With its fast-growing population of wealthy people, Dallas has been a magnet for filmmakers looking for investment cash for awhile. Movies financed by North Texans include the 2008 Ben Stein documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Rob Allyn’s “Java Heat” starring Mickey Rourke, and several from Gary Cogill’s (now-shuttered) Lascaux Films, a company that was basically bankrolled by local doctors.
The latest moviemaker to come knocking seeking Dallas dough is Chris Ekstein, an award-winning cinematographer from Venice, Calif., who’s shopping a Western project set in Texas called “The Last Duane.” Inspired by the writings of author Zane (“Riders of the Purple Sage”) Grey, the flick’s a straight-up oater about a gunfighter and outlaw who eventually sees the light and “gives himself over to service in the Texas Rangers.”
“The Last Duane”—or at least a short (15-minute) teaser version of the film—got its world premiere the other night at the Dallas home of attorney/movie buff Steve Stodghill. Stodghill met Ekstein while both were serving on boards for the American Film Institute. About 75 guests showed up for the Dallas event featuring multiple screenings—among them, writer Harry Hunsicker and businessman Stubbs Davis—as did actor Mark Boone Junior, who had a role in the teaser. Boone’s best known for his roles in “Memento,” “Batman Begins,” and FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.” Other actors appearing in the short included Jason Patric, Rose McGowan, and notorious bad-guy Danny Trejo (aka “Machete”).
After one of the screenings at the Stodghill house, Ekstein told guests that he’d spent at least $200,000 putting together the teaser—think blazing guns, thundering hooves, and heaving bosoms—in order to “show people what I could do.” He also said he’d entered the teaser in the “Short Film Corner” at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. His aim, he added, is to attract anywhere from $2 million to $5 million, which would allow him to shoot the full-length film with actors Shia LaBeouf and Robert Duvall playing major roles.
“I need $1 million to $2 million to get Shia and Robert,” he said. So, “I need some partners who want the tax write-offs.” Asked a few days later whether he’d pocketed any Dallas checks yet, Ekstein said: “People have expressed interest. … I’ll be circling back soon with different ways that people can become involved.”