By Elizabeth Chang
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Marc Mangum was bitten by the movie bug as a kid, when his father briefly ran a film distributorship. But the Utah native pushed aside his interest in the silver screen to pursue a more "practical" education as an attorney. "I loved law school," he says, "but I was never a huge fan of being a lawyer." In 2004, after seven years of practicing corporate law in New York and Northern Virginia, Marc told his wife, Jennifer, that he wanted to try writing and producing movies. "To my surprise," he recalls, "she was like, 'Okay, let's figure out how you can do that.' "
The Ashburn couple reduced expenses, paid off debts and started banking Marc's raises and bonuses in preparation for the transition. Jennifer also began her own business as an "interior refiner" to help bring in income (she and her partner were featured in the Oct. 7, 2007, Making It). "She couldn't be more supportive," says Marc, 38. "Some days, she believes more in it than I do."
Meanwhile, Marc and his youngest brother, Sam, who lives in Utah and was finishing film school, decided to produce a short movie. Marc wrote a script elaborating on a bedtime story he had told one of his four children, about a boy named Ezra who could make peanut butter sandwiches appear in his hands. He and his brother filmed a 17-minute movie in summer 2006 on a shoestring budget in Utah. Then, they took it to several film festivals and used it to raise capital from investors for a feature film. Marc put up about one-quarter of the cost of the 90-minute movie and, in spring 2007, quit his job and went to Utah to film "The Adventures of Food Boy," starring Lucas Grabeel of "High School Musical" fame and Brittany Curran from "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody."
With the finished movie in hand, Marc and Sam toured eight film festivals, three of which gave them awards (the Newport Beach Film Festival named "The Adventures of Food Boy" best family film), and they secured domestic and foreign DVD distribution deals. Sam Toles, vice president of content acquisition for Gaiam, the company that bought the domestic rights, says, "It's a very high-quality film, and it's very commercially appealing." The DVD will be available in stores and online Tuesday.
The partners are working on licensing TV rights for the movie (so far, they have deals with Disney Channel Australia and Disney Channel Asia) and have several other projects in the pipeline, including a made-for-TV script geared toward tweens. Marc will open an Ashburn office for Cold Spark Films next year. "You can do this from essentially anywhere today, and we just like it here," he says. The name of the company alludes to the fact that "we're kind of not in the L.A. scene. We're out here in the cold, trying to make a spark."
Marc says he was making in the "low six figures" as a lawyer and has been paying himself less than that this year. As the producer fees come in on the new projects, he says, he expects to make about $150,000 next year.
Even though he has the comfort of knowing he could always fall back on his law degree, Marc says he has no interest in doing so. He recalls thinking during the height of filming, "I am being stretched as far as I ever have in anything I've ever done in my life." And yet, he says, "I felt like I was using every skill and everything I had ever learned, up to that point in my life."
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