Adam Pitman of Whitefish’s BadFritter Films talks business
In October at the Eerie Horror Film Festival in Erie, Penn., Whitefish native Adam Pitman and his friends Adam Stilwell and David Blair won awards for best feature, best actor and best director for Paper Dolls, their horror film about killer sasquatches in the forests of the Flathead Valley.
They’ve since moved themselves and their production company, BadFritter Films, to Los Angeles, where they’ve finished an initial edit of the film, begun shopping for distributors and continued querying more film festivals. Meanwhile, they’re toiling to make ends meet with jobs waiting tables, behind a deli counter, and parking cars.
Pitman took time during the last day of his trip home for Christmas to talk with the Independent at a downtown Whitefish coffee shop, bringing us up-to-date on the progress of his film.
Indy: What stage is Paper Dolls in?
Pitman: Right now it’s still in offline edit form, which means it’s in digital form, and also sound hasn’t been completely mixed. Eventually it’s going to go on 35 mm and have surround sound, so it’ll have a bigger sound. I mixed the thing in my bedroom on a little mixer we rented.
Indy: What will it take to get it finished?
Pitman: To finish it, we really need a pretty substantial amount of money.
It’s kind of a double-edged sword—getting it to a distributor, they don’t see the final version, which isn’t as appealing as seeing the finished movie. But also the distributor could come on and give us the finish costs.
The same goes for film festivals. Film festivals are not as likely to take an offline edit as an online edit.
That’s definitely something we’ve been struggling with, is not having a finished product. But also, we hadn’t budgeted to get to this point. We never had a budget to make a finished product, so we were kind of counting on a distributor—we are counting on a distributor—to pick it up and provide the finishing funds. Also, we’re looking at maybe putting out our feelers for another investor.
Indy: Can you give a ballpark of what it would cost to finish it?
Pitman: Someone mentioned to me, with pulling in some favors we have, probably somewhere between $150,000 to $250,000 dollars.
Indy: Has your success at the Horror Fest helped sell the film?
Pitman: After we got done with that film festival it really opened doors. After that we had some festivals that wrote to us and said, “You don’t have to pay entry fees, just send it, we really want to take a look at it.”
A lot of festivals have come and gone that we just haven’t been able to afford to enter.
Indy: How much does it cost to enter?
Pitman: It’s usually just around $50 to $75 dollars, but we really need to pay rent.
Indy: What other festivals have you been able to get into?
Pitman: One in North Carolina called the Nevermore Film Festival, and another one in France, the Mauvais Genre International Film Festival. The one in France, it sounds like we’re already going to be in that festival.
So right now we’re writing up the script verbatim from the film, because we improvised a lot of it once we got on set. We were just saying, “You know the scene, let’s just mess with it.”
So, we’re taking the original script and now going through the movie and making the script verbatim what the movie says. Which is very different from the script. We’re sending that to France so they can put subtitles in for us.
When we sent the movie to the Nevermore Festival in North Carolina, I thought we were in that one, but as it turns out, we were just part of the selection process. They wrote to us about a week ago and said they got 130 submissions, and ours scored the highest of the horror films, so it’s definitely in the festival, so that was kind of cool.
Indy: How has the process of pitching the film to distributors and agents gone?
Pitman: We’ve been so close. We’ve had at least two instances… One, where this big company in Canada was between our film and another film that they wanted to distribute, and they chose the other film.
It was one of those things where the Canadian branch saw it and loved it, and then they sent it off to their New York and Los Angeles branches, and they had to approve it too, and we heard positive feedback from them, and that went on for a while. What’s hard is once someone like that is looking at it, we have to put everything on hold. We don’t want to mess this opportunity up.
It was the same when [talent agency] William Morris was looking at our film. That took about a month and a half for them to get back to us. They were possibly representing us as a film. They would have been our agent. They were really impressed with the film, but they just thought it was too low budget for them to take on.
That took a month and a half of just waiting, not sending it to anyone else so we didn’t ruin our opportunity with William Morris.
Lately we’ve decided, “You know what? We have these awards, we have these great things said about the movie,” and so I wrote this email, “We’re selling this movie, we’ve won these awards, here’s what people are saying about it.”
I sent that out to a bunch of people, and I immediately got a response from Magnolia Films, which is like, that’s what I thought would be a perfect fit for Paper Dolls from the beginning. They do great indie films. So that was really exciting. They have it right now, so we’re waiting to hear back from Magnolia. There’s another company called Palm Pictures, and they’re taking a look at it too. Another route that we’re going is that we have some connections with Miramax, and Sony Lionsgate. Miramax, as far as I know, is taking a look at it right now. So we have some irons in the fire.
Indy: Is there’s ever a point where you’d feel like this isn’t working? Where you’d decide you didn’t want to, or couldn’t be successful as a film company?
Pitman: No. At this point in our lives, that’s been our through line. We all have our jobs. I’m valet parking, David is working at an Italian delicatessen, Stilwell is a waiter. But the through line of our lives is the film company. That is always there, it’s always on our minds, it’s the main part of our lives. So it has to work. It’s the only thing we want to do, period. So that’s what we’re going to do. There’s no other option. And I feel like we’ve been very successful too, and I feel like we still have that momentum going.
I feel very optimistic about this year. I think we’ll be seeing Paper Dolls on the DVD shelves at the video store by the end of the spring