September 18, 2008 / 9:32 PM / in 9 years

Canadian filmmakers hit their target with indie western

TORONTO (Reuters) - They may not be the Coen Bros. or even the Weinsteins -- yet -- but the way two Canadian brothers, Matt and Jeff Campagna, turned their idea for a new age Western into a movie would do any indie filmmaker proud.

<p>Canadian filmmakers Matt Campagna (L) and Jeff Campagna (R) pose with actor Colm Feore (C) in this publicity photo handout. REUTERS/Handout/Maciek Drozdzik/Campagna Brothers Independent Productions</p>

Only one month ago, the Campagnas saw their $12,000 film, “Six Reasons Why” released in Canadian theaters and on DVD, but that came about after three years of hard work, a chance encounter with actor Colm Feore and finding a distributor by crashing parties at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Joel and Ethan Coen, of course, are Oscar winners for the dark drama “No Country for Old Men,” but they came up through Hollywood’s ranks as scrappy indie filmmakers, and Harvey and Bob Weinstein famously built their former company, Miramax Films, into a powerhouse in the 1990s.

Could the Campagnas be next? Time will tell, but they seem to be off to a good start with “Six Reasons Why.”

“The film is about four men who meet in a desert at a four way stand off and goes into the history of each man and how they got there,” Matt Campagna, 28, told Reuters.

How he and his brother Jeff, 25, got to their destination, is another story altogether.

“Six Reasons Why” tells of the men stuck in the Canadian badlands. They meet up and draw down on each other but as they do, the filmmakers take audiences on an adventure that explores notions of survival in the wilderness and what it means to have a home.

Explain that to a Hollywood executive, and it’s a hard sell without a star to help market the film in release.

PARTY CRASHERS

So when the Campagnas spotted Feore while at an airport in 2006, they approached him to tell him about their movie idea. They were, after all, big fans of the Canadian actor, best known for playing the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on television.

“We went up to him at the baggage claim and told him we had a film we wanted to talk to him about. We had a role written for him,” said Matt Campagna.

“He said, ‘Well, when I hear about this kind of thing, I always like to support it, so yeah, I’d love to help out’. And of course, he kind of says that to everyone to just encourage them,” Campagna added.

But with that assurance, the bothers drove to the Alberta Badlands with five crew members and started shooting.

Upon returning to Ontario, the Campagnas tracked down Feore while he was performing at the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, hoping he would take them seriously this time around.

“We basically put together the opening sequence of the film, with his face and name as if he was already a part of it,” Campagna said.

Feore was impressed, and after months of negotiations with the Canadian actors union and finding a hole in Feore’s busy filming schedule, the Campagnas got one day with the actor in May 2007 to shoot the remaining scenes for “Six Reasons Why.”

By September of that year, they had a completed film but had no idea on how to sell it. So when Hollywood executives began showing up at the Toronto film festival that year, the Campagnas came armed with preview DVDs and ingenuity.

“We crashed a party -- one of many -- where we met our sales agent. We gave him a screener and he just really believed in it, and he loved it. If it weren’t for that, we never would have had an ‘in’ with the industry because we didn’t know how to do it,” Campagna said.

After a brief bidding war, distributor THINKFilm ponied up roughly $250,000 for the films rights and finally “Six Reasons Why” was released on DVD and in Canadian theaters this August.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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