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How The Rogue Warfare Team Shot All Three Movies At Once - Exclusive

In the Rogue Warfare trilogy, the elite team of soldiers head into dangerous missions against terrorist operatives, often at the directive of the President of the United States, played by Stephen Lang. The ensemble cast — which also includes Will Yun Lee, Jermaine Love, Rory Markham, and Katie Keene — took their direction from veteran stunt performer Mike Gunther, whose scrappy production house created the entire Rogue Warfare film series. 

Gunther's 5150 Productions crew made the trilogy on a shoestring budget, in stark contrast with the Fast and Furious, Bad Boys, and Transformers franchises through which the director and his pals racked-up their credits. To make the most of their incredibly modest resources, Gunther and writer-producer Andrew DeCesare shot all three Rogue Warfare movies back-to-back.

They endured the hot California desert, which doubled as the war-torn Middle East for the films, and a fast-paced shooting schedule to get the job done. All the blood, sweat, and tears resulted in the runaway streaming hits Rogue Warfare and Rogue Warfare: The Hunt, as well as the final entry, Rogue Warfare: Death of a Nation, which debuts today — September 25, 2020. 

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Gunther and DeCesare discussed the challenges involved with completing the Rogue Warfare trilogy. 

Making the Rogue Warfare trilogy was 'kind of like speed chess'

Even with their experience working on huge Hollywood movies, Gunther and DeCesare were candid about the realities of low-budget filmmaking

"Let's just be honest: When you have no money, you have to kind of reverse-engineer how to get something off the ground," Gunther confessed. "Andrew and I got into a room and said, 'Hey man, if there's a way to do it, let's figure out a way to do it.' I think you've kind of got to wear both hats at the same time because you're limited with money, but you still want to be creative and do something authentic. I think that was our biggest challenge." 

It was all about preparation. The 5150 Productions team began the production with a set schedule in place and worked hard to deviate from it as little as possible. The filmmakers had to be as precise as the characters in their stories. 

"Once we laid the roadmap of how we were going to do it, we just were so prepared when we started shooting. We knew we just couldn't get off of that map," Gunther explained. "It was kind of like speed chess: time is running, we've got to move. And we didn't have enough money to negotiate or have it bail us out of problems. We were like, 'This is our game plan. We're climbing to the top of this mountain, and that's it, guys. We're going.'"

He added, "There was no rethinking it because of a tough day or something."

The two locations that housed every single scene across the trilogy

Gunther, DeCesare, and their friend Michael Day collaborated on all three Rogue Warfare scripts, which began with a much grander ambition than what would prove to be practical. 

"I remember the first draft was this sick, $10 million feature that was just going to be amazing," DeCesare said with a laugh. "After we went through the process of getting cast attached and doing pre-sales at the different film festivals with our sales agent, it just wasn't realistic. It wasn't in the cards. They were like, 'Listen, you guys are going to get, like, $750,000 for the actual production budget of this.'" 

Undeterred, the trio picked through the earlier drafts to make it all work within the financial restrictions. "We went back into the room in our office, sat down, and rewrote it specifically — shot by shot, scene by scene," DeCesare said. 

They "took the entire trilogy apart" until they reached a point where just two locations could house every single scene in all three scripts: the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita, California, and the Polsa Rosa Ranch, in Acton, California. Not unlike the Middle East-set action in the Rogue Warfare trilogy, Blue Cloud was used to create a village in Iron Man and was the site of a propaganda video in Iron Man 3 (via MovieMaps). The Polsa Rosa Ranch has hosted huge blockbusters over the years as well, including Titanic, The Hangover, and 2009's Fast & Furious.

"There were so many layers of challenges [that] before [we] even got to the starting gate, it felt like we'd already made three movies," DeCesare said. "We've done huge movies with directors who had no way to fail. They have every toy at their disposal, the best Academy Award-winning costumes. With us, it's [the three of us] sitting in a room at midnight, trying to figure it out — 'Okay, what can we splurge to get the camera car for one day?'" 

He concluded, "From the producer side, we tried to give Mike as many tools as possible. At the end of the day, we still came in — I think we wrapped four hours early on day 45. And it was insane." 

Rogue Warfare and Rogue Warfare: The Hunt are both available to stream on Netflix. The third installment in the trilogy, Rogue Warfare: Death of a Nation, debuts today — September 25, 2020.