With increasingly sophisticated and less expensive high definition cameras and editing equipment available to us today, making an inexpensive movie is possible. And, fortunately, with the exponential growth of cable television, Internet streaming, video-on-demand, and mobile phone and iTunes capabilities, there are ways to get your work seen. Before this technological explosion, it wasn’t so easy. But I got lucky. I found a benefactor in Texas, home of wildcatters, corrupt politicians, and cowpokes who have money running out their gun barrels.
Jess Newton Rayzor II was the youngest in a family of mega-rich oil and people. His only function: to give money away for tax write-offs. Rayzor asked me to do a documentary on Hayden Fry, the newly hired coach of North Texas State University.
Texas football coaches and Evangelists are interchangeable. Coach Fry knew when he was on camera. He performed like a movie characterization of a football coach. Life imitating art imitating life. His locker room speeches were rousing and evangelical.
The documentary was well received. In the process, Rayzor chose me as his go-to guy for ideas he wanted to make into movies. One of Rayzor’s wild ideas was to cover the trial of his Ft. Worth neighbor Cullen Davis, another mega-rich oil man, who shot and killed his wife and her lover in broad daylight—your basic vigilante behavior in Texas. It was made into a TV movie called Texas Justice.
Texas is its own country. If it were actually up to Texans, it would be. The classis James Dean movie, Giant
was no overstatement of the kinds of people you meet in Texas. One disarmingly colorful character I met, through Rayzor, was the president of the Dallas National Bank. We had lunch in the bank’s penthouse executive dining room. The banker, in a pinstriped Armani suit, had a diamond pinkie ring the size of a walnut.
Noticing me staring at his hands, the banker laughed, “Gotta keep my nails manicured for the rich ol’ biddies.” I smiled as he went on, “During the Great Depression, as a youngster, I hustled pool throughout Oklahoma and Texas.” Referring to his manicure, he continued, “The first thing you did, before enterin’ a new town, was bite your fingernails down and make sure there was lots a dirt under ’em. Ya couldn’t hustle pool if ya didn’t look the part. It worked most often, but I did have my fingers broken more than once.”
We left the bank and drove along back roads back to Rayzor’s house in Fort Worth. Drinking his favorite Pearl beer as he steered, I asked him,
“Think he’ll come through with some bread?”
“Stranger things have happened, pard.’”
“He’s a banker, for God’s sake.”
“Who do you think funded those crazy oil riggers that made millions?”
“Yeah, but they understand oil. They’ll take the risk. We’re talkin’ movies!”
“Oil, movies, shopping centers. All the same shit to me. Just a roll a the dice.”
I kept up my phone relationship with Razor no matter how late he called me at night or how drunk he was. I knew he believed in me and, knowing he had money running out of his ears, I just had to wait for the right project . . . after all, if the president of a bank hustled pool to survive the Depression, I’d do whatever I had to to raise money for a movie. You gotta get that money any way you can. Forget your pride, your dignity, your aversion to working odd jobs no one else wants—the ultimate goal is to make the movie you want, and you have to do it any way you can.
There are now numerous websites that are dedicated to funding aspiring artists, writers, and filmmakers, the current favorites are Kickstarter, Indigogo, GoFundMe, EquityNet and a host of others you’ll find on Google under crowd funding. You can sign up to seek investment in a play, screenplay, movie, book, photo exhibit, invention, and even art that you hope to be sold or displayed. Granted, just like anything on the Internet, you will have competition for investment from hundreds of thousands of subscribers. But, if you’re successful in raising the amount of money you dictate in the time frame in which you need it, you only have to pay a small fee for these services, and it is taken from the money you raise.
What a concept!
Read the full chapterand others in Hollywood War Stories: How to survive in the trenches.