The chilly fall has settled into Michigan making sipping coffee or hot cider even more enjoyable. Now is when I have to start thinking of the winter ahead. The stuff that will have to be put away and stored. The firewood for the coming snow. Even the change of clothes to heavier layers, is a normal process in Michigan. I think last week we discussed something which was the delay in shooting our next feature by a quarter. The funds are there and so many would want to rush to production, the fun part. But, we’re putting the icing on the cake for a wonderful distribution deal on WILD FAITH. It has been a touch slower since I’ve had the joy of working with the Hollywood agent system. But, in the end it will be worth it and will directly have an effect on the TV series. Upcoming 2019 will see the major organizing of the release and push on the series. We are planning to shoot in Michigan. Likely a series of shows shot in a tight production block. It’s new waters for me so I’m learning something new every day.
Tomorrow we’ll announce via PR our recent Crown Award and the Burbank International Film Fest win for ‘Best Faith Film’ and while I would have loved to have it gone against all the films – they work by genres. But WILD FAITH is just an accurate look at 1870’s life. As the screenwriter I did not add any overdue FAITH. People we’re just more living in tune with their faith during that time period. Life was more wooly and I think people had more life and death encounters be it disease, drought, famine, bear attacks – you get the point. I love the faith and inspirational themes. ROCKY being one of my favorite illustrations of that. On his way to the fight – the father priest throws down and few blessings. Yes. ROCKY could be a faith film and it would have surely won ‘Best Inspirational’ as I’ve seen it inspire masses and I’ve been inspired by that film. My point is, I’ve never set out to make a ‘Faith Film’ and I’ve never set out to not make a ‘Faith Film” – I’ve told a story. Characters in almost all stories are confronted by a situation that tests their faith thus the relatable conflict.
Dorothy in The Wizard of OZ must find her faith. Indiana Jones fights to keep his faith versus his scientific reasoning, Men vs shark in JAWS, puts faith out there to be chewed upon as a topic. I think every film made about mankind has faith woven into it. So, is it that the content must have X amount ‘faith’ in it? Judges in chairs that spin around and hit a button if your film has the required ‘faith’? I appreciate it mostly, the acceptance to our films. But because the story, characters, situations, lessons were all something that were touched upon. That shed a bit of light on our faults projected onto a screen, so we can better understand ourselves. Deep. I know. Occasionally, I feel quite grand with my profession, pride like a good woodworker, or any other artist. Mostly, I still feel like that kid, make believing with my neighborhood friends living out our own STRANGER THINGS life.
I’ve changed some in my screenwriting, I’ve noted. My earlier self was darker, heavier and nihilistic. My mom often questioning, why I kept dying in my films. Now, I’ve always had a funny, lighter side to my personality, ask anyone who really knows me. But, most of my writing came in my moments of solitary. Also writers in Michigan benefit from our long winters but the end result is often PSYCHO or THE SHINING writing in nature. Those previously mentioned films are two of my favorite for the season. Another side note: I do want to do another horror film but it has to be good. By good I mean story. Creating horror films in the handful of story formulas is like a rite of passage. The lovers of that genre cannibalize the artists with dastardly reviews. But meet them in person and they’ve always been very nice. Maybe because they saw you on camera foaming at the mouth and swinging an axe. Anyway, I was saying that I enjoy the laughter and smiles. I recall many showings of WICKED SPRING whereas people wept in the theater. We did that with our story. But I see so much negativity and anxiety with people not coping to our new world. A world where we’re more communication-connected than ever before BUT we’re not. FRIENDS have a new definition thanks to FACEBOOK but my definition stays the same. I want to be part of making people think, smile, laugh and still occasionally cry, if that comes with an enlightenment.
The ‘Faith Film’ anti-goodhousekeeping seal of quality is being shattered as more storytellers (without labels) are returning to tell stories that their grandmother, mothers and fathers would enjoy. Ben Hur (The Original) and Ten Commandments (The Classics) were always on TV when we had our family Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter gatherings. There are great organizations that are rising to recognize and award this kind of content. I always worry about censorship, we can choose to watch what we want. But if a demand is there, look at the rise in METV, Heroes & Icons, and the rise of the faith market. People are casting their votes with their rentals and purchases. I feel most honored by the online communications from viewers having powerful emotions invoked from our stories. It is a dream to have holidays where the films play and families bond over a watch. My goal is to make a few classics. All of them might not make it but we’ll give our ‘best effort’ every time.
I was reminded yesterday when inquiring about a director whom a close associate had worked with – their last film isn’t done. It hasn’t been completed in a matter of several years. As an actor, I’ve got two films shot in recent years, one a co-starring role, not finished. I’ve got a call, meeting, catch up with a director friend who’s trying to finish one of two projects we did together in the very distant past. It bothers me occasionally talking someone’s new project(s) when those people have loose strings to tie up. There are many films about that don’t interest me as a viewer, but I always tip my hat to finishing. Finishing is a skill needed in this industry, without it, suffering. But it sounds like my old friend is trying to finish, so that’s a good thing.
This week I finished my first solid draft on our next script with BMG entitled LOST HEART. In meetings with our distributor, they really liked a concept made easier that I had written something in the same vein. But I wanted to apply some of the growth I had made mentioned above. Same log line but different script. I had a wonderful time creating this story and it became so alive with characters and a world, other’s will long to visit. Jeff Kennedy and I, my partner in CDI, semi-retired – always had that as a goal. To create a world and invite people inside it. The CDI first five – really helped hone this craft. You have to BELIEVE in the world. Another 2019 goal is to get Jeff Kennedy back into a director’s chair. I have a few good ideas but they will require a good pow wow or two.
MBF has been in editing. They shot a few pick up establishing shots and transitions this week. Always good to do this once you get into the edit and really see what could be added. This film I’m so proud of. It showcases and pleads for better treatment of our war vets and dogs, that can heal us. We continue to release official stills from this film. For now the spotlight is given to…
THE CHRIST SLAYER!
Find our social media site on Facebook – lots of updates.
Part 3 has a bold name. But the title has a meaning that audiences will discover, maybe not what they thought. I’m excited to say that Part 3 of The Quest Trilogy is coming all together. I watched a recent 5k work flow version with 98% VFX. Color Correction and conforming still lie ahead. ADR, music and sound design are steadily under construction. I’ve been working with the distributor and their marketing team as we prepare for release in early 2019. I was really happy with the story, smiling throughout. I love watching artists friends give moving performances. That’s what we want deep down. To captivate and transfer that emotion via story. This will be an exciting watch and so again, catch up – parts 1 (FORTY NIGHTS) & 2 (CHASING THE STAR) on Pureflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Christian Cinema, Parables TV….and so on. To our cast and crew, it will be worth the wait.
Okay, time for a pumpkin spice english muffin and another coffee.
Have a great Sunday!
WOW! What a trip. I’ve been going out to LA since the 90’s when I was first invited by Wes Craven to come read for SCREAM 2. From those humble beginnings to standing on the stage before a mighty gathering of industry folk at the Burbank International Film Festival accepting a best film award with our tribe representing the mitten state.
I’m speaking of Wild Faith, our mid-western. It was nominated for BEST actor, actress and film. We did not take the other two awards but without Shane & Lauren’s chemistry we would not have won that award. That said, my ears were not filled with Hollywood smoke-blowing it was all sincere comments from people who laugh, cried and came into our 1875 Michigan world. The film is FUN with a message to ponder throughout it. The film gives a message like THE WALTON’S did or LITTLE HOUSE, I heard so many happy with the wholesome programming. Don’t get me wrong, I like my BLACK SAILS, GAME OF THRONES and such BUT when I do want something more tame it is often hard to find. I think WILD FAITH is a good response to that demand. This week I will be working on the home video deal. We still might have a few more theatrical/event showings. It plays so good at the theater. Great comments on the sound design, lighting, camera work and music as well as the performances.
I got to see old friends and make new friends. I got to really get to know people like Darby Hinton, his beautiful wife Shan and son Ryder who hosted our BBQ afterglow at their home. Often when I see people on set I’ve got a character looming right behind my eyes waiting to hear ACTION. I have accounting and checks payable on my mind. And lastly I stay focused and not distracting to the difficult task at hand. If I goof off that’s a green light to others to goof off. That wasted time adds up and production pays. Sun down and missed last set up. After 12 hrs people start losing their peak performance. I guess I’m saying it’s fun to mingle without the burden of production. I had one meeting with an esteemed peer I’ve known for 19 years. He was so surprised at my humor and laid-back nature. He thought I was ultra stern and conservative. I can be but that’s not my natural state of being. A close actor buddy whose been on several adventures with me – Amsterdam, Mexico…list goes on. He got a pass from the wife and kid to come hang a couple of days. After watching WILD FAITH he said he really enjoyed it and was happy that I was sharing more of ME via Ben Lily. He claimed that ole’ Ben is the closest to DJ Perry in personal mode. Ha! Anyway. See WILD FAITH and despite what you might hear about me, not knowing me. Ole Ben Lily is pretty close to an 1875 DJ Perry. We have different speaking voices because I had the better edgy-macation.
MBF – I will be releasing another screen still. I have to catch up with director Tony Hornus and check on editing. He stayed in MI to work after his overseas family vacation.
The Christ Slayer – I’m going to check with our distributor to see if any artwork is underway for the DVD. That release will be 3/4/18 with digital a few weeks earlier and we’ll do a limited theatrical release before that.
This holiday I’m going to push for folks to watch part 1 FORTY NIGHTS & 2 CHASING THE STAR of THE QUEST TRILOGY to catch up for the part 3 THE CHRIST SLAYER release. If you haven’t watched them please do. You can leave review comments on amazon or IMDB – or not.
To circle back to the CA trip I want to thank so many friends for attending the screening or any of our gatherings. How cool is THE PIG N WHISTLE? Go there, it is awesome! Shepherds Pie and pints:) I loved seeing circle of friends melding, mixing, laughing and bonding. I love seeing that on film sets. It’s a secondary goal to finishing on time and budget. The ugg part was how long I’ve known many of you. 15, 18, 20+ years! Crazy! I say to you, make good friends and value those relationships. I’m just so grateful to have friends in an industry who allows this artist to feel part of the greater game despite my adherence to my MI zip code. My family, friends and roots in Michigan are my recharge and nourishment. But I will return again soon on business to visit the sunny, smoggy:) California!
PS: I will be posting more CA pics this Sunday.
Have a great week and be good to one another.
Thank you new readers/watchers – I appreciate you all. The wrist is still healing so video update again. Enjoy!
Hello friends. It has been a whirlwind week of negotiations and talks on the home video deal for WILD FAITH. The film will be playing in three cities this week – Grand Haven, Holland and Florida. (See below)
This is also the last of the off location pre-production on MBF. Our prep team starts in on Thursday and a week from that date cameras roll. We’re incorporating many new elements into this shoot. Some by way of new crew, new location (somewhat) and new cast in certain roles. We have a few exciting announcements coming this week. One is the addition of a co-star that will be well-known to some. He was a co-star on one of prime time TV’s biggest hits. We had a nice character talk yesterday and I’m beyond excited because he’s the right talent for the right role.
Becoming a character is serious business especially when representing…
Our schedule has caused a few switches in our casting but that always happens. By the time you get to the premiere you could never imagine anyone else in those roles. I’m trying to keep my TO DO list updated. I’ve been very happy with the time I’ve spent with ‘Paul’ my new character in MBF. To say he has been a challenge would be an understatement. My study of wounded warriors both physical and mental has been extensive. My appreciation and respect elevated as one fully recognizes the sacrifices made. I’m excited to see this story told and I hope that it changes minds and hearts.
Home video sales continue on “Forty Nights,” “Chasing the Star,” “Wicked Spring,” and “Ashes of Eden” which can all be watched on Amazon Prime. I’m touched by the beautiful emails that I’ve received from viewers of these films. If you have not watched any of them please do take a watch. You can recommend it to others on the Amazon site. DVD’s can also be purchased from the Amazon site. All our artists deeply appreciate your support.
Aside from these distribution, pre-production and actor work – we’ve been in development for our fall film. I think working with our distributor we might have landed on the right property. But I don’t want to go too far off on this direction.
If the WILD FAITH home video deal can get settled here in the upcoming weeks the distributor might get involved with expanded and marketing our theatrical a bit more. If the home video release is strong we will get a sequel or TV series moving behind it. There are a lot of moving parts with this deal and I’m doing my best to stay on top of it. I think everyone will be very happy with the final results.
I want to take these last few lines to celebrate my Mother and all those who give as mother’s do. I got to spend the morning with my beloved momma. She has always been supportive even when my dreams seemed unrealistic and far-fetched. I know many out there have been through this phase. Some have that support and others do not. But that is one of the reasons this blog exists. It is proof that you can follow your own path and create. It is not easy and if you can be happy and do something other than be an artist – I recommend it. But for the others – keep at it. Work smarter. Learn daily. Value your character in your dealings. Defend the artistic process and muster the courage to keep walking. One step after another – steady as you go and after a while – turn around and see how far you’ve come. My mother nurtured me to believe in my imagination and motivation – to achieve when you believe. Thank you momma. I love you.
I’m going to finish up here because I have some additional MBF work to finish. So far I’ve packed sock and underwear so I’ve got that going on. A busy but exciting week as we head towards onset pre-production. I’ll give you another update soon. You can also follow https://www.facebook.com/MBFthemovie/
I hope you all have a wonderful week. Be good to one another.
We have our first readers from Iraq and Spain and so welcome to ‘Clawing our way to the Middle‘ blog. I’ve got the hot coffee in hand and seeking the right words here. Last night I was having a few old friends over to the office to sit by the fire and talk old times. Just before people showed up I heard news that my dear friend Rance Howard had passed away. We met in Benson, AZ while shooting on ‘Miracle at Sage Creek‘ and bonded over breakfast at Denny’s with his wife Judy. Rance later went on to join us on “Dean Teaster’s Ghost Town” whereas he played the father-like figure to my character. Rance loved our church scene in that film. Here is a few clips.
He could not join us on “The Book of Ruth, Journey of Faith” because he was working with his ole friend Andy Griffith. But when The Quest Trilogy came along he grew a beard for the first time in many years. He was excited to play “The Devil” after a lifetime of good guys. Play it he did in all three “Forty Nights” and “Chasing the Star” out on Amazon Prime now. His devil turn in “Forty Nights” won him best lead actor at the International Christian Film Festival. I’m proud that we still have “The Christ Slayer” coming in 2018 but I’m a touch sad that he will not get to see it. I remember on “The Christ Slayer” the two of us in that boat in the middle of the night – holding hands. We shared so many deep talks both about the role and about life. To pass at 89 years of age – working right up until the end is an inspiration. He was truly a mentor to me. One man who had truly been there and done that and he actually cared about my career. Very few people take that kind of time and nurture but you can see that manifested in his own family. He was supposed to play a funny role in “MBF” and we had always wanted to do this “Algona” WW2 POW/Xmas script but that was not meant to be. He was my source expert when I was writing. He was a dairy farmer and had first hand experience of WW2 so his input was vital. I know that Rance touched many people’s life and made us all feel important. He would walk between working with Russell Crowe followed by DJ Perry and never made you feel any less. Actually the opposite, as he made you feel great about being a storyteller. He was deep with his characters and he always came with lots of notes, ideas and intuitions. He will be greatly missed.
Where do I go from there…?
Forty Nights and Chasing the Star has been getting a great holiday push here in the US/Canada. Chasing the Star has been licensed to Netherlands to a network called Family 7. Forty Nights might be right behind it. Also the films are looking to invade the UK and I will have more details on that soon.
The Christ Slayer is just finishing all the VFX and final edits preparing to move into post music and sound.
Wild Faith is preparing to come out of post sound/music. The VFX are all in and end credits are being tweaked. The last step is color correction along with the audio mix. I’m excited to roll this film out and I feel good about our chances of rolling a series out behind it.
MBF – now has the bank account open. We need to start collecting paperwork and checks and also drum up the final investment units. We’ll be announcing more castings in the run up to Christmas. A lot of wonderful support for this film.
If yesterday put anything front and center for me it’s to keep following your path. I don’t know how many films I have still in me but I’ll keep creating and moving forward. Cherish those mentors in your life while you can and remember to turn around and mentor those around you. The holidays have been filled with joy and today we will decorate the beautiful tree.
Be good to one another.
I’m listening to the icy rain outside – thankfully I got most all the yard winterized. I had a GIANT branch larger than most trees, trimmed. (Ruby’s Tree Service in Lansing) It had grown over the house and path to the office. It was big enough that the roof and house might slow it down if it fell. That said, it is now down and while part of the yard is littered with logs I will have lots of firewood for the coming seasons. I had a Viking Thursday that started early with stowing all the yard stuff under the deck and ended with a little whiskey sipping around the wood stove with a few ole friends. Let’s look at a few updates from a week of business.
- AFM (American Film Market) is over and we had both FORTY NIGHTS and CHASING THE STAR being pushed. We have deals underway with several foreign companies/networks for release. Asia, UK, Netherlands and more…stay tuned for news as they close. I have to say it is nice to have good reports coming in vs the sad song many past distributors would cry about how bad the market was…blah…blah… It’s all about the people and the integrity of doing business.
- Amazon likes Chasing the Star as a possible featured film in December. Here is their directions to assist us – Ask as many people as you can (who have Amazon Prime) to watch CHASING THE STAR on Prime’s streaming service (here’s the web address: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Star-Yancy-Butler/dp/B074PWRYWF/ref=tmm_aiv_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= ) … if they’ve already watched it elsewhere, they can just play it all the way through while they do something else (no fast forwarding), then write a positive review and rate it highly. They don’t need to get carried away with their comments – just be truthful and positive. Those end to end views of the film, followed by positive reviews, help drive the Title to locations on Prime’s homepage which make it easier for others to run across it and (hopefully) watch.
- Forty Nights is playing on the BIG screen TONIGHT in Bedias, Texas TONIGHT Nov. 12th see INFO here – https://www.facebook.com/events/177914439433028/
- The NEW Collective Development Inc. website will be launching Jan. 1st and we’ve got lots of great things developing with that endeavor.
- Development talks at one of my favorite studio/networks has begun. We will see, I don’t want to jinx anything but initial pitch had some initial interest.
- Discussions on development with CDI and certain Indian/Bollywood entities continues. Both to release CDI product and create new film product.
- Wild Faith VFX work is in full swing and the first low res drafts were VERY good. I’m happy to report that in the next week or two that the visual will be locked up including VFX. End credit work has also started.
- The Christ Slayer VFX work (much more) is moving right along and I got to see some of the newly altered scenes. It looks like major studio work and I’m excited to see if finished.
- Staying on The Christ Slayer film- the first official poster is almost done. I’ve seen all the previous versions and so I’m excited to see our final.
- MBF (Man’s Best Friend) solidified another investor unit this week and we announced three of our actors. One being a tried and true we’ve worked with many times (Dean Teaster) and two young actors that will be working with us for the first time. Shooting is still targeting March 2018. A shout out to all those who served in our armed forces.
Aside from that, it was a week of disappointment in my alumni school Michigan State University. In football we’ve been doing good but Ohio hit us like Mr. T’s Clubber Lang in Rocky 3. We will see if the Lions do better today. The house Halloween stuff got put away and the Thanksgiving stuff is out. Soon the Christmas tree and I for one can’t wait. I love having a tree in the house. I find it inspiring. So those of you in the reach of the cold, stay warm. I hope you have a productive week and spend some good time with friends and family.
Be good to one another.
I’m sipping coffee on this peaceful Sunday. Beside me is a new 5 gal of Green Goblin 3.0 wine started on Halloween and by 11/4 on the full moon it was bubbling like a possessed spirit had invaded it. See what I did there? The spirit, okay back to the blog. New readers/followers from The Netherlands, welcome. Readers from Israel has been following us and again, thank you. I love this space – open for artists to stop by and listen to a story or two. To get a few updates and let you know that these battles we fight to create our art are natural. Part of the process of healing people with the power of a story. A medium that weaves so many emotions through so many of the human senses.
David Gries in THE CHRIST SLAYER
It’s been a strong week of organization and prepping to move into 2018. New announcements on MBF, our next CDI film. We added David Gries and Shane Hagedorn two other fine artists. I’ve worked with both of them and these roles are in caring hands. March will be a nice mix of old and new talent working together. This coming week I plan to open the bank account. Small steps on the path to production.
THE QUEST TRILOGY
American Film Market is underway and BMG has Forty Nights and Chasing the Star there right now. We made some announcements that the films were making their way to the UK. I also see evidence that Asia might be getting the films next. I was notified of a Singapore government ratings for Forty Nights. I will seek to confirm but I really do hope that our fans to the East can enjoy these beautiful films.
Domestically our recent goal now that we’re past Halloween, has been making people aware of the first two films in the marketplace for Christmas. Amazon Prime now has both FORTY NIGHTS and CHASING THE STAR. Watch them back to back and if you enjoyed them give them a little word of mouth or post a review. I think those films are just starting to travel a long journey of being exposed to artists worldwide.
THE CHRIST SLAYER is the 3rd film in the trilogy and it’s moving right along. We released a still of it being worked on in post VFX. (Here)
This third film will bring things together nicely. The poster is on the 3rd draft and getting stronger with each one. This film is preparing to enter music and sound design in Jan 2018.
For that to go in WILD FAITH needs to come out. The music first draft is DONE save tweaks and end credit roll. We’ll start putting that together now. I have high hopes that once the film is done the full merit of a series will be seen. We’re soon to sit and watch the film with the music in. Right now mixing and balancing is underway. The 10 sec of remaining VFX footage is what we’re dealing with still. But the plan is in motion and I’m confident we’ll complete that shortly.
We’ve also been delivering materials to our distributor for WICKED SPRING. It is an interesting feeling bringing that film to the forefront again. I did that role 17 years ago. Crazy. KNIGHT CHILLS had a new release with the book this year and that is a great little Christmas story. I’m smiling – but I will admit for people who have not been exposed to my work having KNIGHT CHILLS, FROM VENUS or IN THE WOODS be your intro is…scary. Zac, Frank and Alex are all great roles just not current representations. These films like others have gathered fans to which again I’m appreciative. My debate as of late was to accept invitations to participate in Comic Cons on occasion to celebrate these old works. I guess as I pondered it I got a touch of insight into Jeff Daniels who wants to be known for his dramatic excellence but people often just remember DUMB & DUMBER. How many sick, lonely, troubled and just bored people did that film make laugh? Giving relief by way of 90 mins of humor. Who are we to judge what people will enjoy? Hence art is subjective. Also some of these early films had so many rocks thrown at them. Some justified but many just the rise of the troll in this new medium of inter-webs:) I still hear the AOL dial-up. But if people can embrace these films more power to them. At the 15th anniversary to sit in the Alamo theater (Kazoo) and watch people shout, laugh and play the drinking game associated with IN THE WOODS was a joy. As we move through the present towards the future we must always make peace with our past. I’m getting there. I’m looking into the “Appearance circuit” although I’ve always wanted people to see the characters before the actor. I have met thousands of fans over the years and I’m appreciative. Although I don’t appear at many of these events it’s because of new work. I had a distributor friend ask if I was going to be at AFM. (Film Market) Actually I’ve had many ask. I told this person I was in MI overseeing post on two films while we prep for our new one. I would like to attend an AFM in the near future.
In addition to MBF prep we’ve been reviewing and looking at several other CDI & CDI associated projects. I think we’re preparing for another strong slate on films. As always I really do appreciate you stopping by. I hope the season is productive and wish you all a strong week ahead.