Bob Kaminski is the founder of the investment firm Kaminski Interests. Along with a small group of Dallas investors, he helped finance Act of Valor, an action movie made with the Navy’s stamp of approval and filmed with active-duty SEALs.
One evening earlier this year, Kaminski, 61, attended a cocktail party in Nashville that followed the premiere of both the film and its concomitant soundtrack, to which Wynonna Judd contributed a song. Judd was working her way down a line of Navy SEALs, hugging them and thanking them for their involvement with the film. The room was not well lit.
“I think she just got a little bit confused,” Kaminski says. “She heard that I was involved with the film, so she gave me a hug and thanked me for my service to the country.”
As it would turn out, the group of Dallas money men all saw a return on their investment that added up to more than just dollars and cents.
The Dallas connection to Act of Valor started with Kaminski. He met the film’s director/producer duo, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, through a business associate in Hollywood. The filmmakers were having difficulty raising money in California, so they were reaching out to a broader network of investors. Kaminski agreed to help. Then other Dallasites heard about the deal and wanted in.
“I wasn’t out looking to raise capital for the film,” Kaminski says. “It was more of a viral recognition by people who wanted to do something. You know, make a patriotic, philanthropic contribution to a project that was going to support the Navy SEAL effort.”
In the end, about a dozen people invested $4 million of the $12 million it took to make the movie. It paid off. Act of Valor made approximately $80 million in theaters. The DVDs and Blu-rays have sold consistently since their release in early June, moving more than 1 million units by the end of July.
In addition to a good return on their investment, the Dallas group got something else out of their involvement: gratitude from the military personnel depicted in the film. About 18 months before the film’s release, in late summer of 2010, the investors invited a handful of local retired SEALs to watch the movie in a small downtown screening room that they borrowed from a production company. When the lights came up after the film’s powerful closing scene, the room was silent. It stayed that way for a good 30 seconds.
Finally, Kaminski said, “Will someone please tell me what you think? Let me hear something.”
More silence. Then, slowly, one of the SEALs turned around in his seat, revealing bleary eyes and tear-stained cheeks, and he said to Kaminski, “I’ve always wondered how I’m going to explain to my daughter what I did and why I did it. I don’t have to worry about it now. I can just show her this movie.”
Kaminski turned to the guy next to him, a fellow investor, and said, “Mission accomplished.”