Alex Ferrari learned the hard way that not all Hollywood dreams come true.
In the latest episode of Demystified from StudioFest, the host of the Indie Film Hustle podcast explains how he got his start in the business. After working at a video store in high school — where he developed a love for cinema and a dream of becoming a director — he cut his teeth directing commercials and working in post-production in his 20s. But a few years before he made his first short film Broken, he was approached with what seemed like the offer of a lifetime.
“I almost made a movie for the mob for 20 million bucks,” he says. “And that’s a whole other story.”
When Ferrari was 26, he was hired by a man Ferrari describes as a “rehabilitated gangster” who had spent time behind bars and had started his life over. The man hired him to direct a movie about his life in 2000, Ferrari says.
“I said, okay, well, if he’s got the money, I’ll play,” Ferrari says. “We were looking for the money, but we really didn’t have the money. [We] had enough to get the ball rolling, but not enough to keep the ball rolling. So by the time I realized what was going on, I was already stuck inside the web, and I couldn’t get out of it.”
Ferrari says the movie was in “perpetual pre-production,” and had so many mob ties that its production offices were at a horse racing track. Still, he says, “Hollywood took him seriously.”
Ferrari’s dream of becoming a big-shot Hollywood director got so close that he could taste it.
“We were flown out to L.A., and I met the biggest movie stars in the world at the time, biggest producers. I’m at the Chateau Marmont. I’m at the Ivy, Spago’s having meetings. You know, I even got to meet Batman, one of the actors who played Batman,” he says. “I’m living the dream — mind you, my life is being threatened on a daily or every other day basis by a bipolar gangster. When he’s great, he’s the greatest, and when he’s the worst, He’s the worst. And it just destroyed me. After I finally was let go of the project, thank God, I couldn’t, I didn’t even pick up a camera again for three years. I was — I hid in my friend’s garage selling comic books on eBay. I was destroyed.”
He adds: “Imagine being so close to your dream, like literally inches, a foot or two away from Batman, and Batman telling you, ‘I want to be in your movie, and I want you to direct it, and I’m going to be there to help you,’ and all that kind of stuff. Like, it’s the dream. And I did that multiple times with multiple actors and producers.”
Alex Ferrari wrote a book about the experience called Shooting for the Mob.
“It chronicles that entire journey. And that’s kind of a cautionary tale of what not to do when you’re following your dreams,” he says. “I put it out there because I wanted to have something out there to let people know that if they’re in a bad situation, that they can get out. It’s your choice. You can lead these situations. But when the carrot was dangled, it was tough, man. It’s like, you’re meeting these big movie stars — I’m like, it’s got to be real, this has to be happening. Maybe I’ll just eat a little bit more crap from this guy to get me to where I want to go. And that place never came. And I just kept getting abused and abused and abused. So it’s a really timely tale of, you know, not putting up with abuse, and following your dream but not being a complete idiot by doing it.”
Watch the Alex Ferrari episode of Demystified above.
Main Image: Alex Ferrari, courtesy of StudioFest.