Whitefish filmmakers signing distribution deal with Hollywood studio
BadFritter’s Big Breakthrough
By Dillon Tabish, 1-23-13
Caption: Adad Pitman, with BadFritter Films, is seen at the film company temporary office in Whitefish. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
Adam Pitman has traveled to Los Angeles countless times over the last 10 years, journeying back and forth between his home in Whitefish and the epicenter of his career ambitions as an actor and filmmaker. But this month Pitman is making a trip unlike any other.
After starting with a hand-held video camera from Costco and making horror movies in the Flathead Valley, Pitman and his two longtime friends and collaborators, Whitefish native Adam Stilwell and David Blair, are on the verge of their big break in Hollywood.
Cinipix, an independent film production and distribution studio based in Burbank, has agreed on a partnership deal with the three filmmakers, who co-own Whitefish-based BadFritter Films.
“This is a dream come true for us,” Pitman, 33, said last week. “It’s kind of hard to believe. When I get down there, I’ll believe it more. You get used to disappointment so much, but this is real.”
Pitman is slated to sign a deal with Cinipix in the coming weeks that will give renewed vitality to BadFritter and vault the company onto the big screen. Cinipix has agreed to acquire and distribute Paper Dolls, a full-length thriller produced by BadFritter in 2008. Pitman, who starred and co-directed with Blair, said Cinipix plans to re-edit and reshoot portions of the film, which was made in Northwest Montana. Cinipix has also promised a wide theatrical release, meaning audiences across the world will be able to see Paper Dolls for the first time.
“We did it,” Pitman said.
It’s been a long, painstaking road for Pitman and the BadFritter team, who have spent the last decade trying to make it in the competitive environment of Hollywood. After graduating from the University of Idaho with a degree in acting, Pitman moved to L.A and found work as an extra on television shows and movies. But being “a prop” became demoralizing and Pitman decided to try stepping behind the camera. He partnered with Blair, a friend he met at college from Grangeville, Idaho, and the two made a 30-minute psychological thriller titled Love Poem with friends who volunteered to help. They had so much fun in the process they decided to step it up a notch and develop a full-length feature, which turned into Roulette and officially launched BadFritter Films in 2005.
Pitman reached out to Stilwell, a childhood friend, and the “BadFritters” embarked on a do-it-yourself filmmaking odyssey with a budget of $500 and the goal of creating a horror film better than the gory movies dominating nationwide box offices.
“We set unrealistic goals because then you’re reaching so high and the only place you can go is up,” Pitman said. “We went for it.”
Over the span of a year, the making of Roulette turned out to be an impromptu film school.
“We worked our (butts) off learning every bit of making a movie,” Pitman said. “People go to college for four years. I learned it in weeks.”
With the help of friends and residents who believed in BadFritter, including professional sound engineer Toby Scott, the three friends finished Roulette on Pitman’s birthday, Sept. 29, 2005. The film screened at a few festivals and was well received. But more importantly it fueled BadFritter. Whitefish philanthropists Carol and Richard Atkinson approached the young filmmakers and offered to fund another feature. Pitman returned to Los Angeles, gathered 35mm cameras and film and organized a professional cast and crew to develop a script he’d written in college, titled Paper Dolls.
He returned to Whitefish in 2006 with a film crew of 30 people and began a 24-day shoot. Nathaniel Peterson, another longtime friend from Whitefish, came onboard and helped with production and remains an integral part of BadFritter.
Following Pitman’s previous themes, Paper Dolls is a thought-provoking thriller about two high school friends who embark on a road trip near Glacier National Park when a mysterious creature forces them to fight for their lives.
Pitman has been enamored with scary movies ever since he was young. He constantly watched the black-and-white originals featuring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula or Alfred Hitchcock’s suspenseful classics.
“I like that idea of that visceral feeling of fear,” he said. “I connected with that as a kid. It was always fun for me.”
Pitman, however, does not connect with the modern selection of slasher films, which paint every scene with hyperbolic blood and violence while leaning on hollow scripts.
“I’m not into that. I think it’s kind of sad that horror has been aligned with blood and gore,” he said.
Adam Pitman works on editing a project at BadFritter Films' temporary office space in Whitefish. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
“Sure our movies have some of that. Our movies put you face to face with mortality. That is part of horror, but I think the scariest movies are where you don’t see what happens to the person; when you don’t see the monster. Those are scarier because then your mind creates the monster.”
Paper Dolls screened at several film festivals, earning a total of 10 awards, including Best Feature, Best Director and Best Actor at the 2007 Eerie Horror Film Festival in Pennsylvania.
But despite critical acclaim, the economic recession hit and movie studios became wary. BadFritter failed to land a distribution deal for Paper Dolls. Momentum was lost along with the filmmakers’ enthusiasm, and the company went into hiatus.
“I was sick of the struggle. I was burnt out. We had worked so hard. Making a movie is climbing Mount Everest but getting distribution is four times higher,” Pitman said.
“You get used to the disappointment and you get numb to it but you also lose that drive and excitement.”
Pitman returned to Whitefish uncertain about his future in filmmaking. But his girlfriend encouraged him to try making documentary films and he gave it a try. His enthusiasm was reignited. He spent the next couple years on features and subjects he found important, including the Whitefish Winter Carnival and an upcoming promotional video for Columbia Falls, which was finished last week.
Last year the BadFritter team regrouped and made a short film in Whitefish called Cliff Lake. The filmmakers used that momentum to develop another full-length feature titled Ragnarok.
Filmed near Winnett in Eastern Montana last summer, the movie required cast and crew to suffer through 110-degree days in the sun, working under a tight budget and a specter of doubt that audiences might never even see the film. They stuck with it, regardless.
It was around this time that a phone call came from Los Angeles.