Singer-songwriter and director Haroula Rose works on set during production of her movie “Once Upon a River.” (Photo: Submitted by Thirty Tigers)
In the latest promising development for Nashville’s growing film and television industry, one of the city’s most progressive music companies, Thirty Tigers, is expanding further into the realm of producing films.
“Once Upon a River,” the third Thirty Tigers movie, will be featured at next week’s Nashville Film Festival.
Thirty Tigers is the label services company that has partnered to release albums by Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, among many others. Under the company’s music model, the artist is their own label and maintains ownership of the music, while Thirty Tigers serves as the marketer, distributor and often financier.
The expansion into film has been spearheaded by Thirty Tigers co-founder and president David Macias. He said the company’s role in its film projects is more conventional, primarily providing financial help and serving as a producer.
Although Thirty Tigers’ music division and its burgeoning film division have different approaches, the overlap, Macias says, is the kinds of projects the company will take on.
“We have a very narrative-based approach to marketing our music projects, and we love good storytelling on behalf of our artists,” Macias said. “It was just a very natural extension for us, I think.”
How Macias got into films
Macias said that, as a lover of movies, he had long been interested in working in film.
He whetted his appetite when singer-songwriter Haroula Rose, a Thirty Tigers artist, approached Macias with the opportunity to help invest in the film “Fruitvale Station.” Rose served as an associate producer on the film.
Macias contributed what he described as a “very modest investment” in exchange for the opportunity to serve as a fly on the wall throughout the making of “Fruitvale Station,” which went on to garner wide critical acclaim and earn over $17 million at the global box office, according to boxofficemojo.com.
“It was a great experience on a fantastic film,” Macias said of shadowing the filmmakers during “Fruitvale Station.”
David Macias, right, is the co-founder and president of Thirty Tigers. (Photo: Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean)
Since Macias’ successful experience with “Fruitvale Station,” Thirty Tigers has partnered to release three films. First was a true crime documentary called “Fear of Thirteen.”
Thirty Tigers’ next project was the narrative feature film “Boomtown,” made by Nashville native Sabyn Mayfield.
Macias said the common thread between the film and music projects he supports is they each have “cerebral, narrative-based storytelling.”
The latest film from Thirty Tigers has also generated the most buzz within the film industry.
Macias and Rose, a singer-songwriter and filmmaker, had a long-running discussion about movies and what kinds of projects they might collaborate on in the future. Rose called Macias one day and told him to read the book “Once Upon a River.”
Macias said he loved the book, and the two got the ball rolling on pursuing the project as a film, beginning with Rose working on the screenplay.
“Once Upon a River” will be shown twice during the Nashville Film Festival on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11. Already the movie has been accepted into over 21 film festivals, including Chicago and Woodstock.
The film is about a young woman’s search along the Stark River for her estranged mother.
“It’s really what we hoped would happen where it’s getting seen by audiences we didn’t necessarily anticipate,” Rose said. “And festivals are reaching out to us now, which is very cool.
“It helps with the film getting more recognition and widening its reach. So I’m really excited about it. And Nashville is the one I’m most excited about because of David’s involvement and belief in the story since day one.
“I don’t think it would have happened without him.”
The film’s soundtrack features a trove of original music by Nashville artists including Rodney Crowell, J.D. Souther and Rose. In true Nashville fashion, several of the songwriters involved with the film will perform a special in the round at the Bluebird on Oct. 11. Bonnie Jo Campbell, the author of the book on which the film is based, will also perform a reading from the novel during the Bluebird event.
“Thirty Tigers is a Nashville company, and to have the support of the film festival here means a lot to me,” Macias said.
Nashville film industry continues growth
Macias said he’s excited about the possibility of Thirty Tigers continuing to work on more film projects. The company’s successful early venture into film has given Macias faith that Nashville’s film and television industry will continue to grow.
Macias said Thirty Tigers “hasn’t made money yet” on its three films, “but we haven’t lost money either, which I’m told means we’re light-years ahead in the film industry.”
After six years on television, “Nashville” will ride off into the sunset next year.
video by Michael Schwab/Tennessean
Nashville’s television and film production business got a shot in the arm earlier this decade with the launch of the ABC drama “Nashville.” The city has a growing film scoring industry, and the faith-based film business has produced several commercially successful films.
“I think it’s going to happen,” Macias said of Nashville becoming a film industry town. “There’s some amazing people here. Everyone from (music scoring executive) Anastasia Brown, who’s been involved in film and television for a long time and makes things happen.
“And there are some other projects I’m aware of around the corner that I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about yet. But there are definitely some things coming down the pike where I feel like it’s almost inevitable Nashville will be a more important player in the film content space for sure. And hopefully Thirty Tigers will play our small part in that.”
Reach Nate Rau at [email protected] or 615-259-8094 and on Twitter @tnnaterau.
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