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AZ indie film, “There and Back” Phx Startup Week

February 25, 2016 @ 9:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0

PHX Startup Week to spotlight groundbreaking, homegrown indie feature film

Film director Marcus De Leon says raising money for his new independent film, “There and Back” (2016), which features an all-Arizona case, was like taking a crash course in business administration.

De Leon says he and his funders are part of a new wave of entrepreneurial moviemaking where filmmakers, in effect, create their own movie studio.

“I feel like I earned an MBA in four months” while responding to a rare and coveted invitation to pitch his project to the Tucson Desert Angels’ “Shark Tank”-style screening panel, said De Leon. A founding partner of Film Ventures Arizona, De Leon is scheduled to deliver a presentation titled, “Startup Filmmaking: How We Financed and Produced ‘There and Back’, a 2016 Feature Film” during PHX Startup Week.

“Everyone told me Tucson Desert Angels would never consider a movie production,” said De Leon, who proved them wrong and became the first-ever moviemaker asked to present at PHX Startup Week.

PHX Startup Week is a 5-day, Valley-wide celebration of startups and entrepreneurialism. This year, the event is expected to attract some 5,000 Arizona investors, entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs. The event runs February 22-26.

De Leon will join his lead Desert Angels’ investors and his cast and crew for a “making-of-the-movie” presentation, 9 to 11 a.m., Thursday, February 25 at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd. Admission is free, though organizers recommend you register and reserve a seat at
“There and Back” is a family road trip drama that De Leon says was inspired by his “love of obscure Arizona highways and a random image I had of a young women walking down a desolate desert road.”

The movie was filmed entirely in Arizona and features an all-Arizona cast and crew. It tells the story of an estranged brother and sister forced to reunite in Tucson for their grandfather’s funeral, and then on a whim embark on a quick afternoon trip to Scottsdale to reclaim artwork made by their grandfather. The pair’s discovery that the artwork has just been sold kicks off a wild and sometimes perilous journey across Arizona.

The story of how the film was funded has been an equally wild and perilous journey, said De Leon. Determined to work with an all-Arizona, “best of the best” cast and crew of his choosing, De Leon spent two years in search of “un-Hollywood” financing. The result? “There and Back” is the first-ever movie exclusively funded by Arizona angel investors — Tucson’s Desert Angels — and the first film in recent times entirely produced in Arizona through a private equity investment offering.

“There and Back” is De Leon’s sixth feature film and his first away from Hollywood. He calls the making of this film his most “exhilarating production challenge ever.”

The film’s lead investors are retired Hewlett-Packard executive Robert Hungate and semi-retired Texas Instruments executive Timothy Kalthoff—both are self-described film buffs. The Hungates, Bob and JoAnne, and Kalthoff are members of the Tucson Desert Angels.

In Hollywood, films are normally bankrolled by studios large and small, but De Leon said he wanted to go a different route on “There and Back” to try and achieve his own “green light,” all while working with the sort of creative freedom that’s nearly unheard of in Hollywood. A major goal, he said, was to give promising Arizona talent a chance to showcase their skills — and determination — during the 10-week production.

“I wanted to work with ‘stars-of-tomorrow’, all-Arizona talent, on both sides of the camera,” said De Leon, “and we did just that. Of the film’s three lead actors, Liana Vittoi and Nicole Gallagher are graduates of Arizona State University, and Clayton McInerney is a University of Arizona alum.

The two-hour PHX Startup Week session De Leon will lead beginning at 9 a.m. on February 25 will recount the unlikely entrepreneurial journey the film took to a green light, an improbable story of Arizonans from all walks of life coming together, and the subsequent “always eventful, never-a-dull-moment” 10-week production process. De Leon calculates the production team logged a combined 17,000 miles crisscrossing Arizona by way of the nine vehicles used in the making of the film.

At the presentation, De Leon also plans to screen the film’s first behind-the-scenes videos (available at this link: and premiere the movie’s first trailer, as the cast, crew and executive producers Hungate and Kalthoff share their experiences of being a part of their first feature film production.

Because the film is still being edited, it will not be screened on February 25. But De Leon said “There and Back” is scheduled to hit the worldwide film festival circuit beginning this fall, which De Leon has done on his previous films.

De Leon is a six-time feature film director/writer/producer. As a screenwriter, he works with Hollywood studios such as Columbia, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. He has also had a long working relationship with HBO Films, where he wrote the hit movie, “Walkout.” De Leon earned his MFA at UCLA’s film school.

For the past 8 years, De Leon has been a volunteer Fellow at the College of Fine Arts, University of Arizona. He recently directed a 5-day studio residency by preeminent choreographer Bill T. Jones and his dance company at ASU Gammage. De Leon splits his time between Arizona and Los Angeles.

To learn more about “There and Back”, visit For information about PHX Startup Week, visit


February 25, 2016
9:00 am - 5:00 pm


PHX Startup Week


Scottsdale Civic Center Library
3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
Scottsdale, AZ United States
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