Perhaps unfairly, the term "straight to DVD" is often the source of ridicule in the movie business. People tend to think of those big-budget Hollywood flops that prove to be so unwatchable that the studio execs pull them from theatrical release in the hopes of avoiding additional embarrassment.
Then there are independent films like St. Louis' own, 23 Minutes to Sunrise.
For them "straight to DVD" is an accomplishment, which is why director Jay Kanzler is absolutely beaming about the release this month of his movie on Redbox, Netflix and Amazon.com. The film, starring Eric Roberts and a few lesser-known celebrities, was shot almost entirely in the metro East St. Louis town of Sauget in the summer of 2011.
"Redbox and Netflix don't take just any film. And when you look at how most independent films never see the light of day, this is pretty great," says Kanzler, who puts the budget of 23 Minutes at "under $300,000."
The film takes its title from a line in which Roberts, who plays a dark angel, offers to grant another character a wish by sunup. Doing so, however, involves compromises. The film, written by St. Louis screenwriter Pat Pinkston, might best be described as "morality play" involving four different couples in a late-night diner. An early review on the Matchflick.com gives the movie four out of five stars, calling it "a deceptively clever ensemble piece." 23 Minutes appeared as an unfinished work at the 2011 St. Louis International Film Festival. Since then Kanzler -- who works full-time as a St. Louis attorney and part-time as a Episcopal priest -- has been editing the movie and securing soundtrack licenses. It opens with the song "Love the Lonely" by St. Louis-based Kentucky Knife Fight and includes several tracks from U.K.'s Alabama 3, perhaps best known for singing the theme song to The Sopranos.
Riverfront Times was on the set of the movie back in 2011. You can read our account of the production -- and more of the film's backstory -- at: 23 Minutes to Sunrise hopes to cast light on St. Louis filmmaking.
Continue on to view a trailer of 23 Minutes to Sunrise.