The last time Frankie Latina had to raise financing for a film — his first feature “Modus Operandi” — he assembled a group of friendly potential investors at Milwaukee’s Pizza Man restaurant and served up a handful of manila envelopes.
“I said, ‘Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is Danny Trejo’s coming to town,’” Latina recalls, handing out the “Machete” star’s headshot and pages and pages of his IMDb credits. “The bad news is we only have three days to raise the money to get him here.”
For his second feature “Snap Shot,” Latina doesn’t need to work quite as hard to convince Trejo to make the trek to the Midwest — in fact, he may be regretting that he asked the first time to go by this video. Yet the writer/director is once again asking for help via a Kickstarter campaign before a March 29th deadline in order to make “Snap Shot” as wild and uncompromising as “Modus,” an instant cult classic that defies description with its cross of exploitation and arthouse pleasures, but Roger Ebert may have undersold when he wrote in a glowing review, “If the film doesn’t sound unique enough, reflect that it’s one of the few in its genre to incorporate (1) a full-screen quote by Alexander Dumas, and (2) a walking-down-the-street shot in homage to ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ and (3) a tavern still using a Blatz Beer sign.”
Latina is reassembling many of the familiar faces who graced the screen in “Modus,” including Trejo and “American Movie” star Mark Borchardt for the story of a photographer whose procural of a used camera with an unexpectedly sinister roll of film still inside leads him into a dangerous world, an idea inspired by Latina’s own hobby of buying vintage cameras. (If he raises enough, the film will be shot in the same Super 16 format as “Moonrise Kingdom.”) However, he has also added two notable new collaborators in Wes Anderson favorites Deepak and Kumar Pallana, the latter of whom Latina recently directed in a cooking show for the Milwaukee Visitors Bureau, and Trejo’s son Gilbert, who is writing the script.
“Gilbert and I never met each other, even after his dad came to Milwaukee,” says Latina, who met the younger Trejo before a screening in Los Angeles and struck up a conversation after taking note of his ‘70s Aztec jacket, only to discover they shared the same taste in movies as did in fashion. “We hit it off, we’re talking about movies and then 10 minutes later, Danny walks up and is like ‘Frankie, let me introduce you to my son Gilbert.’ We’ve been working together ever since.”
In fact, ever since Trejo’s agent Gloria Hinojosa, who Latina credits with “being instrumental in allowing me access to one of the most iconic character actors in cinema history,” got fed up with his copious phone calls and e-mails, the filmmaker has become part of a family, not only comprised of the Trejos, but of a filmmaking troupe he hopes will grow larger with this crowdsourcing campaign.
“It’s like the guys at the pizzeria that gave me some money for Danny, and it’s not like Danny could retire off of the rate that he was given,” says Latina. “He did it out of the kindness of his heart basically and trying to help out an independent filmmaker. It’s all a shoestring budget, but [the help] is sincere, so it goes a long way.”