Sundance Favorite Finally Gets Released After Thirteen Years

Back in 1997, “Colin Fitz Lives!” was the darling of the Sundance film festival. The low-budget comedy was praised by Roger Ebert and Harry Knowles. It went on to win a slew of film fest awards and looked poised to be another breakout indie hit like Kevin Smith’s “Clerks“, Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and Robert Rodriquez’s “El Mariachi.”

Instead, the movie just disappeared.

Over the years, “Colin Fitz Lives!” developed into something of a legend in the indie world. Fans everywhere wondered when the “greatest film never released” — as it was dubbed by the San Francisco Chronicle — was ever going to hit their local theater. Fourteen years and three presidents later, the movie is finally about to get its theatrical due.

So what happened? As director Robert Bella describes in an essay that appeared in Indiewire.com, the short answer is crippling debt.

Back in the days before the Internet, Bella was a struggling actor with dreams of directing when he came across a script written by his friend Tom Morrissey — a tale about two clueless security guards posted at the grave of Colin Fitz, a dead rock star with a very obsessive fan base.

Even though he had never directed a thing, much less went to film school, Bella decided to make the movie.

At first, the stars seemed to align for the budding filmmaker. He managed to line up an impressive array of actors — including William H. Macy (“Fargo“), Martha Plimpton (“The Goonies“) and John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”) — provided that he shoot immediately.

Bella had $50,000 of his own cash he was willing to put into the project and managed to raise another $100K. With today’s cheap digital video cameras and editing software, that would be plenty to finish a feature film. But that wasn’t the case in the analog ’90s when it was commonly understood that shooting, cutting and printing a feature film would cost a half million dollars.

His plan was shoot first and raise money for post production later. Yet not long after production wrapped and with his coffers depleted, Bella received a call from Sundance with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “The good news: The film had been accepted into Dramatic Competition. The bad news: A 35mm print had to be in Park City, Utah. In eight weeks.”

So he did what every budding indie filmmaker would do in that situation: He maxed out 20 credit cards to raise the money needed to make a finished print of the film.

In spite of the warm reception “Colin Fitz Lives” got at Sundance, Bella soon discovered none of the distribution deals offered would cover his costs. When it was all added up, including music rights, lab fees, and deferred salaries, the filmmaker realized that he would owe about $250,000.

The amount proved to be crippling for the struggling filmmaker; he was financially wrecked and his movie was in hock. He even wound up on the street for a spell. “I had called in so many favors, crashed on so many couches, and borrowed so much money from friends and relatives that I simply could not bear to ask for yet one more favor. So, I slept in a storage space. Along with all my worldly possessions.”

It took six years for Bella to dig himself out of personal debt and another eight to buy back his movie from his creditors. Along the way, he managed to direct a few other low-budget movies and act in a handful of others. Then not long after managed to buy back his cut negatives from the lab, he was casually approached by Arianna Bocco of IFC Films.

“‘What ever happened with ‘Colin Fitz’?” [she asked.]  I told her, ‘It’s sitting in my closet. Wanna buy it?’ Lo and behold, she said: “Sure!’

I couldn’t believe it. After all those years – it was just that easy.”

“Colin Fitz Lives!” comes out on demand August 4 and then in a limited theatrical release August 6.

Advertisements

0 Responses to “Sundance Favorite Finally Gets Released After Thirteen Years”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




August 2010
S M T W T F S
« Jul   Feb »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Flickr Photos

Blog Stats

  • 28,072 hits

%d bloggers like this: