What do a former Gaucho and Bernie Madoff have in common, you ask? Money laundering.
Sean Meier, an alumnus of the communication program and former Division I golfer at UCSB, has found his niche in Hollywood as the executive producer of “Green Guys,” an independent crime thriller starring Kris Lemche, David J. Phillips, Christopher Redman and Darrel Davenport. Despite just being released last November, the project is already ranked among the top 50 crime films on IMDb.com and was named the second-best underground film of last year on independent filmmaking website DirectorsLive.com.
Meier’s film follows the path of four young men seeking a fortune through a Ponzi scheme — the same type of scam that landed Madoff in the big house around the time the script for “Green Guys” was written. Before long, the four conspirators are tested by an aggravated drug lord, a young FBI agent and their own greed.
Beyond its obvious ties to current events, Meier said this premise also struck a personal chord.
“I actually read about 25 scripts before I read the ‘Green Guys’ script, and that one really resonated with me because it’s about finance,” Meier said. “I have a background in finance and I was working at Merrill Lynch for a while.”
Narrowly escaping the 2009 Wall Street collapse, Meier founded the talent management and production company Sean Robert Entertainment LLC in 2008. Along with “Champions of Glory,” a dark comedy, “Green Guys” is among the first films Meier has produced.
With a limited budget of $130,000, writer and director Cole Mueller said the creative process centered, ironically, on the economic need to utilize resources to their greatest extent.
“At the end of the day, people take note on the performances and the story, so it’s really about making that come first and making whatever money you do have support that,” Mueller said. “It’s about stretching every dollar and being aware of what makes good production value: how you light, how you move the camera, the location, not spending on things that aren’t going to be on the screen.”
The financial and cultural aspects of shooting on location in Phoenix as opposed to industry-laden Los Angeles also kept costs down, Mueller said.
“We had a lot of local crew members and one of the guys said he would crew on the film for free as long as he got cooked meals and access to a shower,” Mueller said. “We ended up letting him crew and he became our production designer. I guess that epitomizes low-budget filmmaking.”
Aside from the suave manipulation of money on and off screen, much of the film’s success has been attributed to the cast.
“Green Guys” features actor Nathan Marlow as the FBI’s young Mike Northcutt, described by Marlow as eager and starving for notoriety.
“He has a few fatal flaws such as his ego, and he drinks a lot but it takes a guy on edge to catch the crooks; he almost had to become like them to be able to catch them,” Marlow said.
Although currently involved in the television series “Tyranny” and a star in the 2010 film “Dead Cat Bounce,” Marlow said he is typically cast as a government agent.
“Especially when my hair is cut short … it’s instantly ‘FBI agent!’” Marlow said.
“Green Guys” is currently available on Netflix and at many video retailers.