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

“Bestseller,” “Best Efforts” and “Being Responsible”

It is a wonderful Saturday and the dogs are watching some Scooby Doo as I’m doing some morning film work over coffee. This was a week full of announcements, many business calls and exciting updates. We will look at some of those updates and discuss a few situations surrounding them.

I think last week we talked a bit about the temptation for struggling artists to take on parts that aren’t right or tasks that they are not suited to do. It was announced this week that CDI http://www.cdiproductions.com will be the new management/production company on the Michigan-based feature “Bestseller”. Due to my association with the lead Melissa Anschutz I was in the knowing on the journey she was undertaking. I was privy to all the bumps, blunders and lack of organization. I was aware of who was solving problems and who was creating them.  I let most of it roll off with a shake of the head because it was not my issue. Even so, it disappointed me greatly.  Any hardworking filmmaker will tell you how hard it is to finance a film. That’s because of the large number of potential investors who have been burned or who associate with those investors who have been burned.  By burned I also mean – unfinished films or films that have had such bad business done that they are not able to be taken to market. If someone truly puts their BEST EFFORT (That legal term from last week) into a project and it still fails that might be a different story. But when someone doesn’t put a best effort forward and they fail – where is the accountability? Many want to take accountability when things are looking good. When the PR releases are spewing hype or one is  prancing about set playing “Hollywood” looking busy BUT when things go wrong they are the first of the finger-pointers.  You MUST “own” both the good and the bad if you are in charge. If you are a chaotic mess that is the ripples that you will send forth from you.  If you radiate  a calm center that too spreads throughout a production.

COMMUNICATION

Screaming is NOT communication and shows weakness and frustration by the party doing so. I know personally an associate in the insurance realm who had to also deal with this chaotic force. I heard the stories from multiple people about this communication. You tie that with the lack of pre-production work and the picture is perfectly clear.  Now on a personal level –  I’m offended by people paid to guide who use inexperience against others to try to disguise their own shortcomings. A film set is full of challenges but the only ones you should be facing are those things you could not control with good pre-production work. I’ve halted shoots and pushed start dates when I saw a ship was not yet ready. If I see a place where leadership is lacking in a department – be it in the director, AD staff, office, anyone –  I will rearrange or replace someone. You don’t just watch a boat fill with water and do nothing.  If you are a lead producer or that staff – It’s your JOB to fix things that are broken. It’s your JOB to anticipate what could/or may break down and try to prevent a breakdown. It’s your JOB to fix something quickly, quietly with the least amount of attention or distraction. That means that this is not a dramatic “LOOK AT ME FIX SOMETHING” moment. The best producer work is often never seen or heard. It is known by the experience the cast and crew had and the final product they captured.

Now this situation on “Bestseller” is not isolated and this issue of poor management seems to be a pattern. Sometimes one  doesn’t  hire enough artists to properly execute a job or make sure that money truly finds its way onto the screen. You also don’t start playing “Hollywood” George Jefferson because you are connected to a large bank account. You treat those funds like your own funds and stick to the budget. Overruns are poor planning.  A producer team is responsible for the hard work of all those artists. You represent how people will look at our state’s artists. Are we seen  as capable leaders or forever doomed to feed on the scraps of others coming into our state. Now I did not have anything to do with this situation. As a matter of fact I turned down earlier invites on acting and producing. That rejection was based upon the fact that fires were already burning in PRE-PRODUCTION crisis mode.  I also knew that much misinformation was flying everywhere either implying deceit or disorganization – both bad. Bottom line – I don’t like fixing other’s messes. The problem seems to be that while I’m hard at work finishing projects (2 features (Donors, Ashes of Eden) and 1 TV series (Supermodel Showdown) – someone else is at the local film festival mixers smoozing up any starry-eyed potential investor or novice filmmaker with a budget – selling a skill set they do not possess.

Now potential investors – YOU have a responsibility to vet people out and not get stung by the BUYER BEWARE. This “Bestseller” ship was professionally parked and the responsible parties removed.  After that my company was recommended again to come manage. With a clean slate I listened and the deal was made. The ship is now being refitted and we will make one heck of a movie I can promise you that. I can  promise this crew and cast will have an enjoyable experience filled with hard work but will be rewarded with respect. Those that know me can vouch that I take my film jobs very serious.  I turn down lots of work because it must feel right. In this matter I wanted the truth out there. The fact that I don’t wander in many social circles I thought this direct statement best. I will say this to anyone out there unqualified to produce or unwilling to make the Best Effort –  Stick with what you are good at and don’t muddy the waters. The sooner that the proper artists align in Michigan and the BS artists are benched – great things will come from our State.  As we have more stories of success vs screw ups investors will start to take our artists more serious. So I ask you all to please clean up your act. For those who don’t – I would gladly testify at any arbitration or legal proceedings on how a film set should be ran. Enough of people giving half (if that) efforts and poisoning the money wells here in Michigan. I’ve been personally part of 2 projects that went south because of false promises from people. It hurt our momentum as a company but luckily our productivity outshines those few dark moments.  One bad deal can kill others momentum and ruin dreams all together.  And just how truly sad is that? I’ve made many friends in this industry around the world because of respect that grew from doing what was expected. I’m not in this industry to make friends first – I’m here to tell stories with other hardworking, passionate artists. Friendship and respect is earned. Period.

Okay, I’m off my soap box now. Other updates –

– It looks like I finally got my German invoicing all complete. It has been a good learning experience doing these foreign sales.

– “Ashes of Eden” new trailer is a week or so out from release. The trailer looks great. The film is having the dialogue polished and is almost done. Music and sound design is on deck.

– “Supermodel Showdown” I was in search of a few B roll tapes that we feared missing but I think those have now been recovered. The show is coming together and is looking great. Not as fast as I would like but there is no script. This is truly a reality show.

– I have agreed to play a role in “Bestseller” now that we are officially “in association” because with myself starring in 3 thrillers in the last 10 months it really boosts distribution. With CDI’s involvement I can say to all the artists that the film will get a release in several countries.

There is a possibility of another film shooting prior to “Bestseller” going into production but next week will tell. We have a window because of schedules and so will the chips fall right? That is the question:)

I hope you all have a great weekend and keep Clawing your Way to the Middle:)

DJ

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