I remember one summer in the early 90’s I was on a plane from Hartford to San Diego to pick up 50 pounds of weed that would be smuggled back in a suitcase. Thumbing through a copy of GQ or some men’s magazine, I came across an article about Rob Weiss, who had just shown his film “Amongst Friends” at the Sundance Film Festival. He had signed a three-picture deal with a major studio and was driving the writer of the article around the studio lot in his new Range Rover. Weiss said that he was not really sure what he was going to do with his life when he got the idea to make an independent film about the friends he grew up with in his suburban town who had turned to crime and drug dealing. Fuckin’ A! If this guy could do it, so could I. I mean, I had made a bunch of short films and videos as a kid with my dad’s video camera and thought about making a movie when I saw “Reservoir Dogs,” but this was a normal guy like me, not from Hollywood but a regular guy from the East Coast who just went out and made a real movie.
Cut to seven years later. I had moved to LA for a short-lived attempt at acting, enrolled in community college, transferred to NYU film school, made a bunch of short films, graduated and found myself standing on the set of “Bringing Out The Dead” giving Nic Cage his action cue. A much more positive career than smuggling weed in a suitcase but still no feature film director. I had gotten caught up in all the film school bullshit along the way and started to worry about how I would make a living but still kept my eye on the goal of making my first feature. A bunch of kids I went to school with had their trust funds or their prize-winning short films or high-powered friends in Hollywood that would help them get their features made but not me. All I had was a bunch of buddies that sold drugs for a living that wanted to make a movie. Hey, whatever works.
I wrote the script that would eventually become “King Midas,” read the Robert Rodriguez book a dozen times, taking notes on how to make a feature for less than zero, and headed up to Hartford, CT, where I grew up, to finally make my feature film. After casting a few actors from my student films and a local hip-hop group, the rest of the roles were played by (and written for) the dozens of local drug dealers and street personalities that I had grown up with. The great thing is, these guys come fully costumed and will supply all the vehicles and props you need. You need a bunch of firearms for a scene and a blacked-out Durango pulls up with a trunk full of real weapons. You got problems finding or using a location and a bunch of guys show up and threaten the problem away. You need a Porche, a BMW or a Land Crusier? Everything is a phone call away. Also, these guys are great as actors because they’ve got all the time in the world to show up on set and the willingness to act like a jackass in front of the camera.
With a skeleton film crew that I scraped together from a few film-school buddies and local volunteers, I started rolling cameras on “King Midas” in August of 1999. I should have warned the crew what they had signed up for. Kevin and Jimmy, longtime friends of mine who were helping me produce the film, turned the set into a constant party. Excessive drinking and drug use was par for the course. One night, they got half of our talent so high on ecstasy and cocaine, it was more like coaching the special olympics than directing actors. Another day, Jimmy kept forgetting his lines because he had been up on ecstasy for six days and when I went to overdub his audio months later, he was flipped out on a cocktail of coke, weed and mushrooms and kept muttering lines from “Goodfellas.” The experience of working with Jimmy and Kevin at times became very frustrating and it turned me into such a d******d that I would just scream and yell at everyone. My behavior got so out of hand one day the one of the rappers was about to shoot me, until his friends stopped him.
Get the whole story in part three of MY INDIE FILMMAKING POSSE WAS ARRESTED>>>