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

‘Real Rat 2.0’: Local filmmaker Luke Hristou doubles down on TV pilot about Spokane’s unique basketball culture

By Luke Pickett The Spokesman-Review

Luke Hristou, a local independent filmmaker, unveiled his debut pilot episode of “Real Rat” to some of Hooptown USA’s finest more than a year ago.

Since the double premiere showings at the Magic Lantern Theatre on May 4, 2023, Hristou has been determined to prove that it was merely the start of his vision to create a genuine and relatable basketball series based in Spokane.

“There’s so much meat still left on this bone,” Hristou said. “I just can’t walk away from it.”

The story, or what Hristou now calls the “proof of concept” (POC), centers on the main character portrayed by Hristou, “Funky” Frank. As an aging athlete battling injuries and the passage of time, Frank thrives on basketball and is often spotted at the gym.

With about $10,000 in a self-budgeted production plan, Hristou wrote, produced, directed and edited the POC. Considering the average cost for a network pilot episode is between $2 and $5 million, Hristou had to be cautious with his spending.

This time around, Hristou and the “Real Rat” team are campaigning for the production of a remastered version of the pilot, which Hristou refers to as “Real Rat 2.0.”

“The script is basically doubled,” Hristou said. “The first pilot, what we now call the ‘proof of concept,’ was 20 minutes. This is gonna be a 30- to 40-minute pilot like you’d see on TV.”

Following the inception of the “Real Rat” concept nearly four years ago, more than 250 pages of script have been penned. Hristou founded his production company (81hundred) in 2022 to craft the POC, and a podcast (“The Real Rat Podcast”) to interact with some of the “realest rats” at Brennon Poynor’s Spokast! studios.

Feedback from some of the POC viewers outside Spokane reflected an understanding that they saw “great bones of a story,” but were “not understanding why Spokane is what you say it is.”

“A big emphasis for us this time is to show anyone who lives here or elsewhere that this is Hooptown USA,” Hristou said of why he wanted a redo. “We want to show why this story is perfect for this place.”

The primary objectives of the “Real Rat” project include celebrating Spokane’s exceptional basketball community, producing an authentic sports dramedy featuring true basketball players, and becoming a running series filmed in the Inland Northwest.

Those benchmarks have remained since Hristou first came up with the idea to create a TV series about the unique basketball culture in Spokane nearly four years ago.

“The first go-around I basically had to self-finance,” Hristou said.

Despite limited budgeting options, Hristou managed to create a rendition of his vision with the help of some of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene’s most well-respected film members: Rick Ibarra-Rivera, the acting, business, life and health coach at RIR (Reasons into Results); DaShawn Bedford, the longtime video producer and cofounder of B & B ProVideo; and Jerry Buxbaum, co-owner of Mystery Ridge Movie Ranch.

The fictional dramedy POC production showcased basketball landmarks around Spokane such as Chief Garry’s Hooptown, USA court and the Warehouse Athletic Facility.

In addition to starring as “Coach” in the POC, Ibarra-Rivera provided abundant assistance in getting Real Rat ideas to the screen, Hristou said.

The newest edition of the script details an expanded story from the original pilot. The story expands, there are more characters and the world is more built out, Hristou said.

“Real Rat 2.0” aims to make Spokane, the Warehouse Athletic Facility and other Hooptown basketball scenery the landscape and focus for a city full of hoopers. While the upcoming episode takes cues from the pilot, it is not based on the proof of concept.

Lifelong best friend and basketball fanatic Houston Stockton – son of NBA basketball star John – significantly contributed to the latest script rendition, Hristou said.

“He is one of those guys that plays (basketball) every single day and has torn almost every muscle in his body playing,” Hristou said of Stockton. “That’s the kind of story we’re trying to capture.”

Ibarra-Rivera will reprise his role as a longtime coach turned gym owner. The plot is based around “Coach” and Hristou’s “Frank” characters as they navigate a conflict at the Warehouse.

“This (episode) is about the Warehouse,” Hristou said. “It’s about those guys that would do anything to play (basketball) during their lunch hour, and before or after work.”

Surpassing the $20,000-production campaign goal would allow “Real Rat” to hire additional crew, film at various Spokane locations, improve production assets, hire an editor and promote the series.

Having not had more than a few weekends without working on his dream in almost four years, Hristou said he’s learned that asking for help as an independent filmmaker is difficult but necessary.

“Making stories that aren’t generally going to be produced is a journey,” Hristou said. “Asking for help is a learning process for me, too, but I’ll do anything to spread the story.

“To me, it’s such a no-brainer because it’s Hooptown. Spokane deserves this.”

“Reat Rat’s” campaign for production through the film-centric crowdfunding platform Seed&Spark ends June 1. They must reach 80% of their $20,000 goal to attain the funds.

Incentives for donations can be seen on the campaign page.

“I crave a real story,” Hristou said. “I want to show what it means to love something at all costs.”