Ron Lazzeretti’s “Merry Gentlemen” premieres at Sundance; also Terry Kinney’s directorial debut

One fully local feature made in Chicago and one with ties to Chicago are in the non-competitive Premieres section of the Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 17-27, still the top launching pad for American independent film.

“The Merry Gentlemen,” Michael Keaton’s directorial bow, was shot entirely in Chicago in March and April, with a local writer, producers, and financing.

Also in Sundance is Steppenwolf company member Terry Kinney’s feature directorial debut for Plum Pictures, “Diminished Capacity,” produced by former Steppenwolf Films head Tim Evans.

Kelly Macdonald (“No Country For Old Men”) stars in “The Merry Gentlemen” as a woman who flees an abusive marriage, witnesses a murder, and stumbles into a budding friendship with depressed hitman Keaton. With Darlene Hunt, Guy Van Swearingen, and executive producer Tom Bastounes.

DraftFCB creative development director Ron Lazzeretti wrote the script. He developed the project with Tom Bastounes, owner of the produce outlet The Auster Company. Lazzeretti directed Bastounes in the 2002 indie feature “The Opera Lover,” which they co-wrote.

Bastounes financed the reported $5 million budget for “The Merry Gentleman” with fellow executive producer Paul J. Duggan of Jackson Income Fund. Steven A. Jones and Christina Varotsis produced, their fifth collaboration after Steve Conrad’s “Quebec” and “Lawrence Melm,” and “Drunkboat” and “Flying.”

Lazzeretti and former partner, Rino Liberatori, had a thriving, award-winning spot production company called The Two Olives for more than a decade following a lengthy career at one of the hottest ad agencies of the ?80s. After The Two Olives dissolved, Lazzeretti went on to write and direct a trio of prize winning 20-minute dramatic shorts, “Wedding Night,” “Flowers” and “Last Day.”