As of early November, the cast of AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies was back in town filming the show’s third season, work was under way on a second season of Fox News’ Legends and Lies (this time with 12 episodes featuring early American patriots such as George Washington, Paul Revere and Abigail Adams), and shooting for feature films Imperium and Loving recently had ended. As D.L. Hopkins tells us, “It’s a good time to be an actual working Richmond actor.” It’s also a good time to be a crew member: More than 20 VCU School of the Arts students and alumni, who early this year assisted with a still-unreleased adaptation of Macbeth by Turn actor Angus Macfadyen, recently found work on the Loving and Imperium sets, says cinema program director Rob Tregenza. Find out more about some of these projects and others as we look ahead at the year in film, television, books and music.
Richmond filmmaker Drew Bolduc says he’ll likely submit Assassinaut to major festivals such as Cannes, Toronto International and Sundance, as well as genre events like Fantasia and Fantastic Fest. “We definitely want to show it in Richmond at the Byrd,” he adds. (Photo by Kunitaro Ohi)
Richmond filmmaker Drew Bolduc describes his third feature film, Assassinaut, as a “science fiction adventure about a young girl who braves the alien wilderness of a faraway planet to save the president of Earth.” As of press time, there was no release date set.
“We are going to take the film festival route to start and kind of go from there,” says Bolduc. We still have some shooting to do, but I hope to have a polished, finished project by the end of the year or early next year.” He says he’ll likely submit Assassinaut to major festivals such as Cannes, Toronto International and Sundance, as well as genre events like Fantasia and Fantastic Fest. “We definitely want to show it in Richmond at the Byrd,” he adds.
Bolduc estimates the movie’s budget to be $200,000 to $300,000. He says the budget for his 2010 film, The Taint (distributed by Troma Entertainment), was around $5,000,
but that sum does not include the cost of cameras, computers and equipment. Bolduc’s 2014 release, Science Team, cost around $14,000, partly funded by crowdsourcing through Indiegogo.
“Take a typical $200,000 Hollywood movie about two white people that takes place in maybe a couple of locations — what we did with our budget was make the million-dollar movie or the couple-million-dollar movie,” says Bolduc. He says much of the budget went to pay the crew, and for shooting on location at Mountain Lake in Giles County and the battleship Wisconsin in Norfolk. “Creatively, I had free rein to make the movie I wanted to make.” — Benjamin May
Daniel Radcliffe plays an FBI agent who infiltrates a group of white supremacists to thwart a bomb plot. (Photo courtesy of Atomic Features)
The story of an FBI agent (played by Daniel Radcliffe) who infiltrates a group of white supremacists to expose a bomb plot found its way to Hopewell after the UCI races made filming in Richmond impractical. Shooting took place near the city offices and inside the Anchor Room, K&L Barbecue and Hopewell Quick Lunch. Among the local actors to look for: David Bromley, Thor Macht, Alex Miller, Mike Marunde and brothers Devin Druid and Aidan Fiske. A latter 2016 release is planned. lionsgatepremiere.com. —Tina Eshleman
Meg Ryan’s directorial debut, filmed primarily in Petersburg in 2014, had its premiere at the Middleburg Film Festival in late October. (Photo courtesy Atomic Features)
Meg Ryan’s directorial debut, filmed primarily in Petersburg in 2014, had its premiere at the Middleburg Film Festival in late October with Ryan on hand to talk about it. That was followed by sold-out screenings at the Savannah Film Festival and the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville. There was no word by press time about a general release date for the World War II-era story based on William Saroyan’s Pulitzer-winning 1943 novel The Human Comedy. bronstudios.com. —Tina Eshleman
Directed by Jeff Nichols, Loving stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, and was partly filmed in Bowling Green. (Photo by Kent Eanes)
Richmonder D.L. Hopkins and his 11-year-old son, Miles, are among the local actors appearing in the film based on the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the Caroline County couple who successfully challenged Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Also look for actor/musician Coby Batty as a telephone man. Directed by Jeff Nichols, Loving stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, and was partly filmed in Bowling Green. A 2016 release is planned. bigbeach.com. —Tina Eshleman
Shooting the Prodigal
Shot in Richmond, Ashland and Petersburg using lots of local talent, 'Shooting the Prodigal' was written and directed by David E. Powers and produced by the local nonprofit Belltower Pictures. (Photo by Paul Bickford/Belltower Pictures)
In this faith-based comedy, an Alabama pastor decides that making a movie would be a good way to reach young people. Shot in Richmond, Ashland and Petersburg using lots of local talent, it was written and directed by David E. Powers and produced by the local nonprofit Belltower Pictures. In November, Heather Waters, one of the producers, met with potential distributors in Los Angeles. “If all goes well, the film will be picked up and hit theaters next spring or summer,” she says. belltowerpictures.com. —Seth Birkenmeyer
Lisa Wolfinger (right) with director Jeremy Webb and actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead. (Photo by Antony Platt/PBS)
Stories of abolitionists, Confederates and runaway slaves are woven into Mercy Street, an original PBS series that premieres on Jan. 17, right after the third episode in Downton Abbey’s final season. Lisa Quijano Wolfinger, co-creator and an executive producer, talked with us in June on the set at Laburnum House on Richmond’s North Side. Wolfinger says she likes to call the show “Gone with the Wind meets M*A*S*H.” Part medical saga, part family drama, it’s set in 1862 in Alexandria, which is under occupation by the Union Army, in a luxury hotel repurposed as a hospital.
Q&A: Mercy Street's Lisa Wolfinger
Richmond magazine: Tell me about your role in creating the series.
Wolfinger: I came across the story of Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, and just the little blurb that I read I found very intriguing, so I started to dig and I came across Mary Phinney, baroness von Olnhausen’s, memoirs. What I realized was here was a really interesting, vibrant character, a complicated character, a woman in an all-male environment. And it was funny, and I loved the sense of humor.
RM: Josh Radnor, who plays surgeon Jedediah Foster, is best known for the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. How was he chosen?
Wolfinger: The part of Dr. Jed Foster is a key role and we really had to find the right person. We saw a lot of actors and none of them came close. Then Josh auditioned, and I have to confess, I never watched his show. I was really just focused on the audition and what he was bringing to the role and it worked for me. He brought the humor, he brought the comedic timing, but he also brought the intensity and the intelligence that we needed for that character.
RM: What is his character’s relationship with nurse Mary Phinney?
Wolfinger: It’s hot! (Laughs.) The two of them certainly come into conflict in the early episodes, but as with all good romances or love stories, you start in conflict and then you find some chemistry.
RM: What does Mary Elizabeth Winstead bring to the role of Mary Phinney?
Wolfinger: She brings the warmth and the humanity and the complexity that we were looking for in our Mary. She’s such a luminous actress; it’s really exciting to watch her work.
RM: What’s appealing about a hospital setting?
Wolfinger: Setting our drama in this world was kind of exciting because there’s so much going on scientifically and there are so many social conventions being broken and it’s all because of war. It gives us opportunities, for our female characters, especially, to step out of the constraints of society.
RM: What was it like being here for the end of the Civil War Sesquicentennial?
Wolfinger: Having spent four years immersed in Civil War history, to be in Richmond on the anniversary of the fall of Richmond and then the end of the war was really quite profound. That’s one thing I think we’ve all felt here. The Civil War happened 150 years ago, but the scars are still visible and you can feel the ghosts.
RM: Do you think Mercy Street will pick up the audience from Downton Abbey?
Wolfinger: That is certainly PBS’ hope. It’s our hope that we will hold onto that audience and pull them into a new world, and to a new cast of characters and get them excited about some home-grown drama.
RM: Has there been any preliminary work yet on the next season?
Wolfinger: We have a lot of ideas for season two. We’re ready to get back into the writers’ room.
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Kelly Kerney’s book takes place throughout the 20th century in Guatemala — a country you might not have thought much about, lately. The story is the thing, though, and in Richmonder Kerney’s expansive second novel, she places Guatemela’s often bizarre historical juxtapositions against the conflicted lives of the characters. They are visitors and natives, missionaries and politicians.Kerney, educated at Bowdoin College and the University of Notre Dame, is by day an archivist at the Valentine. Her first novel, Born Again, published in 2006, took on the issue of religion and hypocrisy through the eyes of the 14-year-old protagonist, Melanie, whose attempt to reconcile the Bible with Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species lands her in an exorcism — her own. In Kerney’s writing, there is the exposure of all-is-not-what-it-seems, and strange and often dreadful truths are revealed. The spark of the Hard Red Spring story ignited during a modern Latin American history class her freshman year at Bowdoin. “I started researching and writing the book in 2006, and it’s basically been one furious go since then,” she says.To tell these stories, Kerney took a deep research plunge. She explains, “To understand any history, and especially the motivations and actions of people that inhabit that history, you need context that goes beyond one or even two generations. I actually wanted to go farther back than 1902, to Spanish rule. I wanted to go later than 1999, to [the Central America Free Trade Agreement]. I even found myself researching back into the Mayan empire. All these eras cast light on each other — into the past, into the future. But then I’d have a 1,500-page book no one would read.”The novel is told in four sections, taking place in 1902, 1954, 1983 and 1999. A family is present throughout, although the four narrator-protagonists are not related to the family and are from different levels of society. There are many Guatemalan characters, but the stories are told from the perspectives of American women. “This, after all, is the story of American intervention in Guatemala,” Kerney says. These women became more real and complete after her travels and study. She’s stayed close to the actual events within which the characters participate. This is a place where a volcano erupts and the government expects a band to drown out the sound; where a president decides that Pat Robertson and Jesus will save the country and where a United Nations commission must discern the truth about human rights violations.Contemporary politics have colored history and our current national dialogue, but Kerney’s book, she says, isn’t political. “I don’t see a story of the imagination as having anything to do with ‘politics.’ I also think it diminishes a novel, which is hopefully a work of art.” Penguin Random House, 448 pages, $30, March. —Harry Kollatz Jr.
(Image courtesy of Penguin Random House)
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2. The Little Black Fish
This story of Iranian anti-authoritarianism has been illustrated in comic-book fashion and republished by Richmond artist/designer/teacher Bizhan Khodabandeh. The children’s tale, written in 1967 by Persian author Samad Behrangi and banned prior to the 1979 revolution, received this version’s translation through a Farsi-speaking uncle of Khodabandeh’s. “He doesn’t want any recognition, he’s very humble,” the artist says.Behrangi’s original version consisted of prose with award-winning woodblock prints. Khodabandeh started creating this one, which comes out in March, with the birth six years ago of his and dessert artist Amanda Robinson’s daughter. Rosarium Publishing,52 pages, $8.
Khodabandeh and writer James Moffitt are also working on an allegorical six-volume comic-book series, The Little Red Fish. The first volume is due out in April Rosarium Publishing and Sink/Swim Press, 32 pages.
The books concern the modern history of Iran, from the 1953 U.S.- and U.K.-backed overthrow of elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh to the 1979 revolution against the installed shah and the reactionary rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni. At least two more installments are coming in 2016. —HK
(Image courtesy of Rosarium Publishing)
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3. Burn Baby Burn
Meg Medina’s fifth book for young readers is set in the summer of 1977 in New York City’s Queens borough, memorable for a citywide blackout, neighborhoods in flames because of unrest, and the “Son of Sam” murders. It’s the world of teenager Nora Lopez, whose family is facing abuse by her brother. “It’s about the roots of violence, the secrecy in families and the resiliency of young women,” Medina says. Candlewick Press, 308 pages, $18, March. —HK
(Image courtesy of Candlewick Press)
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4. We’ve Already Gone This Far
The collection of interlocking stories by Boston-to-Richmond transplant Patrick Dacey is a novel in pieces about broken people and a shattered time — ours. The inhabitants of Wequaquet are people hanging in and hanging on, some better than others. The book throbs in an aching way, like a Samuel Barber composition for strings. Here are fleeting glimpses of beauty set against a backdrop of disappointment, grief, confusion and love’s complicated possibilities. Henry Holt and Co., 224 pages,$26, February. —HK
(Image courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.)
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5. Kill Jeff Davis
It sounds like a novel, but isn’t. Historian Bruce Venter revisits one of the weirdest events of the Civil War, when ambitious Union cavalry commander Judson Kilpatrick led a so-crazy-it-might-work raid on Richmond from Feb. 28 to March 4, 1864, to free 13,000 prisoners of war. His wingman, youthful, one-legged Col. Ulric Dahlgren, driven by traumatic injuries and a desire for glory,may have sought to take the Confederate president dead or alive. University of Oklahoma Press, 384 pages, $30, January. —HK
(Image courtesy of University of Oklahoma Press)
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6. Adult Daughters
Two sisters spend a weekend with their father in the titular story of this collection by Katy Resch George (pictured). “There’s tension in that phrase,” says George, holder of a master of fine arts in poetry from Brooklyn College and alumna of VCU’s graduate writing program. “You’re an adult, but you’re still your parent’s child. … These women are trying to reconcile who they are and who they want to be.” Kore Press, March. —HK
(Photo courtesy of Katy Resch George; book cover image not available.)
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"It’s the number one question from our fans,” says Bio Ritmo keyboardist Marlysse Simmons: “When are you going to put out a live album?”Aside from a limited-edition DVD in 2011, Live at SOB’s, there’s been no document of the 11-piece salsa’s band’s kaleidoscopic stage act. But that changes next year.Recorded at the Broadberry during two gigs in 2014 and 2015, Bio Ritmo Live in Richmond features 15 prime examples of clave rhythm and Latin soul, touching upon the advances made on the group’s latest studio disc, Puerta Del Sur, but also diving into oldies that go back as far as 2003’s Bio Ritmo green album. “There will be some new songs, too,” says Simmons, adding that the band will celebrate 25 years next fall.The live album will be available as a download on Bandcamp in early February, and through the group’s website. The band, which toured France and Turkey this past summer, also has a new single, “Oriza,” an unreleased track from Puerta Del Sur, available on Peace and Rhythm Records. The 45 is an arrangement of the original by Silvestre Méndez, with a remix by the Whiskey Barons on the B-side. A release party is planned for Dec. 18 at the Broadberry. bioritmo.com. - Don Harrison
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Labor Day Party
This potent jazz EP from a supergroup of some of the best players in and around Richmond has been in the archive for a half decade, but drummer/songwriter Brian Jones says the time is right for its release on his Slang Sanctuary label.“Everything was one-two takes, it was so much fun,” Jones says of the session, conducted at songwriter/producer Chris Keup’s scenic White Star Sound studio near Charlottesville. Jones, who received the Pollak Prize for music from this magazine in 2014, penned the four genre-expanding cuts. “I had all of these songs since Agents of Good Roots broke up,” he says. “I showed them to the band in the afternoon, and we went in and cut them just like that. It took aboutsix hours.”Performers include Jesse Harper (Love Canon guitarist) on lead vocals; Trey Pollard (arranger/producer/guitarist/pedal steelist for Natalie Prass and Spacebomb Records), Adam Larrabee (Love Canon banjo player) and Charles Arthur (a multi-instrumentalist who’s recorded with Austin, Texas-based Slaid Cleaves) swapping guitars; Daniel Clarke (Ryan Adams & The Shining, K.D. Lang) on keyboards and bassist Cameron Ralston (who plays with Matthew E. White) navigating the bottom. The disc will be released in January through Bandcamp, then on a physical disc soon after. More LDP songs are in the pipeline, this time from group members and Chris Keup. “I hope to get everybody back together on Labor Day,” Jones says. brianjonesrva.com, brianjones.bandcamp.com. —DH
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Paulo Franco and The Rateros
Singer-songwriter Paulo Franco, with backing band The Rateros, serves up a smooth cocktail of boot-tapping rock, blues and alt-country. Since his 2012 recording debut, Franco has earned both fans and accolades. His third album, due in the spring of 2016, is in production with help from bassist Bob Rupe — whose recording pedigree includes the Silos, Cracker and Sparklehorse — and keyboardist Daniel Clarke. peflmusic.com. —Jack Cooksey
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This four-piece, experimental Richmond band’s previous release, Is This Chocolate?, was a seven-track recording with elements of jazz and math rock. Dumb Waiter’s new, nine-song LP, Unfortunately, will be released in February on vinyl, with earlier digital availability on platforms such as Bandcamp and iTunes. “It will have you dancing, tearing up, banging your head, smiling and laughing,” says drummer Nathaniel Roseberry. dumbwaiterva.bandcamp.com. —Laura Bittner
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The synth-pop band’s 2013 album In Flight “began as a counter [to] the vapid nature of today’s pop/dance music,” says Chris Cosby, whose brother, Chip, is Heartracer’s other core member. “We don’t think that electronic/dance/pop music and music with intellectual integrity are mutually exclusive.” Heartracer’s new single, “Numb,” is expected to drop during the first quarter of 2016, followed by a self-titled LP. heartracerband.com. —LB
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“This new release will be a continuation in our fight to save rock ‘n’ roll from computers,” bass player Kyle Hermann says of the psychedelic band’s upcoming LP. “We have been writing and exploring new music all year and this … will be a culmination of that effort.” A single, “Taste the Waste,” was released in November, with the entire album available in early 2016, on Bandcamp. imaginarysons.bandcamp.com. —LB
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Marty Key, owner of Steady Sounds, is collaborating with New York label Captured Tracks and Grammy-winning sound masterer Chris King on a reissue of Virginia blues legend John Tinsley’s long-out-of-print Country Blues Roots Revived, originally released in 1978. The LP re-release, planned for March, will come with a 45-rpm disc of Tinsley’s first recorded songs, from 1952. steadysounds.tumblr.com, capturedtracks.com. —DH
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White Laces singer and guitarist Landis Wine says of No Floor: “We started out as a loud/messy rock/psych band, and this album was built almost entirely inside of our computers. It’s much more deliberate.” Featuring electronic and loop-based music, the eight-song release will come out in February on digital media, and around the same time on tape and CD through Bad Grrrl Records. whitelacesmusic.com. —LB