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Producer recruiting military for film projects

By Paul Bond

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A Hollywood filmmaker is looking for a few good men -- and women -- with military backgrounds who want to break into the entertainment industry.

Larry Meistrich, best known for producing the Oscar-winning film "Sling Blade," is soliciting movie and TV pitches from active members of the military, veterans and their family members with the intent to choose at least one project per year to produce and finance.

From writing to directing, producing, acting and all production jobs, Meistrich's GI Pictures wants the projects to be made entirely by current and retired military personnel and family members. Those with potential but no experience, he'll train.

"My management team fits because we all have parents who were in the military," Meistrich said.

"The skills acquired during a military career are very complementary to production," he said. "The way a set runs is similar to a chain of command, but we're obviously not risking our lives."

Although Meistrich acknowledges the "fertile ground for ideas" drawn from military life and war, he says he's encouraging stories that have nothing to do with either.

Meistrich said his father was a captain in the U.S. Army and a veteran of the Vietnam War. "We wanted to support the troops with more than just a yellow ribbon," he said of his incentive to create GI Pictures.

Meistrich and his partners from Nehst Studios have created GI Pictures to oversee the initiative and have recruited a board of military experts, including a former commander of the U.S. Army Soldiers Media Center, a former chief of advertising and marketing for the Army and a former Army liaison to the entertainment industry.

To facilitate the pitching, the team has created the Web site www.gipictures.com.

Dana Offenbach, a president of Nehst, will oversee productions at GI Pictures. Offenbach's credits include several independent films, among them "Hav Plenty."

Nehst (pronounced "next") was created by Meistrich two years ago as a film production, financing and distribution company. After acquiring the Matt Damon-narrated documentary "Running the Sahara" a year ago, Nehst announced a slew of Internet, TV and film projects it is developing.

Nehst is funded by hedge funds and high-net-worth individuals that the company won't identify. Budgets typically range from $1 million to $50 million per project.

Prior to Nehst, Meistrich founded the entertainment companies Shooting Gallery and Film Movement.

GI Pictures isn't Meistrich's first effort to discover and groom talent. Nehst seems constantly to be seeking out amateurs through contests and such.

GI Pictures, in fact, is modeled after Pitch Nehst, whereby budding filmmakers make pitches for $10 apiece (just enough to weed out the unserious). Meistrich said 40 projects have been acquired and are in various stages of development through Pitch Nehst. Two have been released already, and two documentary films are headed for theaters this summer: "Article 32" and "The Mayor of Strawberry Fields."

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