Can a Famous Name Launch a Film Career?

Jacob Gentry and Alex Motlagh are two 20-something filmmakers from Atlanta you've never heard of, but their first feature film, The Last Goodbye, could change that.

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The film's greatest special effect maybe a marketing idea that went on behind the scenes. It's grabbing attention in Hollywood and giving Gentry and Motlagh their big break.

Until now, the novice filmmakers have made a handful of short films, some for as little as $40. So when Gentry wrote the screenplay for The Last Goodbye, he and Motlagh planned on using friends and family as cast and crew, scraping together pennies to pay for it.

"We had a little bit more money than we usually have, which is none," Motlagh said.

In fact, the duo set up their production office at the only place they could afford, a neighborhood bar.

Meanwhile, 2,000 miles away in Los Angeles, Cassandra Gava, a Hollywood producer was looking for her next project, had an idea. Her idea soon changed the future of Gentry and Motlagh's little film. The idea? Nepotism.

While the filmmakers were prepared to operate on their usual shoestring budget, Gava had something bigger, more expensive — more Hollywood — in mind.

A ‘Big-Name’ Cast

So, rather than relying on a cast of Gentry and Motlagh's friends, Gava thought she'd play on her Hollywood connections and look for some actors with name recognition.

Here are some of the cast of The Last Goodbye: Liam O'Neill, son of Faye Dunaway; Clementine Ford, daughter of Cybill Shepherd; Kansas Carradine, daughter of David Carradine; and Alex Quinn, son of Anthony Quinn.

Dunaway, who won an Oscar for the movie Network, has had her share of success and knows that it often takes a clever ploy to get a break in Tinseltown.

"This film happened to all of these kids because of a kind of interesting conceit of the producer, you know, which was actually a rather good idea," she said.

When Gava, an old friend, offered a part to her 23-year-old son, Neill, Dunaway took part in the cast, too, as did actor David Carradine, who joined in with his 25-year-old daughter, Kansas.

In the end, eight kids related to Hollywood icons made their way into this slick 93-minute film, which captures the intersecting lives of a rock star, a TV actress and a teenage runaway.

But Gentry and Motlagh were skeptical of Gava's idea at first.

"We didn't want anyone to get a part because of who they were," Motlagh said.

But that skepticism soon faded away when they noticed that doors were swinging opening … restaurants offering free meals, airlines free plane tickets and, most importantly, new investors who were keen on Hollywood stars.

With Dunaway and other big names attached, Gentry and Motlagh's small movie had grown into a full-blown feature with nearly a million-dollar budget and a name-brand cast.

Yet, the novice filmmakers weren't the only ones cashing in on a good deal. For Clementine Ford it was a long awaited break — a lead role.

"I think it's probably helped me get into the door," she said. "Obviously on this film, it's probably not a coincidence, you know, that we have this one thing in common. One big thing in common."

Liam O'Neill, who had never taken an acting class before this film, said his famous connection certainly helped.

The cast of The Last Goodbye may speak candidly about how their family names helped them out, but other Hollywood kids can be a bit defensive about their famous relations, like actress Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn.

"She's my mom, you know. She's not an acting mentor. We don't sit around and talk about the craft," Hudson said.

Tom Hanks' son Colin also downplays the family influence. He said, "Following in the footsteps or torch bearing — I think it's rubbish."

Using a Name to Get a Foot in the Door

But Dunaway and Cybill Shepherd are happy to pass on the torch. Shepherd, whose credits include movies like The Last Picture Show and hit TV shows like Moonlighting, is quick to lend her name to help 23-year-old Ford.

Shepherd recently turned out for an early screening of The Last Goodbye, along with Faye Dunaway and Andy Garcia, whose daughter Dominique appears in the film, and cult figure Harry Dean Stanton, whose niece and nephew have roles, too.

"Nepotism is a good thing," Shepherd said. "It didn't hurt Liza Minnelli. You know? [It] doesn't hurt to have someone help you out. It's a tough business."

Dunaway agreed. "It may get them into a door for a meeting, or an audition, because they're curious about Faye Dunaway's son, but you know, I mean I say we can crack the door open, but they have to kick it down."

Maybe it's bound to happen. Raised around the family business, these actors have been learning the craft since they were in diapers.

Still, with all the benefits of the early exposure, these Hollywood kids insist there is a downside.

"I'm still going up against those early auditions that I got solely based on the fact that my mom was Cybil Shepherd," Ford said. "And I went on and just tanked. And people still remember that. And it's been six years."

Gentry and Motlagh say it may be a little uncomfortable to become known as "the guys who made a movie with famous people's kids." But, Gentry said, "at the end of the day, if that gets them to see the movie, that's fine."