Second act: Sisson's fun-filled part
Barry Sisson is having a little too much fun.
He's about to follow his critically acclaimed first film, The Station Agent, with his first as executive producer. So on the eve of the premiere of Charlie's Party, a little nervousness and a little of the insecurity film folk typically feel might be in order.
But if the co-founder of Cavalier Films is freaked, nobody can tell. In fact, he seems, well, cavalier about the success of Charlie's Party.
Sisson claims he's already gotten what he wanted from the $150,000 movie: he's learned the difference between low budget and really low-budget movies.
"I learned you need more money to bring the risk closer to the reward," he says. Cavalier wants to make quality independent films in the $500,000-to-$1 million range.
Still, he's pleased Charlie's Party was chosen to premiere June 13 at the CineVegas Film Fest, programmed by Trevor Groth, who also programs for Sundance. And even more importantly, "I think it'll make money," Sisson says.
"What is a flop?" he muses. "If you make a film that costs $65 million and it makes $2 million– that's a flop."
Before his second career as a film producer, Sisson spent a very successful 25 years in security– the burglar and fire alarm biz– and when he left the industry entirely, he was running Vector Security.
"We bought a lot of companies, and I found myself envying the people we were buying out," he recalls.
The Sissons, Barry and his wife Terre, relocated to Charlottesville, and he spent a year rebuilding their Stony Point farmhouse. After taking time to repair– the house and himself– Sisson heard from an executive he'd met 20 years earlier who confessed a similar cinematic passion. The result: Sisson was co-financier for The Station Agent.
Since adolescence, Sisson has been enamored with the power of film. He considered being an actor ("because actors get all the girls"), writing the Great American Novel ("that didn't happen"), and, finally, making enough money to be able to pay to make movies.
"I love business," he says. "I think that's an art in itself." As a producer, he gets to satisfy artistic urges with business savvy.
The downside to his new life? "The fundraising has taken longer than I wanted," he admits. "But we're this close to being where we can launch– we're $160,000 away."
And then? "We're definitely going to make independent films in Virginia," Sisson promises.
Meanwhile, there's that stack of scripts to read. "That's quite a pleasant way to make a living," he grins.
Sisson is definitely having too much fun.
Why here? My wife picked Charlottesville: cosmopolitan small town with a Whole Foods Market.
What's worst about living here? Limited access to independent film. A bit too much wealth...
Favorite hangout? For renewal: Any film theater. For conversation– C'Ville Coffee
Most overrated virtue? Chastity
People would be surprised to know: My wife says I'm a shoe queen!
What would you change about yourself? The elimination of fear
Proudest accomplishment? Re-invention. It is very hard to do.
People find most annoying about you: I see the many sides of issues. Opposing points of view can both be "right." People want simplicity in a very complex world.
Whom do you admire? Coleman Raphael, a great and early business partner. Nelson Mandela: what wisdom and compassion that man showed to unite his country without violence and retribution. Bill Clinton. He did some very tough things to ignite a very successful period. Who cares about a bit o' fun in the White House?
Favorite book? Atlas Shrugged– powerful statement, grandly realized
Subject that causes you to rant? People don't take the time to see through the obvious to the truth.
Biggest 21st-century thrill? Technology– said with severe reservations.
Biggest 21st-century creep out? The polarization and stratification of wealth. The power of money and corporate interests over our government, often to the detriment of the citizenry.
What do you drive? A Buick. I'm into comfort. I don't get "feel the road." If I wanted to feel the road, I'd walk. My wife calls it my parlor!
In your car CD player right now: Mary Gauthier, Drag Queens and Limousines
Next journey? Metaphysically, I'm on it into the film business. Physically, to Las Vegas to premiere Charlie's Party.
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? Lot's of stories, none I'll share...
Regret: Too many and none at the same time...
Favorite comfort food: Barbeque (but all food is comfort food)
Always in your refrigerator: Milk
Must-see TV: West Wing and Entourage (HBO)
Favorite cartoon: I don't really like cartoons.
Describe a perfect day. Wake up early. Get a workout. Go to breakfast with my family. Build, create, accomplish something. See a great film. Then, when I'm tired and just ready to retire, find a great unknown film on cable and get lost in it (one of the great joys of life).
Walter Mitty fantasy: A guy always dreamed of making films...
Who'd play you in the movie? Gary Oldman. For a long time, he got all the great parts! Now, he's a bit older.
Most embarrassing moment? I take chances. I go places I probably should not go and definitely am not prepared for, just for the experience. I have a lot of embarrassing moments.
Best advice you ever got? "Integrity is the foundation of success."
Favorite bumper sticker? One that made me laugh lately: "I don't cook, clean, or put icky things near my mouth!" Also, "Keep Earth Clean It's not Uranus." You want meaningful? How about, "Who Would Jesus Bomb?"
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO