James Kerwin is a gifted Writer, Editor, Director and Executive Producer who had an innovative idea back in 2004: To create a film production company in the spirit of the model traditionally used by Non-Profit Theatres. Even in Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the concept was particularly novel. And, just exactly like Los Angeles, the lofty and high-minded project was less than easy:
“We went to the IRS and told them what we wanted to do, and thus began a lengthy application and approval process necessary to establish a Film Production Company as a 501(c) (3), a Private Operating Foundation,” Mr. Kerwin explains. “There aren’t many people in the Film Industry who’ve done this before; I may have seen one or two over the years, but I think we may be the only people doing what we’re doing today,” he continues: “There were a lot of obstacles. A ton of paperwork involved, and you basically need to convince the IRS that you’re going to produce films that have some sort-of endemic, educational or artistic value to them.” That was 15-years ago, and it certainly worked.
Named after the abode of the Muses in Greek mythology, the Helicon Arts Cooperative is dedicated to the production of intelligent cinema, with a special emphasis on artistic merit. As their website states: “Helicon Arts Cooperative was founded to present unique, original, and entertaining productions to the community, exploring and advancing intellectual, psychological, philosophical, scientific, historical, and literary themes.”
Indeed, as evidenced by 2009’s Film Noir/Indie-Thriller “Yesterday Was A Lie” (given 4 and a-half stars by Film Threat Magazine, BEING ) and 2013’s Sci Fi Thriller “R.U.R Genesis” (an adaptation of the 1920 science fiction play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek), the production values are high. And the wiring, editing, direction and acting almost raises the Indie Film bar. They look, well...expensive.
“People think you can’t make money with a non-profit company, but it’s not true,” Kerwin explains. “We raise money from our donors, folks who want to support the arts through their charitable contributions. Then we pay our people and our contractors, cover our overhead costs, and make our film. We simply direct any excess profits back into the Mission Statement of the Cooperative. Our donors get the tax write-off, we get to Market our film and take it to festivals, and together we’re supporting Intelligent, Artistic Filmmaking here in Los Angeles.”
Mr. Kerwin was pleased to be able to announce good news with the upcoming Blu-Ray/Digital Re-Release of the critically acclaimed feature film “Yesterday Was A Lie,” next week by IndieFlix in New York, on the 10th Anniversary of its original release, and we asked him about it: “It’s a Noir film, though not shot in traditional black & white, about the nature of the human psyche, the nature of relationships, and it’s got some science sprinkled in-there too...about human consciousness. It’s kind of a heady, philosophical thriller-noir, if I can describe it that way.” Sounds compelling to this writer. (Looks like it’s streaming online at Amazon Prime, too!)
With Intelligent & Artistic filmmaking, charitable giving, and more projects in the works, Kerwin’s Helicon Arts Cooperative looks poised for great things to come.
By Patrick Pitre