It’s probably not a surprise on the indie front, but finance posed the biggest challenge for three of this weekend’s specialty releases. Despite an Oscar nomination and box office success with his first film, Joshua Marston’s followup The Forgiveness Of Blood managed to turn a resource challenge into a unique story that takes place in an isolated Balkans village. Around June writer-director James Sacova maximized his limited budget through passion, but also discovered having all the necessary permits didn’t guarantee smooth sailing. And Australian production Tomorrow When The War Began had a top-selling book series behind its big-screen ambitions, but getting the cash together was anything but a slam dunk.

The Forgiveness Of Blood
Director Joshua Marston
Writers: Joshua Marston, Andamion Murataj
Cast: Tristan Halilaj, Sindi Lacej, Refet Abazi, Ilire Vinca Celaj
Distributor: Sundance Selects
This is the second foreign-language film for American director Joshua Marston following the Oscar-nominated Maria Full Of Grace. Despite that film’s success, Marston and his producing partner ran into roadblocks getting another film project off the ground, but the idea of going for a story about blood feuds in Albania came along giving the two a creative opportunity. The story, which takes place in one of Europe’s poorest countries centering on a centuries old method for settling scores, was the best way to get the next project rolling because filming in the Balkan nation would be comparatively cheap. “We received $10,000 from Gottenburgh Film Festival and then did a research trip to Albania,” Marston told Deadline. “After that we got a couple of grants, and we decided we weren’t going to wait for the script to be in sixth draft before getting final financing.” European sales and film financing group Fandango Portobello came on board with resources, eventually giving Marston the final go ahead. Added Marston, “We were able to do this based on my first movie. Fandango Portobello took the leap of faith.”

Marston said that going the low budget route with overseas backing was a “direct response to the system,” though he emphasized that he is interested in making mainstream movies. “For me the optimal thing would be to make something small that I can have totally freedom to explore with non-actors and is anthropological like Maria Full Of Grace and The Forgiveness Of Blood. But I’m also glad to work with a Fox Searchlight for instance that will be at a studio level. The pace at the studio system is that you can alternate with other projects that will come together more quickly.”

Around June
Director: James Savoca
Writers: James Savoca, Linne Ha
Distributor: Indican
Certainly something most independent filmmakers can relate to, Around June producer/director worked with limited resources but supplemented that with crew altruism. Actors worked on a “SAG modified budget” of only $1,000 per week and some night scenes had to be eliminated in order to cut lighting costs. The 20 day shoot for the love story set in the shadow of San Francisco’s shipyards was made for $200,000. “It wasn’t about the payday, it’s about working on something you believe in,” Sacova told Deadline. But money was not the only challenge that confronted the project. The production found an ideal location to shoot the majority of its scenes, but on the first day of production, the city started tearing up the street outside. “We had permits too, but they were there the whole 20 days we were shooting,” said Savoca. “I’d have someone go and tell them to go back to drilling when I said ‘cut,’ but other times they just did what they wanted. So eventually we just improvised how to deal with it. It wasn’t something you can control. This wasn’t a big Hollywood production so we couldn’t just say ‘stop’.”

Indican VP of Marketing Randolph Kret said the film’s stars including Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), Brad William Henke (Me And You And Everyone You Know) and Samaire Armstrong (It’s A Boy Girl Thing) have gone out of their way to promote the film. “Part of our challenge is how to stand out in this sea of $30 million marketing budgets,” said Kret. “This is that quirky gem that needs to be finessed that can stand out and be on DVD, TV for years to come.”

Tomorrow When The War Began
Director: Stuart Beattie
Writers: John Marsden (novel), Stuart Beattie
Cast: Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood and Lincoln Lewis
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
The first in a series of seven young adult novels revolving around invasions of the writer’s native Australia, Tomorrow When The War Began is the film version based on the first book by John Marsden, a former school teacher. Though the novels proved very popular at home, producer Christopher Mapp noted the customary challenge of finding financing for the film. Paramount Australia eventually came along with Mapp’s Omnilab Media stepping in with financing and the film finally made its way to the top of the Australian box office when it debuted in theaters in 2010. “We’re now in development for a sequel to Tomorrow When The War Began based on books two and three in the series,” Mapp told Deadline. “The sequel be slightly grittier since the audience for the first movie will have aged a bit.”

For its U.S. release this weekend, Freestyle Releasing’s Peter Graves noted the challenge raising awareness for a series that didn’t have the timing momentum of a high-profile book release to carry it into the forefront of audience attention, but the distributor will use Facebook to nurture attention and carefully grow the audience for the series itself. “We’ve test screened the film and it plays well to the 18 and under crowd and it does play well for an older audience too.”