Los Angeles-based distributor Altered Innocence announces the acquisition of North American distribution rights for Vera Drew’s genre-defying breakout feature debut The People’s Joker. Drew directed, edited, co-wrote, and stars in the queer coming-of-age superhero world parody that boldly reimagines the Joker’s origin, with IFC Center in NYC opening the film on April 5th and additional markets and engagements to be announced.

Vera Drew’s The People’s Joker Grapples With Gender Identity

In the absurdist autobiographically-inspired dark comedy, a painfully unfunny aspiring clown (Vera Drew as Joker the Harlequin) grapples with her gender identity while unsuccessfully attempting to join the ranks of Gotham City’s sole comedy program in a world where comedy has been outlawed. Uniting with a ragtag team of rejects and misfits, Joker the Harlequin forms an illegal anti-comedy troupe that puts her on a collision course with the devious caped crusader controlling the city.

The People’s Joker features an impressive cast of celebrated comedic talent in both voice and live-action roles behind the vibrant kaleidoscope of characters that lampoon the iconic heroes and villains of the DC comics’ world, featuring cameos from comedy multi-hyphenate Tim Heidecker, award-winning actor Bob Odenkirk, Maria Bamford (Netflix’s Big Mouth, Adult Swim’s Teenage Euthanasia), and Scott Aukerman (Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis co-creator and host of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast), with Vera Drew, Lynn Downey (Amazon Prime Video’s Daisy Jones & The Six), Nathan Faustyn (SADDLED), and Kane Distler, in his film debut, making up the film’s core cast.

the people's joker still image - vera drew
Source: Altered Innocence

With a buzzy world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Midnight Madness section, The People’s Joker screened once publicly before being withdrawn from the official program. The U.S. premiere took place at this year’s Outfest LA Film Festival, where it was awarded a Special Mention in the North American Narrative Feature competition, with subsequent American festivals including Fantastic Fest, Denver International Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, and the Seattle Queer Film Festival, among others, and international bows at the Oslo/Fusion International Film Festival, SXSW Sydney, Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and more. At both the Seattle Queer Film Festival and Oslo/Fusion, the film was awarded top honors in the narrative feature competitions, with Seattle Queer’s jury applauding its “unapologetically rebellious and iconoclastic spirit” and “totally immersive—even transcendent—theatrical experience.”

With her own life as a trans woman and artist motivating the film’s story and themes, Drew used comic book characters as modern mythical archetypes to play out intimate lived experiences on an epic and occasionally shocking scale, with a script co-written by close creative collaborator Bri LeRose (Netflix’s Magic for Humans and Chad & JT Go Deep).

“Vera Drew has taken her own life experiences and traumas to craft an entirely new genre of cinema that blurs the lines between documentary, coming-of-age film, and parody,” said Altered Innocence founder Frank Jaffe. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to champion this bold, intelligent, and hilarious piece of queer cinema that audiences around the globe have fallen in love with.”

Shot entirely on green screen, the work of over 200 independent, predominantly queer creators —artists, musicians, and animators— elevates the instantaneously illustrious feature beyond genre pastiche to an overflowing richness of mixed-media visuals across 2D, 3D, stop-motion, and more forms of animation.The deal was negotiated by Billy Offer from UTA and Lindsay Cohen of Rise Management on behalf of the filmmaker and Frank Jaffe for Altered Innocence. Vera Drew is repped by Lindsay Cohen of Rise Management.

“I am absolutely thrilled and humbled that Altered Innocence is helping me bring The People’s Joker to theaters this spring,” said Drew on the acquisition. “This movie started as a DIY community project for queer artists and I made it with my friends to process what it was like coming out as a trans woman working in the film and TV industry. It has been a long road freeing The People’s Joker and finding a release plan that rings true to the queer, anarchist spirit we had while making it. What better home than among Altered Innocence’s catalog of gorgeously gay and deliciously edgy films.”

Based in Los Angeles and born in Chicago, Vera Drew boasts frequent collaborations with Tim Heidecker’s Abso Lutely Productions and prolific status in the alt-comedy world. Prior to The People’s Joker, Drew earned a 2019 Primetime Emmy nomination for Showtime’s Who Is America? as the show’s lead editor, with other notable editing credits including Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, An Evening with Tim Heidecker, and Comedy Bang! Bang!. Additionally, Drew co-wrote, edited, and executive produced Tim and Eric’s Beef House and directed Adult Swim’s Our Bodies and I Love David, as well as the twelfth season of On Cinema at the Cinema.

The film is produced by Joey Lyons (HBO’s John Early: Now More Than Ever) and executive produced by Richie Doyle (DAD & STEP-DAD), Conor Hannon (FX’s Dear Mama), and Riccardo Maddalosso (ARMAGEDDON TIME, HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE). Nate Cornett (ABOVE THE CLOUDS) lensed while the film’s wide array of aesthetics is owed to production designers Noah Stijl, Rosie Sanders, Maggie Forest, Courtney McIntosh, Amy Smoot, Yesenia Rego, Shannon Pollak, Cory Porter, AT Pratt, and Ashley Brown. Justin Krol & Quinn Scharber, Ember Knight, Danni Rowan, and electronic composer Elias and the Error composed the original score. The film was partly financed by crowdfunding.

David Liebe Hart (TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE), Griffin Kramer (HAPPY TIMES), Christian Calloway (Twin Peaks: The Return, DESTROY ALL NEIGHBORS), Ember Knight (KING OF LA), Dan Curry (head writer for The Eric Andre Show), Cricket Arrison (GIVE ME PITY!), Eliot Glazer (Broad City), Sandy Honig (Adult Swim’s Three Busy Debras), Alec Robbins (creator of the satirical webcomic Mr. Boop), Mia Moore Marchant (AGAIN, AGAIN), Phil Braun, Trevor Drinkwater, Daniella Baker, Bambi Bell, Denali Winter, Ruin Carroll, and Arden Hughesround out the complete cast of established and emerging artists and actors.

THE PEOPLE’S JOKER is in no way created by, endorsed by, or affiliated with DC Comics or any of its related companies.

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