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Local filmmaker Mike Million's 'Tenure' screens at D.C. Independent Film Festival

Mike Million, left, gives direction to actor Bob Gunton, center. (© Blowtorch Entertainment)

Sunday's Oscars telecast will have all the symbols of Hollywood: red carpet, gorgeous stars, screaming fans and that funny gold statue. For the lucky few, it's a dream come true.

Then there's Mike Million. (His real name. Honest.) The Arlington County native represents another side of the movie business: He finally got to make his first feature film, with genuine B+-list stars, but it never played in theaters and went straight to DVD.

"If I had make a big, splashy, obnoxious comedy, then maybe the movie would have gotten out there in a wider way," said Million, whose "Tenure" screens Friday night at the D.C. Independent Film Festival. "But I stayed true to the movie I wanted to make."

The writer/director, 38, went to Washington-Lee High School (alums include Sandra Bullock, Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty), the University of Virginia and film school before starting his own production company, Third Story Films. He made corporate films, documentaries and music videos before selling his first screenplay and moving to Los Angeles three years ago.

"Tenure," starring Luke Wilson and Gretchen Mol, is a quirky comedy about professors in a tenure battle at a small liberal arts college. The screenplay floated around for a while because Million also wanted to direct the independent film. He finally landed a producer and a $5.million budget ("one one-hundredth of 'Avatar'.") and shot the movie at Bryn Mawr College in 25 days.

Luke Wilson and Gretchen Mol in "Tenure." (© Blowtorch Entertainment)

The film was edited and ready for release a year ago, "then the fun began," Million said -- his distributor went out of business, and the movie never made it to theaters. Million showed it at a few film festivals, and it was released on DVD two weeks ago.

"The last year has been difficult," Million said. "The most important thing is that I was able to make my first film, and it's one I'm proud of." Next up? Trying to persuade someone to let him make another movie.

But first, he'll watch the Oscars and root for hometown girl Bullock and "Avatar": "I think it deserves to win. It's just an amazing feat of filmmaking."

By The Reliable Source  |  March 5, 2010; 12:16 AM ET
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