Film Financing with a Creative Touch

Indie producers struggle for funding during difficult times.

By: David Bloom
Printed in VARIETY March 17 2003 issue.

It’s not just dot-com refugees looking back with nostalgia on the go-go 1990s. Much the same financial fondness afflicts indie and arthouse film producers struggling to fund projects during difficult time.

“A lot of the formulas people have relied on are no longer any good,” says Caroline Kaplan, senior VP of production for IFC Entertainment. “It’s caused people to re-evaluate their partnerships. What I’ve noticed more is people are evaluating how films get made, period.”

With the disappearance of many overseas funding sources, such as German tax shelters and foreign pay TV outlets, indie producers have devised new strategies to weather the downturn.

Actor Jimi Petulla bankrolled the $300,000 cost of his semiautobiographical pic about high school wrestling, “Reversal,” after he couldn’t find conventional distribution.

“I would go to these meetings and nothing happened,” Petulla says. “These distributors want you to give them your movie for free.” He set up, then strong-armed it to Web-based financial success using endorsements from Olympic wrestlers, emails to amateur wrestling fans and coaches, and ads in wrestling magazines. “We did all sorts of things that were very very low cost but were pretty effective,” Petulla says.

The result: More than 15,000 DVDs sold in just 120 days at premium prices, drawing interest from established DVD distributors. And now Petulla is applying the formula for his film’s script and marketing to other sports films like boxing and hockey. Petulla is currently working on a film involving alien abduction and consiracy theories. Petulla plans to self-distribute that picture as well to that niche market.


Reversal wins Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking at Tribecca Film Festival

On the east coast, Reversal captured the award for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking at the IndieVision Film Festival, held at Robert DiNiro's place in Tribeca, New York. Not surprisingly, it was the only sold-out movie at the event!

Malibu Film Festival Winner!

Writer/Producer Jimi Petulla, Tony Danza, Danny Mousetis (lead in film) and Martin Landau.

Going up against heavy hitters like Tony Danza and David Katz, Reversal captured the People's Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Malibu Film Festival. Who says a movie about wrestling doesn't appeal to people . . .

The festival took place in world-famous Malibu, California. More than 75 filmmakers entered. Other films starred celebrities such as Jerry Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Karen Black, Andy Dick and Ron Howard. Reversal offered heartfelt performances and a touching story!

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