Cary Abbott, a former Marine, is the founder of GI Pictures. Here is his story of dealing with Larry Meistrich and Nehst Studio:
It sounded too good to be true; a real movie producer was looking to discover an unknown screenwriter and produce their script!
Well, as it turns it, it was too good to be true. In the age of American Idol it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where a producer, a distributor and a professional screenwriter come together to make someone’s dreams come true. This story has everything needed to be a movie itself, including the need to suspend disbelief.
I found PitchNehst online and decided to give it a shot, the price was low enough, only ten bucks. I have been to Hollywood pitch fests and their price was one fifty. Though I’ve never heard of a pitch being made into an theatrically released film through those, PitchNehst had Larry Meistrich, producer of Sling Blade and You Can Count on Me and did I say it was only ten bucks?
I showed up to a rented room in a NY building. The room had indie movie cards and posters, theatrical audition newsletters, info on upcoming media work and in one room you could see an editor working on a dual screen Mac editing a project. The room where the pitch meeting was held was rented though and anyone can rent a room. However, this was a great illusion that created buy-in from me and many others.
I sat through several horrible, meandering pitches. I couldn’t believe Meistrich and his team were being so patient. I would have told everyone in the room to go to a book store and LEARN SOMETHING then come back in a few weeks. These people brought enthusiasm and little else. No completed screenplays, no completed films or finished videos. No clear concepts of what their projects were. One brought some poorly shot clips of what may have been an exercise video, buthe couldn’t explain what it was supposed to be.
Finally I pitched. Here’s basically what I did and said: “Hi, I’m Cary Abbott. I’m a retired U.S. Marine so forgive me for having volume issues.” It was a small room and I’m a loud guy. “I’ve written a military/action/drama that would fit into the Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay mode if it were not for the balance between action and drama. Picture Denzel as the mentor character of this story. It’s titled Blood Stripe and the story is about a young Marine/gangbanger that must choose between his gang and the Corps when his Sergeant/gangleader starts a war with police using a cache of stolen military weapons.
“I wrote this based on some of my experiences during my time in the Marines. Unfortunately some parts are very true to life and other parts are exaggerated to be worthy of the big screen, but most people won’t know where the fiction ends and the truth begins.” I finished with, “That’s it.”
The room was silent for a moment, I think not because people were so impressed, but everyone else had talked for so long with their pitches they were waiting for me to go on some more. Larry spoke up, said he liked it and also that he felt if he didn’t like it I might kick the shit out of him. It took a few years before I felt that way.
The deal is, I actually like Larry. He’s interesting and funny. He has produced many movies, mostly straight-to-DVD type stuff, but, of course Sling Blade, which changed indie filmmaking for more than a decade and You Can Count on Me, an Oscar nominated film. Larry has an authentic edge about him; a take no shit kind of guy. I fear he may have bought into his own hype, though.
Larry first spoke of having fifty million dollars from JWT, the number three advertising agency in the world. Fifty million was certainly enough to get this project going. Fifty million in the hands of a great indie producer would be enough to get fifty projects going much less one. In four years I’ve seen none get off the ground. There’s a few odd, little straight to web download videos, but they were completed and brought to Larry who arranged some weird deal where he didn’t write any checks but “released” or “distributed” those films. I quote those words because I’m not sure if they actually fit the movie industry's definitionof distribution.
Larry let me sit in on his weekly pitch sessions and soon I became a…a…well, I never received a title of what exactly I was, but it was with the veteran-based media production company GIPictures. Around the same time there was a film festival in D.C. that came out called GIFilm Festival. I immediately thought we had to join forces. However, GIFilm Festival wanted three thousand dollars in exchange for advertising at their event. I didn’t like the lack of cooperation or the three grand fee but with fifty million in the bank three g’s shouldn’t be that big of a deal. We talked around it, but never about it after that price was brought up. I asked to have an expenses paid trip down there to network for GIPictures, and as a Marine I travel cheap, but that was met with silence as well.
I received paperwork to option my script. Two hundred and fifty grand was what Larry offered me in one of our meetings. The paper work said fifty grand and that was only if the script was green lighted by a production company. The option was for ten bucks upfront. I had thought Nehst was a production company and Larry’s offer of two hundred and fifty grand was the first step in receiving a green light. We met and I pointed out the problem with the contract, which also didn’t seem like it was written by a lawyer, and Larry said he would get it straightened out. Months went by. Then I found it was his stepfather putting together the paperwork. His stepfather was a Viet Nam vet, from what Larry said, but he was not a lawyer. Finally new paperwork came in, this time with dates that were wrong. A year went by. I was rewriting the script at Jeff Silverstein’s request. Jeff is another guy I like. He seemed stressed out trying to balance what was going on with scripts, Nehst, GIPictures, etc.
I was asked to get some website samples from veterans and we could get GIPictures rolling. I found a great designer that was a Service Disabled American Veteran. I was thrilled that I would be part of giving him some work and getting that work out into the public forum to show America veterans have skills far beyond the battle field. He only needed around fifteen hundred bucks to get rolling and there were different prices for different levels of support and customization. What a find! Except Larry talked circles around that and ended up having the guy on his staff who made the PitchNehst website design the GIPictures website. I was frustrated and asking why we weren’t going with a veteran. Larry said that the designer’s father was a vet so we were still operating under the original concept. The concept was to give veterans and their military family members access to the media business through GIPictures. Giving the first job to the wealthy son of someone I never met without any evidence that his father was actually a vet was pissing me off.
Two years has gone by now. I’ve gotten a great education on how indie movies are made and I’ve learned that Larry is inconsistent in telling those stories. I’ve heard dozens of horrible pitches and a couple of pitches that I thought he should jump at. Still nothing was being shot. A young guy showed up with a video camera once. He filmed a couple producers that made a “deal” with Larry. I talked to the guy with the camera; no pay, he was just helping out. So everyone I was talking to wasn’t getting paid.
I had a life to get on with, and ultimately, while it would be fantastic to have someone interested in producing my script, I was too busy to keep walking this trail to nowhere. I was embarrassed to be associated with GIPictures and tried contacting those vets who were submitting and warning them that there was no pay and no real chance of getting something produced. I originally set up the website through GoDaddy (Bob Parsons is a former Marine) but then transferred everything to Nehst so they could have their “team” work on it. If you go to the GIPictures fan page on FaceBook you’ll see it has an awful lot of high school age fans. That’s because their intern was a high school sophomore that quickly hit up all his friends to “Like” GIPictures. A high school intern, no vets, making me more pissed. Veterans that are joining are being duped. After all, if I, as the co-founder (what I called myself) of GIPictures couldn’t even get bumper stickers paid for from the now two hundred and fifty million dollar film fund, what other vet could get something produced?
Another thing I learned; Hollywood Reporter and Variety will print just about anything. There were a couple of articles in each announcing Larry’s funds, and partnerships, but I was right there every week and I wasn’t seeing any checks being signed for anything. Larry let people eat some appetizers he ordered at the Four Seasons Hotel, but actually paying for a writer, a lighting tech, a camera person, ANYTHING, well that wasn’t happening.
I quit Nehst, Larry, Jeff, GIPictures, but only because it’s all bullshit. I can’t stand the idea that there are other vets like me spending their money, getting their hopes up with this guy and his house of cards production company. I hate that there’s civilian hopeful screenwriters, actors, producers thinking that they’re going to hit it big with this imaginary company. I’m back to working on building my own little production company. I’m making web commercials for veteran owned businesses, free of charge. I’m still debating about whether to take the time to go back up to the Four Seasons and kick the shit out of Larry, but that would mean a whole lot of kicking.