The Father and The Bear

Creative Movies Come from the Heart, Not the Budget



Sure, people like big-budget movies and TV series.


They’re interesting, entertaining and give us a chance to see some bleeding-edge stuff that leaves us in awe.


But what really leaves a lasting impression is when a project is done that sticks with you weeks, even months, after you’ve seen it.


You just know they were done by someone who just had to tell the story and had the talent and grasp of the craft to do it right–especially when you know the individual did it on a micro-budget!

The Father and The Bear isn’t John Putch’s (Putchfilms) first venture in the micro-budget scene.  He’s done five that have racked up an impressive number of film festival awards around the globe.  His Route 30 Trilogy of films has garnered 47 festival awards while the cult Mojave Phone Booth nabbed 15 awards over its 51 official FF selections


And it’s not because he doesn’t have something more profitable to do, because the son of the late actress Jean Stapleton and theater producer/director William Putch has an enviable list of TV mini-series, big-screen movies he’s working on.


Even now, he’s directing the American Housewife TV series and Zack Braff’s new show, Alex Inc.


Ever since his first micro-budget film, Mojave Phone Booth, Putch follows a strict set of Indie filmmaking rules:

  • The budget can’t exceed $100,000
  • The crew is limited to eight
  • Actors are responsible for their own wardrobe, appearance
  • All the equipment must fit in one car and one SUV
  • The film must be shot in less than 18 days


His latest film, The Father and The Bear, resonates with anyone in the creative storytelling industry – and the audience.


The Father and The Bear was shot in central Pennsylvania where he grew up; and when you watch it, you know it was a love affair, not just a movie.


One Last Show – Despite age creeping up on him and his struggle with dementia, Byron Temple (Wil Love) is determined to feel the exhilaration of doing one last performance before a live audience on the Totem Pole Playhouse stage.


First, it centers on Byron Temple a retired character actor diagnosed with dementia who wants to do summer theater one last time.  That made it even more personal for Putch since his mother suffered from the same disease.

Wil Love is great as Temple.

He’s everyone’s father who draws you into his struggle and makes you understand the disease, its effects, and the frustration/helpless feelings of those around him.

The drama features an historic theater in South Central, PA, the Totem Pole Playhouse, which Putch’s father operated when he was growing up.

Summer Stock – Byron Temple and his daughter Diane Carbaugh (Dendrie Taylor) sit in front of the Totem Pole Playhouse and discuss his age, disease and desire to tread the boards one last time. 


“Big budget projects rely on big names, elaborate special effects and an obscene marketing budget,” Putch explained. “We relied on the tools every Indie filmmaker can use and the creative talents of all of the artists involved – producers, directors, writers, actors and sound people— as well as the location to focus on the story.”


Except for David DeLuise and Robert Picardo, you won’t recognize most of the actors, who are a combination of working-class actors from LA and regional theater performers from Baltimore and Washington.


There’s a number of locals playing roles in the film as well.  They’re people who live in the bucolic area that makes you wish you had grown up there too.


Extremely well written, Putch draws you into what it’s like to grow old and face dementia.


For the film, which almost feels like a personalized documentary, he stitched in archival footage of hundreds of shows his father, Bill Putch, directed at the nearly 70-year-old theater.

Great Background – For his latest project, The Father and The Bear, indie filmmaker John Putch and his small crew made optimum use of the natural beauty of central Pennsylvania where he grew up.


True to his Indie filmmaking “rules,” The Father and The Bear was shot in 18 days.


Working as his own editor, he locked the picture down in four weeks. Composing took 10 weeks, sound mix was a three-day affair and there was one day of color work at Burbank’s CCI Digital.


For the production phase, Putch used a OWC 4TB ThunderBay mini and 4TB OWC-certified Thunderbolt hard drives and what he calls a HD toaster dock.


The dock enables him to add and remove drives for maintaining multiple drive backups, cloning a hard drive or providing extra storage.



Post Work – Back in his Studio City, Ca home post production facility, John Putch puts the finishing touches on’ The Father and The Bear’ before placing it with Vimeo On Demand and beginning the promotion of the film. 


He uses new OWC hard drives for every film project because he feels reusing/overwriting a drive is a false savings and isn’t a risk that even the Indie film maverick wants to take.


When one drive is full, it’s cloned with one set of drives staying with his cinematographer and another set he uses for editing.


He keeps the drive sets separate, just in case something happens.


Putch has been following the same archiving process since he produced “Mojave Phone Booth.”


“I have an offsite backup of every project I’ve done,” he said.  “And every 4 or5 years, I copy the projects to a fresh OWC drive.  It’s just cheap insurance every filmmaker should have – studio or Indie.” 


And yes, he proved a great story can be done by film people with a passion and well within his budget!

It’s a Wrap – To celebrate the production, the crew gathers for a group shot.  Members are (L-R): DP Keith Duggan, Cam assit Tommy Duncan, Cam Assit Dan Poole, Art director Rose Knoll, Wil Love (center) John Putch, PA Steve Hertzler, Cast/assoc pro Alicia Fusting, grip/elec Mike Vartholomatos, Sound mixer Patrick Giraudi.


As with any Indie film, the challenge is obviously to get it in front of the eyes of viewers.


With all of his experience and professional contacts, Putch knows all of the options that are available and pulls no punches as to what works, what comes up short.


In addition to selling DVDs and BluRays at; John books a local Indie theater, gets the actors to show up and does a Q&A about the film and filmmaking.


This is usually done in theaters close to the area where the movies are shot.


“No sales agent, no distributor,” he said with a smile, “It’s tangible revenue for the people who  did the work.”


For added distribution, Putch feels Vimeo On Demand is the real sleeper in streaming services.


“They provide a fair split for the film producer/owner, they do an accurate job of tracking views and they do a good job of protecting your content from pirates,” he noted.  “Protection may not be 100 percent but then even HBO and Netflix can have their stuff stolen.  Vimeo just seems to care about the filmmaker.”


He noted he has tried other options, including spending a ton of money with an aggregator to place The Father and the Bear on Amazon and iTunes, but he didn’t see any better traffic than with Vimeo.


How committed is he to Vimeo?


“My entireRoute 30 Trilogy’ is available exclusively on Vimeo on Demand,” Putch commented, “as well as my other titles: ‘Mojave Phone Booth’ and ‘Valerie Flake.’” 


While he ranks Vimeo On Demand as number one for filmmakers, followed by Amazon and iTunes a distant third; he emphasized that no matter where the film is placed, filmmakers have to market their work.


“Great work doesn’t demand attention,” he concluded.  “You’ve got to promote your films so people see and appreciate them.”

Andy is Owner and President of Marken Communications Inc. a Marketing and Communications Consultant, located in the San Francisco area in August 1977 to Present.Marken Communications is a full-service agency that concentrates on business/market planning, positioning, development, and communications. The 30 year agency has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Experience includes strategic and market planning and execution with communications and Internet firms including AT&T and CERFnet as well as in storage, storage management and video solutions with firms including Philips, InterVideo, Ulead, OWC, NewerTech, Sonic, Corel, Matsushita, Pinnacle, Dazzle, Cyberlink, Mountain Computer, Nikon, Plasmon, NTI, ADS Tech, Verbatim, Mitsubishi and Panasonic.
Andy Marken
Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource