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Filmmaker Malik Bader and the Making of “Cash Only”

IMG_1503In just one month with a budget barely big enough to make a music video, Malik Bader directed a film about an Albanian slum-lord in Detroit called “Cash Only.”

A Chicago native, Bader was working on a teen film in Los Angeles when he got an email from Nickola Shreli, an Albanian actor from Detroit. That e-mail contained the script that would later become “Cash Only.”

“I’m making this teen film, and I’m editing it; I’m miserable in L.A.,” Bader said. “I’ve been away from Chicago for nine months, and I get that email and I ignore it.”

But eventually Bader suggested Shreli come by the set after the teen movie re-shoots were completed.

“So here comes this guy in a drop-top baby blue Mercedes with a terry-cloth track suit,” Bader said.

“He looked like he came out of a movie, but that’s how he is in L.A. He rolls up on the set, lies to the security guy because we’re shooting on a street that’s locked down, he’s like, ‘Yo I’m with the director, bro. He told me to drive up!’ he then drives into the shoot.”

After first backing up Shreli’s car, Bader met with him and ripped the script apart – figuratively, of course. After that session Bader figured he would never hear from Shreli again. When Shreli contacted Bader later with a new script, Bader was impressed and decided to workshop the piece with him.

Most movies take up to a year to get completed and sent out. But the “Cash Only” team was able to hire a crew at a discounted rate for only a month in Detroit. This meant the shoots and editing had to be done within a month. After two weeks of shoots and editing, then some more time for re-shoots, they had no choice to but to shut everything down and hope it was enough.

“C’est la vie, we sent it out and crossed our fingers and it worked out,” Bader said.

It did work out; the film has had a great festival run so far.  After the Fantasia Film Festival in August, the Hollywood Reporter called it, “An in-too-deep crime picture whose Detroit setting is secondary to the insular community of Albanian immigrants struggling to make a go of things there.”

The Reporter went on to describe the film as “one of the more convincingly gritty indies to hit fests in several seasons.”

Bader, whose film was screened at the Chicago International Film Festival, spoke at Columbia College Chicago last month. He is working on a film re-make he cannot discuss though he did offer some hints:

“A big Asian remake, which I can’t mention now because it’s under wraps, for THE biggest new studio in Hollywood,” Bader let on. He went on to say the producer of the new film made “Dark Knight,” “Inception” and “Hangover.”

Bader’s earlier films are “Street Thief” (2006) and “Crush” (2013).

As for his own story, Bader went to Bogan High School and Whitney Young High School in Chicago. He started living on his own at 16, supporting himself by selling mix tapes, vinyls and promoting parties.

Bader attributes his success to connections and luck.

“I didn’t hear [this sort of advice] when I was of the age; nobody ever said to me ‘Put your money where your mouth is,’” Bader said.

“It’s always like ‘Yeah, you know, it’ll happen. Hard work.’ No it will not happen with hard work, you gotta figure out a **** way.”

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