We are super excited to present our latest indie film spotlight for the crime drama Solid Rock Trust, from director, writer, producer, and editor Rick Ives (IMDb). Last month we took a look at the movie’s trailer and we are so happy to take a deeper dive into the indie.
Who? This film is written and directed by me, Rick Ives. My directorial debut comes on the heels of working alongside top editorial staff, bringing household stories to life such as Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 3(2023), Ms. Marvel (2022), and Loki (2021). I’ve also been editing low budget features for about 6 years, but it’s my experience on large productions is really what paved the way to the creation of Solid Rock Trust. The stars are Koko Marshall (A Perfect Host, The One You’re With) and Alexander Hearth, along with a deep supporting cast of voice actors. Koko really steals the show as a hacker with a library of languages and accents she uses to misdirect everyone she’s interacting with. The film is worth a watch just for the performance alone. Seeing her switch in and out of accents, characters, and emotions right before your eyes is a magic trick.
What? Armed with only a laptop, a collection of cell phones and her own wits, hacker Maddie orchestrates a bank heist from an abandoned building. Guiding a team of strangers, she uses her repertoire of accents and personas to conceal her true identity. Inevitably, as things begin to spin out of her control, Maddie must fight to overcome an avalanche of double crossings and obstacles that escalate in complexity as time runs out! Set in an old condemned warehouse, audiences remain on Maddie’s end of the phone call, leaving them asking who they can trust, if not themselves? Part of the game I wanted to play with the audience was to meet every expectation someone will have for a bank heist film and show it to them in a way they’ve never seen before. We have everything in here, but in a way that feels fresh and plays with the tropes.
Where? I’m in love with abandoned buildings and urban photography, so this film was set right in the middle of one. I also wanted something visually interesting enough to hold our attention for the length of the film but still represented the type of background our main character came from as well as how she felt inside. We searched all over the Atlanta area for properties that were film friendly and matched the tone we wanted, but ultimately found a location only 2 miles away from home. Many people have commented that it must have been a custom built set for the film, but the abandoned auto shop is completely authentic. The desk and computer monitor props were the only things that were not already there.
When? This film was shot in 2021 and is rolling out now to various platforms. The time period it’s set in is another story. I wanted to keep it purposefully ambiguous, although based on the technology, it would be set some time between 2005 and 2023. I was tired of seeing so many hackers in movies with top of the line, futuristic technology and software. What would it be like to watch someone work who had to patch something together with second hand materials and low tech items that would be harder to trace?
Why? This film was made as proof that a low budget independent feature can look and feel just as intense and professional as a studio release if the filmmakers have an exciting character driven script, and are smart about what to show and how to film it. We have an amazing lead performance that shows a talented, smart, confident woman who is also deeply flawed and pushed to her limits. Sit back and watch a plot unfold as it begs you to try and keep up with a twist and turn every 10-15 minutes from start to finish.
How? Solid Rock Trust is available wherever Tubi plays for free as well as Amazon, Youtube Movies, and Google Play for rental. As of June 2023 it will be available worldwide on youtube with more platforms becoming available all the time.
Today lets take a look at the trailer for the indie heist thriller Solid Rock Trust from writer/director Rick Ives. The movie stars Koko Marshall as Maddie, a hacker who is “armed with only a collection of cell phones and a unique talent” that “orchestrates an elaborate bank heist from an abandoned building.” As these things go, the situation spins out of control. Will she be able to keep things together? The indie film co-stars Alexander Hearth, Willie Davis IV, Tay Jones, and Mikaela Moore, and was released by Indie Rights Movies.
Solid Rock Trust is available to watch on Tubi here.
Last month we spotlighted three documentaries from Indie Rights Movies that you can watch online for free, but the indie film distribution company has a lot more genres of movies to watch for free. Today let’s take a look at three of their crime flicks.
May I Kill U? Official Description: A Banksy-style vigilante cycles round London killing scumbags. In their last moments, filmed and posted on social media, they agree to die: WTF! Is this a hoaxer? Hero? Or psycho? (YouTube) Watch Online
S’ids Lake Official Description: After appearing to kill a teenage girl, Sid, a scarred up boy since birth, creates an alter ego of a handsome confident boy to protect himself from accusations. (YouTube) Watch Online
The Cain Complex Official Description: Mateo suffers from PTSD and is prone to hallucinations. He is alone when his home is invaded by four heavily-armed, masked men. With his wife and children due back within hours, this all makes for one hellish night of mental and physical combat. (YouTube) Watch Online
What is the first book in “The Revengist” series, Drug Wars Part 1: Lethal Dosage, about? Lethal Dosage is about detective Frank Malone, River City’s toughest and most violently over the top cop as he battles the most dangerous drug ever let loose on the streets. He takes on the mob with a series of partners until he gets face to face with the source of the poison. Tongue in cheek and full of insane action, Lethal Dosage is one part Dirty Harry and one part The Naked Gun but with a Canadian twist.
What inspired The Revengist? I was a big fan of a trash fiction website (Glorious Trash) that looks at the 70’s and 80’s men’s action/adventure book series like The Executioner, The Butcher, The Assassin, The Penetrator (!), etc. and from there started to pick up the more insane sounding ones at used book stores. Luckily they’re usually cheap and a gold mine of wtf moments. You had writers working with brutal deadlines and little oversight sneaking in some of the most bizarre moments; like one where the author had his character go off on a rant about a certain model Ford for having a faulty carburetor, or another having his character visit the Olive Garden and complain about the food. While lots of those books are garbage, you get some real gems and the schlocky nature fits my sensibilities perfectly. I’d been working on a screenplay about a younger Frank Malone from my movie The Killing Death and decided to switch it too a book series instead. It would be way cheaper that way. So The Revengist is basically an insane 80’s action movie full of one-liners and ludicrous moments like a team-up with a Robot Mountie, fusing ninjas, a gun armed Russian assassin, killer babies, you name it. Pierre Trudeau even makes a cameo! The series is set in 1981 with lots of era topical humor and a Cannon movie vibe.
The series is set in the same universe as my movies and films, so there’s some connections for anyone that’s dived into the whole thing, but you aren’t required to have any more knowledge if you just wanted to enjoy this pulpy thriller. If you always wanted to know what a hyper violent Naked Gun would be like, The Revengist is your answer.
We learned a bit about you, I. D. Russell, in our first book spotlight (Indie Book Spotlight: Heart of Stone), but please tell us a little bit more… I’m busy. I make movies, I write books, I put out YouTube content, I read, I practice martial arts, I’m a Dad, I’m a gamer, and I have way too much knowledge about retro pro-wrestling. I’ve always got something on the go and have loads more books and movies in the pipe. Stay tuned for some wild stuff! I grew up in the 80’s so I love that era of action movies, horror movies, comedies, etc. Everything I’m working on is mixing in bits of what I came up with, like The Monster Squad, Police Academy, Transformers, Night of the Creeps, The Naked Gun, kung fu movies, video games, and schlocky pulp books, etc. At some point, I hope people start to notice.
How can we read The Revengist Book 1: Drug Wars Part 1: Lethal Dosage? You can find the entire Revengist series on Amazon and my website:
Delivered is a crime thriller directed by and starring Michael Madison, one of the co-founders of Indie Rights Movies. From the movie’s IMDB: “Driven by a promise, fueled by revenge… the Mojave desert is the backdrop for this heartfelt story of betrayal and redemption. An eclectic collection of unique characters that include Japanese gangsters, an Italian proctologist, an Armenian art dealer and a hero with a very cool car set the stage for this modern crime thriller.”
Delivered co-stars Jeanette May Steiner and Toshi Toda, with Alana Stewart, Chic Daniel, Robert Rusler, and Ludwig Manukian. The movie is available to watch for free on YouTube.
Unlawful Justice from Chris Baxter is a crime film that tells a “story where everybody is breaking the law, but we not only fully understand why they are, we conclude that we would do the same thing if we were in their shoes.” Learn more from the movie’s writer/director in our movie spotlight of the film (The 5Ws and How: Unlawful Justice) and watch it online on Tubi TV.
Writer & director Chris Baxter talks to us about his independent film Unlawful Justice. Learn more about the crime drama, who was involved with making it, and how it all came together.
Who? The entire film had such a wonderful family feel. Our DP and producer were two of my roommates. Our editor/DIT and BTS photographer both crashed on our couch often and our lead actor was an acting friend from college. From there, everybody we had knew one or two people that were grips/gaffers/Ads, etc. We rounded off our crew with a couple of Facebook posts for some key positions. We held auditions at Cazt Studio in LA because it was free and it looked professional, but we all worked for far below minimum wage. It was a mix of finding people we have access to, feel comfortable working with, but also know what they’re doing.
Indie Rights released our film. About a year before that, we applied for the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship- which was way out of our league. We had a 35k budget for our film, yet the Fellowship’s winning films felt like they were twenty times that in budget. It was probably the equivalent of being one of the better basketball players at the local YMCA and saying one day “You know what, let me go try out for the Lakers.” We didn’t get it obviously. But, I stayed in touch with the director of the program and ended up joining her indie directors meet up. After a few months she connected me with Indie Rights who really enjoyed our film.
What? The story is about a LAPD officer who is financially struggling to support his family. Mainly his daughter whose medical expenses are piling up. When he asks his boss for a raise, he’s given the opportunity to meet an unspoken arrest quota, and if he does, he’ll get a bump in his salary. However, this goes against everything he stands for as a police officer and why he joined the force in the first place; to protect and serve the community.
Meanwhile, there’s a seventeen year old kid from inner city LA who has just been accepted to a prestigious college. However, he doesn’t have the financial means to attend. With the help of his friend, who is a local hustler, he starts selling dime bags of cocaine to raise enough money to make the tuition down payment. Despite never having even jaywalked, he makes significant progress but it’s not enough to cover the tuition expenses. He gets in way over his head and tries to make one final score that will pay for his full tuition. At the same time the Officer is looking for one huge bust that can get him his promotion. The two eventually collide, and only one comes out alive.
Where? We filmed all throughout Los Angeles. Parks, back alleys, and random neighborhoods. We didn’t have much of a budget so we cheated a lot of locations. The morgue, jail, trap house, and two different apartments, were all just at our house. Our PD was incredible and was constantly reconfiguring everything in our living room to make it look like a whole new location. The best compliment I got were various people who said they had no idea that it was all shot at one house and it looked like the production budget was ten times higher than it actually was.
We filmed a lot around LA without a permit. We drove around in a rented fake cop car. For once scene, the driver, who was one of our main actors (she was an incredible actor and so nice), but not the best driver- hah. To her credit, it’s probably insanely difficult to act and drive at the same time in actual LA traffic with roads you’re not familiar with. The DP and myself were squeezed into the backseat, no seat belt because it was a cop car, on hard plastic. Somehow we didn’t crash. It was the very first scene in the shooting schedule. I definitely said a few extra prayers that night and had a few ice packs on my back.
We also got kicked out of a few locations. Some we didn’t have permission to shoot at, some we did, some we talked our way back into. When making a movie on a limited budget like that you have to take what you can get and make the most of it. There’s constantly this balance between getting the best shots, but making sure you’re not endangering anybody… beside yourself, which you’ve already done because you choose the film industry as a career.
When? We shot the movie in late 2016. The editing process took about 6 months. Our editor was living on our couch and we were both working full time just to survive and we worked on the film in any free time we had. His computer kept crashing so half the time we spent just redoing what we had already edited but neither one of us had access to a better computer or even $20 to get one. From there, the coloring and audio process took about another 6 months. We had some heavy audio issues and we couldn’t seem to get the coloring down, but after about a year we decided to call it. They say a film is never done, you just decide to stop working on it. I had worked on the film for nearly two years for probably an average of 10 hours a day for over 500 days straight. I was just so burnt out and decided I was happy enough with what we had.
We had been submitting to festivals and got in nowhere. We were submitting with basically an assembly cut, which I thought would work because during the one film business class I took in college (it was the only one the school offered) the teacher explained how he got a movie into SXSW without a finished cut. However he forgot to mention that the director was a Sundance alum, the film had a major star in it, a budget that was 20x what ours was, and that an unfinished cut meant temp music and a small bit of coloring and audio polish needed to be done… not an assembly cut of a 35k film from a total nobody director.
I took a couple months off from the film because I was so exhausted, disappointed, and not happy with the final cut. I saved up all my money in that few months from working, then I went back with a new editor and came out with a cut I was really happy with and proud of. We applied to basically one festival, got in, won best picture, and then I said lets just go into distribution. The film was released in the spring of 2019. Right when Amazon slashed their pay rates to indie filmmakers. Another bump on our rollercoaster ride, but we’ve made the most of it and gotten a ton of positive reviews.
Why? I have this fundamental belief that almost everybody is a good person, but we do bad things because society forces us to make difficult decisions. I don’t think anybody is evil but we all do evil things, although usually we do them for a good reason. In Unlawful Justice, the police officer steps outside the boundaries of what he can legally do, but he thinks he’s doing it to protect the community and also so that he can get a raise to take care of his sick infant daughter. One of the main characters is a drug dealer, but he’s doing it because the school system failed him and he has no other options to support his family. Society has failed us. Our systems of policing, education, economics, and government have all failed us and it forces everyday people to constantly have to consider making immoral or unlawful decisions just to survive.
At the time, and still today, there were many stories of police brutality. There didn’t seem to be any answers and it seemed that people kept dying. There was this one unique case in the news where it felt that nobody did anything egregiously wrong, but it still led to this conflict between a police officer and a black individual. Thankfully nobody was killed, but it was still very problematic. It seemed that every news outlet was trying to paint one side as the victim and one as the criminal, and every news station was different. However, it seemed like it wasn’t either’s fault- it was just a horrible situation that was exacerbated by these systems we have, especially our system of policing.
So I thought about trying something extreme. Could we create a story where a black man kills a cop, but is in the right? Could we, in the same story, with that same cop, show him assault a black man, but the cop is also in the right? A story where everybody is breaking the law, but we not only fully understand why they are, we conclude that we would do the same thing if we were in their shoes. I hoped to accomplish in the movie that people would think about who their enemy really is a bit differently after they watched it. People aren’t our enemy. Our brother isn’t our enemy. The systems that plague us are. The system of policing. The system of systematic and institutionalized racism. The system of education that has failed us. Our political system which has led us astray. Our financial systems that have created poverty and marginalized communities. We’ve been pitted against each other, to keep our eyes off the real enemy.
How? We’re on TubiTV, Amazon Prime and IMDBTV, Apple TV, and Goggle Play. Thanks for checking out the film!