Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise.” It’s an accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it. That happens a great deal to me.

I had one of those experiences this past week. But I need to back up. I’ve been told I should turn my book “What About Wally?” into a movie. It’s a great idea and since I’m a writer I thought I’d explore what it takes to write a script. A quick trip to the library and two weeks in Mexico poolside, and I have screenwriting’s technical format down at least, if not story structure.

About a month ago it occurred to me that a weekend seminar must exist for filmmaking, this is Los Angeles after all, and I found Dov S-S Simens’ 2-Day Film School. I signed right up and promptly put it out of my mind.

Last week my friend Robert Rusler and I were chatting over coffee when the conversation turned to the movie he is making, “Black Asylum.” He’s a well-known actor in the horror genre for his roles in “Vamp,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” and “Sometimes They Come Back,” among others.

I started to ask him about the movie world, which is all abuzz with the new funding model that is proving to be so successful for people like Zach Braff on Kickstarter. Braff raised millions of dollars in a few days from the general public who want to see him succeed.

This new way of raising money is called “crowd funding” and it’s a great way for artists to find support for their ideas and projects. In my movie course this past weekend the professor, Dov, had also raised funds online and we discussed it in class.

This is entrepreneurial spunk at its finest. It is designed for people like Rusler who have a vision and take it directly to the marketplace to see what the reaction will be. Not everyone will have the support that Robert does, after all, he has the faith of Robert Downey Jr., who said, “Robert and I go way back. I can’t wait to see ‘Black Asylum’ come together.” The two were in “Weird Science” together and became great friends.

Rusler is well connected in the entertainment world. He did his first commercial with George Clooney for Pioneer CB radios. His Santa Monica-based Hollywood Playground acting school regularly has guest appearances by entertainment professionals such as Downey Jr., John Ortiz, Taylor Handley, Chad Lowe, Keith David, Josh Brolin, Alana Stewart, Scott Caan, Mike Binder, Stephen Gaghan and Matthew Perry, to name just a few.

The campaign for Rusler’s directorial debut opened Monday. He’s looking to raise over a million dollars, and with his connections to the horror world and the movie industry I expect he’ll make that easily. I’d love to see him reach $3 million and start a new franchise in the horror world. His artistic goal is to bring back the 1980s classic horror style for the fans.

Rusler says that “Black Asylum is a performance based horror movie, not a slasher, graphic blood and guts movie with unbelievable supernatural elements, but rather a window into the human condition and family dynamics that lead to dysfunctional people like murderers.”

I’m not a horror fan. I saw one when I was 16 and I was done. But in speaking with Rusler about the appeal of horror films, his eloquent exposition of how people can identify with the leads made me rethink the whole genre. He described the main characters like Jason from “Friday the 13th” (the only horror film I’ve ever seen) and Michael Meyers in “Halloween,” with such a compassionate heart, as people who never learned to love, that I was very moved.

So, where’s the serendipity? Dov’s film school this past weekend. One of the first things he said was, “take eight people to a warehouse and chop them up. It’s the ideal first feature film. It’s one location, and horror movies have a great track record as money makers.” I spent the weekend listening to Dov teach me how to make a movie. I spent last week talking to Rusler about his experience making movies for the past 30 years.

It’s been fun learning about the movie industry and I don’t know if I’ll be a filmmaker, but I know Robert Rusler is, and you can help him make his directorial debut by going to and donating.



David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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