A brief history of Churchill Pictures
"Do you want to make a movie?" That was the question Damian Fusca called and asked me sometime in 2007. My answer was as simple as the question. A resounding "Yes!" I had made a documentary-style film the year before and Damian was in Los Angeles working on studio films and television shows as a crew member. Neither of us had ever made a feature film on our own before. That was our goal. I was living with my future wife in the Strip District (downtown Pittsburgh, PA). The downstairs of the building I was living in would be used as a "poker room" a few nights a week. Using this as the foundation of our film concept, we began writing the script. The story was about two best friends and their journey together through Pittsburgh's criminal underworld. This would become "Deference". The production ran throughout 3 months, mainly in the Strip District, during the summer of 2008. Damian was the director/producer and I was the co-lead actor/producer. With the help of our combined network of family and friends, led by Damian's brother Amadeo (an amazing pro actor) and my father John (financeer), we pulled it off!
The next big test was post-production. Specifically, the two biggest hurdles, editing and distribution. Damian had never edited a feature film before but was up to the challenge and wanted to learn. I, on the other hand, had never produced and released a feature film before. Like Dame, I was up for the challenge. We had been garnering an exuberant amount of experience through this entire process and post-production was no different. We had ups and downs and had to learn the hard way a lot of the time. However, we prevailed, and "Deference" was submitted to the few national film festivals that we could afford (that wasn't very many). This was in 2011-2012. Through this part of the process we were ecstatic to get the news that "Deference", was not only an official selection of the Las Vegas Film Festival, but won a "Silver Ace" award!
In July 2012 Damian, Amadeo, and I attended the Las Vegas Film Festival. Accepting the award was a surreal experience for the both of us. Standing on stage (flanked by authentic show girls), each of us delivering a brief speech, was a huge moment for our "passion business". This was our film company, "Churchill Pictures", named after the area of Pittsburgh where we both grew up (Churchill Borough). We were excited and had high hopes for the success of "Deference". However, we were about to learn one of the hardest lessons of our budding careers.
The next (and what we expected to be final) step was distributing the film. As a filmmaker you are in the business of eyeballs. The more people that see, and hopefully enjoy your film, the more success it's potentially going to have. I did a lot of research and settled on a particular distribution company. We paid the last 2-3 thousand dollars we had within our budget to send this company our "deliverables" (the film, artwork, trailers, etc.). At this point Damian and I were very excited and imagining "Deference" being available in Walmarts, Targets, on Netflix, etc. That would never happen.
The distribution company never received our film in the appropriate technical aspect that was necessary. We tried to work with them to figure everything out. It was nothing but frustration for us. The communication from our distributor was horrendous. They already had our money. After a lot of back & forth, and multiple attempts by Damian and I both, nothing was ever figured out with our distributor to be able to release "Deference" to the marketplace. We never received a refund and we couldn't even release it on our own since we were completely out of money. Presently, there are an abundance of streaming platforms. However, back then, there weren't many options and there was no help for "Deference".
We were (and still are) very fortunate to have a lot of support. Both Damian and I's family and friends have had our back in this endeavor since day one. I can't express enough that without their help, none of what we have accomplished would be possible. I mention this, as it led to some successful screenings of "Deference" at local theaters. Between these screenings and T-shirt sales we were at least able to make some of our money back. This kept us alive. "Deference" would eventually find a home on internet streaming services YouTube and Vimeo. We are currently finally at a place, after many years, to have hard copies made. Finally! Better late than never. These will soon be available for sale on our website.
Since we were able to survive the distribution debacle of our first feature film, Churchill Pictures lived on. As a matter of fact, we had already started throwing around ideas for a second feature film during the production of "Deference". In the meantime, between 2013-2016, we got involved in as many different film projects as we could. We are very proud to have collaborated with other local artists and friends on everything from commercials, video games, short films, documentaries, podcasts, and even stage plays. Also during this time we began development on what would become our next feature film, "The Unsung".
In 2015-2016 we had come back enough financially to begin to look into financing "The Unsung" film concept. Damian and I had even travelled to Nashville, Tennessee to an entertainment expo to pitch the film. We bombed in our pitch meeting. This was another lesson learned but we were well on our way with pre-production. Eventually, by 2016, we had a couple of investors/producers and I had personally saved some money to self-finance. We had the money to proceed. We casted the film and were even able to cast actors through the Screen Actors Guild. We hired an amazing director of photography in Justin Mackey and were also able to work out a deal with Jordan McMillen for the use of his studio, equipment, and other resources (Jordan owns and operates Cut N Run Studios).
Principal photography on "The Unsung" began on May 10, 2017. We shot the film within our time budget and financial budget. We wrapped production in July. Damian immediately began editing. Through the many ups and downs we seem to have during every post production process, we finally were ready to submit to festivals. "The Unsung" was selected to the "Great Lakes International Film Festival" and was a finalist at the "Los Angeles Independent Film Awards". Hopefully, we shouldn't have the problem we had with "Deference's" distribution. We have signed with a reputable film distribution company. "The Unsung" will be available in 2020 on multiple streaming platforms, on-line stores, and retailers.
Well that's our story thus far. We are hard at work on our third feature, a story of the top rivalry in an independent professional wrestling company in the 1980's, and have other projects in the works. We are hoping to continue to grow and continue to create. We hope to keep our "passion business" alive until Damian and I are old, old men. Thanks to everyone who has supported us ever and in any capacity. You have helped two dreamers and artists create their own form of magic. Hopefully you were entertained along the way.