Home > Movies > Never Say Never: 1997 Sundance Sensation ‘Colin Fitz Lives!’ Finally Getting Released After 13 Years

Never Say Never: 1997 Sundance Sensation ‘Colin Fitz Lives!’ Finally Getting Released After 13 Years

For most independent filmmakers, the light at the end of the tunnel during a difficult low budget production is a successful showing at the Sundance film festival that can lead to a theatrical release. These days, even that dream is becoming a long shot, since many of the major distributors of independent films have shut down their operations amidst financial setbacks. There have been plenty of nightmare scenarios recently (with David O. Russell‘s Nailed being the most prominent) that have illustrated the difficulty of financing and distributing smaller movies. Even though, the current outlook may be bleak, it has never been easy to produce and distribute a feature film; a fact filmmaker Robert Bella knows all too well.

His movie, Colin Fitz Lives! starring William H. Macy, Martha Plimpton and Mary McCormack was a sensation at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. Roger Ebert came up to the director after the screening to say how much he enjoyed the film and Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles dubbed the film, “A Cult Hit!,” writing on his site:

Colin Fitz won Best Feature of the fest, along with an award for photography. This movie should be playing in the LA area around the end of OCTOBER, look for it, I’ll try to have some details for ya. You don’t wanna miss it.

Despite all of the accolades, it was impossible to move forward following the film festival tour. The problem was that Bella had maxed out his credit cards and exhausted all of his investors funding prior to entering the film into Sundance. Following the buzz of the film festival screenings, it quickly became clear that finding a distributor that would cover all of the debts, was going to be more difficult than he had imagined. In a recently published essay, written for Indiewire, he wrote:

I had to pass up on the various distribution offers until I could get myself and the film out of hock, thus beginning an intense odyssey which is only now coming to a close. When things got hard, I would remember the audiences’ laughter, and I would assure myself that the film would prevail so long as I hung in there.  But it wasn’t easy.

When none of the distribution deals he was offered were enough to cover costs, the film was shelved. Literally, in this case, in the director’s closet. Bella said he eventually decided to move on and work on other projects:

I moved to Los Angeles.  I took meetings.  I came very close to getting a number of other projects off the ground.  In the span of 6 years, I had 4 films that all fell apart for one reason or another (the financing would disappear, we would lose cast availability, etc.).  I investigated bankruptcy, but I was told I would lose the rights to my one and only asset – the movie I had worked so hard to create.  My life’s dream.

Bella continued to develop his craft, shooting several films on digital video and his insistence on holding onto the rights of his one and only feature film finally paid off this year:

I happened to go out for drinks with Arianna Bocco from IFC Films and Sundance Selects not long after I had finally reacquired the last missing piece – the original cut negative.  She had known of the film, and my struggles, and casually asked, ‘What ever happened with ‘Colin Fitz’?’ I told her, ‘It’s sitting in my closet.  Wanna buy it?’ Lo and behold, she said: ‘Sure!’ I couldn’t believe it.  After all those years – it was just that easy.

Thanks to that meeting, Colin Fitz Lives! premiered on Video On Demand August 4 and will receive a limited theatrical release starting Friday. The movie’s newly recut trailer is posted below:

Categories: Movies
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.