Traveller Jones hits film
double header in TV sales

Daniel J. Travanti stars in “Design,” Traveller Jones’ debut feature airing on Showtime.

Indie filmmakers often struggle for distribution of one film. Partners (and cousins) John Digles and Davidson Cole’s hard work is paying off with two films headed for television within a month of each other.

Up first Nov. 12 over Ch. 11 is their “The 95th,” a documentary about five members of the elite WWII U.S. Army Unit that fought under General George S. Patton and liberated Metz, France from Nazi occupation.

Their indie feature, “Design,” premieres nationally Dec. 14 on the Sundance Channel as part of the “Beyond Belief” lineup, and repeats Dec. 27.

Both films were produced under their Traveller Jones Productions banner.

“The 95th” was the inevitable result of the cousins’ having heard stories all their lives related by their grandfather and grand uncle and their comrades who served in the 95th.

“At one point while attending their 1997 reunion,” recalled Digles, “we realized their number was shrinking. We decided to make the documentary and focus on five men. We chose not to have a narrator and allow the veterans tell their stories directly to the camera, and it worked beautifully.”

The producers started shooting in 1997, wrapped the bulk of it in 1999 ? when they accompanied the veterans to an emotional return to Metz 55 years after the pivotal Allied victory ? and finished it in 2000. It premiered at the 2002 Maryland Film Festival.

In their debut drama, “Design,” “We explore how one night the lives of three people intersect to show the mysterious governing power of fate,” said Digles.

Starring are local actors Daniel J. Travanti (“Hill Street Blues”), who plays a former school teacher living in a trailer park and struggles with alcoholism after his wife left him; soap star Taylor Miller (“All My Children”) as the errant wife; and Jennifer Morrison (“Stir of Echoes”) as their teen daughter trying to help her father overcome his addiction.

Working with a $1 million budget raised from business investors, Digles produced and Coles directed; both share writing credits. They shot for 24 days in and around Chicago and at a Des Plaines trailer park. “If you say ?American Beauty’ was upper middle-class suburban, than our story is that of the underbelly in the suburbs, and that’s the way it comes across,” said Digles.

Pete Biagi shot on rare color reversal Super 16, “for a feeling of seeing it in a crystal ball, like gods of fate watching these lives,” Digles said.

Because the stock had not been in use since 1968, finding a lab was a challenge, but they ultimately found an Arlington, Va. lab that could process the film.

Editor on both films was Neal Gold. “Because he gave us so much of his heart and soul, he became a coproducer,” said Digles. Other credits: Sound by Alex Riordan; Misty Tosh was line producer; Lisa Colangelo, production supervisor; music by Leif Olsen and Dave “Electro” Golitko. Claire Simon cast the 19 principals.

“Design” did very well on the festival route last year. It screened at Sundance in 2002 and ten other major international festivals. It won the Jury Prize in Atlanta and the Best Fiction Film at the Honolulu festival.

Both Digles and Davidson are trained actors, who have worked in theatre and film. Digles is also a prominent PR expert heading the Chicago office of national MWW Group. He is also an IPA board member. Davidson works fulltime in their Traveller Jones company.

Cole and Digles are repped by International Creative Management. Digles can be reached at 312/853-3131; jdigles@mww.com.

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