Mick Davis and Malibu local Jim Petulla create film: ‘Trust In Love’

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Cast members of "Trust in Love" (from left) Brian Schlesinger (Paulie), Tim Hazelip (Bobby), Jimi Petulla (Mickey), and Lisa Long (Kristen) are shown during an interview. Contributed Photo

The film provides a unique comedic perspective of the real, difficult issues experienced by families everyday 

Shot in beautiful Malibu, Jimi Petulla and Mick Davis’s new film, “Trust in Love” is a feel-good drama based on the true story of protagonist and producer Jimi Petulla, and it has quickly created an impressive reputation for itself.

The film has earned awards across the world, winner of awards like Best International Feature Film at the Swedish International Film Festival, winner of Best Actor at the Barcelona Indie Awards, Best Feature Film at the Dublin Movie Awards, Best Feature Film at the Brussels Capital Film Festival, winner at Sydney WorldFest and nominated for Best American Feature Film at the Septimus Awards.

Across the country, the film has also enjoyed success as winner at the Los Angeles Cinematography Awards, San Jose Independent Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Awards as well as semifinalist at the Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival and selection for the Marilyn Monroe Film Festival, San Diego Independent Filmmaker’s Festival and Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

The film was produced by Petulla Pictures, written and produced by Petulla, directed by Mick Davis, who directed “Modigliani” (2004) and “Walden” (2023), and stars Natasha Wilson, Sydney Bullock, Logan Arditty, Eric Roberts, Milijenko Matijevic, Lisa Long, and first-time actor and film standout Tim Hazelip. A fun cameo is also made by Robbie Krieger, founding member and guitarist of The Doors.

The film tells the story of struggling record producer Mickey Ferrara (played by Petulla), who has to navigate the hardships of family dynamics while balancing what may be the tail end of a successful career in music. Ferrara’s family struggles to stay together after his estranged wife asks for a divorce, his daughter struggles with peer pressure and drug experimentation, and his son battles with complex feelings with sexual identity. 

The film provides a unique comedic perspective of the real, difficult issues experienced by families every day. 

The film features a diverse, inclusive cast, and the casting of the members of this “Malibu family” was impressive to the viewers at the latest screening of the film at the Culver City Film Festival. Filmgoers at the festival also enjoyed the beautiful cinematography of overhead and tracking drone shots of Malibu locales like Malibu Country Mart, Malibu Pier, Dukes Malibu, Surfrider Beach, and shots all along Pacific Coast Highway.

Petulla called the production of the film a true passion project. Having originally written a film that would have been well over the 94-minute runtime, Petulla collaborated with Davis to shorten the film and bring his cinematic vision to life. Under Davis’ direction, the screenplay came together and brought out the best performance from Petulla.

“He [Davis] said ‘Jimi, you have a really sweet story’, and for the fact that he was willing to make this film really made me move so forward so quickly with it,” Petulla said. “I had someone to bounce ideas off of and he helped me make decisions that helped make the film move along well. I did my homework so I felt confident that I could do it. It could be a challenge being the actor, the producer and the writer, so I knew I wouldn’t have at all attempted to direct the film so having Mick come in was special.”

Making his acting debut was Malibu local Hazelip. Cast for his signature Malibu surfer look, Hazelip did not simply allow for Malibu look to take the place of an impressive performance. Hazelip incorporated his own unique style to create a character that expanded on his true-life persona and stole the scenes in which he played Mickey’s brother, Bobby Ferrara. Opposite of Mickey’s stoic, serious character, Bobby’s character is a hippy-like surfer character who seemingly never wears shoes, and understands that being laid back and going with the flow may always be the true solution to the stresses of life.

Hazelip was suggested to Petulla for the role by mutual friends who read the script and knew only one Malibu local could truly bring the authentic fictional Bobby character to life.

“I went in and I guess I wouldn’t call it an audition, I walked in the door and there he [Jimi] and Mick were sitting there looking at a computer screen, they both turned and looked and me and Mick said ‘Come on in Bobby, you just got the part.’ A real luck of the draw on my part,” Hazelip said. “I told him [Mick] in the interview that I wasn’t an actor, and he said ‘Well we’re looking for you, you could just be yourself, learn the lines and let me do the rest.’” 

Hazelip explained that despite his lack of acting experience, Davis had a great deal of respect for him and Hazelip respected him as well. Together, Davis and Hazelip were able to get one of the best performances of the cast out of this first-time actor.

“It really was really fun. Learning lines at first was really daunting,” Hazelip said. “I had a three-page dialogue on my own and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen three pages of a script but for me I knew then I really had to hit the pedal to the metal.”

Hazelip praised his fellow cast members for helping portray an authentic Malibu family and accurate Malibu culture.

“It’s fully authentic. I think the kids did a great job on their performances, I surf with Malibu kids so I know Malibu kids these two kids really added to bringing that real feeling to it. They really could have been a Malibu family,” Hazelip said.

An undeniable aspect of the film is the shots and locations across iconic Malibu. Viorel Sergovici, a frequent collaborator with Davis, was brought on as cinematographer, and according to Petulla, helped visually give the film a $3 million-to-$5 million look with a film shot under a $1 million budget.

The film has made its way across the world and the country, gaining traction as a critical success.

Going into 2024, the film is primed to have a big year as Petulla explores options for its wide release. The film is available for pre-order on trustinlovethemovie.com, the #TrustInLove movement could be followed on @trustinlovethemovie on Instagram and will be screening at the Marilyn Monroe Film Festival at Saban Theater in Beverly Hills on Dec. 29 and 30. Tickets are available now at https://marilynmonroefilmfestival.com.