Guide to A Virtual Cinema Release for Indie Filmmakers Image

Guide to A Virtual Cinema Release for Indie Filmmakers

By Jose Magana with Jason Adler | July 3, 2020

In 2015 Jason and Cameron shot a pilot called The Bellmen, which gained traction but for some reason was never green lit. This pilot, nonetheless, planted a seed for a feature idea as mentioned by Jason:

“I had a friend from my Cornell Hotel School days who had become a VP with Loews, and who’d helped me secure their Hollywood location for one day of filming. At the time he mentioned that if I ever needed a cool location for a larger scale project, their property in Tucson could be a potential option during their slower summer months.”

While Cameron and Jason had the occasional creative session over the years to discuss the feature, it wasn’t until Jason finished an outline and set up a scouting trip in April of 2018, that there was finally any momentum that could be considered substantial.

“We returned to LA with a much clearer vision for the script, and after a few meetings and drafts things started falling into place. We knew we had something special with the script, so I was determined to raise the money. I called well over 100 people in my network who I thought might be interested in investing, with a rejection rate of about 95%.”

Obviously, this was not for the thin skinned as Jason remembers.  It took some time and some personal funding directly from Jason to eventually get to the goal. Then, suddenly, they had 15 shoot days scheduled in September of 2018, and ultimately a secured film location for one month, which included pre-pro and wrap. Goal was accomplished and things were in place.

The Bellmen Case Study

Here’s the basics:
The Bellmen
Genre: Comedy
Writers: Jason Adler and Cameron Fife. Director: Cameron Fife. Producer: Jason Adler
Budget: SAG Modified Low Budget
World premiere: @ the Garden State Film Festival,
March 2020

Behind-the-Scenes of the The Bellmen Production

As most projects, things would have not gotten off the ground without coming across a few initial breaks. As Jason remarks, the scouting trip was huge – “For a film like ours with 95% of the plot taking place at a hotel, the location was to be the most critical element.” Jason was very emphatic to remark and recognize both Peter Catalanotte and Brooke Sauer from the Film Tucson Office, in their assistance with the location. He called them with no prior relationship or proper introduction, and since the first moment, they always responded positively. They set up multiple locations in which to scout and were tremendously helpful throughout the entire time.

Another person who brought in great value was Maria Luna from BRAVO, one of the film’s earliest supporters and investors, who Jason had no prior relationship with.

“I tracked her down after first seeing her on Shark Tank, hoping she’d see the value of brand integration into our movie, and fortunately she did!”

Jason remarks that there were many luggage companies that either weren’t interested or didn’t return his calls.

“I strongly encourage indie filmmakers to pick up the phone and make calls, you never know where help and alliances may be. One thing I know for sure is that it will not come to you. If you’re willing to hustle and do some outside the box thinking, you will undoubtedly find what you need.”

A lot of the positives surrounding the production revolve around the team set forth to conduct the production itself. Cameron had a fantastic network of key crew who they brought out from Los Angeles.  The team’s trust and budget mindfulness were critical in making everything work. Jason learned to understand the huge importance that a casting director or team can have.
“Even if it’s not in your initial budget, make room! Kendra Shay Clark and Helen Geier were a huge asset; not only are they fantastic at suggesting the right talent, but they brought a level of credibility to an indie film that you simply won’t have when the director and producers are the ones communicating to agents and managers.”

Many other remarks revolving the production’s fine tuning where greatly assisted with the fact that the team was filming and living at a beautiful location: The Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, which made for a fun and relaxing environment that helped the team be involved as much as possible. They ate and drank together, and even explored the local area on off days. All of this contributed to strong bonds and a family vibe on set which transpired into the films process. Jason described the ambient for the location as simply perfect.

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