RiverBend Films

History of RiverBend Films

RiverBend Films logo 2005 RiverBend Films logo 2008 RiverBend Films logo 2010 RiverBend Films logo 2012 RiverBend Films logo 2014
RiverBend Films Tenth Anniversary

In October 2015, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of RiverBend Films! As part of our tenth year celebration, we present this unique look back at the history of RiverBend Films, from 2005 (and prior) to 2015. This special timeline highlights all of our major film productions, milestones, and significant accomplishments along the way to 2015.

Prior to 2005

RiverBend Films co-founder Kevin G. BenderRiverBend Films owes its earliest origins to the film work done by co-founder and managing director Kevin G. Bender between 2003 and 2005. Kevin G. Bender's first introduction to filmmaking came from the Virginia Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities in July 2003 where he took a four week introductory course in advanced video production. Mr. Bender continued his education in video production, taking courses in non-linear editing and web animation. A Day in the Life of a Cat, a ten minute silent film, was the first film independently produced, shot, and edited by Kevin G. Bender. It was quickly followed by Nature's Fury, a six minute documentary of Hurricane Isabel shot in September 2003, along with numerous other early short and experimental films that served as a learning platform for Bender's later work.


First Feature: Life's a Smoose

Lifes a SmooseIn late 2004, Bender, then an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, teamed with his Virginia Governor's School classmate Ryan McElveen and art and drama students from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University to make his first feature film: Life's a Smoose. Written by McElveen and directed by Bender, Life's a Smoose was an offbeat slapstick comedy and political satire inspired by works of a similar vein, including National Lampoon and Napoleon Dynamite. Starring McElveen, Jessica Begans, Maleika Cole, Samantha Clarkson, Paul Shoemaker, Thomas Nash, Loren Crawford, and over 100 extras, Life's a Smoose premiered in April 2005 at the Salmagundi Student Film and Video Festival at the University of Virginia. When RiverBend Films was formally founded a few months later, Life's a Smoose retroactively joined the official RiverBend Films library.


2005 - 2006: Founding Years

Running Out of Time DVD CoverThe official formation of RiverBend Films took place in October 2005 as a partnership between Kevin G. Bender and Brooke Larson to produce and finance Below the Beltway, the follow-on to Life's a Smoose. The company name still owes its origins to the original partnership: "River" is an allusion to the first name of co-founder Brooke Larson and "Bend" is a truncation of the last name of co-founder Kevin G. Bender. Ghost written by "C.M. Nagans," produced by McElveen, Larson, and Bender, and directed by Bender, Below the Beltway featured most of the same returning cast and crew from Life's a Smoose. Below the Beltway went into principal photography in December 2005 and was initially slated for completion by July 2006. Financing issues, however, delayed the remainder of prinipcal photography to December of 2006. Consequently, the May 2006 short film Running Out of Time became the first film released under the RiverBend Films banner. Written and produced by Larson and directed by Bender, the six minute silent starred Larson, McElveen, and Doug Shapiro along with a small number of extras. RiverBend Films also produced several other projects during 2006 including other short films, a commercial, and a documentary detailing the production of Below the Beltway.


2007: Below the Beltway and Beyond

The Receipt Blu-Ray CoverFebruary 2007 saw the completion and world premiere of Below the Beltway. Just a few months later in April 2007, RiverBend Films embarked upon its most ambitious undertaking yet: the production of the feature length romantic comedy The Receipt. Unlike its predecessors, The Receipt sought to mimic in every conceivable fashion the production of a major Hollywood motion picture. That meant upgrading camera equipment to full-1080p digital cameras, switching post-production to Avid Media Composer, adopting independent audio recording with offline restoration tools, mixing in Dolby Digital 5.1 simulated surround sound, and for the first time ever using 3d digial animation. The Receipt was also the first RiverBend Films production to feature an entirely original musical score composed by Kyle Ringgenberg, who today is one of RiverBend Films's principal partners. Written by Rachel Bernstein and produced and directed by Bender, the 90 minute film was set to be shot over an ambitious five month shooting schedule beginning in September 2007. Production would involve a set of people who would be regular RiverBend Films collaborators, including sound mixers Michael Benonis and Zachary Pruckowski. The cast featured entirely University of Virginia drama students and included Sarah Elizabeth Edwards, Mauri Epstein, and Matthew Marcus, who would become a regular RiverBend Films collaborator. While written as a fairly typical romantic comedy, The Receipt was unique for its time in that the focus of the main storyline was on the friendship of its two female leads Evie (Sarah Elizabeth Edwards) and Norah (Mauri Epstein).


2008: The Receipt and Commercial Success

Them Funky Earthlings DVD CoverThe year 2008 marked what was perhaps the most significant year of RiverBend Films's ten year history. On April 9th, 2008, RiverBend Films's flagship feature film The Receipt made its world premiere in Charlottesville, Virginia. With a final production budget of over $10,000, clocking-in at almost 90 minutes long, featuring over 50 minutes of original music (including an original vocal piece performed by Annie and Elyse Steingold and composed by Kyle Ringgenberg), and involving the assistance of close to 100 people, The Receipt was at the time of its release the largest, most ambitious, and most expensive film ever produced by an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia. The film opened to wide local acclaim and led to substantial worldwide DVD sales, soundtrack sales, and opportunities for additional business. Thousands of people worldwide have now seen The Reciept, and DVD and soundtrack sales have been made in at least five different countries. The Receipt remains RiverBend Films's most successful production to-date. The success of The Receipt led to opportunities for additional projects, including recruiting films, local TV commercials, and the music video for the song Them Funky Earthlings by the band Alchemy. In all, RiverBend Films produced ten major projects in 2008, its most active and successful year.


2009: The Artist and Other New Endeavours

The Artist Soundtrack CoverDarrel Poe on the set of The Quantum Suicide of Sophie Miller2009 saw continued expansion of RiverBend Films into new project areas. In addition to completing some projects initiated in 2008, RiverBend Films produced several new commerical projects, including a training video, a recruiting video, presentations, slide shows, professional still photography projects, and a web development and animation project. Conversations with Receipt actor and alumnus Matthew Marcus in July 2008 also led to RiverBend Films's fourth feature film project, The Artist, written by Marcus and directed by Kevin G. Bender. The Artist reunited much of the cast and crew of The Receipt, including composer Kyle Ringgenberg, sound team Michael Benonis and Zachary Pruckowski, actress Gabrielle Moskey, and Marcus and Bender. The Artist also welcomed new production team members including producer Ashley Kinney who would also join teams producing RiverBend Films's later projects. The Artist starred Marcus in its lead role and co-starred Casey Stein, Russ Hicks, Glenn Aubrey, Andrew Todhunter, and Arrietta van der Voort in leading roles. As RiverBend Films's first action-adventure film, The Artist presented new technical and artistic challenges not faced in previous productions. Notably, the film required the choreography of several fight sequences, shooting a car crash scene, and the extensive use of green screens and digital animation. Composer Kyle Ringgenberg, who produced over an hour of original music for The Artist, also took on the daunting challenge of animating three digitial effects sequences for the film. His efforts are captured in a brief documentary. The Artist made its world premeire in Charlottesville, Virginia, on May Day 2009. After undergoing extensive re-edits and adjustments after its premiere, it was released to the public on DVD and streaming online video in December of 2009.


2010-2015: The Quantum Suicide of Sophie Miller and Recent Years

On the set of the Quantum Suicide of Sophie MillerRiverBend Films produced a promotional video and a commercial in a relatively quiet years 2010 and 2011. In September 2010, RiverBend Films released online a seven minute promotional video celebrating its fifth anniversary, which occured in October of that year. Changes in technology and the proliferation of high definition home video options also resulted in the remastering and re-relese of special director's cut editions of The Receipt, The Artist, and Them Funking Earthlings in high definition on Blu-Ray disc. August of 2011 marked the beginning of early discussions between Kevin G. Bender, Receipt and Artist alumnus Matthew Marcus, and Darrell Poe to begin production of RiverBend Films's fith feature film The Quantum Suicide of Sophie Miller. After a six month pre-production period, the film went into principal photography in February 2012 and wrapped principal photography in June of the same year. The Quantum Suicide of Sophie Miller brought back much of the creative team behind The Receipt and The Artist, including Ashely Kinney, Kyle Ringgenberg, Zachary Pruckowski, Gabrielle Moskey, Diane Worden, Marcus and Bender,On the set of the Quantum Suicide of Sophie Miller along with newcombers Rebecca Samuels, Shannon Skodacek, Darren Marquardt, Chris Fenner, Dani Fant, James Thompson, and many others. Based on the award-winning one act stage play of the same name by Matthew Marcus, The Quantum Suicide of Sophie Miller, a science fiction and psychological drama is RiverBend Films's most ambitious project to-date, featuring a cast and crew of over 100 people, more than 60 locations, incorporating an extraordinary amount of computer graphics, and featuring over an hour of original music. The film, starring Alexia Poe in its title role and co-starring Aimee Snow, Carl Nubile, Anthony Carchietta, and Larry Keeling, was completed in mid-2013 after an extended editing period and following considerable pick-up photography and re-shoots. The film screened to the cast in July 2013, and supporters of a crowdfunding campaign used to help finance the film received DVDs in December 2013. The film is presently pending arrangements for wider distribution and is not yet available to the general public. Current plans for the year 2015 include an October 2015 theatrical screening of RiverBend Films's flagship film The Receipt, for the first time ever in high definition, and the world premiere of The Quantum Suicide of Sophie Miller.