GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dead Right

It was during the filming of Dead Right that I learned the best way of checking into a hotel room. We were in Las Vegas for what ordinarily would be some second unit filming so there were just three of us--the director of photography, the leading man and me. We had three comped rooms at the Aladdin Hotel (thanks to Kathi Carey who played the female lead in the film, was my right hand during the production and made the arrangement after Someone Else failed to do so--more on this later) and were shown to our rooms by the same bellman who had all our luggage on his trolley. We stopped first at the DP's room and the bellman carried the man's personal luggage and the camera equipment cases into the room and did not receive a tip for his efforts. The next stop was at the room of the leading man where, once again, the bellman was stiffed getting no tip from Mr. Tall, Dark & Handsome. We finally arrived at my room where, after off-loading my luggage, I tipped the bellman twenty dollars. He accepted the bill and went immediately to the room phone and dialed downstairs. "This room is unsuitable for Mr. Mitchell," he said into the phone and advised them of my new room number. After putting my luggage back onto the trolley, he delivered me to another room which turned out to be a suite. As he left me in my upgraded surroundings, he said, "If there is anything you need in Las Vegas while you are here, just call down and ask for me. I'll tell them to put you through regardless of the time."

It was fitting that the last shooting days on this film took place in Las Vegas because that is where the deal was hatched to co-produce the movie with my Italian partner. I had attended a film market in Las Vegas and instead of going to a seminar about how to find funding for films, I went from suite to suite looking at the films being offered by the many distributors and sales reps there. I was getting tired and decided to have a rest so I sat down in a suite belonging to DB Media. As luck would have it, one of the two brothers who owned the company returned from an appointment and asked me what I wanted. I couldn't exactly say I'd just come in to sit for awhile so I told him about my previous trips to Italy and that I could make a feature film for [sum of money deleted]. His name was Vito di Bari and he didn't believe me. I assured him that I was being truthful. "What kind of film?" Come down the hall and I'll show you. The company representing my film Bleeder & Bates had a suite on the same floor.

We put a cassette into the VCR and Vito watched the first ten minutes of Bleeder. He then scanned forward and watched ten minutes in the middle. Then he fast-forwarded and watched the end. "What kind of film do you want to make?" he asked. Just like the one you saw, I told him--a thinking man's cop drama with an existential theme and Machiavellian politics. We went out into the hallway and made a verbal deal to make the movie.

Filming Dead Right took me, once again, to the El Mirage dry lake bed that I first visited working on Sole Survivor so many years earlier. Making Dead Right was the best and worst of experiences. I enjoyed working with all but one of the actors and we were very lucky in securing the locations that made the film feel special. Although Vito and I got on famously, he lived in Italy and the fellow who ran the office in Los Angeles did everything within his power to sabotage the production. He failed to contact Porsche of America and Ford for cars we would have used in the film (though he led us to believe that he had). He 'lost' a ten minute roll of film shot in Las Vegas before it went to the lab and canceled editing and mixing dates without notifying me knowing that I was obligated to deliver the finished film in time for the MIFED market in Milan--a very short deadline. Talk about Machiavellian politics!

The efforts to subvert the production were all for naught. Within days of its completion, the film sold in some thirty countries at MIFED and Vito told me that the movie opened up markets for the company where they had not sold previously. The story of how government, law enforcement and organized crime work in concert seemed to appeal to the world market. The poster line was 'For a cop on the wrong side of the law, every move has to be right--Dead Right'. Though I attracted an offer from a US distributor, I don't think that DB Media ever consummated the deal and a US sale was never reported to me. The company subsequently went out of business.

I like to put interesting cars into my films and this time I had one of the leads driving my recently acquired Lincoln Continental MkIII which was in pristine condition--I had purchased it from a gentleman who kept it in a carpeted garage and I had to undergo extensive scrutiny by him before he agreed to sell the car to me. If he knew I'd taken it out onto El Mirage, he probably would have killed me. The MkIII can be seen on the film's poster.

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