First-Time Director Makes Award-Winning Feature Film for $9K, Secures Distribution

Palindrone Pictures

You may have seen his reporting on Breitbart News as Paul Bois, but in the next two months, audiences will know him as Director Paul Roland when they view his debut award-winning feature film, Exemplum, which carried a production cost of just $9,500 on a skeleton crew of four people.

Paul Bois shot Exemplum in 2020 and completed it in 2022. He recently secured distribution for the film after a run on the festival circuit and it will soon be available on Amazon and Google Play sometime in the next two months. In June of last year, roughly three months after Paul achieved final cut, Exemplum pulled off a stunning victory at the Pasadena International Film Festival (PIFF) when it took home the Best Feature Film Director Award against films with budgets over $100,000.

“We were up against films with 5 to 10 times our budget, most of which had either full-working or medium-sized crews,” Paul Bois tells Breitbart News. “Most days we only had three people on set, including myself; some days we had only two. These were deeply talented filmmakers who had multiple projects (features and shorts) on their resumes and I did not expect to come home a winner that night.”

As John Nolte of Breitbart News illustrated in a recent article, the film festival circuit has made the already competitive world of independent filmmaking into a borderline hostile affair by subjecting movies to all sorts of criteria that have little or nothing to do with the quality of the films. For instance, the Sundance Film Festival made waves last year when it rescinded its invitation to Jihad Rihab after a vocal minority of Muslim critics began to accuse the film of promulgating “Islamophobia.” Now, some festivals have outright taken to blacklisting titles they feel might be “too controversial” while others have simply foregone all classical judging standards in favor of identity politics.

Leading up to his Best Director win at PIFF, Paul told Breitbart News that he had no way of anticipating what the week would bring.

“No matter the quality of your film, you’re always at the whims of a selection committee or jury and you have no idea as to the type of criteria they employ when judging your work,” Paul says. “When directing an ultra-low-budget film like this, you hope above all else that the judges will look past the rough production edges and grade the film for its story, creativity, and resourcefulness, but you just never know and I’m deeply grateful that PIFF not only welcomed Exemplum to screen but also saw something special in it.”

“From the very beginning, PIFF co-founders Marco Neves and Jessica Hardin made it clear they were about the filmmaking above all else and it showed in the types of films they selected to screen that week,” he adds. “I have a saying that a great film festival embodies the spirit of its host city and PIFF certainly displayed what people have come to love about the Rose City — tradition, class, aesthetics, hospitality. I cannot think of a better festival to have been honored at.”

His voice trembling as he fought back tears, Paul noted during his acceptance speech that the film came with “a lot of pain and a lot of sacrifice.”

“I relayed this more in detail during my introduction speech at the film’s premiere, so I’ll give you the Cliffs Notes version. Basically, I secured the first $6,000 thanks to a generous donation from the David Horowitz Freedom Center just two weeks before the coronavirus pandemic hit,” Paul says. “The whole world went on lockdown and I had no idea what society would look when the time would come to shoot the film. Regardless, I just kept one foot ahead of the other and finished the script three months later in June 2020, during which my beloved wife discovered she was pregnant with our first baby. So now I had a ticking time clock and only a small window of opportunity to make this film, but just then…”

“An upstairs neighbor in our condominium complex broke a water main while renovating his unit due to an act of negligence, flooding our bedroom, bathrooms, and kitchen,” he said. “Our whole home had to be remodeled and for the next five months, my increasingly pregnant wife and I bounced around Airbnbs while I multi-tasked between being a supportive husband, putting our house back together, and fulfilling this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of making my first feature film.”

“Words cannot do justice to the type of pressure I felt under throughout that time. Fortunately, we shot the film over seven weekends and finished just before Thanksgiving that year. My daughter was born that following February. I edited the film mostly at night and got little sleep, but I finally hit my groove after finishing the rough cut, which enabled me to pick up some more fundraising.”

Paul gives a more detailed account of his experience in his introduction speech from the Exemplum world premiere, which can be viewed below:

Since the PIFF win, Exemplum has received some notable critical acclaim, most especially a “Fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes Top Critic James Berardinelli of Reelviews, one of the pioneers of online film criticism who gained notoriety in the 1990s when famed critic Roger Ebert named him one of the top web-based critics to follow. While Berardinelli had his faults with Exemplum, he praised the film for its unexpected twists and nuanced exploration of a corrupt Catholic priest who records his confessions and then uses those recordings to blackmail a wealthy parishioner.

Exemplum is engaging, if flawed (sometimes frustratingly so), but this isn’t a run-of-the-mill digital production rushed out by someone wanting to have the experience of making a movie. There’s more going on here and it points to Roland [Bois] as having taken a promising first step,” wrote Berardinelli in his review.

Christian Toto of Hollywood in Toto also hailed Exemplum in his glowing review as a “spiritual drama that delivers nuance and uncertainty.”

Exemplum offers something meatier for secular and faith-based audiences alike. Its protagonist’s flaws are obvious, but his journey is both fresh and inviting. You haven’t seen a story like this before, and that’s refreshing,” wrote Toto.

Come this week, Exemplum will be exiting its run on the festival circuit with an online screening at the Santa Monica Film Festival. People hoping to view the film when it goes live on Amazon and Google Play can follow Paul on Twitter,Instagram, or, YouTube.

“I have little doubt that people of all stripes can come away with something from this film and I am patiently waiting for the day I can share this hard-fought achievement with audiences,” says Paul. “Thank you for all your support and, as Colin says in the film, ‘may you rise above the chaos.'”

Watch below:


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