Apr 22, 2013
© 2014, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by David Swarts
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GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Racing Racing: A former Hollywood stuntman and motorcycle enthusiast is trying to make a true-to-life feature film based on motorcycle road racing. Photo by Brian J. Nelson/AMA Pro Racing.
Former Hollywood stuntman and motorcycle enthusiast James LaVitola wants to make a movie, a real, true-to-life movie about motorcycle road racing, and to get the startup money he needs to get his project rolling, LaVitola is going to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank May 10.
Shark Tank is an unscripted show in which entrepreneurs pitch a panel of successful businessmen and businesswomen in hopes of gaining an investment from them for their project. And even if the entrepreneurs are not successful on the show, the publicity they receive often results in them raising capital.
“I grew up riding motorcycles,” said LaVitola, who has done stunt work in Friday Night Lights, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift and the first Transformers movie. “I’ve done motorcycle stunts in the films I’ve done. I have friends that race. I have friends in the AMA [Pro Racing]. I have tie-ins here and there, but it’s been a passion of mine since I could walk.
“I got a little discouraged when Hollywood never came out with a [road racing] film. I’m in the industry, and when they came out with Biker Boyz and Torque it was a big disappointment to me and to a lot of other fans I know. There’s so many good stories with road racing, and there’s never been anything like that.
“I went to one of the studios [with the idea about a movie on motorcycle road racing] and they said there wasn’t a market for it. Actually, they said there wasn’t a market for a movie about motocross because they didn’t understand the difference between the two. That’s where this journey began. I felt I needed to get this done without having those types of executives [involved]. Every once and a while the executives in Hollywood ruin a picture that could have been good because they thought they knew what the people wanted best. They make decisions based upon what they think they know and not what fans really want. That’s what really drove me to get this picture done with the people that I know who make these movies. We can do it. We just need the funding. That’s where we’re at right now.”
LaVitola’s partner in the project is his childhood friend and movie producer Brian Pitt. Pitt, according to LaVitola, is the co-founder of Gambit Films, co-founder of Chapman Entertainment, LLC, and co-founder of Micro Film Studios. Pitt’s younger brother Michael Pitt is currently starring in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Cliff Dorfman, a former actor who was a staff screenwriter on HBO’s Entourage, will be the screenwriter for the project.
LaVitola told Roadracingworld.com that the episode of Shark Tank in which he makes his pitch has already been taped, but he is bound by a confidentiality agreement not to talk about any element of the episode before it airs.
LaVitola hopes that he can raise the first $5 million of his $15 million film budget either directly from one of Shark Tank’s cast members or indirectly through a fundraising campaign on via the publicity his project gets on the show. The rest of the budget will come together once the project is rolling, according to LaVitola.
“This is one of the things I went to Brian for because I didn’t know these things and this is what he does for a living,” said LaVitola. “I went to the studios first because I knew there was no way we could get it funded independently because this is a big-budget film. I asked him how it works. He said we won’t have the expenses of a major studio because a lot of those expenses are useless expenses, like paying eight executive producers who have done nothing on the film and they get these big salaries taken out of the budget. He said we won’t have that stuff. He said we only have to raise about 20% of what the actual budget would be in capital because the rest he can get in tax incentives and gap loans, sponsors and everything else. So he said, ‘We need to raise $5 million to make a $15 million picture that I’ll make look like a $40 million picture.’”
If all goes well and the startup money is raised in the near future, LaVitola said they would be looking at a release date in 2015.