Vegas Resident Parlays Subprime Success into Film Career

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A 15-year Las Vegas resident's success in the subprime mortgage industry helped him pursue his dream of making movies.

Last month, Eric Arlt debuted his company's second film, "Steel City," at the Palms casino-hotel. The movie, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the St. Louis Film Festival, was financed by local investors, which Arlt attributes to his time in the lending industry.

"(The lending market) kind of afforded me the luxury of going back and forth to L.A. to get our company up and running," said Arlt, 36.

The California native spent eight years in the subprime business. For seven of those eight, he was a loan officer and subprime wholesale account executive for HSBC. He exited the industry in 2003 to start independent film company Your Half Pictures with his two partners, Ryan Harper and Rusty Gray.

"Steel City" tells the story of two generations of a working-class family and the damage caused by a father's abandonment.

The film was also the feature-length directorial debut for Brian Jun.

Jun, who also wrote the script and edited the film, approached Your Half with John Heard (of "Home Alone" and "White Chicks") already signed on to act. His commitment was an early building block in Arlt's success.

"There has to be three elements for an independent film to have a chance to be successful: It must be accepted to a high-profile festival; there must be a name actor or actors in the movie; and there has to be a marketing angle," Arlt said in a statement.

Heard wasn't the film's only big talent. Months after "Steel City" was shot, Golden Globe winner America Ferrera, who plays the principal character's girlfriend in the film, became "Ugly Betty," the title character of the hit ABC sitcom.

Your Half waited to gauge the success of "Ugly Betty" before rolling the film out in theaters. Now, Ferrera's presence is one of the film's greatest assets, Arlt says.

The film, which cost less than $1 million to make, has already paid for itself, Arlt said. Your Half signed a deal with a distributor for the international market. Finding a distributor in the United States, though, may take longer, but not because of a shortage of offers.

"It's well known in the independent film world that the producers always get screwed by the distributors," Arlt said. "We know some of the offers weren't right."

Mark Cuban's Truly Indie distribution label is taking the film into American theaters. "Steel City" opened for mass distribution Friday in 13 cities, including Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles. Arlt wants his film to go even farther.

"Ideally, I'd like to go to 30 or 40 (cities) and get out to about 100 screens. That would be a huge success for this kind of film."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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