Minor Premise, Sci-Fi Indie hit has success with Bunker 15
- Genre: Sci-fi
- Writers: Justin Moretto, Eric Schultz, and Thomas Torrey
- Director: Eric Schultz
- Producer: Eric Schultz, Thomas Torrey, and Justin Moretto
- Executive Producers: Andrew Corkin, Chadd Harbold
- Budget: SAG Modified Low Budget
- Co-Producers: Lizz Astor, Raphael Scorcio
- World premiere: @ Fantasia International Film Festival
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS:
ERIC SCHULTZ (WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER)
Eric Schultz is a New York based filmmaker and the founder of Relic Pictures. He is an Independent Spirit and Gotham Award-nominated producer and was named one of Variety’s 10 Producers to Watch in 2016. Eric has served as producer or executive producer on fifteen films in the past five years. In 2015, Eric produced James White, which won the NEXT Audience Award at Sundance and was nominated for two Gotham and three Indie Spirit Awards.
Most recently, Eric executive produced Premature, which after premiering at Sundance, won the Somebody to Watch Award at the 2020 Indie Spirits. It was released by IFC in February 2020.
Eric graduated from Harvard cum laude with a BA in Psychology. Minor Premise is his feature directorial debut.
Relic Pictures is a New York based independent film production company founded in 2014 by Eric Schultz. The team specializes in script development, physical production, packaging and deal structuring. They focus on telling stories that are character driven and emotionally resonant, regardless of genre.
Bad Theology was founded in 2015 by Thomas Torrey and Justin Moretto with a vision to produce independent films with a bold voice. The company’s first film was the micro-budget thriller FARE, which premiered at the 2016 Newport Beach Film Festival and was released in 2017 by Random Media and The Orchard. Praised by the Los Angeles Times, FARE was picked as one of the ten best films of the year by both Addicted to Horror and Bloody Flicks. FARE was written and directed by Torrey and filmed entirely inside a car in only three days.
Development and Financing
Minor Premise began its development process when writers Thomas and Justin approached Eric with an early draft of the script. While he didn’t start with the project, the story eventually developed into something of personal resonance to Eric.
“Thomas is a filmmaker in South Carolina and Justin is a neuroscientist by trade and they actually approached me around 2015, about Minor Premise. They had an early draft of the script and we were looking to take what that they have and make it into a movie. “
“From there, I ended up joining the writing process and collaborating with them. They were generous enough to let me ultimately direct as the film evolved into something that was thematically more personal to me.”
Following his addition to the team in 2015, it took Eric a further two years to get the script ready for production. Minor Premise finally commenced principal photography in the summer of 2018.
“We were writing as a team for probably almost two years. And as it was going through different iterations we were reaching out to production companies and trying to get actors attached.”
“It was exciting to be able to make a really low budget scrappy version with local actors and crew. We essentially cobbled together financing from friends and family to bootstrap the production into existence.”
While Minor Premise is Eric’s first foray into directing features, he has amassed quite a resume of producer credits. This didn’t render the making of the film any easier as Eric details the inundation of challenges production faced during the shooting days.
“We originally started with a 20 day schedule but it became more with the pickup days. We had a really good team that stuck by us throughout the process. Our production designer would just continually donate her time while the film was in post production.”
“The film has a very subjective style. We were trying to get the audience in the headspace of the main character, Ethan. And I realised that there was an opportunity to inject a more visceral representation of that subjectivity. So we came up with the idea to shoot a bunch of macro photography pickups.”
Pickup days are evidently common on productions but it’s interesting to hear Eric remark that the added shots were used to intensify the subjectivity of the protagonists portrayal. Eric details the story of how he sourced a studio with a fish tank in order to achieve macro pickup shots.
“We filled it full of gelatinous water. Then we went to a butcher store and bought a bunch of cow brains, chicken gizzards and things of that nature. We basically spent a day experimenting pouring Alka Seltzer and shaking the tank.”
Much of the fine-tuning process Eric and the team went through was indicative of the herculean efforts needed to finish the film.
Eric speaks more about the need for meticulously precise editing when working with a psychological thriller like this.
“I’ve produced a lot of movies before I directed this but this was by far the most intensive editing process I’ve been through, just figuring out the puzzle-like structure took a lot of time, and while we were editing, we would go out and continue to pick up little shots here and there. We were shooting via a very, very long macro lens that would capture shots at a microscopic level. Through the editing process we were constantly trying to enhance the film, by making it more singular and resonant “
“The movie involved such an incredibly obsessive level of crafting to find the most precise rhythm. Much to my producers’ chagrin, I was editing the movie, up until we delivered it! It was something that can really consume you as a filmmaker. “
Somewhat miraculously, due to budget constraints Eric didn’t even have a full time editor throughout the duration of post production. The editing was eventually divided by his friend Chris Radcliffe and collaborator James Codoyannis.
“ I ended up working with two editors, but none full time.. One was my friend Chris who did the initial assembly edit and some principal editing. Then we brought on James who became a friend because we worked together for year straight for a tiny salary. ”
Eric even taught himself how to edit to help streamline the process.
““By the end of post-production I had taught myself how to edit, so that I could try out ideas on my own and present them to James as we finalized the film.”
Covid-19 was an inescapable roadblock worldwide, let alone filmmakers. Working out a viable distribution plan is difficult at the best of times but the pandemic forced Eric and his team to creatively think of new strategies. He remarks “It kind of derailed what our plan A was.”
The team had already gone through the struggles of sourcing finance, completed production, and were ready for the next hurdle.
“I feel like as indie filmmakers we live in this pretty rigid construct where you raise enough money for a movie but then you have to go and struggle again for distribution. It all depends on being able to get into a top-tier festival, then you can use that to get a sales agent, hire a publicist and start engaging with distributors.”
“Once the pandemic hit. It was a little bit disconcerting to abandon that initial plan, but it gave us an opportunity to create our own path. In the early days of the lockdown in March, I started hustling and reaching out to my distributor contacts, without the usual carrot of a film festival premiere to dangle in front of them”
“I told people that this is a movie that will play incredibly well during this period of time where people are hunkered down and isolated. It mirrors the same isolated reality that most of us have been living.”
Eric eventually connected with the Utopia Distribution founded by Robert Schwartzman in 2019.
Fortunately, the connection happened just as Minor Premise was invited to premiere at the Fantasia International film festival.”
“Because everything was geared towards the release of Minor Premise. I felt like we were able to really capitalise on those virtual festivals, like Fantasia and Sitges, as we already had a strategy in place for releasing the movie by the end of the year.”
With Minor Premise, Eric really thought he had something special. “We felt like we had the next, Primer or the Coherence. The next Indie mindbender.”
Minor Premise feels like the type of film sci-fi enthusiasts can geek over on Reddit with their theories or analysis. This was exactly what Eric and the team wanted.
“From the start, we hoped to gain a sci-fi geek following so in regards to distribution when this movie saw the light of day we were confident it would find its audience.”
“The movie was released in December. And since then we’ve been just doing everything we can to hustle and get the word out, posting on social media and trying to reach out to different filmmakers.”
“There was a solid initial push with the release. We had strong reviews from LA Times review, Hollywood Reporter and others. However, after opening week came and went, we thought there was still more we could do publicity wise to build on the momentum.”
A sequel is already in the works, aptly titled Major Premise. It picks up where the previous film left off but with a twist on the perspective.
“The second movie is entirely subjectively Alli’s film. The second film is following her as she’s trying to uncover the clues of what happened, and who Ethan is. At this point, they’re married and have a young daughter. So the main question is.. what is it like being in a marriage with somebody that you have suspicions about, and don’t know if you can trust?”
“And so it’s much more of a Hitchcockian or early Polanski suburban marital thriller, with sci-fi elements that we had wanted to explore in the first film.”
After the film’s initial release and publicity push, Eric and team sought out Daniel Harlow at Bunker 15 to inject new life into the campaign in January. The film already had debuted on Laemmle Virtual Cinema and had a solid PR campaign running when Bunker 15 Films got involved.
However, after the release was in the rear-view mirror by several weeks, Bunker 15 was a wise choice to engage because their targeted data warehouse of film writers allowed them to reach out specifically to writers willing to cover films that are already out in distribution.
“We got swallowed up in the award season, year-end screeners and things of that nature. So we got connected to Bunker 15 and Dan’s team who did a second publicity push around the DVD release of Minor Premise, which was January 19.”
“I was incredibly impressed that they were able to capitalise on something as secondary as the DVD release of the film. We’re now certified fresh and really riding that momentum, you know we got a great quote from Forbes, calling minor premise one of the best sci-fi films of the last few years.”
Most people in the industry are aware that the majority of film writers will gravitate to upcoming releases and pass on any film that isn’t current or upcoming. Bunker 15’s large database allows them to find reviewers that would consider films that had been released in the prior quarter or even earlier. Even though that’s a very targeted set of critics, the results speak for themselves.
After some weeks of Bunker 15 pushing, Minor Premise achieved Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 41 reviews and had a 93% rating. And this past week, Rotten Tomatoes named Minor Premise the #2 best reviewed scifi/fantasy movie of 2020 as part of their Golden Tomato Awards. Filmmakers and the distribution company, Utopia, are thrilled with the outcome.
ABOUT BUNKER 15
Every film deserves to find its audience! Bunker15’s smart-tech Publicity Engine helps target the right journalists to promote your movie (VOD or Theatrical). Whether you have a theatrical release or go direct-to-VOD, every movie can earn Press. Bunker15 will raise the profile of the film, adding long-term value, positioning it in the international marketplace and giving the careers of the filmmakers a big boost.