I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gambling in movies

Richard Roeper is a very good movie reviewer. He also considers himself a bit of a gambler. He wrote a really terrible book called,  Bet the House: How I Gambled Over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance. To professional gamblers Roeper is what we call, a "ploppy." Now to be fair it would not surprise me if Richard thinks my movie reviews suck, and as a director he may call me... a ploppy. I don't really know since I was afraid to see if he ever reviewed one of my movies. But on one thing we agree. When it comes to gambling in movies they usually get it wrong. Here is an article of his about two upcoming movies that contain gambling.  Gambling movies not always a sure bet - Chicago Sun-Times.

One of the things I learned very early in the movie business is that no matter what a scene is about there are going to be people unhappy with it. If you have a scene about an auto mechanic every mechanic in the audience is going to say, "He would never use that wrench on a car like that." Why do those things happen? It's not like we want to get it wrong. We're on the set, and our actor is standing in front of his house, and the scene calls for the girl to approach up the driveway. I can't just have him standing there waiting for her, so I say, "Pop the hood on the car, and pretend like your fixing something." Then the actor says, "What am I fixing?" "I don't know. It doesn't matter, just stick the wrench down in there. It's not like I'm going to show a close up of you turning the bolt." Then the Key Grip says, "That's the wrong kind of wrench for that kind of car. I have tools on the truck." But then the stunt coordinator says, "We have a 5 minute fight scene with that wrench, and we have a rubber wrench that has to match what he's using."  You see because the girl is actually an assassin who knows Kung Fu sent here to kill him. What? You didn't think I made romantic comedies did you?

Another annoyance for people are errors in geography. You see our hero driving south past the Mirage, he makes a turn and is now driving past Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, and then suddenly is driving north past the Venetian. This happens because the editor does not care where the guy is going; he just wants the best looking shots. In Vegas that means shots with lots of lights and he will take whichever ones look the best. I side with the film makers on this one. Mainly because I guilty of a really egregious infraction. I made a film called Texas Payback. In one scene our hero chases a guy out of the Riviera out onto the strip where the bad guy jumps in a car and takes off. Our hero turns and runs around the building, and when we next see him he steps out onto Fremont Street just as the car with the bad guy squeals around the corner. So in the movie it looks like Fremont Street is right behind the Riviera.

Why did I do that? Because in the story our hero, Sam Jones, steps out into the middle of the street as the car speeds straight at him. He draws his 6-gun and points it at the car, daring him to keep coming. The car speeds up driving right at him, and Sam fires. The car flips over and explodes, IN THE MIDDLE OF FREMONT STREET! RIGHT ON THE CORNER OF FREMONT AND SECOND, IN FRONT OF THE GOLDEN NUGGET, HORSESHOE, 4 QUEENS, AND THE FREMONT. Now isn't that a lot cooler than flipping a car and blowing it up on a dark section of Riviera Blvd.?

I believe I was the last person to film on Fremont Street before it was closed to cars, and when I think of what they allowed us to do it still gets me shaking my head. 24 hours before shooting the city put no parking signs on Fremont from Main to Las Vegas Blvd. Starting at 7 or 8 on the night of shooting,  the city sent 4 tow trucks to tow anyone that parked on Fremont, and closed the street for all vehicle traffic. We filmed our shots of Sam walking out into the street, and the car speeding toward him, and him firing the gun. Now it was time for the pipe ramp. A pipe ramp is an A-frame steel ramp about 6 inches wide, and about 4 feet tall. You drive a car at it about 40 or 50 miles an hour. The tires don't go up the ramp, the frame of the car does.  You have seen this in movies 100 times, one side of the car goes up and suddenly the car is tumbling over. In our case we decided to launch the car into the back of a truck with a large camper shell causing them both to explode. At which point all the physics professors in the audience would say, "Cars that get launched through trucks don't explode like that!" But, according to Munchkin's Law of Movie Physics, any car that turns over must explode.

The Chief of Police watched the stunt men setting up the pipe ramp, and said, "How fast is this car going to be going when it hits this ramp?" The stunt coordinator said, "50." "And where is the car supposed to land?" The stunt coordinator walks him through the intersection of Fremont and 2nd maybe 100 feet down the street and says, "Right here." The police chief shook his head and said, "I think that car is crashing right through those doors of the 4 Queens." The stunt coordinator said, "It would make a better shot." Meanwhile the Fire Chief was watching the FX Supervisor load bags of gasoline into the camper shell. In movie explosions you want a big fireball, not actual concussive power.  He said, "How big is this fireball going to be?" "Oh, maybe 10 feet." Purposely underestimating by half to not worry the fire chief. The fire chief shook his head and said, "I can't believe they are letting you do this."

The cameras were being set, and the stunt man who will be driving the car decides before he does this he has to go to the bathroom. (Wouldn't you?) He heads into the Golden Nugget, and this is a bit of a process because he is wearing a fire suit, you know, because he is driving through a 20 foot gas explosion. While this is happening the police are herding all the tourists into the casinos. They get everyone inside, and then close and lock the doors of the casinos! The stunt driver comes out of the bathroom to find crowds gathered at the doors to watch. He "excuse me's" his way to the door but it's locked, and a cop tells him, "You can't go out there. Some guy is going to flip over a car in an explosion." He said, "I'm the guy driving the car." The cop stepped back and said, "You are one crazy motherfucker."

The stunt went off without a hitch, although we all agreed the fireball should have been bigger. Unfortunately we sold the movie to a company that went bankrupt shortly after acquiring it so there is no DVD, and even VHS copies are hard to find. Here is one lunatic that is selling it for $24,676.25, Texas Payback, but trust me, it is not worth a penny over $23,000.

1 comment:

ZenMaster_Flash said...

I read Roeper's book. He is a ploppy alright.

Ploppies imagine that he knows "which end is up."

He thinks that as a bookie the DeNiro character wants a "balanced book."

Roeper is unaware that bookies and sports books alike VERY often "take a position";

most often by taking extra action on the FAVORITES,
where ploppies tend to over-bet

as they want to bet the "better" team, or their home-town team, especially favorites playing "at home" --

where their performance "against the line" has been a seriously negative excursion since the dawn of the NFL.

The next time that you see most of the favorites "covering the spread" in NFL games

you can safely assume that the bookies took a beating - especially on Parlay Cards !