Get to know more about Andrew DeCesare, his work on the Rogue Warfare trilogy, and breaking into the movie business.
How did the trilogy come about?
We started talking about the concept in 2016. Originally, it was five films. We chose a terror threat and tried to play with the story and make people think about current events. The concept of a global special forces team upped its sales value. Really, this movie had seven leads instead of one or two like typical films. Our goal was to prove to ourselves that we know what we’re doing, we know what we’re talking about. We also wanted to get our company’s name out there.
Your company filmed three movies over 45 days. What was a typical day like during the shoot?
I was up every day at 3 a.m. to arrive on set by 4 a.m. The crew started arriving at 5:30. We could only shoot a 12-hour maximum every day. We would wrap around 6 or 6:30, and I’d drive back by 7:30. Then I’d be on the phone until about 9, talking about revisions and constantly trying to be one step ahead. We had limited money and time, and everything was condensed. For nine days, we’d be shooting the command center. It was movie one Monday and Tuesday, and movie two Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The following week it was movie three. We had daily meetings about film financing to make sure we were on schedule and not going over budget. Some days, I was on the phone basically all day long, dealing with anything that came up.
What was the writing process like for you, particularly on the second film for which you have the writing credit?
I spent three weeks just thinking about the concept, and then about two days of just really late nights, hunkering down. I’m a fast writer. It took me a month to deliver the script, but actual pen to paper was less than a week—24 to 48 hours—for 386 pages. In all, we wrote over 2,000 pages. If a scene wasn’t really working, I rewrote it on the fly. I wrote 15 pages after we shot an entire day. I do feel like the skills the WSU Edward R. Murrow School of Communication gave men have helped me, even though I’m not dealing with quotes and misspelling someone’s name.
Why specialize in action films?
There’s so much of a market for action. It’s not like comedy or drama. Everybody understands good guys and bad guys. And it translates well with different countries.
Do you have any kind of a military background?
No, but my closest childhood friend is a Navy helicopter pilot. And both of my grandfathers served in World War II. I’m also a big fan of Black Hawk Down—great storytelling and action-driven sequences.
What was it like to see the second movie in the trilogy take the top spot on Netflix?
It was a surprise. All of a sudden people are talking about you. And opportunities are now opening up.
Right out of college, you had a job offer that you turned down to work—largely for free—for your first several months in LA. What can you say about that?
While I was still at WSU, a fraternity brother and I started a textbook rental company, kind of like a Craigslist for college, selling textbooks. We were bought out while we were still in school. They essentially paid us to shut it down, and then we were rehired by the company that bought us. I worked part-time for them my senior year. After graduation, he went to work for them for a while. I turned down a six-figure salary to go to LA and try to break into the film industry.
You’ve lived in LA for more than 10 years and still has a 509 phone number. What’s up with that?
Never giving it up. I miss Pullman every day. I have a map of it in my office. I had the best time there. It was perfect for me.
How often do you get back to the Inland Northwest?
At least once a year. My parents are still there. My dad owns ProPhotoNorthwest in Spokane. He shot all the stills for the trilogy. My dad was on set with me every day. He rode in with me every day.
Within six months of moving to LA, you ended up working on Avatar. How did that happen?
John Clisham got a grant to do a short film, and he was looking for a production assistant. I responded to the ad and stayed through the whole thing. We shot Saturdays. At that point, I was working seven days a week. At the end of it, he said, “I owe you one.” Later on, he calls me when I’m in New York visiting my grandma and says, “Can you be here in 24 hours?” He didn’t tell me what the project was. I walk in, and it’s this massive sound stage in Playa Vista, and, I think, “Wow, this is a big project.” I get a security badge, and I look down at it, and it says Avatar, and I’m like, “Oh, my god, what?” Long story short, two days on set turned out to be 18 months.