Making its debut this fall, the independent film “Tactical” is the collaborative effort of three area residents whose collective ambition is comparable to the special forces unit that inspired their film. They are the film’s producers Neil Luspo, Tommy “Red” Phipps and William Pierce. The three men became acquainted with each other 18 years ago at Oak Park and River Forrest High School where each shared an interest in music and began their careers as DJs.
“Will, Tommy and I were deeply interested in music initially and DJed for a number of years,” said Luspo, a native of Austin. “Then I branched off into business and finance and began working in corporate acquisitions, Tommy got into acting and Will branched off into film production.” Years later, Luspo became more interested in producing films and began to collaborate on the production and distribution of independent movies under C.L.A.S. productions (Camera, Lights Action and Score) where Pierce was an affiliate.
Previously, Pierce and Luspo worked on two independent projects titled ‘Ransom Game’ from 2005 and The Engagement released in 2006. The former film starred Elise Neal (of TVs The Hughleys) and the latter film starred Clifton Davis (from TVs Amen) and BernNadette Stanis (from TVs Good Times). Their latest project Tactical is acollaboration between C.L.A.S. productions and Star Power pictures. Producer Pierce penned the story and Pierce, Luspo and WGCI personality Johnny Starks, also known as Cool Out, wrote the screenplay.
The film stars Eric Lane, who played Twan in several chapters of R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” video series as a member of a tactical police squadwhose attempts to take down a crime boss are complicated when a rookie member of their unit suffers a head injury after he intercedes on an assassination attempt.
The rookie’s lost memories however, may hold the key to capturing crime boss Dexter “Weight”Williams, played by producer and Austin area native Phipps.
“I attempt a hit on my fiancee Dori (played by newcomer Diane Howard) and it is foiled, so now I’m trying to find her and finish the job,” said Phipps. “There is one scene that I particularly loved doing where I am in a jacuzzi and smoking a cigar and feeling good. The phone rings. It’s her. All I can think to say is:’whoa…you’re alive!?'” said Phipps. “It was a scene that had to be carefully shot because there had to be both desperation and shocking in his voice and based on reaction of the [audience who screened the film at AMC downtown on August 20], it was pulled off well.”
The producers obtained the funds for the film through private investors and their own resources. It reportedly cost approximately $75,000 and was shot in two weeks.
“Although it was a film with a smaller budget, we didn’t want it to appear that way on the screen,”said Pierce, a native of the Oak Park community. “We worked to assure that the look, feel and dialog had an authenticity to it. Many independent filmmakers who do crime dramas have more foul language in their script than actual discussion between the characters. We wanted to change that.” One of the biggest challenges in doing the film according to Pierce was assuring that the film starred a recognizable actor that distributors would support. This was the case with the producers two previous films.
“Distributors are more inclined to aid in the marketing of a film when they know an actor that people would see would be in the movie,” said Pierce. “This meant it was all the more vital to hire an actor like Lane that would be marketable in their eyes. This can be a challenge.”
Nevertheless, Luspo, Phipps and Pierce completed the project and managed to fill a 390-seat theater at AMC primarily based on marketing efforts of Cristi With an Eye PR.
Filmmakers hope to preview the film in Oak Park.