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Restaurateur to make movies – beginning in oxford

September 3, 2009


So long ago

Was it in a dream, was it just a dream?

I know, yes I know

Seemed so very real, it seemed so real to me

–John Lennon, # 9 Dream

For Jim, it began with a dream. After 10 years of running a successful restaurant, Jim Bulian woke up with an idea for a screenplay. He wanted to make films. He didn’t know how, but he was determined to figure it out.

In the fall of 2006, he began researching, studying, signing up for workshops, in order to learn the new field. For Bulian, the transition from restaurateur to filmmaker has been a lot of work, but easily connected to his experiences.

While enjoying lunch at his restaurant Old Venice Pizza Company, Bulian points out that running a restaurant consists of picking a name, location, manager, staff, etc. where creating a film selects of picking a title, script, location, director, cast, etc. The similarities of the two businesses are quite interesting, but at the end of a film, you get to start a new one, where with a restaurant, it becomes the same routine day in and day out.

In first grade, Jim moved to Oxford from St. Louis with his parents and brother. His family began Dino’s restaurant and literally lived in the restaurant for a time. His parents invested all of their money into the new business but it taught Bulian the importance of hard work and of creativity.

He and his brother spent many a night imagining their booth where they slept was a cave or a fort.

In his 20s Jim was unsure of what he wanted to do so he decided to become a musician. But no matter how hard he worked for it, it wasn’t meant to be. So, he moved to Dallas, became a personal trainer, and quickly decided that wasn’t for him.

Returning to Oxford, he decided to fall in the family footsteps, opening Old Venice in 1997, now a chain of restaurants spreading across the region. But something still didn’t feel right.

Bulian decided to focus on the restaurant for 10 years but then reevaluate.

Almost 10 years to the date, the dream occurred and he knew, he wanted to make movies. Bulian officially incorporated his film production company in fall 2008 but has recently seen some success with his script “John’s Song.”

A political thriller that centers around a long-lost John Lennon song, “Johns Song” has a few investors from Memphis, Houston and New Orleans but is only about a quarter-funded or about $350,000. Once Bulian receives about half the funding needed (a little over $1 million), he hopes to begin principal photography in Oxford.

He also recently got producer Glen Zollard on board and is working on the fundraising and then pre-sales. With a $2 million dollar budget, “John’s Song” will be the first film Bulian gets to the screen, but it will only be the beginning.

“There is a lot banking on this one. It will help get my name on the map and then I can look at making some smaller features. If that happens the rest of my life will be a bowl of cherries,” Bulian said.

With 11 scripts ready to go, Bulian already has plans for his next two films that he will film by using the rebate money from the state that he gets for making “John’s Song” in Mississippi.

As a Mississippi resident, Bulian can obtain a 25 percent rebate of the base investment including wages paid to cast and crew. Non-residents get a 20 percent rebate. Projects have a $20,000 minimum investment per project and a cap of $8 million per project or $20 million per year for numerous projects. Along with the rebate, numerous items are exempt from state tax including film and material for wardrobe or sets and camera equipment receives a discount on sales tax.

But the process has been slow going.

Bulian thought when he had the idea in November of 2006 that he would just begin shooting right away, but he quickly learned that pre-production has quite a few more steps to it including screenplay rewrites, an executive summary, fundraising.

“You have to be patient,” Bulian said.

Bulian has kept his creative side going since his early days as a musician with his paintings that used to fill Old Venice. But it was not until filmmaking that he was able to blend his creative and business side into one.

“I felt I was equipped to handle the business aspect of filmmaking because of my restaurant experience,” Bulian said. “This is what I have been searching for my whole life.”

If interested in finding out more about Bulian’s film production company, visit the Web site at

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Glenn Zoller permalink
    September 9, 2009 12:28 pm

    I wouldn’t take a byline on this article either especially if I was too lazy to first spell check or get people’s name correct.

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