|Scene from Cowgirls n' Angels|
A fine evening and a fine film-- But the coolest part about this whole thing is how it was made, a case study in how to get a feature film made, starting with a vision.
Tim Armstrong's day job is as a director of institutional videos in Glendale. He was (and still is) the go-to for Kantola Productions, Steve Kantola's business training video company in Mill Valley. Tim directed short films about employee ethics, office conflicts, sexual harassment-- If you had to watch a mandatory video in an office, there's a good chance you have seen his work. I have known Tim professionally for five years: I am just down the production chain from him, taking his finished masters and creating the menus and DVD masters for Kantola.
In 2009 the economy nearly went belly-up, and as the specialty video market dried up Tim found himself with more and more time on his hands. (I know exactly the tough sort of time he went through: in 2009 my company had to move from an office to my garage.) In this downtime Tim decided to try his hand at a feature. Inspired by some rodeo trick-riding he's seen, he sketched out an outline for Cowgirls n' Angels.
He took the proposal to Steve Kantola, who invested $50,000 in development money. This allowed Tim to get the screenplay (co-written by Stephan Blinn) finished and to get the project shopped around. It was picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films, and given a budget that big enough to land James Cromwell and Jackson (Twilight) Rathbone. It was shot on RED cameras on location in Oklahoma.
Cowgirls n' Angels is a winning little story about Ida (Bailee Madison), a “semi-orphaned” girl in Clinton, Oklahoma who longs to meet her estranged, unknown father. The only clue she has of his existence is an old postcard of a rodeo rider. Her search for him leads her to the world of Midwest small-town rodeos, where she falls under the care of Terence (Cromwell) who runs an all-girl trick-riding outfit called Sweethearts of the Rodeo.
If the goal of making a feature film is self-expression AND reaching a large audience, Tim Armstrong has done a fair sight better than most filmmakers I know at his level in the business. No film festivals, no Kickstarter: Just somebody with a vision-- and somebody who was willing to invest in that vision. And just as a note to any potential initial investors out there: From what he told the audience in Mill Valley, Steve Kantola has already made all his money back.
And yeah, I would have loved to have gone with this production model on the screenplay John Harden and I wrote (the AFF 2009 winner), but there's a big difference between a PG film about a winsome little cowgirl and a hard R sci-fi women-in-prison movie. Content matters...