Bigfoot putting stamp on Philippines


COLOGNE, Germany -- You could call Michael Gleissner the Mark Cuban of the Philippines. Like the billionaire entrepreneur and 2929 Entertainment founder, German-born Gleissner made his millions by getting in and out of the Internet boom at the right time. And like Cuban, Gleissner is building a multimedia empire.

But instead of Dallas, the empire is located in Cebu, the Philippines' second-largest city, where Gleissner has plowed $10 million into building a studio and film school and millions more setting up a film fund and online distribution network under the brand Bigfoot Entertainment.

Like its hairy namesake, Bigfoot has been keeping a low profile. But that could change now that "Napoleon Dynamite" producers Sean Covel and Chris Wyatt have signed up to produce Bigfoot's offbeat comedy "See Dick Run," based on a script co-written by Gleissner. Shooting is set to start in fall 2007.

Besides writing, Gleissner makes his directorial debut with the thriller "Irreversi." Loosely based on his own experiences as a dot-com millionaire, the $2 million film is about the havoc sudden wealth can have on personal relationships. Gleissner shot back-to-back versions of the film in English and Mandarin with separate casts.

Other features on Bigfoot's swelling slate include the romantic comedy "Social Grace" (aka "East Broadway") starring Margaret Cho and Lewis Black, and Belgian coming-of-age film "The Curiosity of Chance."

Through its private equity film fund, Bigfoot has also taken stakes in Thom Fitzgerald's "3 Needles," starring Lucy Liu; teen comedy "The Dogwalker"; low-budget horror pic "Within"; the dramedy "Spikes"; and the documentaries "USS Cooper: The Return to Ormoc Bay" and "Intoxicated," about the alcohol industry.

"The fund is set up to invest between $200,000 and $2 million per film in a variety of indie features," Gleissner says. "For 100% Bigfoot productions, I'm putting up most of the money myself, so I can do things that interest me in the way I want to do them."

If that sounds like a recipe for financial disaster, Gleissner is quick to point out that he is deliberately keeping his budgets small to minimize the damage should pictures bomb.

In any case, film is just a small part of the Bigfoot plan. With state-of-the-art soundstages and postproduction facilities, the company's studio is doing solid business in the TV field. Small-screen productions include the Philippine version of "American Idol."

"This is really about creating an industry here, building it up where nothing had been before," Gleissner says. "The Philippines is an incredible country with amazing creative resources and, with Bigfoot, we want to show the world's film and TV industry that this is a place to do business."