Producers Allen Bain and Jesse Scolaro are keen to remember their humble roots even as their New York-based company The 7th Floor grows. "We want to be a company that helps people starting out in their careers, giving people opportunities they might not otherwise have," says Bain. "You could be a camera assistant or a locations assistant who might have an amazing script."
The pair met on the film programme at the State University of New York's Purchase College and kept in touch as they started their careers. "I'd been working as an assistant cameraman and in line production and Jesse was working in a similar field," Bain recalls. "We did a movie together in 1999 and thought we'd pool our salaries and keep renting the production office."
The 7th Floor had success with its debut feature, Eric Eason's Manito, which won a special jury prize at Sundance in 2002. Since then, the company has worked on festival favourites such as Cry Funny Happy, Blackballed, Room, Gardener Of Eden and The Cake Eaters (on which sales company Arclight Films is close to finalising a domestic distribution deal).
Bain and Scolaro have also branched out from the low-budget US indie world by serving as the New York producers on Nicolas Cage project Lord Of War and working on French co-productions such as Whatever Lola Wants, Twentynine Palms and Julia.
The company recently shot Choose, its first genre film, and is gearing up for the Sundance launch of Noah Buschel's The Missing Person, starring Michael Shannon and Amy Ryan.
Choose is a serial killer story that writers Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson hope to turn into a franchise. Bain and Scolaro were introduced to first-time director Robert Legato through their collaborator on Gardener Of Eden, Leonardo DiCaprio. Legato has worked as a second-unit director for Martin Scorsese and is also a well-known effects guru, with credits on Titanic, Apollo 13 and Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. Velvet Octopus is selling Choose, which stars Katheryn Winnick, Kevin Pollak, Bruce Dern and Nicholas Tucci.
The Missing Person is a "modestly budgeted" neo-noir detective story, which is being sold by Visit Films. "Noah took something familiar from genre films and started messing with it," says Bain. Also in the pipeline at The 7th Floor is New York Chinese gang saga Revenge Of The Green Dragon, with Andrew Lau attached to direct, and drama Miles From Nowhere, director Debra Granik's reunion with Down To The Bone actress Vera Farmiga.
Most of the company's films are budgeted between $2m-$15m but one bigger project is Usonia, about a community designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Scolaro points out the diverse projects share common ground. "Our films have not been dependent on cast or director - the scripts have been the most important element, which is why we have worked in different genres."