Richard Gabai is an actor turned Director and producer whose latest film--a western called "Justice" was released on September 15, 2017. The feature film was produced by Chasing Butterflies Pictures, Splash House Pictures, and Richard's own production company known as Check entertainment.

"Justice" is set in 1870 and tells the story of a U.S. Marshal who comes to a small desert town to investigate the murder of his brother, the local priest. He soon learns that an abandoned mine is being turned into a military stronghold by a corrupt mayor and his gang of thugs.

Richard is a self-proclaimed western fan, and he wanted to pay homage to the genre while still keeping the themes relevant to modern audiences. As an actor, Richard starred in many genre films that have since gone on to earn cult-status such as "Assault of the Party Nerds," "Virgin High," and “Vice Girls." In 1988, he founded Check Entertainment and had since produced many award-winning projects which have been distributed in theaters, on TV, and on digital.

Richard graduated from USC and currently lives in Los Angeles with his three children and wife. He recently discussed his career in entertainment, "Justice," and more via an exclusive interview.

Entertainment, acting and producing

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your passion for acting and how did you originally break into the competitive entertainment industry?

Richard Gabai (RG): I think a love for Movies that my Dad instilled in me was the start of it all. As a family, we would get together and watch films - classic, horror, musicals, and of course westerns. I did some theater as a kid and made a few movies with my brother and some neighborhood kids. I knew at an early age that making movies, acting, and playing music was in my DNA.

While I was studying in Journalism at USC, I started acting in student films, and as I graduated I got an agent and started auditioning. I was making a living pretty quickly as I booked a beer commercial almost right away. Great times in the early days; acting in movies, doing commercials, and playing all the clubs in L.A. with my band The Checks.

MM: When did you decide to try your hand at directing and producing?

RG: I had booked a job in an ultra-low budget movie called “Nightmare Sisters” directed by David Decoteau, and I asked him how much it cost to make the movie we were shooting. He told me it would cost 40K. Keep in mind this was back in the day, shot and finished on film. I thought to myself, “Hey if I can raise forty grand I can make and produce my own movie,” and that’s what I did. I raised 40K by getting 4K from ten different investors, then I spent a weekend in front of my typewriter (yes, a Smith Corona) and wrote what would become the now cult classic “Assault of The Party Nerds.”

MM: What prompted you to start Check Entertainment and was it difficult to get the company established?

RG: I was raised with a strong work ethic, and even though my rent was paid, and there was food in the fridge, sitting on the couch eating grapes waiting for my agent to call with an audition didn’t feel right to me. I wanted to do more, to work more, and to learn more. So, I conceived Check Entertainment in a very pragmatic way. It was going to be a business, and make products that would sell for more than I spent to make them. I live for the art, I love the creativity, but this is a business, and I’ve always treated it as such.

MM: What sorts of projects do you seek or does the company exclusively produce your work?

RG: We are always looking for interesting and entertaining material - and honestly it can be of any genre.

We’ve made family films, thrillers, pop-culture projects, dramas; you name it. I’m very open to looking at material - always hoping to find that project that takes us to the next level, or at least someplace we haven’t been before.

Movies, characters, and music

MM: Your latest feature film is called "Justice, " and it's a western. Have you been a fan of that genre for a long time and what do you consider some of the best films from it that influenced "Justice”?

RG: I have always been a fan of westerns. The classics like John Ford’s "The Searchers," Peckinpah’s "The Wild Bunch," Sergio Leone’s "A Fist Full of Dollars,” and many, many other movies influenced our work on "Justice." I’ve wanted to make a western since day one - so when I finally got the chance to shoot one, I had a long list of elements that I wanted to try and include.

MM: This movie is a period genre, essentially historical fiction, so how much more challenging was it to get the costumes, props, locations, etc., in place?

RG: Well, I was afraid of that, but all of my fears were laid to rest when I met the team of professionals I was blessed to work within Sante Fe New Mexico. When I was taken to Bonanza Creek Ranch which would serve as our primary location things got even better. Everything seemed to be fall right into place - my dear friend, and award-winning productions designer Dave Blass was wrapping his show Preacher at the ranch right before we started shooting and he was able to help us out as well. The wardrobe was perfect, the wranglers fantastic - it was all good!

Needed all the help I could get with only an eighteen-day shooting schedule.

MM: What are your favorite things about the plot and characters in “Justice”?

RG: One of the things about a western that’s so appealing to me is the escapism. It’s nothing like watching a movie that takes place right now in Los Angeles. The other side of that though is that you want the story to be meaningful and relevant. I think the writers of "Justice" nailed that - the themes are as relevant today as they were in 1870 right after the Civil War, especially in our current political climate.

MM: As an actor, what roles are you drawn to and what kind of character would be your dream project to portray?

RG: Acting is a passion when you love it, you love it, and I do.

I haven’t been as prolific as an actor these past few years, but I sense that is about to change. I’m excited about exploring more complex and interesting characters; I incline to accept acting roles unless I am busy with something else. As an actor, you can almost always find something compelling about a character, and when I get offers, I’m grateful and appreciate the break from some of the added stress that directing and producing can bring.

MM: How do you envision Check Entertainment growing over the next ten years and what other projects are you working on at the moment?

RG: We have several projects in development, but nothing I’d like to tag right now. As silly as that seems I am a bit superstitious, but I do see Check Entertainment continuing to grow and flourish in this ever-changing market.

Also, at that end of last year, I finished my new music album titled “Double Life.” I was lucky enough to befriend Cal Campbell, son of the legendary Glen Campbell, who offered to record and produce my album in his family’s studio. I played all of the guitars and vocals but was joined by some of the finest players in town with Rik Lawrence on Bass, Tom Walsh on drums, Patrick Ross on strings, Jim Wheeler on sax, and Stewart Brawley playing keyboards and doing the final mix. I’m proud of the music on this record which is now streaming on iTunes, Spotify, etc. and there is even an old-school CD version available through the music page on my website.