Romantic drama. 102 minutes. 1999. Starring Melanie Lynskey, Wil Wheaton, Corin Nemec, Yelena Danova, Steve Valentine, Blaire Baron, Douglas Coler, Lisa LoCicero, James Michael Tyler, and Richard Moll. Casting: Cynthia Ellis. Production Designer: Hunter Cressall. Costumes: Caroline B. Marx. Editor: Jay Woelfel. Music: Christopher Farrell. Director of Photography: Scott Spears. Producer: Julia Stemock. Written and directed by Mark Tapio Kines.

SYNOPSIS

The poster

The poster, designed by yours truly

LOS ANGELES, JUNE 1996: A lonely young woman (Melanie Lynskey) starts receiving romantic postcards meant for somebody else. She soon finds herself sucked in by the intrigue of this mysterious relationship and eventually tries to involve herself in it, even as a well-meaning neighbor (Wil Wheaton) tries to court her and bring her back to reality.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, JUNE 1996: In this quiet California suburb, a young Englishman (Corin Nemec) flies out from London to meet his penpal (Yelena Danova), a refugee from Sarajevo who lives here with an American family. Because she is apparently about to be sent back to her war-torn homeland, he believes he has been flown out by her host family in order to cheer her up... until he discovers that he is being set up to marry her.

 

ABOUT THE FILM

Foreign Correspondents is - as you might guess from the above synopsis - split into two separate stories, and it was shot with two different casts in two different cities (though with the same crew). But there are certain thematic and narrative ties that bind the stories together to form a cohesive whole.

It was April 1996 when I finished writing the script for the film's first story ("Dear Jenny"). I was all set to make this as a 50-minute featurette - until I realized it would be impossible to sell a 50-minute featurette. So I wrote the second story ("Love, Trevor") as a companion piece, and that stretched out the script to feature length. I vowed that I would shoot it in the summer of 1997, funding it with whatever money I would have in the bank by that time. For several months, that was all I could do: save up money and hope for the best.

In August 1996 I came across a website dedicated to Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, a movie I liked a lot. I read that one of its two young leads, Melanie Lynskey (the other was Kate Winslet), was interested in working on independent films in the US. With nothing to lose, I wrote her a letter and asked her if she might like to star in Foreign Correspondents. Two months later, after she finally received the script, Mel wrote back and said yes. For a while, she and I were the only people in the world who were committed to making this film. Then in April 1997, I hired a producer named Julia Stemock. She would increase my tiny budget more than tenfold, so that we could shoot on 35mm, hire a full crew, and cast SAG talent.

Me, looking skinny and worried, directing Melanie Lynskey

Me, looking skinny and worried, directing Melanie Lynskey

After three chaotic months of prep and production, principal photography was completed on August 11, 1997. Financially, we only barely squeaked by: life during the shoot was a daily fight to track down the money we needed to keep putting film in the camera and food in everyone's mouth. After we wrapped, there was nothing left for post production, and thus we couldn't finish the film.

The struggle to find more investors began. I fell back on my talents as a web designer (for more on that, see the About page) and launched the official website for Foreign Correspondents in November 1997, telling the world my story and more or less begging for finishing funds. The site received a lot of attention and within a year I raised about $150,000 over it, much of it from absolute strangers. As a result, I could afford to complete Foreign Correspondents, and the film premiered on February 17, 1999.

Foreign Correspondents is the first film in history to be partially "crowdfunded", years before the term was coined. But even back in 1999 this was considered a big deal, and I was featured in the Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Jose Mercury, and several magazines. I was also invited to speak at the Flanders International Film Festival in Ghent, Belgium. But did any of this help me find a worthy distributor? Alas, no. A couple of companies made halfhearted efforts to get the film out there, but ultimately my producer and I had to turn to self-distribution. It was disappointing, but the wounds have healed and the film's still worth watching. You can find it on Netflix.

 

THE CAST

Melanie Lynskey and Wil Wheaton

Melanie Lynskey and Wil Wheaton

MELANIE LYNSKEY won international acclaim for her debut performance in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures. Since then she has had a very successful feature film career, co-starring in studio and indie hits including Up in the Air, Win Win, The Informant!, Ever After, Sweet Home Alabama, Shattered Glass, and Coyote Ugly. On the small screen, she stars on HBO's Togetherness and was a recurring character on Two and a Half Men and has guest-starred in House, The L Word, Psych, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Shield, among others.

WIL WHEATON was one of the busiest young actors in the late 1980s and early 1990s, starring in Stand By Me, The Buddy System, Toy Soldiers, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. As an adult, he has guest-starred in CSI, Eureka, The Guild, Criminal Minds, Leverage, Numb3rs, and several independent features. A popular blogger, author, and voiceover actor, Wil has memorably appeared several times in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory as himself.

Yelena Danova and Corin Nemec

Yelena Danova and Corin Nemec

CORIN NEMEC debuted in Francis Ford Coppola's Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Soon after, he starred in the mini-series I Know My First Name Is Steven, which earned him an Emmy nomination. Corin is perhaps most famous for playing the title role in the cult sitcom Parker Lewis Can't Lose. He was also a series regular on Stargate: SG-1 and appeared in Stephen King's The Stand, Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer, Smallville, NCIS, CSI: NY, and CSI: Miami.

YELENA DANOVA was born in Siberia and studied acting at the elite Moscow Art Theatre University. She guest-starred in the TV series Northern Exposure and Chicago Hope and appeared in the blockbuster Independence Day as a Russian newscaster. She headlined the indie comedy Bob, Verushka and the Pursuit of Happiness and directed the short film Breathing Space.

STEVE VALENTINE, an accomplished British-born actor and magician, appeared in The Walk, A Christmas Carol, Spider-Man 3, and Mars Attacks!. Perhaps most famous for his long-running role as Nigel in the TV drama Crossing Jordan, Steve also guest-starred in The Big Bang Theory, Cougar Town, House, Monk, Chuck, NCIS, Boston Legal, Charmed, and Will & Grace.

BLAIRE BARON starred in the pilot episode of Babylon 5 and guest-starred in Without a Trace, ER, Seinfeld, and Ellen. On the big screen, her films include Sundance winner Privilege, I Love Trouble, and A League of Their Own. She also produced the 2008 documentary Women in Boxes, about magicians' assistants.

DOUGLAS COLER briefly starred in Days of Our Lives and was a regular fixture on the Los Angeles theatre scene. Their drama The Closer, with Douglas in the lead role, was a hit both in Los Angeles and off-Broadway. He is now a stage actor and director on the east coast.

LISA LoCICERO is a bona fide soap opera legend, most recently starring in several seasons of General Hospital. She also guest-starred in Reno 911!, Rizzoli & Isles, Chuck, Bones, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, an Emmy-winning episode of Law & Order, and the series finale of Star Trek: Voyager. Her feature film work includes Sundance hit Mr. Vincent, The Family Man, and Rush Hour 2.

JAMES MICHAEL TYLER is known throughout the world for his role as Gunther, the goofy, lovesick Central Perk barista in the long-running sitcom Friends. He has also guest-starred in Episodes, Scrubs, Just Shoot Me, and Sabrina.

RICHARD MOLL is best remembered as tall bald bailiff Bull Shannon in the classic sitcom Night Court. Richard has also been in a billion other TV shows, as well as the films Scary Movie 2, Evolution, The Flintstones, Jingle All the Way, and But I'm a Cheerleader.