When Sascha Rice decided almost a decade ago to make a documentary about her grandfather, former California Gov. Pat Brown, she used a lesson from her previous efforts making a romantic comedy: Profits in independent film can be elusive.

So this time she decided to finance the documentary, “California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown,” through charitable donations.

After a run at some film festivals last year, the documentary, produced by her Fire of Life Films production company in Atwater Village, premiered on TV last week on Costa Mesa PBS affiliate KOCE-TV (50). But Rice said the key to bringing in the roughly 450 donations, ranging from $25 to $200,000, was her plan for another aftermarket: the classroom.

“The key to raising the money was the educational curriculum,” she said.

It also helped that donations toward the project were made tax deductible since they were sourced through the Water Education Foundation, a Sacramento non-profit.

Rice is working to build a lesson plan and study guide to accompany the 90-minute film. She said it will encourage students to tell the stories of their own families. She’s planning to distribute it to middle and high schools. Rice said she’ll charge just enough to cover her costs.

The movie, which features interviews with Tom Brokaw and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others, has captured some attention since winning festival awards last year. It tells Brown’s story from his poor upbringing to the causes that defined his governorship from 1959-67, and includes more personal moments with his son, Jerry, the current governor, and other family members. Rice was the movie’s director, co-writer and a producer.

The production, which took seven years to complete, cost nearly $1.2 million. But the unique financing arrangement has left her in a good, if uncommon, position.

“We don’t owe anybody money,” she said. “It’s incredible to say at the end of a long production.”

Bargain Bin

When Santa Monica home entertainment distributor Shout Factory bought a smaller DVD company earlier this month, the deal was partly intended to expand Shout Factory’s distribution to drugstores, where underperforming discs can be sold in discount bins.

The acquisition of Timeless Media Group of Eugene, Ore., gave Shout Factory an additional library of 600 video titles, along with distribution to retailers such as CVS and Rite Aid. Titles in the library include classic westerns such as “The Gene Autry Show” and “Wagon Train,” as well as a collection of war documentaries.

Shout Factory President Garson Foos said the company will use some of Timeless’ distribution strategies.

“They have expertise in reconfiguring products in to lower-price configurations,” Foos said. “We intend to benefit from their expertise in those areas.”

Shout Factory’s primary business is licensing and distributing movies and TV shows such as “Freaks and Geeks” and “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”

Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at jpolakoff@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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