Jones follows Greenlight movie with indie “Outing Riley” premiering at Chi Film Fest

“Outing Riley,” Pete Jones’ independent followup to his 2002 Project Greenlight movie “Stolen Summer,” has its world premiere Oct. 10 at the Chicago International Film Festival.

“We’ve gotten some offers for a U.S. theatrical release but the money was not what we wanted it to be,” Jones said.

“We’re hoping we can catch lightning in a bottle in Chicago and find a studio to get behind the film. My biggest goal is to get my investors their money back, and get myself another job.”

Jones said a mid-August Los Angeles industry screening drew interest in a TV series adaptation from CBS, ABC, FOX, Showtime and HBO. He was readying a series pitch to present to the networks in early October.

Jones stars in “Riley” as a gay man trying to come out to his skeptical Irish Catholic family.

“My family read the script and said, ?this is just like our family, except none of us is gay, right?'” Jones recalled. “Everyone was a little nervous about the gay aspect. My rep said ?if you drop the gay aspect and give the hero a different problem we could sell this to a studio.'”

After all the studios passed on the project, Jones and producers Pat Peach and Judd Nissen raised the $700,000 budget from Jones’ family and friends, largely his brothers, through a collateralized loan from State Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka’s Lights, Camera! Illinois! program.

“I would have loved to have the cash I had on ?Stolen Summer,’ but at least this time I got to do what I wanted,” Jones said. “Usually you make an independent and aspire to do a studio movie. When I did ?Stolen Summer’ I went the opposite way and made a studio movie aspiring to be an independent.”

A Deerfield native who lives in Los Angeles, Jones shot “Riley” here last summer, originally under the title “Doubting Riley.”

“When I did ?Stolen Summer’ it was so important to me to shoot it in Chicago, but this time I really felt Chicago was a character in the movie,” he said. “It’s a love letter to Chicago ? at least that’s how I intended it to be.”

After his acting debut in Riley, Jones performed in a couple of Los Angeles indies last summer, Stephanie Ashton’s “Weight” and Jerry Hopkins’ “Tough Guys.” “What an easy job acting is compared to writing and directing,” Jones mused.

“Outing Riley” also features Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Michael McDonald (“MADtv”). Pete Biagi shot. Production designer was Wes Tabayoyong. Editor, Gregg Featherman.

“Outing Riley” screens Sunday, Oct. 10 at 4:30 p.m. at the Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago, and Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 9:30 p.m. and Wednesday, October 13 at 4:30 p.m. at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois. Jones will attend.

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– by Ed M. Koziarski,