Screen dreams hit home

Film in festivals

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  • | 9:07 a.m. August 3, 2011
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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On a warm afternoon in Los Angeles, a police car crawls to a stop in front of the Wells Fargo, siren silent. Two officers emerge and walk inside the big double doors. The man they are looking for, “David,” is known to deal drugs in the surrounding community, but when officers lock the cuffs on the 27-year-old, hesitating briefly above the solid gold Rolex around the left wrist, it’s not just the drugs that gives the officers a smug sense of self-assurance.

“David” is one of many young, arrogant men who took up the mortgage broker industry in the early 2000s. He’s young, holds only a high school education and drives a Lexus. His pay range is $30-$40,000 per month. And because “David” receives no salary or benefits, he is ruthless to become the highest-paid broker in the building.

As police escort “David” out the doors on a minor drug charge, a 24-year-old James Repici watches. Repici, a banker at the Wells Fargo for more than a year, has always distrusted the flashy youth from a small outside brokerage. Repici graduated from Florida State University with a degree in finance, yet earns a yearly salary of $35,000 in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in America.

“He got out of jail in three to four months,” Repici said. “Guess where he was working? The same place, the same office. They took him back, because that kid made money.”

This scene would be the inspiration for Repici nearly 10 years later, when he returned to Florida and, looking for work, he would make a leap of faith to achieve a silver screen dream.

Life on film

Repici makes his living in finances. He has worked in banks, a mortgage brokerage in Maitland and is currently an auditor in the entertainment industry, but it is his artistic side that drives his daily life. Since high school, he harbored dreams of becoming a writer and has written screenplays for more than 10 years, eventually becoming a finalist in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards Competition. His feature-length film “Subprime” is his first foray into the world of film.

“Subprime” chronicles the working life of a young mortgage broker during the boom and bust years of the subprime mortgage crisis. David’s character, portrayed by Ken Baranda, is based on the real-life Los Angeles broker, while others are more reminiscent of coworkers at the Maitland office. Filmed almost entirely in Winter Park, with a cast of mostly Orlando actors including a premiere performance by Playboy’s Miss July 2010, Shanna McLaughlin, the story reveals the back-story behind those bad mortgage loans many Americans were so eager to sign.

“It’s a pretty ominous, foreboding tale — a very cautionary tale for young people,” said Matt Lynn, post-production editor for “Subprime.”

Lynn, an instructor at Full Sail University, connected with the film’s message from situations he witnessed growing up in Tampa, when several classmates from high school joined a small mortgage brokerage there.

“It was all the kids that you knew were criminals, real jerks in high school,” Lynn said, “and you knew they were up to no good. … You see dollar signs, you don’t really see ethics at that age.”

For Repici, the movie is the culmination of more than two years of effort and risk. Out of work in Florida at the head of the recession might seem like an odd time to launch a movie, but Repici said he felt it was time to tell the story he had held all those years.

“The stars are never right,” he said. “But there comes a time when you say, I’m either going to make this thing or I won’t.”

For two months, Repici lived and worked off of the $10,000 budget produced for “Subprime.” The project remained in postproduction for nearly two years, due to the conflicting schedules of the film’s editors, who worked on the film into the early morning hours after their regular jobs.

Daniel Ruth, post-production audio editor for “Subprime,” said the film is engaging for him because of the critical insights it gave him into the mortgage industry. Ruth bought a home in 2008, understanding that the house was appraised at more than its actual value but believing in his broker that he would be taken care of later. That didn’t happen. Ruth said a lot of the dialogue and situations in the movie reminded him of the real-life issues he faced.

Festival bound

“Subprime” is making the rounds of the independent film festivals. The movie premiered in San Antonio to positive reviews and next makes its way to the Central Florida Film Festival, Sept. 2-5.

Repici is currently looking for investors in his next film, “Dutch Book,” a gambling term for a sure bet. The script recently became a quarter finalist in the Scriptapalooza screenwriting competition.

“At the end of the day, I want to make movies that I want to watch,” he said. “If I like it, then I know I’m doing something good.”

Learn more

To watch the trailer for “Subprime,” order DVDs or to contact the filmmakers, visit


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