$3 million Burt Reynolds?Chris Elliot
comedy shoots in Indiana

Burt Reynolds is featured in Mark Newbauer’s $3.1 million comedy.

Mark Newbauer has big plans for his fish story.

In the space of five years, “Fish in a Barrel,” a script Newbauer wrote for a screenwriting class at Columbia College, has grown into a $3.1 million feature film featuring Burt Reynolds and Chris Elliot.

“Fish in a Barrel” begins shooting in Indiana Nov. 14 with a core crew composed largely of Chicagoans.

Newbauer and fellow Columbia grads then hustling to break into Hollywood founded their production company Mike the Pike Films a couple years ago with the ambitious goal of “bringing the film industry to the Midwest.” Newbauer’s lake town romantic comedy, set against the backdrop of a fishing contest, fit the profile.

Director Newbauer and his co-producers, Beth Newbauer (Mark’s sister), Phillip Harkenrider and John Rezig, returned to their native Indiana to launch the picture, which they envisioned as a low-six-figure production.

The filmmakers’ windfall came when they secured Hollywood agent Gerald Wolfe as executive producer in January 2003. “Gerry said if we let his agency work with us on casting and distribution, he would introduce us to a financier who would back the film at $3 million,” Newbauer said. “That was jaw-dropping to us.”

The investor required that Mike the Pike put up a quarter of the budget. They’d raised less than $100,000 at this point. Enter Craig Adolph of the Kruse Foundation, who connected Mike the Pike with the Indiana politicians, banks and private investors that enabled them to get the project off the ground.

Adolph also negotiated the donation of a Kimball piano factory in French Lick, Indiana, for conversion into a studio space which Mike the Pike is leasing from the Kruse Foundation at a “very generous rate,” Newbauer said.

Newbauer envisions the Kimball building as a future cornerstone of Indiana film production, with plans to build post-production facilities and two sound stages within the building in the next 3 to 5 years, at a cost of $2 to $5 million. “Fish in a Barrel” is shooting on sets in the Kimball building while the fully equipped facility remains in development.

Newbauer credits the four years he spent at the L.A. agency The Gage Group with his success in attracting talent. “The agents there were very generous in teaching me the ways around other agents and casting directors,” he said. “As long as you can talk with the agents and get the project in front of them, and as long as you can come up with a rate not severely below their quote for an independent film, you can get the actors.”

Burt Reynolds signed onto the film in September, when financing was in place contingent upon the attachment of cast that was viable for distribution. “Burt called me a week after we sent the script to him,” Newbauer said. “He got what we were trying to do, concentrating on characters and depth in a way that so many comedies today are lacking.”

“Fish in a Barrel” shoots through Dec. 29 in Rome City and French Lick, Indiana. Chicago crew include Chicago Community Cinema founders Mark Battaglia (line producer) and Mike Kweilford (production manager), as well as 1st AD Cary Paller, and gaffer Jesse Jaraczewski.

See mikethepikefilms.com. –?by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com