate open houses on a Sunday afternoon. The film is based in part on a short that Mirvish produced last year as part of the Seattle Film Festival’s “Fly Filmmaker” series. The short went on to play at several other festivals.
The three-week shoot took place in the LA-area and was beset by the typical problems associated with low-budget independent films: production was shut down by police on the first day; there were two production car accidents before the first shot was even taken; and three hours before shooting, one cast member had to be replaced due to a painful bout of “enlarged testicles.” “But once we got past those first few hurdles, the production went very smoothly,” said Israel. “Except for the day the city decided to resurface one of the streets where we were shooting.”
“The cast – most of whom have never sung on screen – were equal parts talented and brave to participate in this kind of musical,” said Mirvish. Unlike most of the recent spate of big-budget Hollywood musicals, “Open House” uses all original music and the actors sang live on set, rather than lip-syncing to prerecorded music.”
The production was also likely the first feature to be shot on the newly released digital format pioneered by Panasonic in their DVX100 camera. “These cameras shoot 24p, but they use the cheap and easy medium of miniDV to capture the image,” said Mirvish. “For the low-budget filmmaker, I think this will be a revolutionary format.”
Mirvish previously directed the cult hit “Omaha (the movie),” which he self-distributed theatrically before airing on the Sundance Channel. The film was just released on DVD in a unique arrangement where it was packaged into 350,000 Pioneer DVD players sold in North America.
Along the way, Mirvish also co-founded the Slamdance Film Festival, which is widely regarded as one of the top ten film festivals in the US, if not the world. Mirvish has stayed active in Slamdance over the years in a variety of roles, including feature programming, and MCing most of the annual Park City screenings. “Slamdance’s motto is ‘by filmmakers, for filmmakers’ and after spending the last several years helping other filmmakers, it was time for me to get back into the trenches and make another feature,” said Mirvish. “If you look closely at the cast and crew, you’ll find a number of Slamdance alumni (including Rapp, Peters and Burress). The festival has become a great community of filmmakers and actors who help each other out.” Producer Stephen Israel has also been heavily involved with Slamdance in the last five years as a programmer and advisory board member.
“Open House” does not yet have distribution but is planned to hit the festival circuit next summer.