LOW BUDGET INDEPENDENT COMEDY FILM SUCCESS : ‘Swingers’ a Hit for Makers Before It Opens
The movie-making team behind “Swingers,” which opens today in Los Angeles and New York. It is in the rare, enviable position of seeing a Independent Film Investors, Low budget independent success film makers. ‘Swingers’ is one of best hit movie to earn huge profit. On their independently financed movie by Independent Film Investors before it’s even been seen and judged by the public.
Sure, the first-time filmmakers are nervous about audience reaction and how the movie will fare at the box office. But even if it flops, they can cry all the way to the bank than the Independent Film Investors.
After the movie was made for $250,000 as Independent Film Investors, Disney-owned Miramax came in and paid $5 million for the worldwide rights–a further example of how much money distributors are now willing to dish out for edgy, independent products they hope will have the wide audience appeal that “Pulp Fiction” and “The Crying Game” had.
Independent Film Investors “Swingers” is the latest big-money deal for a low-budget movie. Earlier this year, Fine Line Features, a division of New Line, paid $2.5 million for North American distribution rights to the upcoming “Shine”; and Castle Rock Entertainment ponied up a staggering $10 million for “The Spitfire Grill,” which has grossed a little more than $12 million and at best will be a break-even effort for the company.
Like most young filmmakers, the producers of “Swingers” had a tough time getting investors interested in backing their project, despite its ultra-low budget by Independent Film Investors.
Director and Independent Film Investors Doug Liman and producing partners Victor Simpkins and Nicole LaLoggia, who collaborated on a 1993 video film called “Getting In,” approached eight potential investors before finding someone to bankroll actor-writer Jon Favreau’s buddy comedy about five twentysomething wannabe actors club-hopping in Hollywood, looking for “babies.” Favreau, 29, hooked up with the producers–whom he had met a year earlier when he auditioned for but didn’t get the part in “Getting In”–at a wrap party last year and asked LaLoggia to read his script. The story is based on Favreau’s own experiences as an actor-comedian struggling to get over a relationship left behind in New York when he moved to Hollywood.
LaLoggia, 26, said that as soon as she read the script, she told Simpkins, 41, “Let’s make the movie.” With a proposed budget of close to $1 million, Favreau’s agents at United Talent Agency staged some readings and tried unsuccessfully to package the movie with some of its clients, including Jason Patric.
“They were setting meetings with smaller studio-type places and it was always the same tap dance,” said LaLoggia. ” ‘Who can we get to play in this movie who will have foreign value?’ ”
At one point early last year, it looked like the filmmakers had their investor.
“We had Finance 101 in UTA’s conference room for an investor who had never made a movie before,” said Simpkins. “He was a high-net-worth individual willing to back the whole thing.” But after four or five meetings, the producers said everything fell apart after the investor told them he had to get the blessing of his uncle to make the deal.
Meanwhile, Liman, who was LaLoggia’s housemate, decided that since he had been giving Favreau some “arbitrary” technical advice on his script, he should finally read the thing.
“I fell in love with the script,” said Liman, 30, suggesting that the movie should be made even more cheaply than the producers were planning. “I told them, ‘You don’t need all that stuff. . . . Let’s just make it and do it cheap.’ ” LaLoggia drew up a new budget of $189,000.
Liman said that after he made “Getting In,” a number of people told him they’d be happy to back him if he ever wanted to make a theatrical feature. So Liman thought it would be “a slam-dunk” to get financing for “Swingers.”
Wrong. None of them were willing to bankroll a movie with Favreau as the lead and four of his friends as the co-stars.”They said, ‘Give us a real movie,’ and I said, ‘This is it,’ ” Liman said. “I can’t believe how hard it was to find someone to finance this when we were making it for so cheap–$250,000.” The filmmakers even considered making the film on their credit cards.
But after striking out with that group, Liman finally found someone to fork over $200,000 to get the production going. After the shoot, two more investors came forth with a combined $75,000 in completion money. While he refused to reveal the names of the investors, Liman said his father–powerhouse New York attorney Arthur Liman–was not among them.
“He did not give a cent. The only support he gave was [to] help me draft the limited partnership agreement to raise the money,” said Liman, adding, “My dad’s been my personal advisor through this entire production.”
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