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Big Screen Dreams

Two area men start up film production company.

A little piece of Hollywood is coming to Cinema Arts Theatre. Filmmakers Marc Lieberman of Fairfax and Barry Sisson, formerly of Fairfax and currently of Charlottesville, will have an invitation-only investor information event at Cinema Arts on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m., to discuss plans for their film production company, Cavalier Films.

Lieberman grew up in Fairfax and moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, when he took a job with Creative Planet, an entertainment-based software company, after working with Intel and Macromedia.

“I hated corporate America,” he said of his high-tech work history. “I left the tech world for L.A. and helped this entertainment company raise $100 million for their work, but nothing came of the company.”

He also worked with Outlaw Productions, Washington D.C.-resident Bobby Newmyer’s production company, which boasts involvement with films like "Training Day," "The Santa Clause" and "The Santa Clause II."

“It couldn’t have been a better learning experience,” Lieberman said. “I worked with him for about two years and was totally immersed in Hollywood.”

After that experience, Lieberman decided he wanted to work for himself in the film industry.

“My sister and her friend were both lawyers and got tired of it, so her friend [Catherine Cahn] wrote a script for a movie that could be done for about $100,000. I came on as a co-producer on the movie, ‘Charlie’s Party,’” Lieberman said.

It was at this time that his partner Sisson’s film, "The Station Agent," was earning critical acclaim and awards at the Sundance Film Festival in Colorado. Lieberman and associates sent the “Charlie’s Party” script to Sisson, and he immediately joined the production team.

“We worked together for two months and realized we had the same ideas on how to make a movie,” Lieberman said. “We decided to go into business together.”

WITH "CHARLIE'S PARTY" currently in post-production, Lieberman and Sisson have been working on starting up their production company, Cavalier Films.

“I feel so blessed that we have the great idea to go from,” Sisson said of the production company. “Marc and I found each other and had the same goals for films.”

Both men currently live in Virginia and hope to be able to shoot their films locally.

“Northern Virginia has a little bit of everything,” Lieberman said. “There’s small towns, there’s fields, there’s D.C. if you need a city shot,” he said.

“We’re actively looking at scripts right now, and if a script is or can be set in Virginia, it automatically has a leg up,” Lieberman said.

The two men decided to try to incorporate as many local people as possible.

“Why not raise money here, too?” Lieberman said. “It’s a unique way to raise money and be involved in the movies we make. Our investors can be involved in almost every aspect of the production.”

“I think it’s going to be so much fun,” Sisson said. “The access our investors will have to this film is unheard of outside the industry.”

Currently, Lieberman and Sisson have a three-year business plan, to make three movies in three years for between $500,000 and $1 million each, for a total of between $1.5 million to $3 million. In order to start on their plan, they need to raise at least $2 million to start working on the production of their first film, which has not yet been determined, Lieberman said.

“We want to be able to return the investor’s money to them as soon as possible,” he said. “Whatever profits we make will go back into the fund and then back to the investors, and after the three years, if they want to invest again, they’ll be able to do that.”

Having the event at Cinema Arts was an easy decision.

“I came here growing up,” Lieberman said. “It’s got a really good reputation, and they show the kind of movies we want to make.”

“I still go up there from time to time for mini-vacations,” Sisson said. “They bring in great interesting films. The whole Washington area is great for films.”

BOTH MEN knew Cinema Arts Theatre owner Jim Tomashoff, who volunteered to have the fund-raiser in one of his auditoriums.

“Barry and I struck up a friendship when we showed ‘The Station Agent’ here,” Tomashoff said. “I thought it’d be interesting to have people come in and learn about independent films because we do play a lot of independent movies here.

“Presumably, if the films get made, we’d play them here,” he said.

Word of the fund-raiser in the theater’s newsletter has already brought in 20 responses for the event, Lieberman said.

The event will feature cocktails and appetizers in addition to a 30-minute Power Point presentation on Cavalier Films’ business plan, followed by a question-and-answer session with the partners, Lieberman said.

“It’s a low-key event,” he said. “If people are interested, we’ll give them more information and set up a time to meet with them later to further discuss the project.”

“When the right people get involved and react to the information we give them, the hair on the back of their neck stands up and they get excited,” Sisson said.

He has high hopes for Cavalier Films and the fund-raiser.

“We’re bound to run into interesting challenges along the way with the funding, the material, finding the right team,” Sisson said. “But the one element you can’t control is the magic. We can absolutely control the production of the film, but will it have magic?

“It’s luck,” Sisson said, “but I’m absolutely confident we’ll find it.”