By Jim Macak
Alumnus Thomas Pettinelli ’13, director of development at Branded Pictures Entertainment, has landed his first executive producer credit with the upcoming release of Followed, a horror film with an innovative take on the genre.
This week, Deadline announced that the picture is set up for a theatrical release in major markets on April 10.
Pettinelli, 29, found out about the film through his friend, Matthew Ryan Brewbaker, who is the lead producer and originator of the project.
“The pic is part of a slate of what is referred to as ‘screen-life’ films, which are told by way of a computer screen recording,” Pettinelli said. “Followed is the first horror feature to tell the story entirely through a series of YouTube-like vlogs.”
Pettinelli visited the set and tracked it, and after viewing the film’s final cut, he said he felt strongly there would be an audience for the feature.
“[Branded Pictures] thought there was a real opportunity in the marketplace for a film that resonates so specifically with today’s online culture – the good, the bad, and the nightmarish,” he said.
Once the film was finished, Brewbaker sought distribution, which can be tough for independent films made outside the studio system, Pettinelli said.
“My job [at Branded] was to find the the best distribution deal possible for this low-budget horror feature with relatively unknown stars … we had five companies [try to] outbid one another with competing offers, and we took the best one with a substantial theatrical release,” he said.
Global View Entertainment, a newly launched distribution company, won the domestic rights to the film.
“Thomas is a powerhouse,” Brewbaker said. “It’s something I envy in him. When he sets his mind to something, he gets it done, which makes him an indispensable part of our producing team.”
Followed stars Matthew Solomon (Ballers) as aspiring social media influencer #DropTheMike. According to the Deadline summary, Mike picks up a sponsor for his channel and recruits a video crew to follow him to one of the most haunted hotels in America. What begins as a fun investigative challenge quickly descends into “a personal hell of true evil.”
The film is inspired by the real-life events at Hotel Cecil in downtown Los Angeles. Written by Todd Kirk and directed by Antoine Le, Followed is a co-production of Viscape Arts and Branded Pictures Entertainment.
Pettinelli graduated from Emerson with a double major in Marketing Communication and Writing, Literature and Publishing. He worked at Syfy/Universal in film and television development before landing a job at Branded.
Once there, he was part of the producing team that brought American Psycho: The Musical to Broadway, Heathers: The Musical to off-Broadway, So B. It to movie theaters, and the series Wheelman to Netflix.
Branded’s other upcoming projects with which Pettinelli is involved include the film adaptation of the popular video game series Dance Dance Revolution; a horror film based on the Mira Grant novel Rolling in the Deep, with its spin on the siren myth; and an English language adaptation of the Icelandic horror film Rift at Orion Pictures.
Jim Macak is an affiliated faculty member in Emerson’s Visual and Media Arts Department.