The hundreds of vendors on the floor at Comic-Con International in San Diego are hawking all manner of fantasy, sci-fi and comic-book paraphernalia.
There are back issues of G.I. Joe, “Star Wars” speeder-bike action sets and T-shirts for Batman, Captain America and even the Uglydolls. Squeezed among the many merchants is Jay Weisman, who is looking to sell something very different: a feature film.
Shot in a Harwich, Mass., sand pit, Weisman’s “Shockwave, Darkside” is an independently financed space thriller set about 100 years in the future. “It’s like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ on the moon,” Weisman said of his 3-D production, his first feature. “It follows five soldiers trapped behind enemy lines.” The soldiers are in a bind “and running out of air.”
Movies come to the annual fanboy fest looking for distribution deals every now and then, but they typically showcase themselves in the cavernous Hall H (where Rainn Wilson and Liv Tyler’s “Super” made its sales pitch on Friday) or in oversized conference rooms upstairs (as was the case that same day with “Ironclad,” which stars Paul Giamatti and Brian Cox).
Weisman’s Comic-Con setup was far more modest (as was the film’s budget, which he wouldn’t disclose). He was showing a trailer for his film in the booth for Keenspot Comics, which will publish a Web-based comic prequel to “Shockwave, Darkside” in the coming weeks. The trailer Weisman was showing on a large monitor in the Keenspot booth was in 2-D, but he also was able to show a 3-D version on his Apple notebook. (He will screen a 3-D version of the trailer on a real screen as part of Keenspot’s presentation Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.)
Weisman, who had directed some commercials, industrial films and 2003’s short film “Surveillance,” wasn’t really expecting Lionsgate Films or some such outfit to walk up and buy the movie on the spot. But the Comic-Con newcomer is hopeful he can leave the convention on Sunday having created at least some momentum for his film, which stars Mei Melancon (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and Bill Sage (“American Psycho”).
“This is kind of evolving as we go,” Weisman said of his sales strategy. “It’s been interesting to hear people’s response that it is totally different. Someone else said there is such a studio presence here that it’s great to see something that’s independent. People are really into the spirit of it.”
If all goes well, Weisman may be back at Comic-Con in the not-too-distant future with a similar feature. “Realistically, I want to do another film — this is a trilogy. So I’d like to do a sequel, maybe set on Mars.”
As for the unusual sales strategy, Weisman smiled. “I’m having a blast.”
– John Horn
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PHOTO GALLERY: Scenes from Comic-Con 2010