Andrew DeCesare’s big dream is to shout “Go Cougs!” at the Academy Awards. “It’s funny to say, but that is the goal.”
And, of course, he says, so is getting nominated.
Just a few months after graduating and moving to Los Angeles, DeCesare (’08 Comm.) landed a job as a production assistant on James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster Avatar. Today, he’s one of three principals in 5150 Action Productions, which specializes in shooting action sequences and serves on film sets as second unit directors for “all your big explosions, stunt-performing teams, and special-effects teams.”
DeCesare does stunts, if needed. “But normally,” he says, “I help manage the day-to-day operations between 5150 and Paramount or whomever we’re working for.”
DeCesare minored in theater arts and went to La La Land to act. “I wanted to be in front of the camera when I first got here,” he says. “But I quickly learned that I want to be the guy calling the shots. I want to be in the driver’s seat. I want to be the guy yelling, ‘Cut!’ or in the editing bay. The control is in the hands of the producers, writers, and directors. You just have so much more creative freedom.”
He joined 5150 in 2014 as vice president of creative development after meeting founder, writer, director, second-unit director, and stuntman Mike Gunther while working on Transformers: Age of Extinction. Michael Day joined the team after meeting DeCesare on the set of The Dark Knight Rises. Their recent Rogue Warfare trilogy marks the first original content produced by 5150.
Early last August, Rogue Warfare: The Hunt, the second in the series of action-packed, low-budget military movies, was the most popular movie on Netflix. DeCesare wrote and produced the film, No. 1 on Netflix on August 3, 2020.
Filming for all three movies took place over 45 days in 2018. The films featured union actors and crews as well as a super-tight budget—just under $750,000 for each movie. “It was a massive gamble,” DeCesare says. “With so little money and no room for error, it kind of freaked people out.”
Paramount Pictures helped, providing access to its prop warehouse at no cost. Still, DeCesare says, “We had our work cut out for us.” If scenes were dropped from a day’s shoot, it was his job to figure out how to fit them back into the schedule. “It becomes a shapeshifting jigsaw,” he says. “It’s constantly changing.”
His dad, Mike DeCesare, served as the on-set photographer, shooting publicity stills for all three films. His sister, Gina DeCesare (’12 MIT), played an officer in the command center in each one, too.
DeCesare lauds his broadcast production experience at WSU for prepping him for filmmaking, particularly his media writing class as well as media law and management classes with Kenji Kitatani (’77 Comm.), a former Lester Smith Distinguished Professor of Media Management at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication. “He was a big influence on me,” says DeCesare, who credits timing and Netflix for The Hunt’s surprise success.
“Hollywood’s been at a standstill since last March because of the pandemic,” he says. “It put us in a really good position. Then Netflix put it on the home page, and that was it. That really stirred the pot. Now Netflix is talking with us about future projects.”
The Cheney native has written a fourth Rogue Warfare film as well as “a more dramatic script” that he’s hoping to launch in early 2021. And he’s looking forward to where his film career next takes him.
“Ultimately, I got into making movies because when I was 10 years old and watching a firefighter movie, I wanted to be a firefighter. Then I’d watch an astronaut movie, and I wanted to be an astronaut.” Eventually, he says he realized, “Mainly, I want to be a storyteller.”