Independent Film Company Formed in Virginia

Barry N. Sisson invested in the 2003 movie
Barry N. Sisson invested in the 2003 movie "The Station Agent," with Peter Dinklage, left, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale. (Miramax Films)
Monday, July 4, 2005

"We have been reading a lot of scripts," Barry N. Sisson said the other day. It's a line he may have dreamed of delivering during his first career, running burglar-alarm companies in the Washington area.

"My whole life I thought I should have been in the film business," said Sisson, a District native who grew up in Fairfax County. "Ultimately, my plan became to make enough money to make a film. That's what I did."

In 2000, Sisson retired early from the alarm business and became an investor in "The Station Agent," one of those low-budget independent films that win critical praise, awards at the Sundance Film Festival and enough revenue from theaters and DVD sales to make a profit.

Now Sisson, 49, and Marc Lieberman, 30, are partners in Cavalier Films Inc. of Charlottesville, which is raising money to shoot independent films in Virginia with budgets of $500,000 to $1 million.

"A million dollars in Hollywood wouldn't pay for the transportation" on a big-budget film, said Lieberman, who grew up in Fairfax City and describes himself as a University of Virginia business school graduate who worked for a time as a financial analyst.

He said he spent more than four years in Hollywood, some of it as a producer's assistant on some of those mass-market movies.

Sisson said Cavalier has raised $1.4 million toward a $2 million goal. Meanwhile, Cavalier is seeking distribution for an ultra-low-budget film that Sisson and Lieberman helped produce. "Charlie's Party," which recently had its debut at a film festival in Las Vegas, is billed on a promotional Web site as "a sexually charged comedy about a group of friends from college coerced into reuniting for a 'partner-swapping' weekend by their former ringleader," a woman named Charlie. The producers describe it as a film about relationships and women's empowerment.

Rita McClenny, director of the Virginia Film Office, said she is watching Cavalier's effort to make independent films in the state with interest. "It's great exposure for the state to be used for a backdrop," she said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company