LOS ANGELES – He may have brought to life one of the most successful, action-driven television shows in small screen history, but “24” co-creator Joel Surnow ditched the Hollywood money game to make his first feature film “Small Time.”
“I made the movie on my own so it was a very comfortable process. I raised the money, so the good news is that we had complete autonomy to make the movie we wanted to make. The bad news is that we didn’t have a whole lot of money to make it,” Surnow told FOX411 of his directorial debut. “But I have worked with so many wonderful people over the years that most of my key department heads, production designer and editor were composed of people that decided to defer most of the salary to help make the movie, so it was wonderful in that way.”
After six “24” seasons of cutting through Hollywood red tape, Surnow was done.
“I really wanted at that point to be my own boss, it would be hard to go back now into the system of dealing with multiple executives, where each decision has to be run by five or six people,” he said. “It is not that you can’t end up with a fine product that way, it is just more work and more corporate.”
And the film Surnow wanted to make was one quite different from the counter-terrorist, weapon-wielding themes he was known for in the past. Rather, the Bridget Moynahan and Christopher Meloni-starring “Small Time” centers on a young guy who decides to skip college in favor of joining his father on the lot of his used-car business. It also hits very close to home, with much of the story line loosely based on his own life.
“’Small Time’ is a little unusual in that I wrote the script in 1976, the summer I graduated from UCLA film school. It was about my father, who was a salesman, and his business partner, who were living in LA. The story was generated from the spirit of that world. I sort of put it in the drawer for 30 years, I never thought I would be able to make this movie,” he explained, adding that despite his “cop” screenwriting credits, the simple, dramatic tone of his directorial debut reflects his real roots.
“I was just by happenstance that I ended up in television and on ‘Miami Vice’ in 1984, and from that moment on, I was a cop show writer. I had no interest in cop shows, so the real surprise was that I ended up having a successful career being a crime writer,” Surnow continued. “Now I’m going back to the projects and the things that have a little more of my voice as opposed to genre television… Telling a real story about real people.”
Surnow said he has no plans to venture back into episodic television, and after the intense controversy surrounding “The Kennedys,” the 2011 mini-series he produced which was dumped by the History Channel for its “unflattering” portrayal of the former President and later picked up by the Reelz Channel, he is also steering clear of Capitol Hill plot lines.
“My political days are gone,” Surnow added. “I’ve become agnostic.”
“Small Time” opens in theatres and VOD on April 18, 2014
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Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay