Terrorism. Suspense. Politics. These are a few of the words one could use to explain the plot of Capital City Entertainment's first major motion picture release, "Fatwa." The stars of the film include actors such as Lauren Holly, Lacey Chabert, Rachel Miner and Angus Macfayden. Yet the most intriguing members of the "Fatwa" team are the two men behind it.
John Carter and Scott Schafer, who grew up in Alexandria, are the founders of Capitol City Entertainment (CCE), a company that produces and makes films in the Washington, D.C. metro area. But being based in the area and not Hollywood is not the only difference that CCE has from other production companies. They're also trying to revolutionize how films are being made.
"We want to make a movie for a small budget that can compete on a major market level," said Schafer, who wrote the screenplay, "Create scripts that attract mainstream Hollywood, get a 125 percent investment return on the film. We're really in a lot of ways the first people to use this model."
The model includes focusing on not only the film making aspect of the film but also the financial returns. "Fatwa" was filmed for less than $1 million and will be in video stores everywhere on June 13 creating a huge profit and making their first production a resounding success.
"It's the development that keeps the cost down and a lot of independent directors ignore that," said Carter, who directed the film, "What we do as a company is put all the elements that usually cost a lot together." Those elements, says Carter, are using new technology like high definition digital cameras, selling the movie in the most profitable area, whether that be DVD, theater or other options such as watching it on your cell phone, and insuring that the movie is actually a quality film.
"I think it’s absolutely the new thing in film," said Pete Ballard, the vice president and chief operatiang officer of LAB 601 who co-produced the film, "If you look at the last year’s best pictures nominations they were mostly independent. I think that they are on the right track in terms of leveraging technology and being outside the Hollywood system."
Being outside Hollywood and especially in the D.C. metro area might be what makes CCE successful, especially since Scott is originally from the area.
"This is home. This is where I spent 26 years of my life living. There just doesn't seem like a more logical place. All of the stories come from D.C. and Alexandria roots. I don't know how to write about being in Bangladesh," said Schafer.
"There is a local pool of talent here that's great and had an opportunity with 'Fatwa' to use their trade," Carter added.
The film was shot entirely in the metro area, including some scenes in Alexandria, in a 20-day shoot with only 12 hours of overtime.
"The production went so smoothly. Usually there are minor disasters on an independent film but we had very few problems," Carter said.
This was good for Carter since it was his first time directing a major film after a career in commercial direction and television production. Carter and Schafer had been working together for two years on reality TV shows when the decided to take a big risk and start a production company.
"What we always wanted to do was make movies, and we were sick of the reality television even though we were living pretty comfortably," said Schafer. "So we said lets get uncomfortable and try to make this thing work."
The release of "Fatwa" is a major success for the two, but it also signals a change in the way filmmaking works. The film is going straight DVD, not because it could not get a theatrical release but because that is the place where it can be most profitable.
"There is a focus on returning a profit for investors. Most film makers don't address the business side of film making as well as John and Scott do," said Ballard, "A lot of film makers are only focused on getting a finished film not selling tickets and DVDs."
"It is just making the best movie you can in the design that will have the largest release be that theater or DVD or internet," said Schafer.
"We wanted to prove that this model could work, but also wanted to do something that was re-creatable for future movies," Caret said.
Outside of the business of making money, CCE is also trying to produce films that challenge viewers.
"Its just that movies aren't very good. There is a sort of general apathy in art that doesn't confront what is going on today," said Schafer.
"The audience doesn't care how much you spend. They care what's on the screen and if it is quality. They want to be entertained, moved and stirred," added Carter.
The two will keep this in mind as they work on their next film "The Way of War," which will deal with a group of soldiers who find Osama Bin Laden. They aren't sure where or how this film will be released but they are looking into a multitude of ways. CCE is going to be the first company in the world to screen a film coast to coast over fiber optic lines with "Fatwa" says Carter.
"The bottom line of this business is that you have to win, you have to make money and that's what Capital City Entertainment is looking to do, while making the best films possible," said Carter.
Ballard agrees with this and says LAB 601 is hoping to work with the two again. "It is very relationship based. It's refreshing to be able to work with people who are coming from the same direction that we are," he said.
Both men agree that going "Hollywood" is not their goal and that the D.C. area is the place for them.
"Its great that you can do this in your home town with your friends and family around," said Schafer.
The film will premiere on June 11 at the Atlanta Film Festival.