This isn't a business model that most filmmakers would want to emulate but when the producers of Missing Pieces were knocked back by the major distributors and couldn't strike an acceptable deal with an indie, they made an unusual decision: post the film online for free viewing.
Shot in Birmingham, Alabama in 2009, followed by re-shoots in January and August 2010, the film marks the writing and directing debut of Alabama native Kenton Bartlett. There is an Australian connection: The executive producer is Estelle Buzzard of Perth-based Buzz Productions.
The saga of a desperate man who tries to win back the love of his life using any means, including kidnapping, it stars Mark Boone Jr. (whose credits include Batman Begins, Memento and TV's Sons of Anarchy; pictured) and Melora Walters (Magnolia, Cold Mountain, TV's Big Love).
The film played at various festivals in the US and Europe and had its Australian premiere in the Melbourne International Film Festival 37ºSouth's Breakthru Screenings.
Yet commercial distribution proved elusive. “Major distributors did not want to take a chance on Missing Pieces,” the producers state on the film's website. “Small distributors offered unfair/fishy contracts. We can't afford the $1,595 fee required to post on Netflix/Hulu/iTunes/etc. via services like Distribber.com.”
Hence the decision to post the film on the website, where it's also available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray.
“We did look at the options of the traditional release routes and Video-On-Demand in Australia but Kenton wanted to get the film out to audiences,” Buzzard tells SBS Film. “Our main priority now is developing four projects for which we're getting great responses from sales agents.”
Buzzard says the Missing Pieces cast and crew worked for free and the production cost just $100,000. She estimates the budget would have been $1 million or more without the donations of services and supplies.
Her next film with Bartlett will probably be Gifted, a thriller about an autistic introvert who has a gift for art but becomes the victim of elaborate hoax. She is looking to package the project with a major US talent agency.
In January, Buzzard attended the Sundance Film Festival where Liz Garcia's The Lifeguard, a drama starring Kristen Bell and Mamie Gummer, on which she served as an executive producer, screened in the official competition. Bell plays a New York reporter who moves back with her parents after being jilted by her lover, gets a job as a lifeguard and hooks up with a 17-year-old (David Lambert). CAA is negotiating a theatrical release in the US, after which foreign sales including Australia will be pursued.
Currently she is shooting Foreshadow in Perth, a supernatural thriller featuring singer-turned-actor Justin Burford, Myles Pollard (Drift, The Turning, McLeod's Daughters), Andrea Addison, Melanie Lyons and Tawni Bryant. Burford plays a high-living playboy whose latest conquest dies; after the coroner rules out foul play and the police close their investigation, he decides to pursue the killer himself.
A co-production between Buzz Productions and Movierockets Entertainment, the film is written by Movierockets' CEO Kris Lippert and is being directed by Carmelo Musca. It's been financed by private investors and Lippert is cash flowing the 40 per cent producer offset.