It started with a $325,000 Indiegogo fundraising campaign to make a military comedy movie about some guys trying to save the world.
There was also a YouTube video shot at Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery with one guy getting killed with a cucumber, veterans making fun of Hollywood’s cliché slow-motion salutes and appearances by two Medal of Honor Winners and one B movie actor and writer.
It’s turned into a movie with a more than $1.5 million budget, which means more, bigger explosions, lots of zombies and a cast that includes Jim O’Heir (“Parks and Recreation”), Barry Bostwick (“Spin City,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) and Steve Howey (“Shameless”).
And the list is still building, said Nick Palmisciano of Chapel Hill, one of two managing partners for the movie. He also helped write the film and will be an actor and a producer.
Palmisciano, 38, is also president of the Durham-based Ranger Up, a military apparel company that has gone from selling T-shirts in an apartment to a business set to bring in about $9 million in revenue this year. Ranger Up also puts out patriotic-centric blogs, videos and cartoons on a standalone website, the Rhino Den.
The movie, dubbed “Range 15” is a project of Ranger Up and Article 15, an El Paso, Texas company. Each company put up $250,000 for the movie before launching the campaign.
Palmisciano gave Article 15’s owners advice nearly two years ago on launching an apparel side of a business that initially centered on YouTube videos and other creative content.
Ever since, he said, the two companies have been looking for a joint project.
Other movie stakeholders include Medal of Honor recipients retired U.S. Army Sgt. Leroy Petry and former Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, also known as Bristol Palin’s ex-fiance.
Tim Kennedy, a Green Beret sniper and a professional mixed martial artist, is also a stakeholder in the project.
Ross Patterson will direct the movie. Patterson directed and wrote “Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves,” and starred in “$50K and a Call Girl: A Love Story” and “Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury.”
The movie will be filmed in Hollywood this fall and released next year.
The ongoing Indiegogo campaign was launched in March and has raised nearly $900,000 from about 8,000 donors.
People can continue to donate through January, when the movie trailer will be released at the Shot Show in Las Vegas, one of the largest shooting, hunting and outdoor trade shows in the world.
The strength of the Indiegogo campaign evolved into corporate sponsorships of more $500,000, Palmisciano said.
Mark Gross, chief executive officer of the Raleigh-based Oak Grove Technologies, put up some of that money. Oak Grove Technologies is a federal government contractor that provides training to the special operations community.
While Gross thought the idea was “a little crazy” he was immediately on board.
“I think it is going to be amazing,” said Gross, 48, of Raleigh. “I can’t wait to see it.”
Palmisciano described the fundraising explosion as “insane.”
“We essentially have the freedom to do anything that we want now,” he said.
The funding has also given filmmakers more control over the final product and the release of the film, Palmisciano said.
Patterson, 38, who splits his time between Wilmington and Los Angeles, said it has been one of the most fun projects in his career.
“How often do you get to make a movie with actual American heroes instead of fake ones?” Patterson said.