Hollywood veteran launches dream with "Sex Tax"

Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:25pm EDT
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By Alex Ben Block

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When writer-producer David Landsberg invited friends to join industry executives for a recent screening of the low-budget, high-concept comedy "Sex Tax," his pitch wasn't just come to see the film but also to celebrate his life.

"What I told everybody is, 'Don't come to my funeral. Don't come see me when I'm dead,'" Landsberg recalled. "'Come when I'm alive, when I'm doing something, not when I'm a little box of ashes.'"

It was pure Landsberg. After 35 years in Hollywood as a commercials and TV actor before moving behind the camera as producer and writer on "Herman's Head," "The Cosby Show," "Love Boat" and other series, Landsberg suffered several heart attacks -- a life-changing experience.

"As a writer, I had been Tony Thomas' voice, Aaron Spelling's voice, Dudley Moore's voice, but I had never been mine," he said. "After the illness, I decided it was time to put myself out there, my own plays, my own writing, my own movies. I decided to spend the money this industry has allowed me to attain on my own projects."

After doing a TV series pilot that didn't sell and several plays in his friend Garry Marshall's Falcon Theater in Burbank, Landsberg decided when he turned 65 last fall that it was time to make a movie. He pulled out a script he had been working on for five years, a fictional take on the true story of a short period in 1999 when the IRS took over a Nevada brothel.

In real life, the feds quickly sold the operation. In "Sex Tax," an IRS auditor goes there to run the whorehouse, and it changes his life.

Landsberg spent $50,000 to convert his ranch-style home and guesthouse in North Hollywood into a movie studio, complete with state-of-the-art digital technology. Then he put up $350,000 more to shoot in HD with a team of energetic newcomers including director John Borges and editor Sean McPherson, along with industry vets seeking a comeback including director of photography Mark Woods and casting director Fern Champion.

"I didn't give people jobs," Landsberg said. "I gave people opportunities. I said, 'If you have a dream, come with me. I'll help make your dream come true, and while I'm doing that, you will help make my dream come true.'"   Continued...