An attempt to make a right-wing superhero movie has ended in disaster, with $1 million missing in China and a participant facing a federal indictment.
“I wouldn’t count on us getting the money back,” Theodore Beale, a far-right blogger known as “Vox Day,” admitted to his fans and investors in a video last week.
This isn’t how Beale’s followers thought their investments would go in 2019 when they started contributing to fund a film based on a Confederacy-themed superhero comic book character created by Beale. A trailer promoting the proposed movie, Rebel’s Run, featured the character Rebel fighting a global police force hunting down freethinking conservatives.
Frequent Tucker Carlson collaborator Scooter Downey signed on to direct. Beale’s supporters rapidly blew past an initial $750,000 funding goal, ultimately raising more than $1 million.
That money was supposed to be held in escrow to secure several million more dollars in funding. Three years later, though, the cash is gone, and with it Beale’s hopes for a movie.
The Rebel’s Run collapse stands as a cautionary tale for conservatives who dream of seeing their ideas turned into films, and comes as right-wing media outlets increasingly dabble in motion pictures. Commentator Ben Shapiro’s company has a streaming website that offers movies with a conservative tinge, including a thriller about a school shooting and a western starring “canceled” actress Gina Carano. Earlier this year, Breitbart News distributed a Hunter Biden biopic. But Rebel’s Run collapse stands as a cautionary tale for conservatives showing that the jump to movies isn’t a risk-free endeavor.
There was reason to think Beale and his fans could realize their dream of going from comic books to cinema, if only through sheer fanaticism. His devoted followers call him the “Supreme Dark Lord of the Evil Legion of Evil,” and describe themselves as his “minions.” Beale’s supporters, who frequently complain about supposed progressive “social justice warrior” influence creeping into fields like video games and science fiction, had already funded a handful of comic book issues and stirred up a controversy at science fiction’s premiere awards.
Beale’s history of racism could have made it difficult for Rebel’s Run, which stars a character sometimes depicted in a Confederate flag bustier, to find traditional financing. He has claimed that certain races are more likely to commit violence and called one of his foes in the science-fiction dispute, a Black author, a “half-savage.” Beale has affiliated himself with the Gamergate movement, opposes women’s suffrage, and once described homosexuality as a “birth defect.”
Given that track record, he instead turned to Utah-based Ohana Capital Financial, a business aimed at customers that would struggle to get money elsewhere.
As Ohana’s promotional materials put it, according to prosecutors, the firm offered “banking [to] the unbankable.” On Nov. 5, 2020, Beale transferred the $1 million to Ohana to be held in escrow in advance of future film funding.
Ohana was the creation of James Wolfgramm, a self-described cryptocurrency billionaire who posted pictures of sports cars that supposedly belonged to him on social media. But in fact, according to a federal indictment filed last month, Wolfgramm’s wealth was a sham. The sports car pictures, for example, were pulled from other websites. Wolfgramm’s business also sold what were billed as high-tech cryptocurrency mining rigs—but those too were a hoax, according to prosecutors, with their screens just running on a loop to create the illusion of mines.
Unbeknownst to Beale and his supporters, the indictment alleges, Wolfgramm was deeply in debt to one of his business’s other clients. That client had paid Ohana more than $4 million in September 2020, several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of what was meant to be a payment to a Chinese manufacturer of personal protective equipment. Instead of carrying out the transaction, prosecutors allege, Wolfgramm spent the millions on his own unrelated business issues.
Now seven figures in the hole and with no PPE to show for it, Wolfgramm allegedly used the Rebel’s Run money to buy the Chinese medical equipment. Soon after that, according to a video Beale released to his fans, the blogger and his collaborators became suspicious and contacted the FBI, sparking the investigation into Wolfgramm.
Wolfgramm’s attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment. Beale declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Wolfgramm now faces four counts of wire fraud over the Rebel’s Run money and other aspects of his business. While the film’s investors might someday recoup a portion of their money through the legal system, Beale has given up on funding his superhero movie.
Beale claims, without evidence, that the alleged con was carried out to disrupt his right-wing fanbase.
“I strongly suspect that this whole thing was a targeted operation intended to break our community,” Beale said in the video he published last week.
Beale isn’t done with movies yet, though. In a video to his fans, he told them he’s working on a script starring his friend, antisemitic former comedian Owen Benjamin. In this new movie, Beale plans to cast Benjamin—who believes the moon landing was faked—as the head of NASA.