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

Filmmaker Pitfalls + Distribution & Development

It’s a chill morning in Michigan and I’ve got my trusty coffee by my side and I’m ready to share a few moments with all of you out there. It has been a good week of business and personal so let’s get into a few topics that were floated by me this week. Let’s start with a question that comes up often. I’ve been asked about my thoughts on “Social Fundraising” or social handouts as I like to call it. I’m mostly against these Kickstarter and other “fundme” campaigns for several reasons. Let me explain myself before everyone questions my answer. Now I am going to relate this to what I know, that being filmmaking.  So this may not apply to other justifiable causes such as raising money for illness, funeral expenses, transplants and other real NEEDS. I’m not talking NEED but people and their WANTS…Big difference.

Did you ever know that kid who was always spoiled, bothersome? Like I recall kids begging their parents for quarters to feed into video game machines back in the day. Yes. They use to cost a quarter:) Someone would give the kid a dollar or a few quarters just so the adults could be left in peace to talk alone and socialize. It is that, “At least they are staying out of trouble” mentality. So that kid goes off and likely after a short while is back with his hand out again and again… People will again give a few dollars to him so that he goes away. But I can assure you, if that kid was borrowing that money or had earned those quarters from hard work, he would not be as loose – keeping that flood of coins dropping into those machines. When it’s your money or money that is borrowed with expected results – the appreciation and use of those funds is much more focused.

Someone else I know called it “Mercy Giving” because it is easier to give a little versus hurting feelings. Maybe this is seen as positive or is it? If something ventured is obviously lacking in quality but people give to it anyway it does make one question why? Why?  As a parent, would you encourage your child to take up “corner standing” with a cup and sign that says, TOO HONEST TO STEAL, TOO UGLY TO PROSTITUTE?  Would you throw money at someone building a house that is nowhere near being up to code and will likely with end up overgrown and forgotten because it is red tagged?

I don’t overly think on these things as people will quit giving when the results are always the same. My world view is different, maybe a tad more realistic. Despite what people think, we don’t live in a world where everyone who plays wins. I think people who are actually in SHOW BIZ – (Let me break that down because not all who play are in the business) SHOWBIZ  – That is where quality art meets business in a blend that results in something that can be sold in the marketplace. More novices are into the SHOW but not truly SHOWBIZ. They want to focus on the art because that is fun – the interviews, the mixers -all fun. Fun – Even if the process is only creating content nobody really wants. And so they ask, ask, ask for others to give, give, give – so they can create nearly unwatchable, unsellable material. Now if this is a hobby, which for many at this level that is what it is – and that is exactly how your filmmakers learn and grow. But after once or twice of allowing filmmakers to play why continue to support? Maybe this is acceptable?

I mean golf is an art of sorts but I don’t see people kickstarting so they can get a new set of top-of-the-line clubs and a years worth of greens fees. (I’m sure someone has tried:) But unless this person was playing golf at a level whereas true PRO development was required/justified this just sounds silly and many sane people don’t do it.

I think handouts dull the sword.

How you say? There is no accountability to be had if everything is just given because this is again that kid with quarters. He is never grilled after on how well he spent the quarters. “Did you get a high score?”  “Did you get an extra ball or get a match?” (Pinball reference people) No. You were just given money so to be “out-of-the-way” for a while occupying your time. That is until they want the next handout. These are all things you would do with a child but I see it happening everyday with adult artists. But if artists are truly striving to excel both at business and art those will be the survivors. Nobody would drop coins in the hat of an awful sounding corner/subway playing guitarist, unless it was for them to stop.  So I guess I’m just saying support the arts responsibly. Look for those that truly have developing qualities. Look for those that are looking to eventually stand on their own two feet not just be blindly supported. Give your money to the hungry or homeless instead.  If you are over 25 and still taking handouts to produce sub par product – and I use that term loosely because someone would actually have to want to purchase this film for it to truly be a product. By purchase I also mean beyond your 100 family or friends that are expected to support you otherwise your glares will make them uncomfortable at every holiday or local gathering:)

So in summary, I guess if the person only comes begging at the table once in a while and consistently is given a few coins to go distract himself – maybe that is acceptable to some. But I just can’t endorse that sort of action. I won’t support or LIKE something just for a half ass effort. In our business we face acceptance and rejection daily and that is part of the business. Success and failure hardens the steel and makes you refine your process. I just ask those out there who seem to be like a needle skipping on a record (Another reference – look it up) – What do you want to be? How do you want to be seen? Is your art evolving in quality? Are you ready to earn true success with increasing quality and business refinement or do you want to continuously beg for handouts only to create material that is never challenged and would not survive in the worldwide marketplace. Begging for financial handouts is not a business plan. “We hope to get into a high-profile film festival” is NOT a marketing plan. As many of our artists seek the easiest way the Chinese, Indians, the Europeans…the world over are all pushing their creative artists to survive and thrive in a business environment. Meanwhile we reinforce mediocrity and endorse begging as a business plan. It is sad but true as we are losing ground to others willing to put in the hard work. OK. Ask me how I really feel about all that:) Embrace the hardships you face because it with sharpen your sword and make your steel strong.

Enough sword and steel babel…onto film news:)

On the distribution TIP – we now have a few distribution offers on “Ashes of Eden” and the film screeners continue to be requested. More interested parties are coming to the table every few days. It is getting exciting and we will be announcing our Summer Michigan theatrical VERY soon!

Our thriller “Bestseller” is about to schedule its one  day of pick ups. That film is really looking great and after the release of the 1st trailer last week we have several distributors waiting to see the final film.

On development updates we’ve got several new funders looking at projects of their liking. I think we will soon be moving into some pre-production on  some of these new films.

A couple of big budget film projects are back in motion again with new funders. We will wait to see if these projects move forward but things get complicated when talking tens of millions of dollars. When you really see how big the game is that is when you get down on someone who can’t even conduct fundamental business. I am learning leaps and bounds every day but you must challenge yourself.

Additionally, I did some wild lines for the dark thriller “The Terrorist” this past week. I’m very happy that the picture is about locked and is looking powerful. We’re going to polish up the audio and we will see this film released at year’s end.

On the acting front, I was in talks on an indie project that just didn’t add up at the end of the day. Again if you’re not a hobbyist and you’re doing this as a career you have to look at the complete picture. I do have one other local indie I’m still having talks over – no telling if that will work out or not. Don’t be afraid to say, NO.

As I vet out projects I’m very content finishing up the post projects on my plate. My new acting management is really trying to get that right 1st big studio film under me. Several talks are underway with casting directors, producer and directors. I have opened myself up to consideration on a few TV projects also. There is a big trend towards TV mini series and such so I will keep myself open to these opportunities. I like the idea of guest spots more but if the right series came along I might consider something on-going.

Enough business for the day:) I pointed out what I did in regards to social funding because if new filmmakers never learn the art of business they will be replaced by those who do. There are always exceptions one can argue but on the whole I would say many are just too lazy to learn the valuable business lessons required to play at the highest levels of our film industry. OK. I’m going to do some work in the yard and relax from my long week. We got the new floor in the office/fort last week and so more tinkering may be the order of the day. Tomorrow is Father’s day and so I will be spending some time with Pa Perry and family before heading off to the soccer field. It has been a good season and as always the workout is second to none. I’ve also been enjoying the WORLD CUP matches and look forward to the USA playing on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

DJ

 

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