Film to be shot in Warren pulls inspiration from drug bust

Hollywood stuntman T.J. White will come to Warren later this year to film “Angel,” a movie based on the true story of a drug bust in Trumbull County about a decade ago.

White is a native of Middlefield and a graduate of Cardinal High School. He has been a stuntman, stunt coordinator and actor in Hollywood for more than 20 years. His impressively long list of film credits includes “Three Kings” (1999), “Eight Mile” (2002) and “Live Free Or Die Hard” (2007).

White has been branching out into directing and film production in recent years, and he wanted to film “Angel” in Warren because, as he put it, “the city is a character in the film.” He also was able to take advantage of the state’s tax credit for films.

Shooting is scheduled to begin in the fall or winter, in order to take advantage of the city’s ominous gray-sky look, integral to the film.

White has been involved in every aspect of the film, beginning with the development of the script.

“Angel” is about a young man named Jimmy who was detained in the bust, which snared about a hundred people. Although he was never charged, Jimmy was no angel. He was a drug dealer, but one with an angel on his shoulder that always kept him clear of trouble.

After the bust, thugs put a hit out on Jimmy, because they thought he ratted them out. But Jimmy survives, changes his life on the advice of a fellow inmate, and, ultimately, finds redemption.

In a phone call from his Southern California home last week, White said there is a real-life Jimmy, although his name was changed for the script. “Jimmy” was involved in the writing process to tell his story.

The FBI, ATF and local law enforcement teamed up for the Warren drug bust, which was part of Operation Evergreen. White said he stuck to the true story as much as possible in developing the script, although names were changed and some characters are composites of several real people.

“Jimmy always wanted to prove to his grandfather that he was a man and that he could handle his own,” said White. “He thought he would gain respect this way. It hurt him when his grandfather died because he was his only father figure. Jimmy then got involved with a girl whose family was white-collar but into drug sales big-time.”

The film, as White envisions it, will be a little bit “Goodfellas” and a little bit “Eight Mile.”

“It’s kind of an inspiring story,” he said. “It’s not aimed at the faith-based, but it will be attractive to them. We’re aiming toward a mainstream audience, but not in a Hallmark kind of way.”

White is now in the process of securing financing and meeting with actors.

“Angel,” which will have a budget under $5 million, will be White’s third as a director-producer.

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