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Warner Serves Up Next Helping of 'Raw Feed'

20 Sep, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Warner Home Video today is expected to announce an agreement to acquire the next three films that will be released directly to DVD under the “Raw Feed” banner, an edgy line launched in March 2006 under the theatrical catalog group.

The line consists of genre films, mostly horror, sci-fi and psychological thrillers, with budgets of up to $5 million.

The next three projects are tentatively titled Otis, Supermarket and Rest Stop 2, the latter a sequel to the first Raw Feed film, about a couple terrorized by a crazed killer at a back-road rest stop.

Otis, a dark satire, centers on an abduction and begins principal photography this month, with Tony Krantz (an executive producer of television's “24”) directing a cast led by Daniel Stern (Home Alone, City Slickers), Illeana Douglas (Goodfellas, Cape Fear) and Kevin Pollack (Casino, Hostage).

Supermarket is the line's first true science-fiction film, while Rest Stop 2 is firmly in the horror/slasher film category currently enjoying a resurgence in theaters.

All three films will be shot in the Los Angeles area. At least two of them will be released to the home video market in 2008, on the same day they become available on video-on-demand.

Otis marks new ground for “Raw Feed” in that three veteran actors have signed on for the project. “We've added a new component to the formula by adding a legitimate, top-line cast,” said Jeff Baker, SVP and general manager of Warner Home Video's theatrical catalog division. “For the most part, these have been genre- and story-driven films, not dependent on brand-name casting. But in the case of Otis, based on peoples' shooting schedules, three fairly accomplished actors have gravitated toward the film, and we were able to secure them, which is very exciting.”

Baker said the Raw Feed line was born as a result of a pitch to Warner from Krantz and two other filmmakers, John Shiban (“The X-Files”) and Daniel Myrick (co-creator of The Blair Witch Project).

“We felt this was a compelling array of content that was really different from what was currently on the market, and we also saw the promise of positive financial results for the company,” Baker said.

That promise has been met, he added: Rest Stop alone sold more than 500,000 DVDs in less than a year, while typical direct-to-video releases normally move anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 units.

The two films that have been released so far under the branded line, Shiban's Rest Stop (which came out in October 2006) and Krantz's Sublime (released in March 2007), have benefited from strategic marketing campaigns specifically geared toward horror, sci-fi and thriller audiences. Standard print and broadcast ads are complemented by robust viral Internet campaigns as well as a strong presence at film festivals and horror conventions.

Next up is Believers, directed by Myrick and slated for Oct. 16 release. The film recently won best feature film and best actor honors at the Solstice Film Festival.

One thing that sets Raw Feed films apart from other DVD releases is that each one includes an exclusive short film that is a tangent to the original movie's storyline.

“Rather than going the traditional route, showing outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, things like that, we also create enhanced content that is kind of an offshoot of the film — unusual little film vignettes that run anywhere from eight to 15 minutes,” Baker said.

“In the first film, for example, we created a small film of a family picnic with the bizarre Winnebago family featured in the film itself, celebrating the birthday of the youngest son, who is deformed. And in Sublime, we created an exorcism that's sort of a rip from the film, in which one of the characters was watching something on the Internet that reportedly was some sort of exorcism taking place in a far-off land.”

Fan feedback to the short films has been overwhelmingly positive, Baker said. “I'm not aware of any other DVDs that employ this kind of tactic, which makes Raw Feed films even more compelling and interesting.”

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