Warner bites on ‘Gristle’ for homevid

No other films completed under SBA program

“The Gristle,” the first film to be financed by the federal Small Business Administration under a now-shuttered program, has secured a homevid release through Warner Home Video.

The crime-comedy, to be released July 29, secured the financing three years ago through a pilot SBA program designed to provide loan guarantees of up to $750,000 for indie films.

Pic was produced by Eugene “Geno” Taylor and Mychal Wilson and co-produced by Carsten Noorgard. Written and directed by David Portlock, it stars Michael Dorn, Orson Bean, Barry Corbin and Richard Riehle.

The producers declined to reveal the exact amount of the loan, but they agreed to put up 25% while the SBA guaranteed the remaining 75% of the budget.

Program didn’t fly

SBA spokesman Roger Hopkins said the loan program drew significant interest from filmmakers but was closed down due to the small number of lenders willing to participate, as well as unforeseen complexities in setting up loans and the SBA’s lack of a track record in film financing. He also said no other films were completed under the program.

“The only institutions willing to consider participating were in Southern California, and there were logistical difficulties due to the lack of familiarity within the lending institutions and the agency,” Hopkins told Daily Variety. “But we still get calls about the program.”

Program called for all production, along with pre- and post-production work, to be conducted in the U.S.; demanded a film meet “community standards” and not be of a “prurient sexual nature” or advocate a particular religious or political doctrine; held any pre-sold distrib rights to be used as collateral; and asked producers to demonstrate enough prior experience to support the conclusion that the firm could complete the project.

“The Gristle” centers on illegal business deals at a nightclub in Ventura. Two struggling black Los Angeles medical assistants (played by Taylor and Wilson) are hired to deliver black-market kidneys to a U.S. senator. Chaos ensues due when a cocaine dropoff occurs at the same time and place.

Taylor is a partner in and president of Billionaire Entertainment Film Corp., and Wilson plans to take the California bar exam this month and open an entertainment law firm.

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