Fran Drescher, Justin Long Make Plea for Compassion at ‘Safe Spaces’ Tribeca Film Fest Premiere

Despite the title feeling “polarizing,” the ‘Safe Spaces’ director explained that the film takes a nuanced approach to the contentious subject.

Daniel Schechter’s latest film, Safe Spaces, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival on Monday, continuing the debate over the value of the so-called areas, whether physical or metaphorical, in which people can be fully self-expressed without facing judgement or harassment.

Safe spaces are most often discussed within the context of college campuses, and Schechter’s film follows suit. In the film, Justin Long plays an adjunct creative writing professor who’s forced to grapple with the backlash to a class discussion that he saw as innocent, but others felt crossed the line.

“I think it is a fascinating debate. Anyone who’s like, it should be all this way or all the other way, I think they’re being just too certain about their behavior,” Schechter told The Hollywood Reporter. “This movie doesn’t offer any particularly easy, quick answers on it.”

Schechter revealed that Long’s character is actually partially inspired by himself and his experience as a teacher.

“I went into that job probably being on one side of the argument. I didn’t really see the value of [safe spaces]. I hadn’t done a lot of research about it,” he said. “But I think being there, and seeing circumstances with my own eyes, I started to change my opinion a little bit. I think the #MeToo movement started happening, and I kind of started thinking any opportunity to maybe make an environment feel a little safer probably isn’t a preposterous thing to consider at all. And I think the movie tries to offer the benefits of that and the potential dangers of that going too far. [It’s] trying to walk a fine line of nuance.”

Though Schechter said he definitely doesn’t want Safe Spaces to seem controversial, he did admit the title is a bit polarizing. But it “stuck,” and he thought if moviegoers ignored the stigmatization of the term, “it actually feels like a very warm, nice title for the movie.”

Long explained that, at its core, Safe Spaces is about compassion. “I think the big thing that I hope people take away from the movie is, just have more empathy for people and their struggles and where they’re coming from,” he told THR.

Fran Drescher, who plays Long’s mother, preached a similar message when describing her feelings toward safe spaces. “I think it’s a very interesting time we’re moving through because there’s a heightened sensitivity to other people’s, particularly women’s, feelings. And that’s a good thing,” she said, adding that she “doesn’t know a woman that has not, at one point in her life, been compromised to one degree or another.”

Like Long’s character, Drescher’s role in the film is based on a real-life person: Schechter’s mother, who even suggested that Drescher play her.

“It’s about a Jewish New York family so it was kind of a no-brainer,” Drescher said.

Beyond the college controversy, Safe Spaces follows this family — Kate Berlant as Long’s sister, Michael Godere as his brother and Richard Schiff as their estranged father — all of whom are brought together by the siblings’ ailing grandmother (Lynn Cohen).

“What’s unique about this family is they’re extremely honest with each other, to this beautiful degree of willing to get painfully truthful with each other,” Godere told THR. “And the result is kind of this dynamic comedy.”

Adds Schiff, “It’s very complicated and complex but kind of beautiful. It’s really about how love is fluid underneath all this confusion and complexity that we live with. It’s a beautifully written script.”

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Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green Team to Star in Family Adventure ‘Dakota’

It’s the first time the real-life husband-and-wife team will headline a movie together.

Real-life married couple and pop culture fixtures Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green have teamed to star in their first feature together.

Fox, who starred in the Michael Bay Transformersmovies, and Green, one of the headliners of the original Beverly Hills, 90210, will star in Dakota, a family action-adventure thriller from Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Media Group and Iervolino Entertainment S.p.A.

Kirk Harris will direct the film, which marks a reunion of the teams behind the family-adventure indie hit Bernie the Dolphin, and its sequel, now in postproduction. Harris helmed the two Berniemovies.

Like BernieDakota will be produced by AMBI along with Marty Poole of Fairway Film Alliance and Ace Underhill of Brilliant Screen Studios.

Dakota centers on Kate (Fox), a widow who lost her husband in the war in Afghanistan and is struggling to maintain her small-town farm with her daughter while also running the local volunteer fire department. Into her life enters a soldier (Green) who is seeking to full a promise by bringing home her late husband’s best friend, a combat dog by the name of Dakota.

And just in time, too. Because as Dakota adjusts to life on the farm and becomes a local hero after rescuing a woman from a burning building, the local sheriff has designs on the widow’s valuable farm land and has been leaning on her to sell the property. He’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on the land, including setting fire to the farm. With the help of the soldier, her daughter and her new best friend, Dakota, the woman will realize the true value of the family farm and most importantly, friendship.

Johnny Harrington (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) wrote the screenplay.

“Having Megan and Brian star together is really cool for us as we certainly won’t have to manufacture the kind of chemistry and magic that makes a family film like this so special!” Iervolino said in a statement. “This is the type of lighthearted yet adventurous material that audiences are really responding to these days, so we’re very happy to be making more films in this space and know Dakota will touch on the soft spots audiences have for feel-good entertainment.”

AMBI Distribution, the worldwide sales arm of the AMBI Media Group, is handling global sales and will be introducing the project to buyers in Cannes.

Principal photography is set to commence this summer.

Dakota represents AMBI’s continued push into PG- and G-rated films as it seeks to build a family brand and follows the success of Bernie the Dolphin, which it is trying to turn into a franchise. Bernie had a 25-city theatrical release in December via Lionsgate, with the same planned for Bernie 2.

Fox and Green have numerous credits between them but have largely avoided working together. Green did appear, however, in an uncredited role in a scene in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a 2008 comedy in which Fox starred with Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst. The duo are repped by ICM Partners.

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‘Bernie the Dolphin 2’ Heads Into Production

Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s Ambi Media Group is re-teaming with Kirk Harris and Marty Poole’s Fairway Films Alliance to finance and produce a sequel to “Bernie the Dolphin.”

Lola Sultan, Patrick Muldoon, Logan Allen, Kevin Sorbo, and Dahlia Legault (“The Walking Dead”) will reprise their roles in the family dolphin adventure. Ambi Distribution, the worldwide sales arm of the Ambi Media Group, will be introducing the project to international distributors at the American Film Market, which opened Oct. 31.

Bernie the Dolphin 2” will shoot on location at Marineland Dolphin Adventure in St. Augustine, Fla., as well as in St. Petersburg-Clearwater starting in December.

Kirk Harris will direct “Bernie the Dolphin 2” from a screenplay written by Emerson and Poole, who are also producing along with Ambi principals Iervolino and Bacardi, as well as Tony Armer, the film commissioner for St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. Digital Caviar is the Florida based production partner. Executive producers are Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb.

“Bernie the Dolphin” centered on a brother and sister who befriend a badly sunburned dolphin separated from his family and uncover a secret plan that could destroy the beach and their new friend’s home. The sequel includes a new dolphin named Rascal.

“Bernie the Dolphin” opens in limited theaters nationwide next month. Grindstone Entertainment has acquired all North American distribution rights on behalf of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Iervolino said, “Approaching the release of the first film, we’re seeing the popularity of ‘Bernie the Dolphin’ and now know that it should be treated as a true family franchise. Greenlighting a sequel quickly, and bringing back the original charming cast is an easy decision for us having sold the film in over 135 countries around the world. This is a fun, light-hearted story with lots of dolphins that resonates globally and we see as evergreen.”

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Sarah Jessica Parker’s ‘Here And Now’ To Hit Theaters In November In AMBI & Paramount Deal

AMBI Distribution and Paramount Worldwide Acquisitions have teamed to acquire rights to Here and Now, the drama produced by and starring Sarah Jessica Parker that bowed at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival under the title Blue Night.

The film is directed by Fabien Constant in his feature helming debut and co-stars Simon Baker, Common, Taylor Kinney, Waleed Zuaiter along with Jacqueline Bisset and Renée Zellweger. It will hit theaters November 9 via AMBI with a commitment of at least 50 markets, we’re hearing, day-and-date with digital and VOD through Paramount Home Media Distribution.

Parker stars as Vivienne, a a singer-songwriter who lives in New York City and has enjoyed a successful career with the help of her manager, Ben (Common). Upon receiving world-shattering news, she crisscrosses the city in a single day as she tries to balance her music, family and friends, and reflect on her successes and failures. With the support of her worried mother Jeanne (Bisset) and ex-husband Nick (Baker), Vivienne strives to make peace with the city around her. Laura Eason (House of Cards) penned the script.

Parker and Alison Benson produced with AMBI Group’s Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi, and Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Anna Dokoza and Luca Matrundola executive produced.

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David Henrie to Direct Coming-of-Age Movie ‘This Is the Year’

Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Group is behind the feature.

Actor David Henrie will make his feature directorial debut with the coming-of-age movie This Is the Year.

The pic follows a nebbish high school senior and his best friends as they embark on a road trip to attend the greatest music festival of the year in a last-ditch effort to win over the girl of his dreams. Henrie wrote the screenplay with Bug Hall, Pepe Portillo and Sienna Aqualini.

Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Group is behind the feature, which is set to begin filming in September in Alabama.

James Henrie and Leo Severino will produce via Novo Media Group. Executive producers are Jason Weinberg, Luca Riemma and Paolo Aquilini, who is financing the movie with AMBI.

Iervolino’s TaTaTu, a blockchain-based social entertainment platform, will also produce and finance the film. TaTaTu is also involved in the AMBI projects Lamborghini, starring Antonio Banderas and Alec Baldwin, and The Sound of Freedom.

Said Henrie of the film, “I can’t wait to bring to life a heartfelt and fun movie in the vein of what John Hughes did so well in the ’80s. My hope is that it will truly mean something to our audience.”

Henrie, who is repped by ICM and Untitled, is best known for his role on the long-running Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place. He also is set to play young Ronald Reagan in the Dennis Quaid-starrer Reagan.

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