Vista Bella Films, continued

And now we round into the Fall: the pandemic anything but gone, a woman’s right-to-choose in peril, authoritarianism relentlessly gnawing away at a fragile and imperfect democracy…

MovieMagic Screenwriter Title Page Publisher screenshot

But pontificating via social media is not my thing. I write screen stories. So an update on that tale…

My production company Vista Bella Films (co-owned with producing partner Claudio Rubens) continues advancing the funding of my feature film screenplay 2-WAY. The pandemic has whipsawed us from planned Zoom cocktail parties with investors to “press-the-flesh” opportunities to “no pressing!” (due to the delta variant). COVID has absolutely slowed us down. The new safety protocols only add to the budget. Viable distribution pathways for independent low-budget feature film dramas continue to shrink. (Listen to this recent Indiewire Screen talk podcast which touches on how much the pandemic has destroyed what was left of indie theatrical. This in turn has negative ramifications for streaming.)

Nevertheless, we’ve got some concrete steps and events ahead that we believe can move us from partial to full funding. It’s still possible we can be in pre-production before the end of the year. That’s our target. And if it slips into 2022, so be it. We’re 3 years into assembling this film, and it’s not unusual for indie films to take 4 years, 6 years, 8 years and even more to come together. You have to commit to the grind.

In the meantime, we’ve got a second feature film (which I’ve authored) that’s gearing up for funding rounds: it’s now being budgeted with an investor “deck” being built. We’re keeping it mostly under wraps (though you can get a little inkling about it on my IMDb page). Call it Another Interstate Highway Movie Project for now: something we can again shoot for a low budget in New Mexico.

Now I’ve embarked on a third feature film screenplay under the umbrella of our production partnership. Something we can — maybe — sneak under the tent of the SAG-AFTRA Ultra Low Budget Agreement. Once again, we’ll shoot it in New Mexico: because the crew base is good, because we know the terrain, because the state tax incentives, well, incentivize. And finally, because we can tell stories no one else is telling. (Because the titles of these latter two projects give away a little too much, let’s just call this the Northern New Mexico Movie Project.)

For a screenwriter, few things are more exciting than commencing a screenplay with a detailed 37-page (!) treatment behind you. Already, we can begin the task of budgeting and fundraising, even while I work on completing a first draft. (I should have it finished the day after tomorrow, right?)

I believe I’m doing some of the best work in my professional life. Some of the films that I’ve found most compelling these last few years include David Lowery’s A Ghost Story and Andrew Patterson’s The Vast of Night: super low-budget productions that rely on story and character above all else (and come in at 90-minute running times, which I really love). Other touchstone films that more directly serve as north stars include Wim Wenders’ Alice in the Cities, Allison Anders’ Gas Food Lodging, and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. (See all those and you’ll have some idea of what I’m up to.)

All 3 of the films under our production partnership qualify for SAG-AFTRA’s Diversity-in-Casting incentive, and we look forward to employing diverse New Mexican cast and crew, while also bringing unique aspects of New Mexico culture to the screen. All 3 films, of course, will be produced under a Writers Guild agreement (I’m a member, after all.)

Enough kibitzing for now. Back to writing and finding funding sources. Progress reports here when warranted.