Now Playing

The Leading Man

Film producer Travis Knox has his own Bucket List, and he’s counting on Chapman University to help him get it done.

Screen stud Travis Knox is heading up Chapman Filmed Entertainment, and he’s changing the way small-budget flicks are made.

Travis Knox might be Hollywood’s most unexpected movie mogul in the making. It’s not that he doesn’t already have the cinematic chops—he worked his way up from being a receptionist for a biz run by Bruce Willis and Demi Moore to serving as executive producer for The Bucket List and co-producer of Hairspray. It’s because of the movie firm he runs: Chapman Filmed Entertainment, an unprecedented partnership between Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and private investors. The goal is to produce six small-budget (roughly $250,000 to $1 million) flicks a year while putting graduates in key positions and making money. “The point... is to accelerate the careers of recent Chapman alums,” says Knox, a graduate of the university and an adjunct professor.

The first project—a $1.25 million thriller titled Trigger—recently wrapped a five-week shoot and is expected to be released later this year. The movie stars Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs and The Bourne Ultimatum) and employed 30-plus alumni. They worked in each key crew role, including first-time director and class of 2010 grad Basel Owies. “No one will recognize this film was almost completely staffed by recent alums,” says Knox, who served as producer and was on set daily to ensure the filming resembled a Hollywood production and not a student project. “We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Hey, it’s OK. It’s just a student film.’”

With Trigger’s filming in the can, Knox is finding material for the next flick. Meanwhile, film schools across the U.S. are waiting to see if Chapman succeeds. And Hollywood is watching to see if the strategy for small-budget movies translates into a profitable bottom line. “I’ve never had so much fun on a movie set than on the five weeks here,” Knox says. “But I’m also well aware that there are a lot eyeballs on us.”