The independent film circuit can be an extremely rough and tumble process. Not all indies are as luxurious as others. Pizza: The Movie is by no means Sideways. The majority of independent films are thrown together by the filmmaker’s themselves and then only afterwards get that sweet distribution deal from the major studios courtesy of festivals. Kevin Smith’s Clerks secured its Miramax connection through the Sundance Film Festival over a decade ago, now look at him. Sundance, as well as many other film festivals have been huge marketing tools for these low budget opuses making stars of people who max out their credit cards and sell their comic book collections. The makers of the independent film First Time Caller are taking a different route, Executive producer Leo Redgate exclaims “This is not a Sundance movie”. The Caller crew are bypassing the festival circuit all together and are just simply pimping their art by renting out theatres and inviting the right people. One such person…me.
I was on hand for their screening at Loews 34th Street in Manhattan. Just a stones throw away from Madison Square Garden, the pimps were a pimpin’. Redgate, Director Paul Francis Sullivan, several members of the film’s cast (including the film’s star, David Alan Basche), and many others from the First Time Caller family were on hand to join in the festivities.
Before the film began, the audience was granted a several minute stand-up set from comedian Christian Finnegan as introduced by Sullivan. Personally I’ll take some stand-up over trying to mentally rearrange letters to spell out “Susan Sarandon” any day. You ever notice how every theatre has the same “screen scramblers”? Anyways….Finnegan, a regular on pretty much every one of those VH1 clip shows, was another of the film’s cast if only appearing in a cameo as a caller to a radio show. As Finnegan wrapped up his minor set with a sarcastic rendition of the Loews theme song, the lights went down and the film began.
To check out my two cents on the film, click here to read the official CB review.
When all was said and done the lights came up and the theatre emptied. Basche was two rows directly down from me, and was swarmed by people…so rather than trying to get a few words from the future War of the Worlds star I simply patted him on the back and gave a proverbial “good job”, Sullivan was nowhere to be found…at least by me anyways, and then there was Redgate. Having only conversed with him over the phone before hand I had no damn clue what the hell he looked like so I walked away empty handed, but at the very least I saw the film.
About two days later I was able to track Redgate down and set up a kind of follow up phone call. The very next day I found myself at the ass end of a fourteen our work shift (doing my “real world” gig) and was physically exhausted, I could barely muster the energy to unzip my fly to take a leak. But alas I had but one more job to do…and that was pick up the phone, and call Leo back.
Let it be known that I suck tremendously at “interviews”. It just isn’t a thing I am real good at. I can talk to people no problem, but give me a set agenda and I’ll basically screw it all up and just end up talking to the person regular anyways. So rather than recording and transcribing my little convo with Leo Redgate for your reading pleasures, I simply just winged it. I scribbled a few notes and had no idea where I was going. Luckily I had an extremely gracious and understanding subject who able to work with me. Thanks Leo.
So yeah, I’m on the phone with Leo Redgate and I asked about how he thought the special screening for First Time Caller went. He said that he and the rest of the gang were very pleased and had several distributors who expressed interest. “I had some audience members come up to me saying it was even better than Napoleon Dynamite”. Dynamite is another indie comedy that benefited from festival pimping. When I asked how the crew was able to secure such name talent as Patrick Warburton, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Chris Elliott, Fred Willard, and Mo Rocca he responded “They Loved the script” touting how the film was “not wacky, just different”. In a presentation before the film, Sullivan (who acts as a producer for ‘The Daily Show with John Stewart’) noted “We basically raided the New York comedy scene”.
The film, like this year’s surprisingly clever Pauly Shore is Dead, is shot entirely on Digital Video. In the independent film world, the budget is a necessity. Big Studios can dump billions of dollars on total garbage each year, but indies stretch every penny for what it’s worth. The Caller crew “ponied up the money” for the film to be made and “called in a few favors” in order to get the right music. And it was the right music, let me tell you.
All and all, the good folks that made this film possible were able to put on a decent show for the packed New York theatre. From start to finish they kept the laughs coming. I wish all of them the best of luck with trying to get this film out there. Taking the hard road doing the non-festival deal, they most certainly are going to need it. I’m just happy I was able to be a part of the event, as well as be able to see a pretty good flick. Thanks guys!
No matter what deal an indie might get, there is a strong possibility it’ll hit theatres in good ol’ New York, New York. New York City is the art house capital of the world. Whenever you see the term “limited release” or “in select cities”, NYC is top of the list. But if by some chance when this does get distributed, and a city near you is one of the “selected”…hunt it down and check out First Time Caller next year.
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