By JIMMY LAWTON
POTSDAM -- A Potsdam filmmaker who recently signed a worldwide distribution deal for his horror film “Sledge” says the road to success was built on hard work.
John Sovie II said his interest in filmmaking began with a website he started known as NoCoTube, which featured video submissions from around the North Country. He said the website was successful but eventually dwindled.
“It had a good run, but it got to the point where people weren’t really uploading anymore,” he said.
Sovie said during the course of NoCoTube’s run, he purchased high-quality video making equipment, which would later be used to make his first film, “Friends For Life.” Sovie said he worked with a Los Angeles screenwriter and friend, Kristian Hanson, on the film, but was unable to find an audience for it.
In the meantime, Hanson had developed the screenplay for the horror film “Sledge.”
With a budget of $2,000, the partners decided to film the movie in South Colton.
Sovie said he enlisted help from friends Russell Matoes and Travis Hanson of Canton and put out a casting call and found other talented North Country actors -- Dustin Bowman, Stephanie Tupper, Rachel Cornell and Desiree Holmes.
He said the film shot over four days and the $2,000 budget was used for special effects and makeup. “We really didn’t have much to work with,” he said.
Sovie, said he is self taught, and joked that he attended the “Google film school.” He said the low budget meant he had to rely heavily on post-editing to cover up shortcomings of the filming.
And while the filming, preparation and editing were a lot of work, Sovie said the real challenge was marketing the film. He said it is incredibly hard to break into the industry without connections. His partner Hanson created a website and used social media and horror movie fan sites to spread the word and develop a successful fan base, but the real break for the pair came from film festivals.
“We ended up winning an award at an indy film festival in Toronto and we were nominated for best horror feature in an L.A. film festival,” Sovie said.
Meanwhile Hanson, who played the killer in Sledge, attended comic conventions dressed as the movie’s antagonist.
“Kristian is one hell of a marketer,” he said. “He established a fan base of people who hadn’t even seen the movie.”
Sovie said they began approaching distributors for the film, which was easier with the film festival awards under their belt, and more and more movie reviews were popping up on the net.
“We weren’t able to work out a deal with the companies we approached,” Sovie said. “In the end we ended up with a deal from a company that had heard about the movie and contacted us.”
That company was Maxim Media International. The movie will be released worldwide on DVD as well as pay-to-view services like Netflix.
“It all happened pretty fast, but it didn’t just fall into our laps. There was a lot of work. Not just in filming but in learning techniques and editing. I spent a lot of nights just reading and figuring out what worked the best,” he said, noting that he has maintained a full-time job throughout the process.
Now Sovie said he is already working on other projects. His latest is a short film called “Split,” which he says is far better than “Sledge.” Sovie said “Split” would be available to view for free soon online.
As for his partner, Hanson, Sovie says he has already written a sequel to “Sledge.”
Sovie said the lessons learned from his past work and connections made throughout the marketing of “Sledge” should make distribution deals easier in the future, but only time will tell.
A free screening of “Sledge” will be held at the Potsdam Roxy Sept. 29 at 10 a.m.