request | Filmmaker Magazine

By Scott Macaulay

AS A WORKING GOTHAM indie producer, Eureka Pictures’s Tim Perell has seen his share of no-budget nightmares and underfinanced auteur pics. In fact, when faced with looming start dates and lean bank accounts, Perell – who has produced such films as The Opportunists and The Myth of Fingerprints – is no stranger to the art of getting films in the can on the cheap.

But this spring, Perell had the kind of blessed experience that offers hope to all struggling indie producers. I’m with Lucy, a romantic comedy he had been developing for years with second-time director Jon Sherman – whose first feature, Breathing Room, Perell had produced for only $300,000 – was fully financed by French studio Gaumont at a budget of "just under $15 million."

Originally Perell imagined that the film would be done in the $5- to $8-million range. "But the script’s a romantic comedy," he says, "and we knew from the beginning we weren’t going to be making any great deals. It was a big cast, and people were getting close to what they are used to making." Perell hooked up with Gaumont through exec and producer Fabien Liron, who further developed the project with him. And when Monica Potter, who turned out to be a favorite of Gaumont director Luc Besson, agreed to star, the shoot was on.

"Once you get into our budget level, you are paying union scale," Perell notes. "Because we were trying to make a $25-million movie for under $15 million, it wasn’t a complete mindshift. We had to make choices and cut scenes, just like in a lower-budget movie. And while it was easier because we had the resources to deal with problems, there was an enormous pressure to make the kind of movie that can work in that budget range." And what’s next for Perell? "Another $1-million movie," he laughs.


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