After co-funding Danny Trejo star vehicle “Vengeance” and finding no takers at AFM, Trejo and writer-director Gil Medina have started an aggressive distribution program that involves giving the film away for free.
The effort is spearheaded by the “Vengeance Army,” a group of kids who have so far received 74,000 orders. Those who give away the most DVDs — which are free, with $5.99 for shipping and handling — will be given substantial speaking roles in the sequel. About 40,000 people have responded.
“Gil and I scraped together the funding, finished the movie and took it to AFM, where we saw my face on eight other movies being sold there, some I’d forgotten I’d even made,” said Trejo.
When he and Medina picked up a hitchhiker headed to Hollywood with dreams but no connections, they dropped him off near Hollywood Boulevard and hatched the incentivized distribution plan that will give a handful of wannabes a chance to get in the door.
“They’ll get a good speaking role — one they can put on a reel,” Trejo said. “They won’t get a SAG card, but sometimes being in one movie gets you to the next. If they want to be a director, they can co-direct a scene.”
The rules are explained on the website Vengeancearmy.com. The top three finishers will join the production.
Trejo said his motivation is to give something back. An ex-convict who turned his life around as a drug counselor who still gives several speeches a week to troubled kids in juvenile halls, Trejo said: “Every good thing that has ever happened to me came from trying to help someone else.”
That includes his unlikely break into films.
“One of the kids I counseled, who had 100 days straight, called me one night and said there was so much blow on his job site that he wasn’t going to make it,” Trejo said.
After driving through the night, Trejo found himself on the set of the prison film “Runaway Train,” where his client worked as a production assistant. While Trejo hung around, his rugged looks and genuine penitentiary-issue tattoos got the attention of producers, who asked him to be an extra. The film’s screenwriter — ex-con Edward Bunker — wandered by and remembered watching Trejo win two California State Prison boxing championships. Bunker asked Trejo to give boxing training to the film’s star, Eric Roberts, and when director Andrei Konchalovsky saw how they bonded, he asked Trejo to fight Roberts in the film.
Trejo said: “Others said, ‘He’s not SAG, he can’t do it,’ and Andrei said, ‘Make him SAG!’ I turned to Eddie and said, ‘What just happened?’ Eddie said, ‘You just caught lightning in a bottle.’ My name instantly went from ‘Hey, you’ to ‘Mr. Trejo,’ and I’ve made about 180 movies since.”