Bunim/Murray Productions, the company behind 20 years of The Real World, is taking on a whole new realm in the non-fiction genre with its new documentary unit. Best known for ushering in the reality genre, BMP’s has unleashed its first doc, Autism: the Musical, on the festival circuit.
As VP of creative affairs, Sasha Alpert oversees both casting of reality at BMP and the documentary unit. The move from reality to pure docs wasn’t daunting to a company well-prepared to deal with hours of non-fiction footage. ‘Having many cutting rooms available, having a music department, having a legal department, [all this] makes it incredibly easy for an independent documentary maker to come in and have things taken care of that can absolutely paralyze you if you don’t have easy access and money for them,’ says Alpert.
The first film able to use these departments came to BMP completely by chance. Halfway through filming a group of autistic children who create and perform a musical, the producers ran out of money. Autism‘s executive producer was Alpert’s friend, and contacted her, just as Alpert was looking for a project. The stars aligned and it became the first film for BMP’s doc unit.
The film, which was directed by Tricia Regan, has had success premiering at Tribeca, and has screened in 14 cities. It’s been held over for weeks in both Boston and San Francisco, all from word-of-mouth publicity. HBO has picked up the film. ‘It has surprising legs in terms of its theatrical life because it had no publicity budget and yet it went out there and sold theaters,’ says Alpert.
But this success isn’t all chalked up to the experienced prodco behind the film, says Alpert. ‘It’s a film with tremendous hope and humanity. The kids in it are so lovable that you just fall in love with them and I think it’s helped a lot of people understand what autism is because it’s such an amorphous title that it’s something you have to watch and live to understand.’
With BMP’s first film complete and set to air on HBO in April, Alpert is keeping an eye out for other great character-driven stories with which she can get involved.