A little less than one year ago, Scottsdale became home to a film distribution company, Cloudburst Entertainment.
Since then, owners and entertainment industry veterans Steve Fedyski and Ken Rather have weathered a pandemic that walloped the film industry and are now well on their way to releasing six to eight films next year.
Those are atop the two they’ve already released this year as well as the soon-to-premiere, star-studded film, “The Comeback Trail.”
“We were fortunate to weather through,” Fedyski said.
Starring Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, and Morgan Freeman, “The Comeback Trail” is set to open nationwide in theaters on Dec. 18, but it will premiere in Phoenix at the Phoenix Film Festival on Nov. 12.
It’s Cloudburst’s third film.
“With an amazing cast and a fun story that everyone will enjoy, ‘The Comeback Trail’ is the perfect antidote to what our community and country have gone through the last several months,” Fedyski said.
Cloudburst Entertainment specializes in transformational content.
“The idea is to get your thinking to the film to be a catalyst for change for the better,” Fedyski explained. “Maybe it changes your mindset and heart set about an individual, about a situation, about a concept, about a culture.”
Fedyski uses the Academy Award-winning 2009 film “The Blind Side” as an example of transformational content.
“It was a film that really moved people and we love films like that. That’s the type of content we want to do: It’s very inspiring, very positive, and even would make you consider changing the way you treat others and your community,” Fedyski said.
Since its launch in December 2019, Cloudburst Entertainment has released two films, Dinesh D’Souza’s latest documentary “Trump Card” on Oct. 9 and Cyrus Nowrasteh’s drama starring Jim Caviezel “Infidel” on Sept. 18.
The exception to Cloudburst Entertainment’s current slate of transformational films, however, is “The Comeback Trail.”
“It wasn’t exactly what I would call the genre we would steadily take out to the world,” Fedyski said, “but we felt the timing of the film was so incredible because it’s a comedy and comedy right now is what the world needs.
“We need to be able to laugh together and laugh out loud coming out of the season of COVID.”
Premiering on the opening night of the Phoenix Film Festival, “The Comeback Trail” — directed by George Gallo — tells the story of two movie producers, played by De Niro and Zach Braff, who owe money to the mob.
So, they set up their aging movie star for an insurance scam to save themselves. But, of course, their plan doesn’t go as smoothly as they hoped it would.
“It’s funny, but it has a redemptive arc that’s going to be great for the world to see,” Fedyski said.
“The Comeback Trail” originally slated for a Nov. 13 wide release but was pushed another month. It isn’t the first Cloudburst Entertainment film that had timing adjustments.
Stating that the pandemic “definitely affected timing,” Fedyski said, “With the disruption in the market for the last year, you have to be very careful of what you take out, when you take it out and how you market it.”
Like many studios, Cloudburst Entertainment modified their plans amid the pandemic, including adjusting the timing of their films.
“Also, how we approach the marketing aspects so that we can maximize the film’s impact as we distribute, market and monetize it for the investors as well,” Fedyski said. “It’s just adjusting.”
The next two years look promising for Cloudburst Entertainment, though.
They have at least six genre-spanning films they plan to release in 2021 through 2022, including “Songs of Solomon,” an Arman Nshanian-directed film Cloudburst plans to do an Academy run for next year.
Another one of Cloudburst’s films is “The Tiger Rising,” the film adaptation of the popular kids’ novel of the same name that stars Dennis Quaid and Queen Latifah.
Other films include “The Reunion,” based on the novel by Dan Walsh, “Bull Moose” from the producer of “BlacKkKlansman” and “Get Out,” a “La La Land”-like musical “That’s Amore,” and family-friendly animated film “Mini Bots.”
“We have a wide range of films — across all genres,” Fedyski said, adding that they could take out as many as eight films next year.
“I think the world’s going to be shifted back to a new normal, and hopefully we’re off to the races together,” he said.
Looking ahead, Cloudburst Entertainment has plans to produce films as well as distribute them.
“But really, our mantra right now is to be the best in class on the distribution side,” Fedyski said. “Our mission is to be the world leader in distributing transformational media.”
Fedyski and Rather are former Pure Flix Entertainment execs; Fedyski most recently served as COO, and Rather served as Chief Distribution Officer.
Now, they’re both dedicated to bringing compelling stories to big screens in the U.S. — from their Scottsdale headquarters.
“We had a previous studio here in Scottsdale, and we think it’s a great creative community,” Fedyski said.
“I see it as a burgeoning market, and I think it’s definitely a place that has great upside for the industry,” he added.
If You Go
Phoenix Film Festival
When: Nov. 12-22
Where: Harkins Scottsdale 101, 7000 E. Mayo Blvd.