"I'm now directing Footloose," Brewer told the Flyer this morning. The next step in the process is casting the film and choosing a location, but Brewer says he expects the film to begin shooting sometime this summer.
The project had initially been set up for High School Musical director Kenny Ortega and envisioned as a lighter, musical-theater-style piece. Brewer had turned down the project after being approached by Paramount last year, but took another look when Paramount executive Adam Goodman gave Brewer the go-ahead to scrap the initial rewrite and take the project in his own direction.
Brewer, who has long expressed a love for the "working-class cinema" of the ’80s such as Footloose, Purple Rain, and Flashdance, had plenty of ideas. As a kid, he'd used Footloose and Purple Rain, in particular, to teach himself about have movies are constructed, going so far as to record the audio tracks of the films — not the musical soundtracks, but the entire films — onto cassettes to listen to on the way to and from school.
"I know every moment [of Footloose]," Brewer says.
In his new version, which he's set in Tennessee, Brewer sought to return the film to its original drama, wrapped up in teen angst, parental control, religious repression, and small-town malaise. And he appears to have made the project personal by drawing on his own experiences with the Baptist Church and as a teen outsider who grew up in California but would spend summers visiting relatives in Memphis. Brewer says he's also drawn on his parenthood in developing a new appreciation for the material.
"I'm beginning to understand how parents, worried about the dangers and potential deaths of their children, can make rash decisions," Brewer says.
Brewer says did his rewrite in six weeks, completely rebuilding the already green-lit project from the ground up.
"I've shakin' the Etch-a-Sketch," he says.
"I've got a lot of respect for the original writer of Footloose, and he's been very supportive and on-board with my script," Brewer says. "When I started re-writing the script, I studied the original and thought about how to make it contemporary but still keep plenty of nods to the original film." In doing this, Brewer says he drew inspiration from filmmaker J.J. Abrams recent revamp of the Star Trek franchise, which breathed new life into familiar material while still catering to fans of the original.
Brewer has set the film in Tennessee, but given the more generous film-production incentives in surrounding states, particularly Georgia, shooting the film in Tennessee may be a longshot, though Brewer says he hasn't given up on that.
"This is a battle, unfortunately. There's nothing the studio can do. There's just a lot of financial incentives to go to Georgia," Brewer says. "It's probably not helpful that [the Memphis-set] The Blind Side was shot in Georgia. I'd like to consider myself a Tennessee filmmaker. And there's regional specificity in this. There's buckin' and jookin'. It would be a shame to shoot in Georgia and have to put up Tennessee flags. I guarantee you I'm the only person in Hollywood fighting to make a movie in Tennessee."
It's been nearly five years since Brewer shot his last feature, Black Snake Moan. Now it looks like he'll be helming two major feature-film productions over the next year or so.
"The one reason I'm focused on shooting [Footloose] this summer is because I want to make Mother Trucker next summer," Brewer says of his adaptation of a Details magazine story about a man who breaks out of jail and hijacks a semi truck to visit an ailing mother.
Mother Trucker, according to Brewer is lined up and ready to go. The script has been approved, "there's a budget, there's a schedule, and there's a plan."
The film had been planned for this summer but desired casting wasn't available, and Brewer didn't want to shoot the film in the fall or winter for continuity reasons. Mother Trucker is mostly exteriors and takes place over the course of one day, making the changing seasons in the South prohibitive for a fall or winter shoot.
"Both of these projects are moving down field, and everyone at [Mother Trucker studio] New Regency has been very supportive," Brewer says of being able to push both films forward simultaneously. "I guess I feel incredibly fortunate, because the movie business is really hard right now. I thought I had a hard time getting Hustle & Flow made, but even then it was a much better environment. There were things called mini-majors. Studios are more cautious now."