How I made L.A. Wars my first movie.
What gave me the courage to want to make a movie was the experience I gained at PM Entertainment, for there I learned how to make movies. If I did not take the job at PM as a production assistant I would have never been able to fulfill my dream, I could have turned that job down if I allowed my ego to get in the way, or if I felt that job was unbefitting to me, but I did not and I will always be indebted to Joseph Merhi for giving me that opportunity.
Ok its 1993, I want to make a movie, now what? I was unemployed as I had quit my job at PM, I had some money in the bank to live on for a few months, but that is it, I only had the story of the movie in my head and the will to go out and make it.
The first step was for me to get a script written. I contacted Addison Randall, a writer who has written scripts for PM in the past and asked him if he will write a script for me, he said yes. I would go to his house from early morning till night time and write with him, we finished the script in 9 days, the script cost me $1,200, so now I have less money to live on, I had to act fast before I go broke.
With the script done, I started reaching out to people I worked with at PM, but the challenge was I had no money raised yet at the time, so what I did, I offered them a partnership in the film, instead of paying them for their services, I made them invest their work in the film, and when the film is sold they get their money back and prorated profits from the proceeds, this way not only I had most of my team assembled but I already had one third of the budget raised.
To get this done right I needed to form a limited partnership company, so I found a limited partnership agreement that someone did trying to raise money for their film, I changed what I needed in it and I used it, I would say that saved me $1500, after that I had an attorney friend look at it for free and he signed off on it, so I started the fundraising process.
I went to friends and family to raise money and all were supportive, plus the movie business was doing well at the time for indie films, so they saw the potential, I raised a total of $116,000 in cash.
While at PM I became good friends with Vince Murdocco an actor and martial arts champion, I told him, I wanted him to star in my movie, he started bringing his martial artist and actor friends on board, so all of sudden we had our crew and cast and we were ready to Rock’n’ Roll.
I never forget the people who help me, and whenever I could I would repay them by offering them a favor. Casey Kasem “May he rest in peace” hosted and narrated my documentary Stolen Freedom, and when I told him I was making L.A. Wars, he asked me if I would put his daughter Kerri in it as she wanted to break into the film business as an actress, so I did offer her a very good role, she really was amazing and did a great job, and I had Mike, Casey’s son work for us as a production assistant on the film as he wanted to learn the film business, so here I was offering opportunities to others as others had offered me in the past.
The whole process from when I started writing the script with Addison till I had all the money, the actors, the crew and all the other elements in place, including insurance, locations, permits, transportation, wardrobe and catering just to name a few, took me 3 months.
Its June 2nd, 1993 the first day of shooting, usually the first day is the hardest because everyone is trying to find their place and fit together as a team, but I tell you, I was very lucky, everything came together beautifully. Looking at it now maybe it was not luck after all, I have surrounded myself with people who are experts in their fields, people whom I trusted, and the best advantage was, that many of them are partners in the film so its in their best interest to make sure everything went great. And the fact that I worked with many of them at PM helped tremendously, in a way it was business as usual.
I pulled in all the favors I can and everyone involved did the same, we had 25 shoot locations, including shutting down the right 3 lanes on Hollywood Blvd during the day, which is not easy.
We were covered on the news live when we shutdown a downtown street where we had a successful car flip and explosion, we shot everywhere from the streets of L.A. to Santa Monica and Malibu, it was phenomenal, we had car chases, martial arts fights, explosions, the film had it all, I wish I can share every moment with you. It was really a blast, but everyone worked very hard and we finished the production of the film in 12 days, which is really unheard of for a feature film full of action.
After we completed the shooting of the film, I brought in a film editor, rented the editing equipment and set it up in my living room, we started editing the film, that took 4 weeks, finally we had the first cut of the film, I was happy. Now to the next step, I needed to finish the film but I only raised enough money for the production stage and did not have money raised to do the post-production, the final aspects of the film, with sound effects, music, color correction and so on.
It’s the middle of August, now I am broke, I only had $25 left in my bank account, I remember that day very well. So now what?
Here is the L.A. Wars film trailer to my first feature film, which I co-wrote, co-directed, financed and produced.
Watch the full film on FlixHouse, click the link L.A. WARS.
Few things that I can share with filmmakers who are ready to make their movies and what helped me along the way will be the following:
- Take a risk — no risk no rewards
- Be transparent in all your dealings with everyone, if they do not believe you they will not support you
- It’s better to have 50% of something than 100% of nothing, it you want others to help you, you need to offer them something in return
- Always be fair in all your dealings, when you are fair no one will question you
- Be humble and nice, nice guys do not finish last
Next week my story will be about how I finished L.A. Wars and sold it worldwide. See you then.