I recently caught up with Damon and JT Alexander, the two brothers who’ve formed Route 17 Entertainment, and now star in 10 Cent Pistol with Jena Malone. A story of crime, revenge, and more double crosses than you can count, the film is the first of a series of films that the brothers Alexander intend to make.
“We met Michael C. Martin at a Dodgers game. We just started talking, and found out he was a writer,” says Damon. “We asked him what he wrote and we found out that he’d written Brooklyn’s Finest which both of us had enjoyed. We asked him to write a short film which turned into Brotherly Love. We really liked it and asked him to broaden it into a feature film.”
The brothers chose the title because they wanted it to be just bizarre enough, and admit to listening to some Black Keys while making the decision. “It’s slang for drug use, and we wanted to get the song in the film, but it just proved too expensive,” Damon continues. “It’s ultimately about not knowing what’s coming from around the corner.”
In reality, the brothers say they get along pretty well, but the dynamics in the film are certainly ones they’re not afraid of exposing in their own experience. “In reality, all brothers or family members have internal competition,” the elder Alexander shares. “In the real world, we’re very close, but we do things differently.”
“When I disagree with JT, I disagree very hard. When he disagrees with me, he disagrees hard. It’s not soft. We love each other but we’ve fist fought each other. We can shake it off and accept each other’s differences.”
“Ultimately, the film is about getting to the point where it comes to a head. What does it take where someone can’t take it anymore?”
JT interjects, “On set, when situations came up, we found ways to move forward in the best way. As far as acting, this character was written for me so I could draw on my own experience. Now, when it came to some of his acting choices…” And the brothers dissolve in laughter and good-natured ribbing.
“When it comes to the revenge plot,” JT continues, “I wanted to separate myself from the criminal world and be with Jena’s character. My brother’s character is getting away with the life I want. I hope it’s clear that I wanted that new life.”
Gradually, we turn to discussing what it’s like being on the other side of the camera, on the decision-making side … and the financial one. “It’s a difficult thing being the guy in charge of the money,” Damon says.
“We shot this on Super 16,” agrees JT. “It was very crucial that the actors were ready because we couldn’t shoot shot after shot. We were prepared to go over two days.”
Damon breaks in, “It’s difficult enough dealing with the actors, the union, etc. Ultimately, we knew we had each other.”
“We felt responsible,” JT adds with feeling.
“We had a lot of things happen, anything that could happen,” Damon shares. “For example, we were supposed to move into the mansion location that you see in the film. Two days before the shooting, the owner of the property, a lawyer I think, kills himself. I’m on the phone not knowing when we’ll be able to shoot, and I know Jena has to leave in two days. I’m not sure a lot of people could’ve handled all of that.”
“It’s just crazy. Crazy, but true.”
That’s the vibe one gets from watching 10 Cent Pistol: the story is just crazy enough to be realistic, like the story of filming and the brothers’ willingness to work together. Independent, gritty, and more layered than you first expect, the film will suck you in. Then, you’ll want to stay tuned for Hitman’s Funeral written by TJ Mancini about an Irish gangster who fakes his death to go straight, and a few other projects the brothers have up their sleeve(s).
Just don’t expect that you’ll see it all coming.
Additional reading: My full review of 10 Cent Pistol