Independent film ‘Calvin Marshall’ tries new approach, aids local charities

It’s hard to be an independent film during these rough economic times. Many independent production studios, such as Warner Independent and Picturehouse have been shut down, and others, such as Paramount Vantage, have made little to no profit.

That’s why “Calvin Marshall,” premiering at two theaters in Phoenix on Friday, decided to open with a more unique approach.

“Blanketing America with advertising costs so much money,” said Gary Lundgren, writer and director of “Calvin Marshall” in a phone interview with The State Press.

That’s why, in promoting “Calvin Marshall,” BrokenSky Films partnered up with seven different charities, one for each day of the week that the movie will be showing in the Phoenix area.

After its week in Phoenix, the film will then go on a tour of 200 cities, partnering with different charities in each city.

“We want the film to have a slow build, where people become aware of it,” said Lundgren.

“Calvin Marshall” follows its title character as he tries, and constantly fails, to achieve his dream of being a great baseball player. With sheer determination, and little natural talent, Marshall finds rejection to be a familiar feeling.

“The one-in-a-million underdog sports stories don’t happen very often, but this story happens every single day in every city,” said Lundgren. “When players get cut from teams and players have to shift gears and walk away from something they love.”

Steve Zahn stars in the film, playing Coach Little, the man who decides whether Marshall will make his college’s baseball team or not. Zahn, known for his more comedic rolls in films such as “Saving Silverman” and “Sahara” takes on a more serious role this time around.

“With a small movie like ours, you just want to cast it right,” said Lundgren. “It was nice going against type for Steve. Generally, he plays the bumbling funny guy and he’s so good at that, but he’s such a terrific actor.”

The two leads, Alex Frost as Marshall and Michelle Lombardo as Marshall’s love interest, Tori Jensen, have had small rolls in other films, but “Calvin Marshall” is their biggest thus far. Lundgren felt that their status of “unknowns” will not last for long.

“They’re just one part away from being famous,” said Lundgren.

Lundgren himself was a college athlete, and his experience playing for his college’s baseball team inspiring his script. “Calvin Marshall” marks his feature-length film directorial debut.

Opening the film in correspondence with charities could be a winning venture for both the film and the charitable organizations, raising awareness of the film, and money for the charities.

One of the organizations benefitting from the event locally is the Arizona Academic Decathlon, which will receive part of the proceeds from the March 30 screening.

“Previously, our base of funding was through the Arizona Department of Education,” said Anne Edelstein, executive director of the Arizona Academic Decathlon “What we are doing now is fundraising to replace that loss in order to fund the competition.”

If they raise $10,000 by the end of March, an anonymous donor will match the funds dollar for dollar, she said.

“We thought that this movie might be a good venue to do that,” said Edelstein.

“Calvin Marshall” will be showing from March 26 to April 1 at Harkins Theatres’ Scottsdale 101 and Harkins Theatres’ Chandler Fashion 20.

Other area charities involved in the week include Workshops for Youth & Families, Rotary International Polio Plus (“End Polio Now” Campaign), Arizona Baseball Charities, Project C.U.R.E. Arizona, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona and Miracle League of Arizona.

Tickets can be purchased at the two theaters box offices, or at www.HarkinsTheaters.com.

Fifty percent of the proceeds from the tickets will go to the day’s selected charities.

Reach the reporter at pmelbour@asu.edu