Reality factory Bunim-Murray Prods. is expanding into the film business, forming a documentary division and tapping Sasha Alpert to run it.
BMP Films will operate on an acquisition-based business model, picking up projects already in development or production and then using Bunim-Murray’s resources to finish production.
First pic to carry the BMP Films banner will be helmer Tricia Regan’s “Autism: The Musical,” which unspools at Tribeca next month. Docu follows the lives of autistic children and their parents over six months as the kids — under the direction of acting coach Elaine Hall — stage and perform a live musical.
BMP shelled out a low- to mid-six-figure sum for rights to the pic.
Alpert, a longtime staffer of the company who’s been involved in casting dozens of series in her role as VP of creative affairs, comes from a film background, having previously produced documentaries. Bunim-Murray topper Jon Murray said Alpert’s history made her the right exec for the new venture.
“When I hired Sasha, she wasn’t a reality show casting exec. She was just a really good producer,” he said, adding that the same skills Alpert has brought to recruiting new contestants for “Real World” will apply in the film business.
“She has an eye for the subjects that would make for a compelling focus,” he said.
Murray said he and Alpert decided to launch BMP Films after “realizing we all had a passion for documentary filmmaking. ‘The Real World’ is just a different, more commercial way of doing a documentary.”
Indeed, Alpert thinks the reality boom may be contributing to the public’s increased appetite for docs, such as “An Inconvenient Truth” or “March of the Penguins.”
“People are more forgiving now about production values,” she said. “And I think we live in such a confessional time, with things like MySpace, that it’s all led back to an interest in documentaries.”
BMP will take what Murray calls “a conservative, cautious approach” to the new venture. It hopes to lure filmmakers who don’t have the financial or technical resources to complete passion projects.
For Bunim-Murray, there’s not much financial risk involved. It can take the same resources used to build an episode of “Road Rules” and put them to work on a documentary, Murray noted.
“We’ve got edit bays, a music department, graphic designers,” Murray said. “We think this can be a safe haven for people who have unfinished works to come and complete them.”
As for “Autism: The Musical,” Alpert and Perrin Chiles will get producer credits. Murray, Joey Carson, Janet Grillo, David S. Glynn and Kristen Stills serve as exec producers.
A percentage of the pic’s proceeds will go to the charity Autism Speaks.