The story is so bizarre and has so many twists and turns it ought to be made into a movie. It all started back in the 1990s when I was living in Reno. I was writing articles mostly but also doing nature photography. Packaging images with text help stories sell. In addition, I was sticking my nose into the fringes of Hollywood.
How? I know Reno is a long way from Beverly Hills. I was searching for true stories and writing screenplays. As fate would have it an ex-mobster named Joe Stedino had moved to Reno after he played the lead role in the AZSCAM sting. His story was turned into a best selling book, ”What’s in it for Me”?
Basically, it involved him playing himself, a Mafia bag-man and informer looking to bribe Arizona politicians to legalize gambling. It was a natural role for Joe. He’d been in the mob since he was a teenager and also been locked up in federal prison. But this time he was on the side of the law. They had a camera and mic of every transaction.
Boy, he handed sports bags stuffed with so much cash to so many politicians they shut the sting op down. It was looking like Arizona might not any legislators that’s how many corrupt officials they uncovered. Joe was a real-life Goodfella.
Anyway, I wrote a summary and pitched it to producers. It did not take long to get a deal with a fair sized production company. While I was juggling all these balls I also had interest from another producer, regarding one of my screenplays. Things were moving right along.
Then I decided to give a seminar about writing and getting articles published. This is where life throws an unexpected curve ball. At the end of my talk, 4 gentlemen approached me. I had mentioned my script writing and what I was doing in Hollywood while living in Reno. It was the latter they were interested in. They explained that they were trying to put a film project together and even had the funding lined up.
I was sceptical, to put it mildly. But they asked to join their venture. I thought, what have I got to lose. and I did. We begin a series of meetings. It turns they are born-again Christians from the same church. The meeting started with a prayer. They seemed very pious and sincere. The backer of the project was also connected to their church.
But all I ever got was his name, Sherman. Every time they brought him up it was clear they had great admiration and respect for him. The meetings went on and on. I was growing impatient, I mean the months rolled past a year and nothing was happening. They kept assuring me that Sherman is going to show up any day.
He had become the mystery man in my mind. At the same time, I was starting to feel like I was being played. I was very pressed for time with my other ventures. Just when I was ready to bail, Sherman actually showed up in the flesh. To my surprise, he had the look and manner of a corporate executive and not any preacher. But they told me he was a big player in their church.
We had a script and a tile, The Harvesters. To my shock, Sherman had the money and was ready to go into production. It hardly seemed real. Now, our little production company naively called EPYK Productions became the focus of the local media. None of us had any experience in film-making, that was the kicker.
The four born-again believers were positively giddy. For some reason suddenly having the title of ‘producer’ acted like some kind of intoxicating elixir. Their personalities and behaviour started changing very quickly. It is a long story so I will cut to the chase. I attached a director to the project who had a lot of experience, Tom Moore.
Incredibly, the production got underway. Larry who held a steady job had a stable marriage and nice home shows up in a beret. It was so out of character it was laughable. He wanted to sit on the set in a director’s chair looking like Alfred Hitchcock. Then he starts making passes at the casting director.
Please understand, that these guys had been the epitome of small-town, churchgoing men on a mission when I met them. They decent, if naive, men. I quickly realized that they were going to be next to useless during the production. Once the shooting beings it is a wham, bam, timed, military-like operation.
Every minute costs money. Producers have a lot of work on their hands making sure no time is wasted and everything goes as smoothly as possible. I did my best but my cohorts were lost in their glorified ‘”Producer” fantasies. It was the middle of winter, snowy and cold. The exterior shots were miserable.
The whole was a comedy of errors on one level but a Shakespearean tragedy on another. L hooked up with the casting director before it was over. He left his family and small kids and just flipped out. J, a truck driver in real life, now wanted to become a full-time scriptwriter and filmmaker. Oy vey, as they say at the end of the day in Hollywood.
The worst, craziest part of the whole episode for me was even though I was the only published writer, they excluded any of my input into the script. They had that churchy brotherhood mentality. But the ultimate twist was yet to come. The film got done, edited and distributed.
I got my producers fee and credit. Then I moved out of the Reno area. It was some time until I got back in touch with them. When I did they had news that completely floored me. Sherman had been arrested for the perpetrating a major scam on churches all over the country. He was in federal prison.
I had already moved on was focusing on writing. Now I want to make a film, Alien Earth. I’ve been a guest theorist on the Ancient Aliens TV series in recent years. I also have had several books published. The latest, ‘Ancient Alien Ancestors’ has 4.5 Star rating on Amazon. I am just about to launch an Indiegogo crowding-funding campaign and not looking for any “angels”, like Sherm, to fund it.
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