“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ― Sun Tzu

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Deceleration Into Life From Set Life –

Some of the amazing extras who helped tell our story “Silent Night in Algona”

I’m sitting in MY chair with a hot cup of hazelnut coffee. Outside is my first Michigan snow. For me if it’s going to be cloudy and overcast, give me snow. It’s pretty and brightens everything a tad. Now I know I have friends here from VERY warm places that don’t get snow. Now snow is quite magical and that first one always brings thoughts of those days as a kid and will various pets that made that so special. Catching snowflakes, snowball fights, snow angel and sledding. I have a few stories of drunken skiing with my cousin Jerry including one epic fence-destroying trip to one of the small ski mountains. The key to snow is being prepared. This means layers and layers and mind the gaps. -By that I mean where pant legs and boots meet. Where coat sleeves and gloves meet. Where neck might be exposed and of course a solid winter hat. We learn that as a young child from bus stop stays. This continued to elementary school recess that was always an outdoor adventure of ‘king of the mountain,’ snowball wars and snowy football games. In our secluded ‘Lord of the Flies’ neighborhood even more snow games were abound. Sledding was legendary that included a few ramps/jumps that would make Evel Knievel smiles with pride. The afterglow of our cold adventure was a round of hot chocolate, marshmallows optional. At night the even more fun and dangerous snow mobile pull of the sled around the plowed fields nearby. Kind of like being pulled on a tube behind a boat but the bumps and trees made for quite the challenge. I recall at least one time staying too long in the frigid and having to run my hands under warm water, the ache returning with feeling. I hope for my friends living in the no-snow zones I painted a little picture of living with frozen water.

One of the wonderful farms we filmed on – note the sky.

In Algona while filming “Silent Night in Algona” #SNIAthemovie we saw our actual first snowfall. Iowa and Michigan are alike in many ways but have their differences. We seem to have more variation in our landscapes where Iowa has lots of corn. To their credit I did see some hilly places and the sky there was just amazing. Maybe it is the less pollution or any number of factors but our location photos and our film itself captured these many awesome skies.

This project was ambitious as most of the #tribecdi projects are. I believe you have to reach to grow and so we often pick projects with various elements not easily obtained in independent films. Or with independent budgets might be a better term. Any project that takes us from our home state is more expensive. We found basic logistics to be a challenge and in hindsight a better battle plan can always be seen. The script could have been a touch shorter and we did tighten in a few places. The script was the final version that I had consulted heavily with my friend/co-star and mentor Rance Howard. He was a stickler on the farming techniques and perspective of 1940’s citizens. We went in with a battle plan and a tribe of artists. We spent months casting the “right” actors from around the country. This is a big part of directing and our producers work hard with our director and it showed in this production. But we had a large cast and with flying and lodging this is a major cost also. But the actors that signed on were there for the story. As a screenwriter I’ve never been more proud of all the feedback on the script. It was from 14 years earlier and is not perfect (is any?) and even in my own scene study I found a few ‘subtextual’ issues that I corrected. But we had the pleasure of knowing what was coming from the auditions. Now put those same amazing actors in proper wardrobe, locations and – MAGIC! MOVIE MAGIC!~

The actors were all on point and we captured some incredible cinematic magic. By capturing I mean our amazing crew. At CDI we work hard. Movies are hard. Bad movies are hard to make which is why I always give points for even bad films. Finishing deserves credit. Finishing with quality that passes worldwide QC (quality control) is worthy of kudos. But creating something handcrafted that has the story power to last decades is – a reward that you receive only after audiences have celebrated a story for many years. I think this film will be one of those. We at CDI are shooting for nothing short of a holiday classic. We made our go at that with THE QUEST TRILOGY (Forty Nights, Chasing the Star, The Christ Slayer) three biblical stories told together from a unique perspective. These films have been growing an audience for many years and are on their way to becoming a classic. You can watch the three films streaming on many platforms and in many countries.

One of our films that we produced with our former sister company Lionheart was WICKED SPRING. That film now managed by CDI is 20+ years old and is still entertaining audiences. It’s also getting a new release on HD/streaming and is a good example of a film that is a true classic. Unique in its perspective with roses and rocks thrown at it but a story that has kept audiences coming back from the earliest days on VHS and network TV. (I still have a VHS copy from TV with commercials)

WILD FAITH is another film on the way to classic status. We can cement that with the production of the WILD FAITH: Hastings tv series. We are adding the film to the title to help assure our tens of millions in fans can find the upcoming series. I’m looking at back half of the year to produce the 8 shows that make up season one. I will be getting on that business asap once I can get caught up on my SNIA (Silent Night in Algona) business. A few discussions were had but again the #1 thing is that the story is told proper. This project has suffered from bad studio/network notes in the past and has moved past those to become a film loved by many. So we will stay true to our story and find the right partners. If it isn’t broke don’t let others try and fix it. We will get this made and audiences will see some of their favorite 1800’s characters back in action. Giddy up!

LOST HEART versus BIGFOOT, UFO’S & JESUS – this film under both titles is doing really well with audiences. The film is such a charm that it has so many levels and layers of story that really should appeal to most audiences. It was kind of an experiment but so far I think it has been good one. It is another great holiday season watch. It also has some great music in the film from Roanoke and The Cash Collective (John Carter, Ann and their family). Worthy of a watch if you are trying to catch up with some of the CDI films. Melissa Anschutz shines as the lead and Josh Perry shows his dramatic and comedic mastery.

RETURN TO ALGONA-

Melissa Anschutz and Josh Perry are both back in SNIA. They both bring such fascinating characters that will once again inspire. Josh Perry left people in tears with his performance which isn’t a surprise at all. Josh doesn’t wave a “Down syndrome” flag ever but I’m just so damn proud of him. On two occasions I’ve observed individuals with Down syndrome observe Josh and you could see boundaries in their minds fall. Josh ‘The Ponceman’ Perry is a movie star make no mistake about that and these young people saw what they could achieve. Josh is an inspiration by his actions not his activism. Maybe there is a lesson in that.

I had a chance to meet more fans of MBF: MAN’S BEST FRIEND and I’m so pleased that the film sits so well with veterans. I hope that all of you will take a chance to watch this CDI story told by ‘SNIA‘ director Anthony Hornus. One of the hard drives is being sent to our editor Nathaniel Nose who is also supervising the VFX. Our director is upgrading his computer to allow better footage review. Our DP Dan Chipman is doing some rough assembly to seek out and identify some of the pieces of the story caught on the fly. Also the first batch of photo stills is being drawn out and color corrected to help become a color template for the films final look. We have been rolling out BTS stills captured by many of our cast and crew but the real GOLD is coming.

Also this week I’ll be taking a hard look at the feature projects in development. We plan to shoot a CDI feature this Spring before we roll into pre-production on the WILD FAITH TV series. I started to have some first talks about the next CDI feature which could become plural, features pending a few discussions. I have a few development meetings that will nudge things one way or another. But with both SNIA moving into post as BEST YEARS GONE continues its theatrical (last day today in Lansing at Celebration Cinema) before prepping for home video. Also FOR THE LOVE OF CATCH is in final post mixing before we start a release schedule on this documentary. We will have a meeting over this property this coming week. We should be doing a final watch through in a few weeks. From there a premiere will also be discussed. But…not until it is done. And we just might be doing another documentary in 2022. As this year closes a new one lies right over the horizon. This week will be tying up more loose ends on SNIA, planning 2022 schedule, end of year dispersement and tax prep and writing. I love to write when it is cold and snowy and I know I have some days ahead of me. I have several properties/scripts I’ve been working on and a few possible work-for-hires so we’ll see with all of that. We have the Christmas tree up after I donned winter warrior Michigan gear and saw. Today we might add lights and another night the bells and whistles. I might go light a fire in the stove at the fort to finish settling back in. I have totes everywhere as I prepare to stow the gear until our next film adventure. Stay warm and be good to one another!

DJ

AND that’s a Wrap on SILENT NIGHT IN ALGONA!

Well, well, well – we are an official wrap on SILENT NIGHT IN ALGONA. I’m sipping the hazelnut coffee trying to chase away the cobwebs. It has been several weeks of less than perfect sleep. During production you always have so much on your mind. Always trying to look ahead and anticipate issues and needs. Lines. As an actor you are always keeping those in your head until they become living moments on film. I’m happy to say that Col Lodell is wrapped. The high and tight haircut and sharp uniform can now be relaxed and retired. Last night we finished filming in the woods around WILD HAVEN. It was a great joy to have everyone together and to bring the ship in. Now we’re going to prep the camp to break in the morning. It will take a few weeks to get all the business finished. The puzzle will begin to be rough assembled. The footage will be prepped for the edit. What an adventure. One for the books to be sure.

I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. I’ll have to start to prep for winter and get some of the yard stuff stowed in advance of that snowy white stuff. We are having a little Thanksgiving at our house and I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful that we all safely made it through our shoot. I’m thankful for the great group of artists we worked with on both sides of the camera. I’m thankful that we could capture this story so that it will not disappear, lost in time.

I’m not 100% sure what is next but we have many irons in the fire. I’m looking forward to doing some more writing in the coming weeks. Just me, my coffee and my imagination. I would love to talk more in depth but right now I need to let it all seep in and marinate. I will be back to writing on Sundays again starting next week. I’m sure I will have a lot more to reflect upon at that time. Right now I need to go fill the coffee cup and start to pack up my stuff.

BEST YEARS GONE will be playing on Lansing, MI at the Celebration Cinemas the week around Thanksgiving. If you haven’y yet watched the film and live in the area, please do.

Until we speak again next week – be safe.

DJ