SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: South African producer, director and writer Ryan Davy recently returned from the American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica where he presented his teen thriller project, The Parricidal Effect, to sales agents and distributors.
Davy describes AFM as not for the faint hearted. It requires months and months of preparation and if one is not properly prepped, you will quickly find yourself being chewed on and spat out. AFM is strictly business for distribution companies and sales agents and they have no time for dreamers.
At AFM I managed to acquire two LOIs (Letters of Intent), from a sales agent who will represent the film to the foreign market once its completed, and a distribution company that will handle domestic sales in the US and Canada.
He notes that The Parricidal Effect has two budget scenarios. One is a non-union scenario, which means I can take more risks but am forced further out of town to shoot the film in the US, which has attractive tax incentives for micro budgets and lenient location licences. Alternatively I may be forced to shoot union through contractual agreements with casting agencies that will then add a new dynamic to the film in that it will have to be bonded. My non-union budget is sitting at $700 000 and my union budget is currently at $1.4m.
According to Davy, the pitched concepts at AFM are sold solely on attachments and genre, with the art work and executive summary playing a big role.
In one instance I was almost forced to pay a significant amount of money to a well-known producer to have his name added to the executive summary to make the package look more attractive for pre-sales. Had I done that, I wouldnt have afforded my flight fare home! he reveals.
The Parricidal Effect is the story of a remorseful spirit that attaches himself to a deranged teenager as a means of uncovering the anomalies surrounding his death and that of his parents.
Attached cast thus far includes Nathan Gamble (Dolphin Tale), Paul Johansson (One Tree Hill) and Jenna Boyd (The Missing).
The fact that Davy already has a feature film behind him, Lords of Exile, made it easier for him to know what elements to focus on when writing the Parridical script. He continues: Parricidal is a term used for children who kill their parents. I didnt write the script from an artistic point of view but more from a market perspective. As filmmakers we have to identify what the market is looking for before we go out and make our films otherwise who are we ultimately making the film for? Its important to give the distributor what they want so its a case of reverse engineering so to speak. You shop your concept around to various distributors to find out if it has merit in the marketplace and what the budget should be in order to come up with realistic sales figures. You then work backwards from there.
As a filmmaker I constantly need to grow and build credibility with high concept character driven stories, yet maintain a budget that fits my profile. So in this instance I chose a genre that sits within these two spectrums. The Parricidal Effect, being a thriller, will get the attention of distributors and simultaneously keep the budget low enough to work within realistic sales projections for potential investors. From a story point of view, I wanted something with the spirituality of The Lovely Bones, the characterisation of Super 8, and the visual treatment of Haunting in Connecticut.
Commenting on the teen thriller genre Davy believes that teenagers and young adults are more likely to watch a theatrical release because of their social habits. Being scared to death is always a good ice breaker for your audience to grab hold of whoever is sitting next to them in the cinema. It is an added bonus of course to have a cast member that the audience can identify with, especially if that cast member has a big Twitter and Facebook following.
Cast attachment is a very difficult thing to achieve if one does not yet have the budget in place. I felt it safer to pay a casting director to secure two A-list stars or five B-list stars. The A-lists were frowned upon from the scenario I mentioned above, so I had the five B-listers attached to the package, some bankable, some not, but enough to make the film attractive in the marketplace, he says.
Davy plans is to shoot by the end of April 2013 and to have the film packaged by June. The shooting schedule currently sits at 21 days.
I want to shoot the film in the Magaliesberg (South Africa) as there are lots of forests there and they are spooky as hell, he comments. The characters in the story are housed in a hostel near a wooded area so with permission I will be shooting in Bekker, well suited and located for a tight schedule.
Davy has purchased a RED Scarlet camera to use on the shoot, because it has all the specifications that a director and director of photography could ask for.
For more about The Parricidal Effect visit http://www.theparricidaleffect.co.za/home