Mini Mogul Greg Newberry

Inside Local Films

Greg Newberry's short film Homefree

Greg Newberry has big plans for Cincinnati's film community. A local filmmaker, Newberry recently announced an independent film outfit, Rivercoast Films, that will help local filmmakers find investors for their projects.

According to Newberry, Rivercoast's president, it's an assemblage of "angels," people who have the financial interest and wherewithal to invest upwards of $300,000 per individual into local film projects.

The catch is that the films must in some way have a connection to Cincinnati. The connection could be any number of things — shooting the film locally, using a local sound company or equipment, or featuring local actors, which Newberry hopes will convince area acting talent to stay in the area.

"We're hoping Rivercoast will add a layer of income and commercial opportunity for theatre talent," he says. "And that Cincinnati will start retaining talented actors.

"We're trying to create an industry," Newberry explains. "There's no reason why it's not here."

The hard part is convincing investors that film is where they should put their money.

Newberry cites a couple of problems when it comes to finding investors for independent films.

First, a lot of filmmakers don't understand marketing, so trying to sell a film to an investor could be a problem in and of itself. Furthermore, many Cincinnati investors don't understand the film industry. Newberry sees Cincinnati investors as his main focus.

"Rivercoast is trying to educate the investment community on the viability of independent film," he said. "This is an effort to attract the 'creative class' and to connect film projects to investors."

The concept for Rivercoast Films arose about two years ago and Newberry soon found four others interested in bringing more film projects to the area.

Rivercoast was going to be a nonprofit organization, but focus groups with local investors and input from its board of directors — businesswoman Norma Skoog; Jack Streitmarter, owner of Sound Images, a sound design and production company; and Mike Katchman, who previously worked for First Look Pictures, an independent film distributor — pointed the company in the for-profit direction.

In 2002, Newberry released his first short, Homefree, which featured Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival actor Giles Davies. Newberry's next film project is a feature-length film, Jimmy High Five. The script was picked up by writer/producer/director Mark Johnson (Daredevil, Simon Burch), but Johnson was unable to sell Newberry as a first time director. When he's not looking for funds for Jimmy High Five, Newberry runs his marketing and advertising company, Greg Newberry Advertising.

Professionals in Los Angeles and New York City loved the idea of Rivercoast and saw the value of the project, Newberry said. However, locals will need a lot more convincing. ©

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