Tulsa

Gloria Stella took her small budget Indie,Tulsa, into hundreds of Regal theaters and hundreds more independently owned theaters all across the country. She did it with no real funding and no experience. Armed with the internet, email, the phone and the personal networks of everyone that worked on the film, she secured a US Box Office total for her film of over $400,000 – and that was during Covid. Undoubtedly, she could have done far better with luckier circumstances. Bunker 15 Films sits down with Gloria to talk about how she did it, the lessons she learned and how others could do it too.
Stella is an award-winning producer and director. She co-directsTulsa which tells the story of a desperate Marine biker’s life who’s turned upside-down when he’s reunited with the sassy 9-year-old daughter he never knew existed.
The production was a story unto itself but the boot-strapped theatrical distribution ofTulsa tells an even more extraordinary story.
 
 
Continue Reading

Somewhere with No Bridges

Martha’s Vineyard, MA (December 10, 2021) – CASE STUDY: Somewhere with No Bridges
 
• Title: Somewhere with No Bridges
• Genre: Documentary
• Writers: Charles Frank and Nico Bovat
• Director: Charles Frank
• Producers: Charles Frank, Andrew Hutcheson and Jeff Melanson
• Cinematographer: Jeff Melanson
 

Development and Financing

Production on Somewhere with No Bridges officially began in July 2017 and finished in February 2019 and the festival premiered at BENDFilm festival in July 2020. Completely self-financed from profits sourced from Voyager, the production company that director Charles Frank and producer Andrew Hutcheson have ran for 6 years.
 
Andrew says their production budget was flexible from the beginning as often is the case with documentaries.
 
“I think we had no idea what it was going to cost to film that when we got started. We started production in 2017, five years have passed and we’re still technically working on it. So we had to continually adjust what was being spent.”
 
“We started the company as a way to sustainably make the films that we wanted to make. And we’ve been setting aside portions of project budgets and our profit from them to fund the film.“
 
Developing Somewhere with No Bridges began as director/writer Charles Frank’s attraction to a place that held a special place in his heart.
 
“I’ve always sort of felt a special type of spiritual feeling there. It’s kind of hard to put into words but a lot of people that go to the island, Martha’s Vineyard, where the film takes place kind of feel this attraction to it.”
 
Production of the film started with visits to the island with the goal of capturing that intangible spirituality. With a skeleton crew of just two, the filmmakers eschewed conventional filmmaking methods in favor of a loose shooting schedule.
 
“We had some loose concepts in terms of what we were making such as tourism and how it affects the community. But as we started filming and discovering it in person, stories of my cousin just inevitably came up. We’d go to softball games, then go out fishing with local fishermen and without even planning my cousin’s name came up all the time.“
 
With only two crew members for the majority of the shoot and a loose shooting schedule, Frank needed to adopt a free-form way of shooting.
 
Frank said, “I got some really good advice from another filmmaker who lives part-time and Kate Davis is a great documentary filmmaker, and she was like, if I could give you any advice, it’s just, you know, trust a central theme.”
 
Frank’s cousin, Richie, almost became a mythical figure in the film, akin to a local hero to the island. Over time, it occurred to the team that the film needed to focus on Richie’s legacy.
 
“It became a film about how we grieve a loss and deal with being a father. It also became a film about the island’s remembrance of Richie.”
 
Production

Production ended up much more streamlined than first envisioned. Frank and the team would essentially edit the documentary alongside the filming to structure the narrative.
 
“Our editor was working through the footage and trying to make sense of everything as we went which helped shape our direction as we went through. And then eventually, we were done with filming and we spent a few months just kind of pulling all the pieces together and sharing it with friends.”
 
Early on, Frank had to conceptualize many themes to focus the narrative on. A few of the themes were, the weather and the four distinct seasons, the ebb and flow of the ocean, the father and son dynamic and bereavement.
 
“We would show up to places that felt like those themes would be prevalent, so we filmed little tiny, microscopic shellfish at a Hatchery. We saw their life cycle when we filmed the trees and the leaves coming off that. These scenes became valuable once the narrative became clearer.”
 
While Frank had directed several documentaries before, they were all in short form. Somewhere with No Bridges is his first foray into a feature-length documentary film and it turned out that there were some key differences.
 
“I think making a short provides a lot of satisfaction in the ability to realize a concept because the shoots can be short. Making a feature is really like a marathon. Completing a feature is a lot about how you manage your satisfaction levels as there will be many peaks and troughs.”
 
The shooting day of a documentary feature can vary wildly. Unlike shooting narratives, documentaries really can be an all-day affair to capture the fleeting moments that arise.
 
“We would pick a window of time, and during that window of time our cinematographer and I would go to the island and we’d just live there for that period. We didn’t shoot every day but when we did sometimes it would be a 10 hour day. But sometimes we’d only shoot for three. It all depended on the comfort level of our subjects”.
 
Andrew Hutcheson (Producer) would initially set up the shooting days remotely while the editor would parse through the hard drives remotely. That left only Charles and Jeff, the cinematographer and composer, on the island as the production crew.
 
“It was such a unique experience because Jeff was also the composer so he brought a lot of his instruments to the island and was writing music based on just the feeling of what we were filming.”
 
Distribution

Frank and his team had a slate of film festivals they planned to attend following the completion of post-production. In addition to the pre-planned screenings, they reached out to many industry professionals requesting attendance in person.
 
However, the Covid-19 pandemic had other plans.
 
“All the festivals started to fall like dominoes after SXSW was cancelled. A lot of festivals reduced the number of films that they were going to make available online with a smaller run than I think we would have hoped for. However, we did pick up the Audience Award at our first festival, and that was a big part of putting some wind beneath the wings for the film.”
Final Thoughts
 
As Frank’s first strong effort into documentary feature filmmaking, it left him and his team with a host of lessons.
 
“I think the biggest mistake someone can make is to wait and think too much about the idea to the point where they’re halted and frozen by it. I think it was a beautiful thing to be unsure about. And maybe this applies mostly to the documentary but to be unsure of what I was making and to be okay with that and allow me to just start creating and find it in the process.”
Bunker 15
 
Bunker 15 reached out Somewhere with No Bridges played at BENDfilm festival in Oregon. After building a list of industry contacts they wanted to write about the film, they started to realize getting them to talk was a much harder task than first thought.
 
“Our odds of reaching quality reviewers were pretty low compared to what we saw from Bunker 15. Daniel and the team managed to generate a lot of buzz about the film. We had the 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. That drew a lot of attention for talks with distributors and folks that we wound up going with. Connecting with Bunker 15 certainly was a big watershed moment for us.”
 
ABOUT VOYAGER

VOYAGER is a production company purpose-built to support filmmakers.
Named after the original NASA program, Voyager is the vessel by which we explore and expand the boundaries of commissioned storytelling. They produce films ranging from broadcast commercials and branded content to original documentaries and narratives.

Busman’s Holiday

Busman’s Holiday is a great VOD feature for Pandemic Times
 
Los Angeles, CA (October 10, 2021) – Bunker 15 helps take Busman’s Holiday’s publicity worldwide.
 
Bunker 15 Films and filmmaker Austin Smithard came together to boost the outreach of “Busman’s Holiday.”
 
Austin, a student of Speilberg, takes the viewer on a globe-trotting quest through the film. We follow a disillusioned policeman entrusted with the task of searching for a missing girl. The drama stars Jamie McShane (Bloodline, Sons of Anarchy, Bosch).
 
Busman’s Holiday had no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes until Bunker 15 began the marketing campaign. The goal was to get 5 reviews so the film would register a score on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer… The result was 7 reviews and a score of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, a very “Fresh” result indeed.
 
The film was a huge undertaking for Austin and required him to divide his attentions both creatively and financially. Bunker 15 helped lighten that load.
 
Austin says “The Bunker 15 team really delivered. The fact that I received seven positive reviews (even the negative review was actually very positive) was a great surprise. Of course, you can make a bad film or a good film, but without the knowledge to get the film noticed, none of it matters.”
 
CEO Daniel Harlow proclaimed that films “like Busman’s Holiday are what keeps critics coming back to Bunker 15 again and again for things to watch and write about. Busman’s Holiday is a great film to handle during the pandemic year of 2020 since critics loved the idea of a film about travel. Going around the world, even virtually, was a welcome respite from our dreary stay-at-home orders.”
 
Harlow continues “The fact that such a low budget indie was shot on location in multiple continents made it an easy pitch to journalists. We love working with films that are so easy to get writers to watch.”
 
Busman’s Holiday is a rare low budget indie that has Hollywood level scope.
 
And thanks to Bunker 15, the film got the critical response it deserved. Looking forward, Austin hopes it can also find the audience it deserves with the help of Bunker 15 once more “
I much appreciate your support and your idea to branch into distribution is exciting and worthwhile.”
 
Busman’s Holiday is available to watch now on Amazon Prime and iTunes.
 

ABOUT THE FILMMAKER

Austin Smithard is a director, writer and producer from the Isle of Wight. Early in his career, his short film “The Homerun”, caught the attention of Steven Spielberg. This introduction into Hollywood led Smitthard onto working at Universal Pictures and Zoetrope as a writer.
 
Smitthard later began directing commercials, working with large brands such as Amtrak, Mercedes and the US Army plus many more. Busman’s Holiday is Smitthard’s second narrative feature film following Breaking the Fifth (2004) starring Frank Langella
 
ABOUT BUNKER 15 FILMS

Bunker15’s smart-tech Publicity Engine helps find the right journalists to promote your film. Even VOD releases can earn Press. Every film deserves to find its audience. Whether you have a small film with a limited theatrical release or you have a Streaming-VOD feature, Bunker15 can reach out to the journalists that are interested in your story.
 

Inventive indie thriller doesn’t go below the radar

The Film

• Genre: Crime / Thriller
• Writers / Director / Producer: Marcus Mizelle
• Executive Producers: Jillian Longnecker, Paula Marcus, Dustin Taylor
• Budget: Micro Budget – $6,800
• World premiere: Dances With Films Festival at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, June 2019

 

Intro
Chameleon is the third full-length, feature film from Marcus Mizelle and marks a major leap forward in ambition and exposure. Chameleon was a fantastic critical success sitting on Rotten Tomatoes at 100% with eleven reviews and a 79% User Rating with over 100 User Reviews. The film is represented by Random Media and is being distributed in several countries around the world. While Marcus prepares for his next project, Bunker 15 got to spend a few minutes with the talented director reminiscing on how Chameleon came to be.

 

Development and Financing
Chameleon is the most recent of Marcus’ features, released in 2019 – financed by small deposits over four investors (one being Marcus). It is currently selling in foreign markets now and its success shows that Marcus’ approach is improving. The film was done on a budget of only $36K after their initial investor pulled out at the last minute.

 

Despite the financial setback, the production team decided to still make the film with only $7K needed for production! The rough breakdown: $3K for locations, $2K on food and travel, and around $2K on props and miscellaneous rentals.

 

But building Chameleon was more than just the financing. The idea and process itself proved rewarding for Marcus with many lessons learned.

 

“The original script was very non-linear but it wasn’t until I was in post did I realize it simply didn’t work off the page… it lacked a proper heroes journey, which I felt was needed more than ever when you’re rooting for a criminal. Yes, restructuring the narrative back into a more chronological order did make the film much simpler, but in turn also clearer and provided a stronger clothesline for our protagonist, played by Joel Hogan. As for casting, Joel was always the guy.” – Marcus M…

 

Production / Post-Production
One of the keys to success was to not execute pre-production on all days of the shoot up-front. The schedules of the production team were always in flux due to numerous other prior commitments. Scheduling was difficult and could only be scheduled a few days at a time. This meant the calendar time of the filming stretched out since a compressed scheduled with contiguous days weren’t going to happen. Since the shooting would stretch out for so long, it was impossible to predict pre-production far into the future. Marcus found success by doing pre-production a week or two at a time for a two to four day shooting block, then allowing the team to catch their collective breaths before executing another block of pre- production, which involved scheduling the shoot, wrangling props and wardrobe, locking locations, etc.

 

This method was repeated until the film was completed. Marcus also financed the camera on his own dime which provided flexibility while shooting on a non-consecutive schedule, and once photography was completed, sold the camera for nearly the original purchase amount.

 

Marcus also stressed the costs and efforts to complete and release a film that come into play only after the production is finished. These are the hidden film costs that a filmmaker might not consider at first.
“As I’ve stressed before, filmmaking still costs real money. Even if you have a film finished and did it all for free, you might get sticker shock when you realize how much it’s going to cost to put your baby on iTunes! Most first- time filmmakers think pre- production and production will be the bulk of the costs, but that’s not usually the case, in my experience. In fact, when you’re doing micro-budget filmmaking, it’s the post-production expenses such as sound mixing, legal/delivery costs, marketing materials such as artwork/ trailer and festival submissions that are the biggest expenses. Because those expenses, often, can only be scaled down so much. Lawyers can only be so cheap and if you need a legal review to obtain E&O Insurance for your film for your distributor or sales agent, that’s going to be thousands of dollars right there,” says Marcus

 

Post-production was budgeted at $14K (which included a big “friends and family discount” on sound mixing/designing and color timing the film). Also marketing elements such as the trailer and artwork are crucial yet often overlooked elements when selling and exhibiting the film.

 

“I have to show love to my truly badass composer Jeremy Tisser who created a quality score, and sound wizard Jamie Hardt who always cleans up my dreadful dialogue and makes the sound design and mix work oh so nice.”

 

Roughly $10K for delivery fees such as E&O Insurance, legal/ clearance reports, Continuity Reports, DCPs and Captions; $3K in festival applications; and $2K to hire a publicist to place a single Screen Daily ad for the film prior to the Berlin Film Festival.

 

The Sale
Domestic and foreign sales have already been achieved, and with more offers and interest emerging every film market. Chameleon is well on its way to making its investment back – so Marcus is improving his approach incrementally as he moves forward. If you can keep expenses low enough and make a marketable film, you can likely make the money back and advance the careers of the people involved.

 

When it comes to the sale itself, Marcus went with Freestyle based on a friend’s recommendation:
“I reached out to a mutual friend: Caleb Ward, who had just become head of acquisitions at Freestyle. So I connected my sales company with Caleb and they began hashing it out. I chose them because, quite frankly, they were known for being an effective machine with numerous release outlets. As for Foreign sales, my sales company has so far sold Vietnam, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia. We’ve frustratingly had a few “almosts” that didn’t go through, particularly China and India.”

 

Festival Strategy & Premiere, Release
The film played at the TCL Chinese Theater for its festival premiere at the Dances with Films on June 22, 2019. During the festival run, the film also took home the Best Cinematography award at the Orlando Film Festival. Both were very positive signs that good things were happening.

 
 
“We premiered at Dances With Films in Hollywood which I love because it’s a well-run festival with one of the best venues and screens in town. They support and encourage films without a big cast – the best festival out there that doesn’t care about status quo IMO. Always a solid premiere (I premiered 2 other films there previously). We then got invited to screen at Twin Cities in Minneapolis and followed that with The Valley Film Festival in Burbank and Orlando Film Festival where we were nominated for best director, picture, actor and awarded Best Cinematography. This particular festival run was a mix of cold invites and reaching out to festival directors that have supported me in the past. We didn’t make too much fuss about some huge festival run with this one, just wanted to have some nice big screen moments before moving into release.” – Marcus M…

 

Launch, Promotion, Publicity
“As for critical reception, we’re 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes across 11 critic reviews … For an imperfect film with a production budget of $6,800, I’ll take it.” – Marcus
This small budget, inventive film is a gem that was set to fly below the radar of journalists despite premiering at Dances with Films Festival (at the TCL theater in Hollywood) and winning awards at the Orlando Film Festival. When it came to the launch and promotion, Chameleon and Bunker 15 strategized on the best ways to get journalist attention for a true independent production filmed with a tiny budget and a loose guerrilla-style production schedule. With the right film, Chameleon is proving you don’t need a big studio release in 100+ cities to get film critics to watch your movie, like it and write about it.

 

ABOUT MARCUS MIZELLE
Marcus is a multi-faceted LA-based film director/dp and producer of commercials, music videos and feature films including feature film, crime thriller “Chameleon.” “Chameleon” followed on the success of festival hit/Hollywood satire “Actor For Hire.” He’s directed videos for Interscope artist Aloe Blacc, Atlantic artists G-Eazy and Kevin Gates, Kreayshawn, Dag Savage and over 30 short films including “My Marilyn” which premiered at the 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival and award-winning comedies “The Reliever” and “The Buck Johnson Story.”
Marcus Mizelle

 

ABOUT BUNKER 15 FILMS
Every film deserves to find its audience! Bunker15’s smart-tech Publicity Engine helps target the right journalists to promote your movie (VOD or Theatrical). Whether you have a theatrical release or go direct-to-VOD, every movie can earn Press. Bunker15 will raise the profile of the film, adding long-term value, positioning it in the international marketplace and giving the careers of the filmmakers a big boost.

What Matters (and What Doesn’t) with Your Microbudget Feature

Our film Family Obligations tells the story of an isolated man learning to engage in meaningful relationships for the first time in his life. It wears its heart on its sleeve as a comedy-drama with no recognizable names in its cast and a minimal crew. We shot it around our home of Rockville Centre, New York, for $16,000 with an inexpensive six-year-old camera, budget LED lights, and the leanest, quickest shooting schedule we could create.

Minor Premise, Sci-Fi Indie hit has success with Bunker 15

Eric Schultz is a New York based filmmaker and the founder of Relic Pictures. He is an Independent Spirit and Gotham Award-nominated producer and was named one of Variety’s 10 Producers to Watch in 2016. Eric has served as producer or executive producer on fifteen films in the past five years. In 2015, Eric produced James White, which won the NEXT Audience Award at Sundance and was nominated for two Gotham and three Indie Spirit Awards.

Bunker 15 masterfully boosts The Ringmaster’s marketing

[Los Angeles, CA – March 19, 2021] Bunker 15 Films joined forces with Capp Bros to help market their chef documentary “The Ring Master” which is available to watch on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

 

When Zachary Capp (writer) connected with Bunker 15 in October last year, the film had received no reviews and no page on Rotten Tomatoes. There was an initial plan for 5 reviews but the process snowballed into a fully-fledged campaign totalling 20 reviews.

 

Thanks to Bunker 15, the film managed to obtain “Critics Consensus” status.

 

Zachary heralded the “Bunker 15 team and Daniel as an absolute joy to work with and they helped our indie doc The Ringmaster attain many critic reviews. We will be recommending their services to other filmmakers and won’t hesitate to use them in the future.”

 

The Ringmaster is Zachary’s debut feature documentary – directed by Molly Dworsky and Dave Newberg. It follows a recovering gambling addict on a personal discovery into his childhood by connecting with a Minnesotan chef who makes renowned onion rings. Tables take a turn for the worst when the filmmaker attempts to improve the fortunes of the chef despite the latter’s disapproval. In secret, the camera crew turn the camera’s focus toward the filmmaker depicting his struggles over a three year period.

 

CEO Daniel Harlow described The Ringmaster as a “really unique Documentary that turns on itself. It has a hook about a world-famous Onion-ring maker, then adds to its uniqueness by telling the story of the filmmaker’s personal journey which becomes quite interesting by itself”.

 

The film presents an almost surreal meta-reality with a documentary unfolding within a documentary. It’s no surprise that critics lavished the film with praise.

 

 

ABOUT PRODUCTION COMPANY

CAPP BROS is an award-winning film and video production company hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada. Run by Zachary, they have produced feature films, commercials, music videos and many other forms of branded content.

 

ABOUT BUNKER 15

Bunker15’s smart-tech Publicity Engine helps find the right journalists to promote your film (VOD or Theatrical). Even VOD releases can earn Press. Every film deserves to find its audience. Whether you have a small film with a limited theatrical release or you have a Straight-to-VOD feature, they can reach out to the journalists that are interested in your story.

The Dalai Lama: Scientist

Roberta Munroe in conversation with director Dawn Engle.
Bunker 15 works with Dawn Engle and ‘Dalai Lama: Scientist’ to reach 26 reviews and a 88% rating. Great Documentary from PeaceJam Foundation. Read The Film Collaborative’s in depth Case Study here. Roberta Munroe has produced and/or written/directed over 30 award-winning short- and long-form projects, including films and television pilots.

Guide to a Virtual Cinema Release For Indie Filmmakers

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.”