Feds loan arranger on ‘Gristle’

1994 rule change allows SBA to fund pic

Move over NEA, here comes the SBA!

If the arts are looking for a white knight, they might just have found one in the Small Business Administration, which for the first time has committed to financing a feature film.

Under the terms of a pact between the SBA and indie film producers Mychal Wilson and Eugene Taylor, the organization will guarantee 75% of their pic “The Gristle’s” budget against a bank loan from the Valley Bank in Moreno Valley.

The amount of SBA’s guarantee is believed to be a low- to mid-six-figure sum.

Pic will be directed and was penned by David Portlock, whose short film “The Spartans” played at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996.

Created by Congress in 1953, the SBA has traditionally helped make financing available to small business startups, but not to production companies seeking to make films.

In 1994, federal offices abandoned a decades-old prohibition that prevented media companies from receiving small-business loan guarantees. But few indie filmmakers knew about or have taken advantage of this change.

Wilson and Taylor had looked for funding from the obvious sources without great success. Then came the idea to try alternative sources.

New is hard

“Because it was something new,” Wilson and Taylor said, “it was hard to get a bank behind us.” But after more than a year of discussions with banks and the SBA, persistence won out: Production on “The Gristle” began two weeks ago in Los Angeles.

“We are delighted to be associated with funding for ‘The Gristle,’ ” said Los Angeles SBA district director Alberto G. Alvarado. “This is indeed an occasion to celebrate. We are proud to make our first film production loan and look forward to working closely with the industry in the future.

“We don’t like seeing jobs going out of state and the country,” Alvarado said. “We looking forward to working in the industry. There is no industry that we don’t wish to support.”

Exciting deal

“This kind of deal is so exciting for us because it accomplishes many things,” Wilson added. “We will get to realize our dream of making our first feature and it also gives other aspiring filmmakers another avenue for obtaining funds.”

“The Gristle” is a comedy about racial stereotypes and the roles they play in society. The film revolves around eight con men of different ethnicities who are thrown together and forced to confront their differences.

Wilson, Taylor and Carsten Norgaard (“Mighty Ducks II”) will star, with Norgaard co-producing.

Cast includes Michael Dorn, Orson Bean, Richard Riehle, Michael McLafferty, Valente Rodriguez, Barry Corbin and Leslie Jordan.

The SBA guarantees about 2,700 loans a year. The agency’s maximum loan guarantee is $750,000.

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