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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Spokane has come a long way, and so have I’: Cheney’s Andrew DeCesare is making his ‘Rogue’ mark in Hollywood

Many fledgling filmmakers have big dreams. However, few have the gumption to make those fantasies a reality. The reason is often that the risk is huge, and giving up security is overwhelming. Cheney’s Andrew DeCesare had doubts, but he never stopped while second-guessing himself all the way to Los Angeles.

Ever since DeCesare was a kid attending St. Aloysius, he dreamed about working in Hollywood. After graduating from Washington State University with a degree from the Communications School in Broadcast Productions in 2008, DeCesare left home for an industry that chews up and spits out hopefuls with alarming regularity.

DeCesare hit the road even after receiving an unsettling rejection letter from Castle Rock Entertainment. “There was no way they were going to hire me for even the lowest of the low jobs,” DeCesare said. “Not exactly a vote of confidence.” Nevertheless DeCesare, 34, took a leap of faith. It wasn’t easy for DeCesare, who admitted to questioning himself during that long drive down Interstate 5.

Though the drive takes about 19 hours, “It felt like a five-day trip,” DeCesare said. “I kept thinking that I could just turn around and go back home where it’s safe. I thought about all of my friends back in Washington. But I kept going, and I showed up in a city where I knew zero people. I had no job and had no idea what would happen.”

DeCesare could have veered off to San Jose for a lucrative gig with the textbook rental company “I had a six-figure salary offer in Northern California right out of college, but I passed on it to follow my dream of making movies.”

DeCesare had many sleepless nights in a city with arguably the most desperate people in America. The competition for TV and film gigs is staggering. However, DeCesare is armed with considerable creative talent, dogged perseverance and also has been blessed with some luck.

The Cheney High School alum, class of 2004, is part of 5150 Action Productions, which has produced the “Rogue Warfare” trilogy. DeCesare, Mike Gunther and Michael J. Day are the three principals of 5150. Each has written one of the three combat films. Gunther, who directed each flick, wrote the eponymous movie, which debuted last October.

DeCesare penned “Rogue Warfare: The Hunt,” which was released in April, and Day wrote “Rogue Warfare: Death of a Nation,” which will be released in September. Each film is available via Netflix.

DeCesare’s “The Hunt” reached No. 1 on Netflix the first weekend of this month. The three films were shot in succession and cost $3 million. Shooting films for just $1 million is unheard of in Hollywood. How did the boys of 5150 pull that off?

“We called in a lot of favors,” DeCesare said while calling from his Los Angeles home. “I’ve done a lot of work for Paramount, and so they gave us full access to their warehouse so we could use costumes, props and set pieces. We had carte blanche, which was amazing.”

DeCesare made friends on the sets of blockbusters. One of those pals is director James Cameron, who hired DeCesare to work in the production office of his blockbuster “Avatar.”

When DeCesare pleaded with Cameron for a job after the production of “Avatar,” the Oscar-winning filmmaker (“Titanic”) granted a huge favor by refusing to hire the young and assertive future player for another gig.

“I begged Jim for a job,” DeCesare said. “But Jim said no and explained why. He said, ‘If I hire you, you’ll end up like everybody else here. You’ll work with me forever. I’m not going to give you that opportunity since you need to do your own thing.’ He was right. I knew I needed to write, direct and produce.”

After working on the production of films such as “Transformers 3” in 2010, “Dark Knight Rises” in 2011 and “Transformers 4” in 2013, which meant DeCesare worked with directors Michael Bay and Christopher Nolan, he made another bold move by forming his own production company.

DeCesare connected with Day during “Dark Knight Rises” and Gunther during “Transformers 4.” The trio decided to join forces.

“All of the time I spent as a production assistant was invaluable during that six-week period,” DeCesare said. “I met Allegra Clegg (vice president of Physical Production at Paramount Pictures) on ‘Transformers 3,’ who has become one of the top executives in Hollywood. I developed a good reputation, and then when I connected with Michael and Mike, things went to another level.

“I love working with those guys. Mike Gunther is so smart and creative, and Mike is just wild. To put Mike in perspective, a Clint Eastwood movie is like working in calm. It’s like listening to Mozart. But Michael Day is like hard rock. His pace is ungodly fast. It’s intense.”

So are the Rogue films, which are entertaining and fun. But what’s most remarkable about the projects is the budget the trio worked under and how quickly they knocked out each movie. The three films were completed in just 45 days.

“You can’t mess up,” DeCesare said. “The entire boat sinks due to the budget, and there is no extension. There is no margin for error. We knew what we were up against. If you don’t have studio backing, that’s the way it goes.”

But what will be interesting is when DeCesare, Day and Gunther do one day have a studio budget, what will the company achieve? The principals of 5150 aren’t worried about reviews of the “Rogue” series or if they will score any hardware from the films. DeCesare knows the films are a conduit to future projects.

“Silent Kill,” a dramatic TV series written by DeCesare and directed by Gunther, is in pre-production.

“It’s an exciting time,” DeCesare said. “It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.”

Thanks to the novel coronavirus, the breakneck speed of Hollywood has slowed to a crawl. But expect DeCesare to continue to be prolific and keep it in the family.

His father, Mike DeCesare, who still lives in the same Cheney house DeCesare grew up in, has been the on-set photographer of the “Rogue” trilogy. His sister, Gina DeCesare, portrays a military officer in each of the three films.

“My sister, who doesn’t live far from me here, is a good actress, and my dad is a skilled photographer,” DeCesare said. “They’re both more than qualified, and I love working with them.”

DeCesare’s mother, who also lives in that same Cheney home, is a talented filmmaker, as well. Mary DeCesare, who is part of the KSPS staff, is a two-time Emmy winner who won her latest Emmy for making the KSPS documentary “Injustice at Home.”

“I can’t say enough about my parents,” DeCesare said. “They were both so supportive when it came to what I wanted to do with my life, but it makes sense since they pushed the arts since I was a kid.

“They signed me up for art classes during the summer and acting classes. They understood what I wanted to do with my life and gave me all the support I ever needed.”

DeCesare is still connected with his hometown. “I’m still in touch with my old baseball coach at Cheney (High School, Adam Smith). He always thought I was wacky. I still stay in touch with friends. Spokane is a big part of who I am. I have fond memories. I remember as a kid (during the ‘90s) when River Park Square was a ghost town. Spokane has come a long way, and so have I.”

DeCesare still has that rejection letter from Castle Rock. “My dad doesn’t know why I still have it, but it’s in a file,” DeCesare said. “I guess the funny thing is that Castle Rock no longer exists (Castle Rock was absorbed by Warner Bros.), but I’m working in the business I always wanted to work in.

“It’s a dream come true, but I worked so hard to make the dream happen.”