Charlie Poe can't guess the number of times he has watched Redemption Road, a movie carrying his name as executive producer. Poe wants to see every penny of this $2.3 million production on the screen, and much more than that in ticket sales.
The 37-year-old Tampa investment manager dropped in on the critics' screening of Redemption Road last week. What's one more viewing after 15 months of the festival circuit, looking for a distributor? Freestyle Releasing stepped up to the plate, and Redemption Road opens in eight cities Friday to test the waters.
"I'd like to be able to get good (box office results) in these eight cites then expand out," Poe said after the show. "We're going to start with 25 or 30 theaters; I'd like to get to 100 and see what happens."
Poe rounded up the budget from investors for his lifelong pal Morgan Simpson, who wrote the screenplay and stars as Jefferson Bailey, a blues musician on the skids. Poe, Simpson and producer Jeff Balis — whose comedy Kabluey opened the Gasparilla Film festival in 2007 — were Plant High School classmates.
Simpson and Poe brought their first project, the horror flick Clear Lake, WI, to Gasparilla in 2009. Collaborating is easy with someone you've known since third grade. Poe is content to be the moneyman, while Simpson handles the creative side of business.
"I put the investment deal together," Poe said. "Raised the money, then I've been overseeing the whole thing from the investment business standpoint. I've been pretty involved in the whole process, but I let the creative people like Morgan do their jobs."
Redemption Road features more than usual acting talent for a $2.3 million budget: Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile), Tom Skerritt (M*A*S*H), Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210) and Taryn Manning (Hustle & Flow), with Mario Van Peebles (Panther) directing. Filming around Nashville offered economic incentives, but Poe said good reputations mattered.
"It was all about them liking the script, and having Jeff Balis and Rhoades Rader (producing)," Poe said. "Managers and agents know they're good people to work with. Michael Clarke Duncan came on first, then Mario. From there it really snowballed. People know Mario is an actor's director. That helped get a lot of people involved."