Independent filmmaker’s movie earns $12M at opening
While superstar Halle Berry was promoting the action thriller film “Kidnap” in New York, Todd Trosclair and Joey Tufaro have been celebrating what their anticipated first big hit will do for their independent film company in LaPlace and Metairie.
“All the film critics have given it high ratings,” said an excited Trosclair.
The film debuted last Friday.
Good ratings are always important for a filmmaker, but it’s more so for the locally owned Gold Star Films that invested $20 million in a venture that Trosclair and Tufaro say will be the breakthrough hit for their company.
“This movie will put Gold Star on the map,” Trosclair said. “It is projected to make a helluva lot of business.”Local viewers of “Kidnap” might notice the local scenes from St. Charles Parish in the film, including the area at I-310 near the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge.
“We wrecked 85 cars and we got Halle Berry,” Tufaro said. “Because we’re from here, we really wanted to impact the local economy. The way you make a movie is you hire local.”
It’s an especially important side of the business for Trosclair, who grew up in New Sarpy and lives in Destrehan.
That’s how Luke Zeringue, also of Destrehan, came on board scouting film locations. Jarred Bradley, son of Vic Bradley who is the parish’s district public defender, is the company’s attorney.
Trosclair is himself a success story as owner or partner in several New Orleans businesses, including All Star Electric, Galatoire’s Restaurant, Boulevard American Bistro restaurant, Rotolo’s Pizza and Joy Theater.
He brought his business acumen to Gold Star Films, too.Tufaro said Trosclair makes the business decisions and handles the financials, which led them to landing the “Kidnap” script from Sony, as well as lining up the film’s 2,500 wide-screen release on Friday.
“We wanted to be in charge of our movie,” Tufaro said of why they went into the movie business. “You decide what’s right or wrong.”
The two had been involved in productions prior to founding Gold Star in 2012 and, after seeing less than desired outcomes with them, decided they could make be more cost effective and profitable. A market analysis also revealed there’s a market for independent movies in the $5 million to $25 million range.
“Now, we’re the ones hiring the actors or making the deals with distributors and hiring local people,” Tufaro said. Trosclair added they were more cost effective in how they make movies, which has increased profitability.
“Kidnap” fell into this realm.
Although Sony had planned to spend $40 million on it, Trosclair said they did it for half that, which has brought filmmakers to their door asking how they did it.
For Tufaro, the answer was – “There are two words – show business. We focus on the business and then the show.”
They decided how every penny they put into the movie was spent.
Tufaro described the process as “the balance of right brain versus left brain people” or creativity with cost.
Yet, the two were quick to clarify they still got a lot of value for their money with a high action flick.
Trosclair added, “You’ve got to make a commercially viable movie with a commercially visible star.”
They knew the missing piece of Gold Star was a box office success and that’s what they confidently anticipate “Kidnap” will do for their company.
Louisiana’s film tax credit program is what got the company started and this year’s revamping of it is what put the state back on Hollywood’s radar for films.
Tufaro, a member of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association trade group that successfully lobbied to restore the program, knows firsthand the economic benefits with movies.
The state incentives played a big role in shooting “Kidnap” here and generated new dollars in the areas it was filmed.Tufaro said a movie maker gets a 25 percent tax credit on films shot in the New Orleans area and gets another 5 percent for filming in neighboring parishes. He added, “We have the best tax credit system in the word for rebates for filmmakers. I would go toe to toe with any location in the world.”
And making films in Louisiana also infuses considerable money into the communities where they are produced.
“On our film alone, we hired about 150 people with all but 20 not being local,” Tufaro said. Trosclair added they were employed for nearly four months.
Trosclair also recounted how his All Star Electric company made about $200,000 providing electricity on the “Deepwater Horizon” film.
“The trickle-down economics for the movie business is unbelievable,” according to Tufaro.
And there’s more to come with Gold Star, which has options on at least two more films.
The partners aren’t ready to name them yet, although Tufaro would say one is another female-driven action drama and the other a male-driven action drama. He also said they would be happy with making four to five more films over the next three to five years, and they will be mostly shot locally.
For Trosclair, going into the movie business was a fun and interesting next step for a man who believes he can do any kind of business. His son told him he’d never make money at making movies, but he made the move anyway with his old friend Tufaro. They’ve made three films since that time (two of them released), and learned the business – a move they say is about to pay off big.
“This movie has a domestic and foreign release,” Trosclair said. “We expect revenues from it for the next 20 years.”
The formula, they say, is a star, a good story and distribution. But they enthusiastically added it never hurts when Halle Berry is promoting the film – anywhere.