Todd Parker may be able to take your script to the silver screen, by way of a DVD. The former marketer, until recently an employee of Trenton’s Hibbert Group, a firm specializing in pharmaceutical marketing, started a movie production company, Wilmor Production Services, just one year ago.
Parker, a 1997 graduate of St. Lawrence University, has already had some success in getting his own work in front of audiences, and is building a business around helping other beginning screenwriters achieve the same thing.
He has a romantic comedy, “Turn to Jelly,” under option with a producer he met through an acquaintance in Los Angeles. He has produced a black comedy, “like the Coen brothers,” which was shot in Cranbury, and a love story, “Serenity,” that has been shot, in part, at the marina in Mercer County Park.
Parker’s work has also made it to television. “I wrote a short film about four people in an elevator. One person gets murdered,” he says. “It became a TV series.” Titled “Atlanta Homicide,” the series, shot on location in Atlanta, has aired on the DISH network. Parker wrote and directed the first four episodes, and is now back at his East Windsor offices reading through the 50 to 100 scripts that Hollywood hopefuls send him each day.
After deciding which of the scripts appear to be good projects for him, Parker gets in touch with their writers and lets them know how much it will cost to bring their work to life. The cost ranges from $5,000 for a short film up to $40,000 to $50,000 for a feature film. The writer supplies the financing, one-third up front, and the rest over a period of six or eight months, and Parker handles casting, scouting locations, filming, editing, making and marketing DVDs, and trying to get the finished films into film festivals.
The dream is that a producer will see a short film, and turn it into a blockbuster. It happens, Parker insists, pointing to cult hits like the “Blair Witch Project” and mainstream successes like “Crash”, which won an Academy Award.
To date, Parker is relying on freelancers to shoot the small budget films. He says that he broke even about two months ago, and is making enough that he is now able to take on bigger projects and to include some union actors in his films.
He does a lot of his marketing through his newsletter, which is available through his website, www.wilmorproduction.com. He also issues frequent calls for actors and extras on the website.
The DVDs that Parker produces sell for $30. Isn’t that a lot? Not really, he says, explaining that there is a community of people who are interested in independent films and who want to stay on top of the genre. He sometimes packages several films with similar themes into one DVD.
Parker’s most successful film so far is “Chemistry,” a romantic comedy filmed in Princeton. “I’m filming the sequel now,” he says. The screen writer is Laura Martin, a New York City-based writer. Like most of the writers with whom he works, she is a full time writer, and she lives out of the area. “Most of my writers are from outside of New Jersey,” he says. “The first film I did was for a writer from Tel Aviv.” The writers, like most of his customers, find him through his website.
The actors Parker uses, though, are generally local. He used “five to ten actors and five to ten extras” in “Chemistry.” Among them were Jessica Noll and Keegan McDonald, both students at the College of New Jersey.
“Chemistry” was released in March and by July had sold 200 copies. While that is far short of the tens of millions of tickets sold to “Sex and the City” and “Dark Knight” fans this summer, it is an encouraging start for a new film maker.
Wilmor Production Services, 23 Wilmor Drive, East Windsor 08520; 609-247-1336. Todd Parker, owner. www.wilmorproduction.com.