Ambitious slate from Cool Loon

CHICAGO — A Minneapolis-based startup with the quirky name Cool Loon Movies simultaneously tackled production, sales and distribution in its first outing at the smallest available stand at this year’s Cannes Film Festival market.

Former organ-transplant surgeon Caliann T. Lum launched the company after “hanging around on the local indie scene” and put together a slate of seven features, numerous shorts and a handful of projects at the script stage, all by no-budget independents relatively unknown outside of Minnesota.

Proposing to represent filmmakers without commission for the trial run, Lum arrived in Cannes a complete novice, but she soon was networking with execs from companies including Taurus Entertainment, former agent Peter Rawley’s Fortune and Fine Line, with whom she is in the early stages of negotiating co-production and distribution deals.

Robert Dudelson, president of Los Angeles indie Taurus Entertainment, took an interest in the fledgling company and, according to Lum, will advise on future script selection. She says Asian and European buyers are interested in Robert Linder’s feature “Velvet Elvis,” now in post-production, and the company received a steady stream of call-backs after the festival. Lum, who self-financed the company, says, “I’m still hemorrhaging money with no clear end in sight,” and she’s in talks with several Minnesota-based investors to provide an ongoing production fund.

While she hopes to branch out beyond Minnesota, she’ll continue to pursue local talent. “We will always incubate young filmmakers in Minnesota,” Lum says. “We specialize in Minnesota writers, but we’re not limited to that. This region is known for its originality and self-determination.

“The filmmakers have one thing in mind — that’s to get their films made. Their concept of where the investors are going to get their money back is not very strong, but I feel maybe that’s where I come in.”

Cool Loon’s long-term goals include production of two to four films per year with mass-market appeal in a variety of genres. Budgets are projected in the $1 million to $3 million range, with plans to extend the upper limit as the company matures.

Lum’s personal goal is eventually to divest herself of sales and distribution responsibilities to concentrate on writing and producing, especially for her own project, Vietnam-themed drama “Poppy War,” now in development with actor Carlos Lauchu non-contractually attached.

One Cool Loon feature project, James Byrne’s “Great Lakes,” was awarded a 1996 Blockbuster McKnight Film Fund grant toward pre-production, and is a 1997 finalist in both of the screenwriting fellowships. Other projects, including Larry Laverk’s “Cafe Donna,” in post-production, have been semifinalists for one or more of these grants. In the immediate future, Lum is considering taking Cool Loon to Mifed in order to boost the company’s international market presence.

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