In the first stage of what it hopes will be an industry revolution, Zurich-based A Film Company has raised more than $2 million in collective investments from 560 people in 19 counties to co-finance “Mad Heidi,” a horror comedy of action and adventure that reinvents the Swiss icon.
The OTT reboot includes portraying Swiss icon Hedi as she’s never been seen before: in a ruched dress, puff sleeves, apron, and pigtails, yes, but as a kicking, badass rebel with the brute force to cut an opponent in two. . , from head to toe, with a battle axe, for example.
In industrial terms, however, the change goes even further as “Mad Heidi” moves away from traditional film models not only in financing but also in distribution.
Starring Casper Van Dien (“Starship Troopers”) and David Schofield (“Gladiator,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”), the English-language film, with a total budget of $3.5 million, now gears up for the second and more radical installment of the experiment: global exclusive release day and date on madheidi.com, a dedicated website created by A Film Company, during an exclusive three-month window. The film will then also be available on other platforms, followed by Bluray and DVD and TV releases.
“Mad Heidi” has also sold $300,000 worth of merchandise – different t-shirts, coffee mugs, posters – in 46 countries.
The film’s huge success in audience investment is inspired by the same factor that has driven self-distribution: the IP’s fan base.
Before her script was written, she employed a “long-tail promotion strategy,” Valentin Greutert, producer of “Mad Heidi” and founder of the A Film company, told Variety at the Cannes Film Festival.
Five years ago, A Film Company released a teaser poster that captures the exhilaration of how A Film Company would work on a global intellectual property.
Instead of a placid girl breathing fresh air in the tall alpine pastures, Heidi is now a teenage tomboy, grimacing with rage and her head covered in blood.
“We saw that he got traction. So we decided to make a teaser for a movie that didn’t exist,” Greutert recalled at Cannes.
The teaser raised $50,00-$60,000 in crowdfunding in two months. Enough to finance development. “But I quickly realized I couldn’t raise $2 million from people donating money,” Greutert said.
A Film Company also couldn’t handle 500 investors from a
administrative point of view. So it struck a deal with London-based FilmChain that allowed investors to share in the film’s revenue, not just its profits, through a collections account.
Meanwhile, A Film Company launched an investor campaign.
“Blaxploitation, Mexploitation, Sexploitation, Nunsploitation, Naziploitation. It’s about time for the first Swissploitation movie!” the investment speech is executed, which also details the main rhythms of the plot: “In a dystopian Switzerland that has fallen under the fascist rule of a cheese tycoon, Heidi lives as a simple young woman in the mountains,” reads the synopsis. Soon, however, her yearning for her personal freedom will spark a revolution. “The naïve mountain girl becomes a fierce fighter who has to take down the cheese fascists.”
An OTT promotional trailer depicted Switzerland under the fascist rule of a persecution tycoon with sarcasm and derision. Led by Hedi (Alice Lucy), the rebel from the Alps, “Braveheart” style. They are brutally repressed, albeit comically. One rebel is tortured with scalding fondue poured over his head, another stabbed to death through the mouth with a Swiss hard chocolate dagger.
Fighting back, Heidi fights her way through a swath of Nazi stormtroopers through martial arts moves and deft work with a Swiss Army knife and later a battle axe.
The pitch describes the films as a “persiflage of the 1950s Heimatfilm genre with a twist on the 1970s and 1980s exploitation genre. Anyone who liked ‘Mad Max,’ ‘Kill Bill,’ or ‘ Iron Sky’ will also love ‘Mad Heidi’.
“‘Mad Heidi’ “needs you to make the production happen,” says a voiceover from the trailer, encouraging readers to become a “mad investor.”
The minimum investment was tabulated at $500. Some investors have invested more than $100,000. “They are very, very passionate people, passionate about cinema. They love it,” Greutert explained.
All information received. About 150 visited the set. Some came from the UK and as far away as Finland.
“We call it fan-driven content creation,” Greutert said of the investment model. But it is that same fan base that explains the new distribution model, he added.
The distribution system that runs the world is selling a movie territory by territory. And if we have a movie where we have a worldwide fan base and we use that system, we will be massively pirated after the first day and we will no longer do business.
The launch will be accompanied by a strong marketing campaign, Greutert promised. “Our bet is simple: if people want to see ‘Mad Heidi,’ they will make the effort and watch it on our website. We will not be able to prevent piracy. But making the movie available to everyone who wants to pay will at least reduce it.”
It will work? “People say I’m crazy. But it hasn’t been tried that many times. We have the fan base. That’s the trick. We have the marketing money. We have a clear target audience,” Greutert said. Casper Van Dien has a huge fan community. Klara, Heidi’s rich invalid friend, is played by Japanese Almar G. Sato.
“Mad Heidi” will be ready for delivery in early September. Greutert hopes to be able to take the royal route of Toronto’s genre films, Austin’s Fantastic Fest and Sitges.
In a second sense, too, “Mad Heidi’s” also marks a retreat from the traditional models of the film industry. For independent producers, movie financing means “one or two years to finance a movie and 10 to 15 or 20 different funding sources that come with restrictions,” Greutert argued.
“There is also a massive brain drain to streamers who can fund a movie with a snap of the finger,” he added.
A recent report by Sweden’s Film I Vast argues that public funding needs to take much more risk, come in at half the budget, not 10% to 20%, and come much faster, Greutert noted.