Destry Allyn Spielberg’s Indie Feature Debut Suffers Financing Hurdles and Still Owes Vendors

Independent filmmaking is no easy task — even if you’re Steven Spielberg’s daughter.

Destry Allyn Spielberg is set to make her feature directorial debut with “Please Don’t Feed the Children,” a low-budget thriller, which was filmed last year in Santa Fe, N.M.

But the film has endured significant financing problems, shutting down just before production was to begin. Production later restarted and wrapped around Thanksgiving, but the project still owes numerous vendors about $200,000, according to emails and interviews.

“All the vendors and crew did everything we could to make this film possible,” the film’s transportation coordinator, Mike Garcia, wrote in an email to Spielberg and the producers in January. “To not pay for their services in return is unacceptable.”

Jason Dubin, the film’s lead producer, said in an interview on Wednesday that the production has recently obtained funding from a new investor in Seattle that will allow it to pay the vendors, perhaps as soon as the end of this week.

“This is all on me,” he said.

Dubin has repeatedly assured vendors since December that they would be paid in full. In response to Garcia’s email in January, Dubin said the production was close to getting financing that would “get everyone paid within the next two weeks.”

“As with many independent films, it has been a very challenging uphill battle financing this film from the start,” he wrote. “However, we were able to come back to Santa Fe when we had to shut down and we are now so close to having everybody fully paid. Please know, we are working hard to get this taken care of asap and will make sure that every single person who worked on our film is paid out in full by the end of the month.”

The vendors include the providers of communications gear, portable bathrooms, trailers, and picture cars, among other items.

On Feb. 8, they still had not been paid. In an email on that date, Dubin assured one vendor that, “We hope to have everything paid off by the end of the month.”

That did not happen either. In March, Dubin wrote in an email that he hoped to have a “concrete date” by which everyone would be paid by the end of that month.

Some have taken their complaints to the New Mexico Film Commission, which oversees the state’s tax incentive program. Dubin said the project spent about $4.4 million in the state. In an email to another vendor, he said the production expects to receive $750,000 in state credits, but cannot receive it until vendors are paid.

Spielberg’s manager, Josh Kesselman, also told Variety on Wednesday that the production had just locked in its last portion of financing.

“We will be paying our vendors within a week,” Kesselman said. “Like all independent films, this one’s been rocky with financing. It’s been an up-and-down roller coaster. We’ve been telling them they’re getting the rest of the money and they should be patient.”

He said he hoped to debut the film at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film, which stars Giancarlo Esposito and Michelle Dockery, was among a few hundred independent productions that were allowed to keep filming during the SAG-AFTRA strike last year because they were not tied to a studio.

Spielberg has directed the short films “Rosie” and “Let Me Go the Right Way.” She initially planned to make her feature debut with “Four Assassins (And a Funeral),” but that project remains in development.

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