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McMillion$: Filmmakers James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte on their new six-part HBO doc series uncovering fraud behind the McDonald’s Monopoly game

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The Cinematography Podcast Episode 64: McMillion$ filmmakers James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte

McDonald’s Monopoly Game ran from 1989-2001, netting $24 million in cash and prizes for the winners. But the biggest prize “winners” were actually all part of a crime ring recruited by a mysterious figure called “Uncle Jerry” to cheat the game. Most of the people involved in the conspiracy were not career criminals- in fact, they were relatives, friends and acquaintances of the core group of cons. Filmmakers James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte remembered the McDonald’s game, and when James first heard about the story in 2012, he made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FBI to get more information. Some FBI officials were extremely interested in participating in the documentary to tell their story, particularly agent Doug Mathews, who is a charismatic personality in the series. He dug into the investigation a few months after getting a tip that the McDonald’s Monopoly game was rigged. Once James and Brian had the FBI on board, they teamed up with Unrealistic Ideas, a new production company founded by Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson and Archie Gips, who then took the story to HBO. It still took a year to complete the documentary once HBO got involved- the story involves a large and quirky cast of real characters. Both Brian and James have an editing background and found a talented editor to help create the tone to keep it fun, engaging and not too dark.

McMillion$ is a six-part documentary series currently airing on HBO.

James Lee Hernandez: @iamthejlh

Brian Lazarte: @blazarte

Listen to The McMillion$ Podcast

Episode Sponsors:

Hot Rod Cameras

Aputure: Aputure makes LED lighting products and accessories. Follow Aputure on social media, and check out their YouTube channel and podcast, IndyMogul. The current episode features an interview with Illya Friedman himself!

You can buy Aputure products at Hot Rod Cameras.

Close Focus: The play Hamilton will be made into a movie; the issues of transforming a play into a movie, especially with musical theater.

Ben’s short end: The Lumière Brothers, known as two of the earliest filmmakers in history, made an 1895 short “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.” Denis Shiryaev has used artificial intelligence to upscale the film into a smooth 60 frames per second 4K short, available on his YouTube channel. They Shall Not Grow Old, the recent WWI short films restored by Peter Jackson, has used some of the same technology.

Illya’s short end: The Matrix 4 will be coming out.

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Instagram: @thecinepod

Twitter: @ShortEndz

Podcast Credits:

Editor in Chief:  Illya Friedman
@hotrodcameras instagram
@illyafriedman instagram

Ben Rock:  @neptunesalad twitter
@bejamin_rock instagram

Producer: Alana Kode

Editor: Ben Katz
Composer: Kays Alatractchi

Subscribe to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts or click on the link below to listen here

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