Screenwriting : The Russian and the 500 million Euro by Ben Trebilcook

Ben Trebilcook

The Russian and the 500 million Euro

For those seeking finance or a sale of a script or film project, don't be as hasty as I was.. My new blog.. The Russian and the 500 million Euro A few years ago I had the good fortune with being associated to two super-huge action movie franchises. Mission: Impossible and Die Hard. (check past blogs on It's not surprising to learn that when such a thing occurs, one starts to receive various degrees of attention; be it from the press, squirmy managers wanting to represent you to old school friends. I received these and more, one in particular being that of somebody stating they could assist in the financing of a movie I was producing. Two in fact. Yes, they, being an independent investor could finance both feature films entirely. Initial contact was made via a friend who once starred in Baywatch. I had previously written another sequel spec to yet another action franchise owned by Warners and wrote a significant role for the former red swimsuit wearing babe. It wasn't long before the words "I know a guy who knows a guy who can put you in touch with a guy." came into conversation one day and thus began my correspondence with said guy who could lend financial assistance. I spoke with two close producer friends. One from Germany. One from Australia. "I think dis iz our larst conva sashon, Benny!" said the German, chuckling, yet seriously meaning what he had just stated down the phone to me. "I just say go for it, mate. Ya never know!" said my Australian pal. "Russians and movies don't mix, Benny!" said the German. Yes, did I forget to mention that the investor of potential millions was Russian? Well, I'm mentioning it now. So, whilst on board my Easy Jet flight to Milan, where it was arranged for me to meet said investor, I started to laugh to myself. "I am flying to Milan to meet a potential investor for my big budgeted movie. Two big budgeted movies." I said to myself, just before a moment of split-second panic took place in the form of a quaking, shaky hand and fast, heavy breaths. I arrived at my hotel and called the investor, who then informed me with this: "I am not the investor. I am investor's lawyer. I speak on behalf of investor." Well, I was there now, so I may as well meet nonetheless, I thought to myself, so I asked when and where and received the second, little nugget: "I will call you in a moment on where to meet." I wait. I wait some more. My cell phone battery was not waiting so much. And then it came. "We will meet at the 'x' hotel." I ask what time and then he continues with "Wait. I call you." I wait. I wait some more. I thought, actually, I'll just look it up online and head over there and maybe save some time, get some food perhaps. So, upon looking online for the hotel, I discover that there are in fact two of these hotels with exactly the same name, at opposite sides of the city. I call him up and mention this tiny fact and ask him which one I am to meet at, to which he responds with, yes, you guessed it, "Wait. I will you call." I clamber into a cab, frustrated and tell the driver to head to whatever one is most popular. Enroute I receive the call to say "Two o'clock, 'x' hotel. Main one." I was heading to the right one. Upon arrival at the hotel meeting place, I waltzed in and headed for the bar. It was empty and reminded me of a saloon from 1878 in Texas. Dark, with shards of light, jetting across the dusty wooden floorboards and a barman in a white shirt and black bow tie, complete with white towel, polishing a glass and wiping down the counter. Gulp. He looked up at me and nodded his head to acknowledge my presence. I approached the bar and asked for a Coke. When pulling out my wallet, the barman reached across to my hand and said "No. No, for you, no pay." I frowned at this and glanced around briefly to see if he was actually speaking to someone else, but no, he was speaking to me in his very Russian accent. I smile as he fixed my drink and I took it to a table and chair near by only to receive a loud, fake cough, drawing my attention round to the barman again. He gestured to another chair and said "Please, this chair. Sit here." I frown at this statement, too and look at the chair being referred to. Upon inspection, the back of the chair had the word 'King' carved into the wood. I shrug and sit myself down, checking my watch. 13:30. At around 13:45 I look up and out of the window to a pool to see a big, beefy looking man in a suit and shades and occasionally touching his ear. Squinting, I noticed it was an earpiece of some sort. The man looked alert and touched his ear every so often and did a perimeter of the pool. He then stood by a doorway outside. At 13:50 a similarly dressed man, with a bruised eye and bandaged hand stomped into the bar. His footsteps echoed as he entered and he, too, had an earpiece. He sat down in a far corner, by a door. At 13:55 an elegant, slender young woman, dressed in a tight white dress and dark Gucci shades and high heels clip clops her way upon the hard floorboards across the bar, sat down in another corner, crossed her legs, dipped thin, pale hand into her expensive Mark Jacobs handbook, retrieving a magazine and began to read it. As the time raced by, I felt eyes from all angles were watching me. I began to fidget and toy with the folders which contained the various documents and relevant details of my film projects, looking at the pictures of talent who were attached to the film or talent who could be attached if financed came into place. The man outside did another perimeter of the poolside and I saw a quick flash of a holstered firearm within his jacket as he walked. He tilted my head and then glanced at my watch. It was 15:00. At 15:05 I reclined into the chair and it was then that I felt a hand clutch my shoulder. I jolted with fright and gasped. I must have been falling asleep. Maybe it was the barman waking me up, but as I turned, I was shadowed by the towering figure looming above, staring down at me. "You are Ben. I am here. Let's talk." It was the Russian, but which one? The lawyer or the investor? "When I tell you I was lawyer, I wanted to see if you would still be here. I thought you would leave. I am not lawyer." he continued, baffling the heck out of me. "I am he. I am investor." he said, chuckling and slapping my arm as he did so. He was a big man, well built, well groomed, in a well-expensive suit. I slid my feet under the coffee table, hiding them, embarrassed by the scuffed brown Marks and Spencer shoes I had on. It was a waste of time and thought as the coffee table was glass and you could see them magnified even more so through it, so instead I just straightened and rolled my feet back behind and under the chair. "Which movie we make? One, two, three?" he asked me, keenly and still without any apology for his lateness. The woman in white caught my eye as she lowered her sunglasses, looked over to our table and sighed, a sigh which echoed throughout the empty bar, causing my non-lawyer investor to look up. He spouted something in Russian, aggressively and she shrugged, "Nyet!" she replied. I understood that much. We discussed the two projects and he became more and more interested and excited. "Now comes money talk." he said. "How can I get money to you?" he asked me. I asked him what he meant exactly. "I can get it to your house, in armored car, but that will cost you 7% more on top of what you will owe me. This may prove difficult. I could -" he paused and nodded to himself, then taking hold of my arm, he stood up, pulling me upwards with him, causing me to do a slight hop. This man was strong and intimidating, with a crazed stared. He was Putin-esque. The man said something in Russian to the barman who nodded his head and walked to the end of the bar. The man with the earpiece moved round closer and I was led to a door. The door was opened and a light turned on. Inside was.. "500 million Euro. I cannot get rid. You understand?" I stared at the bulking mass of half a billion in Euro bank notes stacked up before my very eyes, within a stock room of a hotel bar in the city of Milan, Italy. "We could... strap..." he pressed his hands against my chest as he spoke. ".. say 20 million to your body today and then we discuss what happen to the rest later when you get home. Yes?" Was this a joke? Was there a hidden camera show in Italy I was unaware of which preyed on hungry film makers from the UK, foolish enough to go along with this kind of situation? Nope, it was real. I pointed at the length boxes along the side of the room and remarked on whether or not they were filled with cash, too. "No, inside are probably guns. AK or RPG. You know the type of thing?" I certainly did not know that type of thing. In fact, this type of thing was fast becoming something I would write in a script. Had I gone mad? I really didn't want to have my very own John McClane moment. That was for my Dad. He can deal with all that, I'll just write it. "It is difficult to me to get rid of such large amounts. You understand?" he kept asking if I understood, which I clearly did not. How could I relate to this man in any shape or form? I chuckled nervously and said something along the lines of "you could make a coat and clothes made out of money." the man even nodded and perhaps was pondering this for a moment. "So what we do?" he said, clapping his hands and having the door closed and locked for him. "It doesn't have to be rushed. Things take time." I replied, which he nodded and probably pondered this made perfect sense. He patted me hard on the back, spun me round and looked me dead in the eye. "This could be good or this could be bad." he said, staring at me. I instantly thought of when my German friend said to me that this is probably the last conversation I will have with him. I was foolish. Naive. I was on my own and not many people really knew where I was or who I was with. Then again, neither did I. What did this man mean? "This could be good movie or this could be bad movie. I don't care which. I just need to spend 100 million."He clutches my shoulders in a Spock-like Vulcan death-grip, gritting his teeth like Nicholson's Joker in Batman and taking a deep breath, looking into m eyes as he towered above me. My mind started racing and I started to think about that German guy, Armin Meiwes, who was in fact a cannibal. I wondered if I, too, was going to be eaten alive, but then my mind split and I disagreed with myself that this was a silly thing to think as I'm quite a skinny bloke and I'd probably be more useful as a toothpick than for a cannibal seeking a hearty meal, but then Armin Meiwes struck again. Didn't he eat another bloke's penis? "You OK? - Of course. Wait." said the Russian, as he turned around and relaxed his clutches. After several seconds of Russian between him and the guard-like man, he nodded to me, said he may or may not be in touch, but if I wanted to get in touch, then that was acceptable. He then left the room, followed by the heavily sighing woman in white and then the pool-side guy. I turned to the barman, but he, too was gone. It was all so very weird. Later that evening I headed out for dinner, on my own, into deepest Milan some place and ending up recounting the event to a waiter. He laughed so hard I thought he was going to choke. He patted me on the back and said that he plans on opening his own restaurant one day and that I will be a very special guest whenever I am in town. "You want your movie to be made? Of course you do and it will. I am sure." My new-found waiter friend said, as he poured my wine. "You are a writer and this is a life-experience for you to learn from and to tell people about. If you had not come to Milan, you would not have found this place and not have had a great meal and great wine for free." he continued. He called me a year and a half later to say he has his own restaurant and remembers me and my story. And what of the Russian and the 500 million Euro? Let's just say I'll leave them all there, in Milan, where I found them. In Hollywood, there may be no such thing as a free lunch, but in Milan, there was certainly a free dinner.

Frank Wood

Funny you should mention it; exactly the same thing happened to me in Dallas, only instead of Russians, they were farm implement magnates. The experience even took on an Italian ambiance when the latino bartender kept doing Roberto Benigni impersonations.

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