UA rolls out Iraq story

Producer/scribe Chin to pen fortune-seekers pic

United Artists has made a deal to tell the story of two entrepreneurs who went to post-war Iraq to make their fortune.

The duo, Brent Balloch and Jack Roe, have become millionaires in a few months and just got a contract to help run the country’s first elections since the invasion.

The duo’s life rights have been secured by producer/writer Stephen Chin, who was so bent on making the deal that he sneaked into the war-torn country to find them.

The project is the first high-profile acquisition made by the reconstituted UA, which is now run by Danny Rosett. UA execs David Yang and Sara Rose brought in the project.

The topic fits with such politically conscious UA fare as Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” and Terry George’s “Hotel Rwanda.”

There is no timetable for production, and decisions on location and casting won’t begin until Chin completes the script. He returns to Baghdad this week to spend more time with Balloch and Roe and do research.

Twentysomethings Roe and Balloch hatched the get-rich-quick scheme when they met for the first time in January at a Super Bowl party in Rome.

Without a plan or even the ability to speak Arabic, they arrived in Iraq looking to start businesses. While well-connected firms like Halliburton swallowed up the most lucrative jobs, the duo ended up operating a radio station plus catering and printing businesses, as well as securing the election contract.

Chin has a resume of indie films; he wrote and produced “Another Day in Paradise,” a bleak drama directed by Larry Clark. Chin read about the exploits of Roe and Balloch in magazine articles and, after trying in vain to option one of those pieces, he decided to track down the guys himself.

“I figured, how dangerous could Baghdad be to a guy who was producing partners with Larry Clark for years?” he said.

The trip began in Jordan, where Chin bought body armor and hooked up with a guide who drove him to the Iraq border.

“It was scary, and looked much like ‘Mad Max,’ ” Chin said. “We were on this six-lane highway that Saddam Hussein built to transport oil, and it was completely deserted, with bridges blown up and rubble strewn across the road.”

After one close call, Chin found the duo, who were shocked that he showed up.

“The movie to me is ‘Swingers’ meets ‘Salvador’ — these guys who knew nothing about Iraq but had an extreme-sports attitude that if they went for it, something cool might happen,” Chin said.

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