Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Dream Come True Film Maker, 34, Grew Up Watching TV Westerns

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Dream Come True Film Maker, 34, Grew Up Watching TV Westerns

Article excerpt

IT'S not likely that P.J. Pesce will forget his first big directorial assignment: the Western "The Desperate Trail."

Pesce would tell you the word "desperate" aptly fit this project.

The hectic 27-day shooting schedule, coupled with 120-degree temperatures on location in New Mexico, just about did in the young film maker.

"The entire time I felt like my skin was on fire and I was being nipped at by 50 dogs," Pesce said. "I was so beaten and exhausted. After we finished, I went home to Miami where my parents live for 10 days. I had trauma nightmares. I was like some crazed Vietnam vet in a bad 1970s movie."

The fact that "Desperate Trail" was his "baby" probably made Pesce even more edgy. In a way, the movie was the culmination of a dream for him.

While growing up in Florida, Pesce watched a lot of Western films on television.

"I guess I have seen `The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' 20 times," the 34-year-old Pesce said.

Pesce went on to study screenwriting, editing and acting and was a pupil of directors Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma. Pesce directed a short film, "The Afterlife of Grandpa," which earned him the Special Grand Jury Award at the Houston International Film Festival and the Young Filmmaker of the Year award at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Meanwhile, his desire to make a Western never waned.

"I approached a producer about wanting to make one," Pesce said. "At the time, not many Westerns were being made. This was before `Unforgiven.'

"I started writing the script in 1992 and finished the first draft in about seven weeks. We turned it in and they hated it. The lead character was from back East and was something of a wimp so they said he wasn't heroic enough.

"They gave us a chance to re-write, which we did - 16 times."

Finally "The Desperate Trail" became a reality. During the first day of shooting TNT expressed interest in becoming involved with the project.

"They offered us an extra $500,000 and three more days of shooting," Pesce said. "If it had been Satan himself, I would have said where's the pen to sign.

"We had to blow off the original production company and ended up having to pay them off with $100,000. …

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