Rich Heldenfels

Corbin Bernsen is getting ready to shoot his next movie in Akron in March, and for a national distributor’s release of his soap box derby-themed movie 25 Hill in July.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Bernsen said he expected to be in Akron for the next several days, talking both to 25 Hill investors and working on pre-production and funding for his newest movie, 3 Day Test.

That movie has a budget of $600,000, and Bernsen said $350,000-$400,000 has been raised so far. He has said it is a Christmas movie about “a family where the father has had it with everything, and locks them inside the house, turns off the water, power and electricity and says, ‘Can we sur-vive?’ ”

The new film will begin shooting March 20, he said, and he hopes to have it ready for release around Christmas. The release will almost certainly be on DVD, but may also involve theatrical or television showings. At the same time, Bernsen disputed the idea that direct-to-video releases are a step down from big-screen or TV showings, especially with the increasing presence of streaming video operations like Hulu’s and Netflix’s.

He calls his company Home Theater Films because “our mission is to make great family entertainment that you and your family can sit around the television in the comfort of your own home theater, your living room … and watch this at a great value.”

Bernsen is working with EchoLight Studios, the company preparing the new 25 Hill DVD, on ideas for 3 Day Test, including on getting some well-known actors involved to help with sales, especially internationally.

He declined to name names. He will have a role, although it may not be a large one, and he is considering “faith comedians that are very, very funny, that will help us with the Christian community” by appearing in cameo roles.

Roles for professionals

While 25 Hill used thousands of local residents as extras in the big racing scenes, local casting of 3 Day Test will be more limited. Bernsen will be holding auditions on Tuesday but has been arranging them with area professionals.

“This is for people who have agents, who have representation and who have worked,” he said. “I want to try to use some people who are professional actors in the area. … It is important for me to have local talent.”

But he added that 3 Day Test does include some crowd scenes, and there will be an open call for extras later.

The movie will have to be done quickly to be ready for release late this year, since Bernsen said EchoLight wants it completed about six months before distribution. That would have it completed by May, Bernsen said, so the production will have to take steps like editing the film while shooting is still in progress.

Bernsen is excited about his deal with EchoLight, a Texas-based company run by many of the people involved in Funimation, an experienced distributor of Japanese animated productions.

According to its website, www.echolight.com, the company is “producing and distributing high-quality faith and family-friendly entertainment” for theaters, home video, on-demand and digital platforms, and it is looking for Christian and family films. 25 Hill was displayed at the top of its home page on Thursday.

“They are a newer company,” Bernsen said, “and this will really be their premiere distribution. We’re also talking about doing a lot of press … launching it this time.” That may include two DVD launch premieres, in Hollywood and in Nashville, with the latter “reaching more of the Christian faith audience” and including music stars.

“They’re also going to talk to the derby,” Bernsen said. “I reminded them again … that my initial key to this thing was to help the derby.”

National launch

While 25 Hill has been released on DVD in local Acme stores and online, the new release will be a national launch and packaging designed to appeal to customers at stores like Walmart and Target, Bernsen said.

His movie Rust, a community-backed production that served as a model for the making of 25 Hill, was released on video by Sony, a major company. But that was a mixed blessing, he said.

“Sony is wonderful,” he said, “and I still have payments coming in [from Rust sales]. … But they’re a big machine. We were a tiny, little film. … You’re not going to be on the top shelf, as it were.”

He has a better deal with EchoLight where “we’re really partners,” he said. “I’ll be going on my third year, I guess, of being deeply involved. … And I like the idea that this is really their premiere film. It’s a company that’s really going to work hard.”

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at http://heldenfels.ohio.com. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.