By Steve Novotney
So she traveled 436 miles south to get away from the small-town bore. And then she migrated 120 miles north to begin the chase of a dream.
Kristin Seibert has followed her heart (that’s for sure!) in search of what she’s wanted to do since departing her hometown of Oakdale, Calif., following her high school graduation.
In the beginning, she followed her father’s persistent advice to use college as a pathway to what he referred to as a “marketable job.”
Off she went to San Diego State, home of gorgeous weather, big-city culture, and a respected accounting curriculum.
But she hated it.
Seibert then transferred to San Marco State to finish a psychology degree. But … naw.
Seibert wanted to make movies. She never wished to be in front of the cameras, but she dreamed of performing the creative duties involved with producing films.
Off to Los Angeles she went, known across the world as “Tinseltown” and a haven for broken dreams and shattered hearts. It was a world she never expected because she soon learned the movie-making business was an industry filled with “unpredictable craziness” and “out-of-control egos.”
But the dream was the dream, so she continued to base her decisions on that chase. After climbing for three years to executive status at The Agency, a TV show marketing firm, she suddenly quit for an unpaid internship at a production company. It was at this time when she met a wannabe comedian from Wheeling, W.Va., but dumped him because, well, the dream was the dream.
And then she noticed an excuse to contact the ex-boyfriend. She had some of his “stuff,” and she had some of his “stuff.” Dinner was in order, of course.
That evening offered an epiphany of sorts. Seibert realized two important facts of life: She could make a movie anywhere; and that wannabe comedian, her then future husband, Justin Seibert, was the fish who shouldn’t get away.
That was 2001.
The couple was married in 2003, and after Kristin had their first two children within 15 months of each other, they decided to move to Wheeling in 2006 to raise their kids. Justin quickly founded Direct Online Marketing, an Internet marketing business for which he’s won much acclaim, and the couple now has three children, Clare (9), Maxwell (8) and Emma (5).
AND then, 2,221 miles away from “La-La Land,” Kristin Seibert’s dream finally came true.
Novotney: Has producing films always been a goal of yours?
Seibert: My lifelong dream was to get into the movie business in Hollywood somehow because I felt I had a lot of creative input behind the camera. At that point I had to make a choice. Do I continue school to go into psychology, or do I move north to L.A. and go for it?
So that’s what I did. I moved to L.A. and went for it. And trust me; it was interesting. I got a job working in the marketing of TV shows, and it was a great job for a while.
It was a family owned business, and those folks became my L.A. family. They were great people.
Novotney: But marketing TV shows wasn’t making movies, and you knew that, right?
Seibert: Three years went by, and that’s when I realized I still was not in the movie business. That meant it was time to make another decision.
So I quit my job as an executive with The Agency and found an internship for no money whatsoever. It was a management production company, but within a month they hired me as an assistant.
I was there for close to a year, and it was a lot of fun, but it was crazy, too. I really loved a lot of the people I was working with, but there was a lot of ego involved too.
So then I decided to leave there and start my own management company.
And this is the time in my life when I met Justin. When he came into my life and we started dating, it was a time in my life when I was really, really busy. It was a situation that he wasn’t very comfortable with because he wanted to spend more time together, and it wasn’t possible at that point in my life.
So we actually broke up for a couple of months, but we still had some of each other’s things.
So we decided to have dinner one night so we could exchange those belongings, and we’ve been together ever since.
Novotney: After you and Justin were married, children became part of life. Did that factor into the decision to move to Justin’s hometown?
Seibert: Once we had our Clare, we decided we did not want to raise our children in L.A., but we didn’t know what to do about our jobs at the time. The next thing I know, I’m pregnant again just five months after giving birth to Clare.
At that point, we knew we had to get out of L.A., but I also knew I didn’t want to move back to my hometown because it was still California, and the economics are horrible there. I loved Wheeling when I came here. It’s so pretty, and it’s cheaper to live in, so we came here.
Novotney: So after studying accounting, majoring in psychology, and working in the marketing and production industries, what employment did you find when you moved to Wheeling?
Seibert: When it came time to figuring out what I was going to do, I decide to go with my strong suits, and that’s editing and offering notes on screenplays.
So I started an online business called Pro Script Notes. People would send me their scripts, and I would call them, and we would talk about their scripts. I knew at that point what the people in this business were looking for in a script, so I was able to get them into the right format, and get them in the right direction so they would have the best chance possible. I did that for a while, and I made some money. Not a lot, but some.”
Novotney: So when did you decide you wanted to produce your own film?
Seibert: I think I kind of thought I wanted to make a movie since I was a child, but I knew I did after move to Wheeling.
I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but one day I looked at Justin and that’s what I told him: “Let’s make a movie. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, so let’s make a movie.”
Novotney: After operating the online script business, you accepted a position with West Liberty University to work with the students involved with WLTV-Channel 14. Soon after, you created the company, “Flyover Films,” to produce a pair of movies, “The Pledge,” and “A Christmas Tree Miracle.”
Seibert: I had made it known that I wanted to make a movie. It was not a secret to anyone who knew me at that time. I knew the first step was the money. I knew I could do everything else, but it was the money that was the hard part.
The goal was to make family friendly movies that a grandparent could take their grandchild to, and I knew that’s something I could do. So that’s when some partners and I went out and raised the money.
Novotney: At the time the film projects were announced, you had director J.W. Myers and writer Ty DeMartino onboard, and, “Doughboy” to film in the Wheeling area. You even had Terry Kiser as one of the lead actors under contract.
How did it all come together?
Seibert: (West Liberty University president) Robin Capehart was aware of Ty and J.W. because of his daughter, Emily, and her education in acting, and after I met Ty and J.W., we clicked immediately, so I knew my dream of making this movie was possible.
It wasn’t long after we all met for the first time when the money was raised, and the script for, “Doughboy’ came together.
Novotney: The name of “Doughboy” has been changed by the film distribution industry, and it is now known as, “The Pledge.” Did that disappoint you?
Seibert: Not at all. That’s the business, and in the distribution business, marketability is what it’s all about.
Novotney: And then two years later, “A Christmas Tree Miracle” is filmed locally and debuted at the Capitol Theatre a year ago. Did your dream include two movies?
Seibert: In a situation like this one, if we did just one film at a time, you never know what’s going to happen, so that’s why we started out planning on making two movies. That way you have a better chance at making your money back. One of them could be a hit, or one of them could be a flop; you never know.
And it wasn’t a lot of money. For what we produced with “The Pledge,” and “A Christmas Tree Miracle,” I think a lot of people would be surprised by the amount of money it took for us to make those two films. Those two movies were made for the same amount it would take to a buy a four-bedroom home in Wheeling.
Novotney: Looking back at both movies, what do you think about?
Seibert: The films are not perfect, and I know that. I’ll be the first to say they are not perfect, but what I appreciate, and hopefully most people appreciate, is that both these films elicit an emotional response from anyone who watches them.
Terry Kiser told us that the most memorable moment in his career was the ‘The Pledge’ premieres here and in Huntington, Charleston, and Beckley. After the premiere in Beckley, an older veteran came out of the theatre and bear-hugged him while he was sobbing.
He just kept repeating, “Thank you. Thank you.” And that made Terry sob, too. He later called it the most amazing moment in his career.
Novotney: Every business plan involves a strategy to make the initial investment back and then hopefully a profit. Have the two movies hit the break-even point yet?
Seibert: The films have made some of the money back so far. That’s something we are still working on, and so far we have domestic distribution for “The Pledge” and domestic and international distribution for “A Christmas Tree Miracle.”
Novotney: So when can we expect more movies from Flyover Films?
Seibert: Making movies is never going to be out of my system, but right now we are still in the process of selling the first two films. Until our investors have made their money back, I feel my focus needs to be on that goal before I start something else.
Ever since they both came out, Ty and I have been working on marketing and selling, and “A Christmas Tree Miracle” is getting a lot of attention from European countries. It’s been sold in the UK and Ireland, in Germany and Australia, so it’s amazing that these two little movies we made here in Wheeling, W.Va., are getting the attention they are.
Novotney: Along with marketing and selling the films, you are also a national sales representative in the field of medical supplies.
Seibert: It’s not my passion. My passion is film. But I have met some really great people in the medical sales industry.
I’m a people person. I’m not an amazing salesperson, but I am a people person. I can talk to people, so I have been doing that on a part-time basis.
Novotney: Where do you see you and your family five years from now?
Seibert: I hope to have fulfilled my obligation to our investors and then some by then.
And I hope to be involved with my next project. I am a busy person who likes to be busy, but my No. 1 job is being a wife and mom, and I love that job very much.
Novotney: You moved more than 2,000 miles away from your hometown to the northern region of Appalachia not knowing what to expect. Are you pleased with your decision of moving to Wheeling and making the dream of making movies a reality?
Seibert: I love Wheeling for a lot of reasons, but one thing I really appreciate about this city in connection to these films is how much these projects were embraced by the people here in Wheeling. We could not have made these films without the help and the generosity of this entire community. People were going out their way to help.
“What can we do? How can we help?”
I think there were a lot of people who were caught up with the ideas behind the films being made here, and that they are films with such powerful messages. It was the most magical experience.