Tampa filmmaker James Repici, 31, watched the rise and fall of the subprime mortgage industry as a banker working in the Wells Fargo Tower in downtown Los Angeles. Later, he and co-writer Darius Amendolia were working at a brokerage in Maitland, Florida. It was July 2007, and Repici says the financial crisis hadn’t fully hit yet. They began writing the story of Subprime based on what they saw around them right before the fall: “uneducated and unethical high school dropouts” making thousands every month, and the luxurious lives they were living.
“I can’t think of another time in the history of America where such a large group of unlikely and unqualified millionaires could be made,” Repici said. “But then lenders tightened up, values went down, money stopped coming in — and next thing you know, ‘subprime’ is the word of the year. The story changed and we were literally rewriting all the way to and through the production.”
Repici says Hollywood focuses too many films on the highest tier of transactions from the financial crisis, when the real painful hits occurred lower on the totem pole.
“Subprime puts the viewer inside a typical neighborhood brokerage during the boom and bust of the industry,” Repici said. “Nearly every American homeowner got a phone call between ’02 and ’07 from some kid promising a lower rate, lower payment and cash back.”
While making the film, Repici lost his job: the brokerage where he worked went out of business. “I was basically drowning in debt and trying to make a movie at the same time,” Repici said. “Here we are exactly three years from the actual shooting date and I’m still digging myself out of the credit card debt the movie and unemployment created.”
The Tampa native went to Gaither and Tampa Catholic high schools, where he and his friends would make promotional videos for school fundraisers and shoot short films on his step-dad’s camcorder. He graduated from Florida State in 2003 with a degree in finance.
Repici has written six other unproduced films and a few television pilots, but Subprime is his first produced feature film.
Repici now works as a portfolio analyst in Winter Park. He writes from his home office in Orlando and likes to do films based in his hometown.
“Most everything I write takes place either in Tampa or in the Southeast,” Repici said. “I’d like to make movies here for the rest of my life.”
Recently, Synkronized picked up Subprime for distribution in Canada and the United States; an international deal is still in the works. By the end of the year, Repici says Subprime will be available for purchase in stores and streaming online. The film screens Sat., March 31, at 1:15 p.m at Centro Ybor Muvico in Theatre 10 — its final filmfest apearance stateside after playing to acclaim in San Antonio, Vegas, Ohio, Orlando and New York.
As a director, Repici acknowledges he’s still new to the game. “There’s so much more to learn. It’s sort of like playing an instrument — you never stop learning.”