Crowdfunder Pick: An Honest Thief

Campaigning now on Indiegogo, An Honest Thiefis an indie heist film starring and produced by acting veteran Tom Sizemore, and written by his brother, Aaron Sizemore. It’s a story of thieves looking for their next big score, but there’s more to the drama than just guns, blood, and cash.

Aaron and Tom (known for his performances in Saving Private Ryan, Heat, and Natural Born Killers) have an international team behind them, like Belgian director Giorgio Serafini and British co-producer Charles Lago. But, having set the film entirely in their beloved hometown of Detroit, the brothers are working to make the project a Motor City-centric affair, involving as many Detroit natives in the cast and crew as possible and spending 80 percent of their production costs in the city. It’s a noble objective, though this feat (coupled with promises of car chases, gunfights, and explosions) presents a significant economic hurdle to the production.

With a fairly ambitious target amount of $200,000, the Sizemores hope that the personalized, locally-sourced perks (ranging from Detroit-made coffee, to a day at a ball game with the Sizemores, to executive producer credit) will provide enough initiative for fans to donate. Also rewarding to donors would be watching the cast that the brothers have assembled, including Danny Trejo and David Proval, have fun with the story’s pulpy material.

As of now, the campaign has managed to round up a little under $19,000, which gives them about a month to raise over $180,000. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but the Sizemores are not quitters. Their personal investment in the project indicates an energy that their community can get behind, with more campaign updates and other perks for donors (besides the standard pitch videos, we’d love to see some behind-the-scenes material, test footage or even preliminary trailers that would help fans get a better idea of what the film is going to look like.)

We caught up with Tom and Aaron to talk about what inspired them to make this film, the challenges they face in financing their particular vision, and how their Indiegogo campaign has contributed in their quest to pump some life back into the Detroit film scene.

Andrew Lee, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): What separates this film from other films within the heist genre?

Aaron Sizemore (AS): An Honest Thief defies conventional categorization. What initially appears to be a traditional heist film suddenly falls off the rails and smashes into a storyline more akin to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. It’s a heist, horror, mystery, “who-done-it?” thriller-outlaw-buddy film and love story told with antic, dark humor–an often peculiar language that I describe as a “heightened Detroit poetic street speak.” The film has a cliffhanger climax. I often think of it as something of a black comedy, or constantly evolving angel or spider dance, in which the characters maneuver around each other to the sounds of an eerie waltz with multiple unexpected dips and twirls and turns. Every character is also sympathetic to one degree or another, even the utterly psychotic antagonist.

MM: You have said that the city of Detroit is much like another character. How much of this film is based on your lives in the city? What are the challenges or advantages to shooting in Detroit?

AS: I tried to specifically set each scene in places I intimately knew from having lived for essentially my entire life in and around Detroit. Tom helped in this process significantly. So from the pawnshops by old Tiger Stadium in which we’d passed countless hours, to the greasy spoon diners, junkyards, bars, side streets, playgrounds, apartments, houses, and back alleyways of Detroit’s East side, Corktown, and Wayne State University neighborhoods that Tom and I know like the layout of our own homes… the more familiar I felt with the surroundings in the story as it progressed, the more comfortable I felt weaving together plots and creating characters imbued with a distinctly Detroit vibe.

MM: Tom, this is your first time producing. What are the main ways that the experience has been different from just starring in a film, and how has your acting background informed this project?

Tom Sizemore (TS): From a producer’s perspective, I had to read An Honest Thief with a far different approach than I use when I’m simply playing a role in a film. As a producer, I had to read every character closely and decide among the actors I felt I could reach. That’s a step I’d never before taken. I’ve always felt that a director is the most important person on the set of a film. In fact, I know this to be true from my substantial acting experience. However, I also know that a big part of directing is casting. So, as I thought of various actors, ideally I hoped to get the perfect actor for a certain role. If I could do that, or come close, I knew I was fulfilling an important producer function.

To play the protagonist, Danny, it was much the same as going over the scenes and lines of other starring and supporting roles I’ve played. I’d imagine Danny’s verbal rhythms, the way he moved. I’d wonder what he cared about.

MM: What was the budgeting process like, and how did you arrive at your campaign’s objective of $200,000? What other means of funding are you looking at?

TS: We have two basic budgets for this film. It’s a heist film with a horrifyingly wild, mystery subplot. We knew that to do the getaway scenes and shoot-outs the way we’d like, we needed a certain budget. I also discussed this with our director, Giorgio Serafini, and we were able to put together a smaller budget in which Giorgio might have to use a few more directorial tricks to capture the kind of authenticity we wanted. Based on either budget, we knew for sure that we need more than $200,000 to properly execute.

Before we knew it, we had everything in place but the funding. After financiers tried to tell us how to make our film and where, too many times – substantially removing it from the exclusive Detroit vision that Aaron and I have – we turned to Indiegogo and crowd funding.

We tried to pick a sum that was reasonably obtainable and hoped that the crowd would get behind us to not only reach $200,000, but surpass it. Ideally, we hoped we’d lap it multiple times! In this process, we generated some very positive attention. Several serious investors heard about it, empathized with our position regarding Detroit, and have shown considerable interest in making up any budget shortfalls we may face after we complete our Indiegogo campaign.

MM: Talk about the donor rewards you’re offering, and how you came up with them. What are you looking forward to fulfilling?

TS: It would be great to have extravagant red-carpet premiers in Detroit with a post-film Q&A between the audience and the full cast and team. That is one of the perks. I’d love to do that with Aaron and the rest of the team. It would be exciting and rewarding to do that in my hometown.

We’ve also added a Detroit Tigers outing, in which Aaron and I attend a ballgame with up to 25 people who select this perk. I’ve always loved the Tigers. I remember the ’68 championship team like it was yesterday. Once a Tigers fan, that’s for life. So, I really hope people gravitate to that perk. We can all share a Tigers game together.

Aaron’s friend, A.J. O’Neil, offered us hundreds of bags of coffee from his Detroit Bold Coffee Co., which will be included in some of the perk packages. The great thing about the company is that it’s produced, manufactured, and packaged in Detroit. Every job the company creates provides an individual with a level of dignity. That fact made the donation an even bigger kick for me because that’s where Aaron and I spent almost every weekend of our youth–visiting our paternal grandparents’ house on Geneva Street right off of Hamilton Ave.

Aaron and I realize that our independent film effort and our plan to invest the bulk of its budget in and around Detroit is not a panacea for our hometown’s socioeconomic problems. However, every productive endeavor will help, and we want to do whatever we can to assist in Detroit’s resurgence. We hope others follow our lead and that the film industry in Detroit grows. We want to be a part of that growth.

MM: How did you assemble your team of actors, and your director?

TS: Danny Trejo and David Proval became involved because they’re both acting associates and friends of mine. I felt the colorful characters and idiosyncratic plot in the film had the kind of depth that attracts great actors. Actors want to stretch. This screenplay provides that opportunity.

With regard to Giorgio Serafini, I’d heard of his incredible work ethic, I’d watched his reel and a few of his films, and I thought he’d be a good fit as this project’s director. Through a common contact, I got him the script and he immediately fell in love with it. He and my brother began honing certain scenes from a director’s standpoint.

MM: Do you have any new insight on crowdfunding at this stage in the game?

TS: Aaron and I realized that a lot of high-profile actors are choosing this route to get certain film’s funded. It’s allowed me to reconnect with so many fans that have had nothing but well wishes for me. I’ve enjoyed that enormously. I sometimes read the positive comments when I post on Facebook about An Honest Thief, and I’m genuinely moved. It feels good. It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding. The public is empowered, and with thousands of small to moderate donations, they can turn a film from a dream into a reality. That is exactly what Aaron and I hoping for with this film.

an honest cast 650x437

CampaignersTom Sizemore, actor, producer; Aaron Sizemore, writer, producer; Giorgio Serafini, director, producer; Charles Lago, producer; Chris Johnson, producer, Daniel Zirilli, producer

Target Amount: $200,000

Amount Currently Raised: $18, 952

Campaign Opening Date: September 14, 2014

Campaign Closing Date: November 13, 2014

Funding Goes Toward: 44.9 percent for Talent, 11.3 percent for Pre-Production, 8.7 percent for Finishing, 9.2 percent for Equipment, 7.1 percent for Studio & Sets, 5.8 percent for Props & Costume, 5 percent for Shooting, 4.5 percent for Visual FX, 3.5 percent for Insurance

Donor Reward Highlights:

$100: “Join the cast and producers on the red carpet. Walk the red carpet for a special advanced screening in either LOS ANGELES or DETROIT (please state preference), followed by a Q+A, and post screening reception. You will receive a special edition poster and the cast will even sign it. This is a Solo Perk, not included with any other perk, except a Producer Level perk. Travel and accommodation not included. (200 tix per city)”

$1,200: “Join us on the set of An Honest Thief and watch us make a movie. Hang out with the actors, see and feel what its like be behind-the-scenes of a professional movie set and leave with a truly unique experience. Includes all previous, non-limited perks. Add $12 for international shipping. Travel and accommodation not included. (must be scheduled)”

$1,850: “Have you ever wanted to be in a movie? Then this is your chance to be an extra in An Honest Thief. You will have a “featured” walk on/non-speaking role with at least three of the principal actors in a scene. Yes, you will have camera time. We will even feed you while on set and you will get to meet all the actors working that day (must be scheduled). Includes all previous, non-limited perks. Add $12 for international shipping.”

$2,000: “Ever wanted to hang out at one of LA’s hotspots for celebs, here’s your chance! Spend an afternoon with Tom Sizemore or Sally Kellerman at one of their favorite, hip restaurants in town. Don’t be shy, they don’t bite, well maybe Tom does. Make a trip of it and enjoy the sights and sounds of Los Angeles. Travel and accommodation not included. Includes all previous, non-limited perks. Add $12 for international shipping.”

$10,000: “Get a first position Executive Producer credit on screen and your name listed on IMDb. Includes a two-day set visit all previous, limited & non-limited perks. Get your very own Directors Chair with your name, a hat that reads Executive Producer. Pictures taken and lunch with the cast and lot’s of fun. Also includes a VIP invite to the wrap party and all festival showings. Travel & accommodation not included.” MM

To visit the An Honest Thief Indiegogo page, click here

To subscribe to MovieMaker Magazine, click here.

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