July 16, 2018

UAT faculty and students collaborate with Hollywood players for action film “Mitch Rapp: Off Book”

Professor Paul DeNigris, Program Champion for Digital Video at University of Advancing Technology, was recently recruited by Hollywood actor and fitness model Andy McDermott (Hawaii 5-0, Sons of Anarchy) to produce a short film based on Vince Flynn’s bestselling novels about All-American counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp. McDermott, a long-time fan of the 15-book (and growing) series, was disappointed to learn that CBS Films had cast teen heartthrob Dylan O’Brien as the hardboiled hero for their upcoming feature film adaptation of American Assassin, and he wanted to put his own stamp on what he described as his “dream role” before O’Brien’s version hit the big screen.

Andy McDermott as Mitch Rapp

Andy McDermott as Mitch Rapp

McDermott had previously worked on DeNigris’ Iraq War film “Parallax” before moving to Los Angeles, and knew what the veteran filmmaker and his crew of students at UAT could produce on a limited budget. DeNigris called on his writing and producing partner Steve Briscoe and the two of them wrote a 15-page original script inspired by Flynn’s work but not taking specific scenes from any of the books. In the film Rapp butts heads with a bureaucrat (a staple of the novels) over a mission to rescue one of Rapp’s Orion Team members whose infiltration of a Russian terrorist organization in league with ISIL has gone south.

Mitch vs Vladimir

Mitch Rapp (Andy McDermott) faces Vladimir (Richard O. Ryan) on the roof of the terrorist lair

But the story is just an excuse for a rollercoaster ride of action as Rapp and his injured teammate battle waves of bad guys from the basement to the roof of the terrorists’ lair. DeNigris, a self-professed Marvel fan, took dead aim at Daredevil for inspiration in the action. For maximum impact they recruited martial artist, law enforcement trainer, and stunt choreographer Richard O. Ryan to design the action beats.

Dragovich and Riaz

Steve Briscoe as terror mastermind Dragovich and Ayman Samman as undercover CIA operative Riaz

Joining the production as Rapp’s tortured teammate was Ayman Samman, who had a notable turn as a terrorist sympathizer in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper and had previously worked with DeNigris and the UAT students on “Parallax,” “Red Sand,” and “Toppled.” The production team also brought on board iconic actor James Morrison of 24 and Space: Above and Beyond to portray Charles Neimier, the antagonistic bureaucrat with whom Rapp butts heads.

James Morrison as Neimier 2

James Morrison as State Department bureaucrat Charles Neimier

UAT Digital Video students comprised virtually the entirety of the crew, from seniors who took top creative positions to freshman filling production assistant roles in their first time on set. Even alumni who graduated long ago contributed to the effort to make the film, with Hollywood VFX pros Rick Ravenell and William Reges lending a hand in postproduction.

Student Jordan Wippell served as cinematographer for the film

Student Jordan Wippell served as cinematographer for the film

“Mitch Rapp: Off Book” premieres on YouTube on March 6, 2017 at 10 am PST.

Here’s the trailer!

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