Throw Down Productions presents  a Legend 44 production of a Robert Fleet Film:  Last Mountain
Press Releases

August 11th, 1999

Last Mountain 1st HD Feature
Independent filmmakers break new ground shooting a wide screen spectacle on a limited budget using state-of-the-art technology

Los Angeles, CA Somewhere in indie land, young filmmakers dream of making an intimate film with the stripped-down, "pure" technology of 16mm or, as iconoclasts, slipping by a genre feature like The Blair Witch Project on Hi-8. Not so for the makers of LAST MOUNTAIN, currently shooting in the Southland city streets and mountains:
"We're making an epic, wide-screen spectacle on a budget that James Cameron would use for his weekly craft service and it's all because of HD (high definition) technology."

This is the boast of LAST MOUNTAIN's director-writer Robert Fleet, whose last feature was a Hi-8 affair, and whose feature before that was a multi-million dollar international picture.  "The intimacy and opportunities for artistic integrity on a limited budget feature make the independent route attractive," says Fleet. "But what's always stood in the way are the supplemental expenses of film (raw stock, processing, printing, etc.), expenses that make it almost imperative for low-budget filmmakers to adopt a rough-and-ready approach to their work that often limits the scale of imagination, and definitely forces you to 'rush' the acting process.  With  the Sony HDCAM high definition camcorder, we're shooting for a wide-screen format, on a comfortable 12-to-1 ratio, using minimal crew and equipment, yet achieving A-picture photo quality and acting levels at a fraction of the upfront film cost."

"Quality" was the characteristic of the HDCAM system that first attracted the Last Mountain production to this new medium.  Last winter producer Alina Szpak, Fleet's partner, began looking favorably at HD demos showcased by Sony Pictures at its High-Definition Center in Culver City.  When Steve Kim approached Szpak & Fleet with the funding for LAST MOUNTAIN, an adaptation of Fleet's published novel, Kim quickly became a convert.  "I was worried about the scale of Last Mountain and the limited funds I could employ to assure that Robert would be able to fulfill his artistic vision on the screen then I saw what HD can do, especially under the eye of (D.P.) Martins (Punans).   I stopped worrying."

Unintentionally, the Last Mountain filmmakers have become HD pioneers for the world of independent filmmakers. 

Big-budget operators like George Lucas' Star Wars franchise can afford to develop from scratch the supplementary equipment and technology needed to support HD movie-making.  (The industry-standard Avid editing system, for example, isn't powerful enough to handle the digitally-rich HD images.)  This wasn't a viable option for the Last Mountain production.  Explains Fleet: "'Do it in post (production)' is a great mantra if you've got the money to spend we don't so we're making decisions in the field about filters, lighting, scale, color, et cetera."  Director of Photography Martins Punans, direct from a feature-length documentary shoot in Japan, discovered that the industry equipment houses don't have matte boxes for the HD camera that some of the most respected houses simply had bought a camera and didn't know what it could do.  Despite the Sony demos demonstrating how independents were using HDCAM for cost-effective filmmaking, apparently no one was shooting full-fledged features solely on that medium so far.

Last Mountain will probably change that.  This fantasy-adventure roams from the streets of East Los Angeles into the shadows of the surrounding foothills and the majesty of the nearby mountains hovering behind the sprawling city.  It is at once an epic visual story featuring horses, low riders, freeways and wilderness and an intimate, character-oriented piece of work.  "Quite simply," says Fleet, "on our limited budget we couldn't have shot Last Mountain without the Sony HDCAM.  We could have shot the spectacle elements on Panavision, but we would have had to tighten the film ratio and push the acting into the 'OK, it's passable" range.  But we were free to work for quality performances as well, thanks to the artistic and budgetary freedom the HDCAM medium gave us.  HD means that all that separates a good picture from a bad one is talent, not money."


August, 5, 1999


The United Nations of Independent Film

Los Angeles, CA - Representatives from all around the world including South Korea, Poland, Mexico, Denmark, Russia, Ireland (and even Texas) have gathered together to film a big picture on an independent budget in east L.A. about immigration, the American Dream, and of course and most importantly - about unicorns.

Producers Steve Kim and Alina Szpak annunce that shooting has begun on the feature film version of the popular "magical realism" novel Last Mountain by Robert Fleet, who will also direct. The feature stars film/TV/Broadway veteran Soon-Tek Oh (Pacific Overtures, East of Eden Emmy nominee, Disney's Mulan and introduces newcomer Lorina Zapata as "Annunciata" as the female lead.
Last Mountain is an adventure-fantasy set in the streets of L.A., where myth becomes a hard-edged beat as an impressionable Latina girl (Zapata) joins a homeless man (Oh) to follow a unicorn across the Southland mountains only one step ahead of low riders and the dreambreakers of La Migra who want to shatter their hopes. The novel was published by Putnam/Berkley/Ace in 1994.

THE WORLD COMES TO THE SOUTHLAND with Last Mountain, where an international crew has been assembled to make a very American feature film. As shooting starts at a Metrolink train station on a crisp foothill morning in the Southland city of Upland, California, Korea-born Soon-Tek Oh stands with the young Latina actress Lorina Zapata in front of the cameras while Irish 2nd Assistant Director Ben Crowe confers with their Latvian cinematographer Martins Punans. The two performers have been costumed by a beautiful young designer from Moscow, Violetta Elfimova. Meanwhile, the Polish and Korean producers, Alina Szpak & Steve Kim, line up the next day's shoot in conference with their Danish unit production manager, Jo Christensen. Director Robert Fleet, fortunately, issues his requests in English. (He is, after all, a Californian by way of Texas, Missouri and New York).

"Most of us got into the movie business for the sense of adventure and the travel that are part of the job," says Fleet (who also wrote the published novel that the movie is based on.) "In our last movie (he and producer Alina Szpak are partners, aka Legend 44), we shot in Moscow, London, Tijuana, Las Vegas and Sand Diego before that in Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia before that, Saudi Arabia, and before that, Big Bear. With each film we sort of 'pick up' people we want to work with. Now, sadly, we don't get to travel to meet these folks they come to us."


May 24, 1999


Last Mountain To Lens In June


Novel-to-film set for L.A. production by Throw Down & Legend 44
Los Angeles, CA - Producers Steve Kim and Alina Szpak announce the upcoming production of a feature film version of the popular "magical realism" novel Last Mountain by Robert C. Fleet, who will also direct. Feature, currently in pre-production, is set to star film/TV/Broadway veteran Soon-Tek Oh. Shooting begins June 8th in Los Angeles and the San Bernardino Mountains. Script is adapted by Fleet with his son, Stephan Szpak-Fleet. Last Mountain is fully financed and will be a co-production between Kim's Throw Down Productions and Szpak's Legend 44.

Last Mountain is an adventure-fantasy set in the streets of L.A., where myth becomes a hard-edged beat as an impressionable Latina girl joins a homeless Asian (Oh) to follow a unicorn across the Southland mountains - only one step ahead of low riders and the dreambreakers of La Migra who want to shatter their hopes. The novel was published by Putnam/Berkley/Ace in 1994.

Throw Down Productions, headed by L.A.-based Steve S. Kim, is providing the financing and production logistics for Last Mountain. Throw Down is a division of Kim's commercial production companies, which have produced international and domestic advertising media featuring Peter Falk and Shannon Doherty.

Last Mountain will be the fourth feature for L.A.-based Legend 44 , headed by Alina Szpak* and Robert Fleet - and the second feature Fleet will direct, previous effort being Legend's The Friends of Harry , a political thriller shot in Europe and the U.S. and starring Luke Askew & L.Q. Jones, currently in post-production. Szpak & Fleet teamed as directors with Oh in the lead for the play Have You Heard , presented at the Theatre of Nations Festival '97, one of only three American productions invited. Szpak recently ended a guest artist stint at the California Institute of the Arts directing Fleet's play, Don Juan-a tragi-comedy of errors, selected as a "Best Bet" choice by the L.A. Times. Her prior credits include acting and production work with filmmaker Andrzej Wajda and directing/teaching the world-touring Teatr STU, both in her native Poland.

Soon-Tek Oh is following a winning streak as the voice of Mulan's father in the Disney cartoon feature, and as the late Chris Farley's "Master" in Beverly Hills Ninja. As Broadway lead in the landmark Sondheim musical Pacific Overtures and as an Emmy-nominated player opposite Jane Seymour in East of Eden, he has played recurring roles in such television series as M*A*S*H and Magnum P.I., alternating with a wide array of feature films - from Mike Newell's Sour Sweet to James Bond's The Man with the Golden Gun to Chuck Norris' nemesis in Missing in Action 2. Oh is a founding member of the East-West Players and, most recently, created the Korean-American Society of Heritage Performers , in residence at the Unity Arts Center, to develop "theatrical reconciliations" in response to the L.A. Riots.

Last Mountain is Robert Fleet's fourth produced screenplay and second novel-to-screen. His first book, White Horse, Dark Dragon, was produced by Legend in association with Film Polski, starring Christopher Lloyd, Dee Wallace-Stone - their future collaborator, Soon-Tek Oh - and Stephan Szpak-Fleet , who had previously played the lead in the children's feature Brothers of the Wilderness.
 
As co-writer of the Last Mountain screenplay at the age of 20, Szpak-Fleet comes with a full resume in film and theatre. At the age of 14, he was profiled in US Magazine for bankrolling the erotic LULU-A Play with Music, directed by Michelle Truffaut and winner of nine DramaLogue Awards. His stage play PILATE (an adaptation of Bulgakov's cult classic The Master and Margarita) premiered at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in April 1998 before touring college campuses. Other theatre credits include a European performing tour and work with the Geffen Playhouse. He is the art designer for a software interface, FlashClone, rated four stars by InfoWorld Magazine.

FILM:  LAST MOUNTAIN

PRODUCERS:  Steve S. Kim (Throw Down Productions)
Alina Szpak (Legend 44)

DIRECTOR: Robert C. Fleet

SCREENPLAY: Robert C. Fleet & Stephan Szpak-Fleet, adapted from Fleet's novel Last Mountain (Putnam/Berkley/Ace)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martins Punans

CAST: Soon-Tek Oh, Angela Nicholas

SHOOTING: June 8 - July 30

LOCATIONS: Los Angeles, San Bernardino Mountains

MEDIUM:  SONY HDVS

ESTIMATED RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

PRODUCTION OFFICES: 517 N. Mountain Blvd., Upland CA  91786
Contact:  Legend 44 (909) 988-7279
Throw Down Productions (818) 883-5846
info
@lastmountain.com

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:
HANK GERBER, unit publicist:
909-988-7279
hank@legend44.com
 

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