Let’s talk about your film. Today, you’re mostly known as the longtime commentator for the World Poker Tour. So naturally, you wrote about what you knew. What was the first spark of the idea for 7 Days to Vegas and how long ago was that?
It was probably four and a half years ago because I’ve had a poker game in LA in the 90s. It became a very big, a very big game. You know, where the stakes got higher and higher. But the fun thing about it was it was the people…it wasn’t about poker. We would bet on anything and everything. It’s true that we came up with this bet whether I could walk to Vegas at seven days for a large amount of money. That was the storyline, which we came up with myself and my writing partner, Steve Alper.
My wife and I weren’t thinking about writing about this. About four years ago we saw another film, I won’t mention it, but it was about Hollywood and the glamorous people. It kind of missed the mark. We discussed it, and she thought people like to see these Hollywood people and how crazy they are. She said, “You should write your poker story.” I thought, “You’re right, let’s do it” and here we are so many drafts later, it all came to fruition.
Was that when you really decided to invest the time into it? I know a lot of filmmakers’ frustration where getting to that first script takes a while and then the arduous process of getting serious about putting all the pieces together from there.
You know, once we sat down, we had fun writing it. We really did. I enjoyed the process, and we knew it was good. It was going to be very good from the get-go. A lot of it is fictionalized as well, but we knew it was working, so then it’s just gravy. After that, you just keep going. How do I get this better? Let’s make this…we’re gonna make this movie…we’re going to make this movie! Even though everyone says you can’t get a picture made independently. We knew we could. I’ve done it before, and I knew this was going to get paid off.
“…good to have a good, healthy writers’ debates and the end result is always…a better product…”
I imagine with the world poker tour year; you’re very busy. Was there consideration if you could do this with your busy schedule and start pulling all these resources together.
I’m not always working with the World Poker Tour. I have weeks off. So I had the time, but did I have the energy and the desire and I found out I did. As soon as I started writing, I realized that you’d write a script not to make some specific date or deadline. You write to see it on the screen eventually. That’s what gets me excited. And so it takes a lot of work to raise money and all that. And you come together with directors and then the challenges of production. It’s tough to produce an independent film. But we did it. You put your mind to it, and you have the goods. I think you should get it done.
You have an idea for a movie, and then you bring on a writing partner. How do you describe that dynamic and how it works?
This was based on a true story of my story. So I knew the story I wanted to tell. I don’t like to write alone. With a partner, I can bounce my ideas off of somebody. In this case, it was Steve Albert. He wrote another project about the gambling world, which was quite good. I’ve got his book. And I said this guy. He’s perfect. We were a good team.
I tell a lot of people, you need someone who can basically be mean to you. Someone who can criticize and question, then be humble enough to say, “Okay, let’s think about this.” It’s good to have a good, healthy writers’ debates and the end result is always, in my opinion, a better product because of that.