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‘Inner Demons’: Anatomy of a New Indie Paradigm, Watch Scary Clips

'Inner Demons': Anatomy of a New Indie Paradigm, Watch Scary Clips

At the Los Angeles Film Festival last summer, producer Robin Schorr screened indie midnight horror flick “Inner Demons” for audiences and buyers, crossing her fingers that she would land a good distribution deal for the found footage movie. The movie’s set-up: we’re looking at footage of a recovering teen heroin addict and her family from the TV series “Step Inside Recovery,” the sort of reality show that “Inner Demons” director Seth Grossman once produced. Those around her assume her symptoms are those of withdrawal, but one cameraman believes that she may be possessed. IFC Midnight scooped up the film and released it day and date on October 3 in theaters and on VOD.  (Here’s the NYT review.)

In today’s changing distribution landscape, Schorr was relieved to be able to reach audiences in theaters as well as multiple platforms. “We all know for so many movies theatrical is not an important part anymore,” she says during a phone interview. “We all love seeing movies in theaters: it’s hard to give that up. Just the same, we know how everyone’s viewing habits have changed. I’m less and less heartbroken when I think about missing out on the theatrical part of things, because so much of the time it doesn’t work. You can sacrifice a lot for a theatrical. That’s the thing everyone has to weigh.”

A veteran of the studio system who was a senior production executive at Kennedy/Marshall (“The Sixth Sense”) and ran production at Trimark (“Frailty”), Bill Pohlad’s River Road (“Into the Wild,” “Food Inc.”) and Sobini Films (“Peaceful Warrior,” “The Prince and Me”), she founded Schorr Pictures and raised a development fund. “I love writers and story and material,” Schorr says, “which is the lifeblood of everything in our business. When I started, the original plan was to have my own money to develop scripts in a nurturing way, outside the many-cooks-in-the-kitchen difficult path of developing at a studio. Originally the goal was feature films, and we have a number of great productions slowly going forward at studios. We’ve used our development fund to invest in material as non-writing producers.”

As the film industry has changed, Schorr recognized that “thrilling things are going on in the series business on cable, so we have brought great material to top showrunners to create series. It’s all emanated from that original impulse to do my own thing and give writers a voice.”

Then she decided to enter the micro-budget theatrical space (defined as under $650,000) with supernatural thriller “Inner Demons.” She realized that she could greenlight a movie after a short gestation period out of her development fund. “What was so thrilling about making your own film,” she says, “was we had a window of time in which we wrote the script, found the director, put together the movie and made it. From the decision to go forward to the day it was in the can was probably 15 weeks.”
For the “Inner Demons” screenplay, Schorr went to known studio quantity Glenn Gers, who had written “Fracture,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. Going forward, Schorr believes she can develop a strong concept for a script and shoot it with a micro budget –“that’s the crucial ticket, get a great director and cast and do everything else right, and apply the same standards, and greenlight it yourself.”

Making “Inner Demons” was hard, admits Schorr, “but so much fun and so empowering. Doing a movie for low money means that you work your tail off. But you’re making a movie! I’ve made a lot of movies for under $5 million, I knew how to do that, but that’s different than making a movie at this level. I learned so much about how to do this, and figured out how to find talented VFX and sound design people. With a horror film there is less pressure on casting, but you do need talented post-production. I’m proud of the look and sound of the film. Our goal is to take all we learned and do it again and find new challenges with each movie.”
Having made a successful deal on “Inner Demons,” Schorr wants to do more, not just with proven genres like horror pictures and thrillers, but comedies and dramas. “It’s an area where we are underserved,” she says. “The conventional wisdom is you can’t do dramas, but you can for the right price point if you can find the right material and apply the same rigor to the concept and story in the script as you would to a bigger-budget movie. A lot of the problem comes when people do low budget and don’t think they need a marketable concept for a great script.”

Schorr loves great writers and is excited when she reads surprising material with a real point-of-view. But that’s what gets whittled away with standard bigger-budget studio development, she says: “You lose the edges and uniqueness. It’s thrilling to bypass that. We’re hunting to find the right exceptional material with a strong concept that can be made affordably. That is the challenge. I look at the brilliant Duplass brothers. Part of the reason they’re able do so much successfully in the comedy area is they are super-gifted writers and have material pouring out of them. As a non-writer it’s up to me to find these properties and target writer-directors who’ve made great shorts.” 

It’s about finding a Gillian Robespierre before she makes “Obvious Child,” Schorr says, “recognizing that she has the chops to do a feature, and hoping they have story that can be done in a contained way.” She also admires Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies” for its strong concept and great cast. “That’s a movie on the drama side that wasn’t made more expensively than it needed to be. It’s too easy to say that dramas aren’t theatrical. A lot of these movies, their life will be on VOD. Make a few and they will do well enough, and if every third or fourth one breaks out, that’s the goal. It all comes down to the material. Being disciplined enough to wait for the right script is the tricky part.”
Schorr is looking to increase her private private equity funding, and is mulling Kickstarter. “It’s funny, I love film,”  she says. “I’m sad that Kodak is bankrupt. Film is beautiful.  I see pros and cons to all the changes. I love the fact that easier access means that production is so democratized that you can make a great-looking movie practically with your phone. That’s amazing. I wish the means of distribution were more accessible, but I can’t say it’s all bad. I understand why the studios are focused on creating spectacle, while I personally am not a lover of a lot of the blockbusters. It feels like a different zone. “

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