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

Posts tagged “audience

Better Than George Lucas? Build Your Own Brand and Prove IT!

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(The Fort – Tribe CDI – 2019)

Welcome new readers from Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, India and beyond. We’re in the final days of 2019 and so far it has just been a great season. This past week I’ve had a few meetings at the fort with the fire burning bright with ideas and friendship. We have some great updates to share with everyone but before that lets looks at someone else’s art.

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Star Wars – (NO SPOILERS)  – I went to see Star Wars at 7 years old and it was the seed planted in me to become a storyteller. Last week I got to see the final film in a series of interconnecting stories started by George Lucas. My issue with many films these days is just trying to do too much. Instead of one star ship in pursuit there has to be 100. Tension is created in moments. Those can feel stolen when trying to do too much. Character development is still king in my world of viewing hence by love of shows like BLACK SAILS. Bringing together all the ‘Star Wars’ loose threads was surely difficult but overall I really did enjoy the final film. That said, I feel truly like the torch has been passed. I feel like I do a good job of creating characters on the script page with depth. I feel we have stories to tell and we will. The goal is to create a few classics in this lifetime. In 2020 will see more writing, producing and continue to try and captures hearts and minds with our stories.

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(WILD FAITH brand – Hastings TV series in development at CDI)

I see a lot of talented artists who spend a lot of time creating in someone else’s world. But the bottom line is you don’t own the brand. There are several filmmakers that do a great job creating fan films from video games or Star Wars and The Mask. That said, all that hard work is building someone else’s brand. I’m a fan of brands also but I let it influence my work but I don’t work with someone else’s brand unless hired to do so.

All three biblical adventures in THE QUEST TRILOGY (Forty Nights, Chasing the Star and The Christ Slayer) are all on Amazon. I was given an opportunity to produced these adventures with a ‘Star Wars’ feel. The cinematography and often the music was influenced by the Star Wars style. Star Wars was influenced from earlier works like THE SEVEN SAMURAI. A good reason for your own brand is that you don’t have to ask permission to create your own world. And if you succeed those people are becoming fans of your work. Again instead of the hardships of growing an audience around your brand, if you pick a strong brand with dedicated followers you can get a jump on exposure but…. I mean if you create a great Star Wars fan film you might get millions of hits. But try adding a price tag, although you cannot sell someone else’s brand, and it becomes like buying a knock off cologne. If a non-official derivative of someones brand  is offered free you may get a lot of eyes but unless the creators take notice and hire you, you’re just building someone else’s brand. Beware of legal also with others brands. Just my two cents.

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So again just like role playing, cos-play or any fun group activities, fan art has a place but film work is really hard  work for someone else’s brand. My advice is do your own thing or work WITH an emerging artists to create a shared brand. Again I’m not a “my way is the only way” person at all. But I’m not into fan films or hobby films or anything that isn’t building our brand. Now you can build your skill set (acting, directing, writing) with the previous two mentioned types of films so there is value. I do appreciate anyone who uses their imagination to create. We just have long term goals and so those need to remain in focus for us. It is a hard industry to survive in. Take that from a survivor.

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Please do enjoy the holidays with a watch on the trilogy and watch all three in order. Poor ‘Chasing the Star’ sometimes takes a few rocks because someone did not realize they were watching part 2 of 3 films. In time audiences will understand they are a trilogy and a bigger picture will emerge upon watching in order.

I also see a few people who thought the Magi story had nothing to do about Christmas. Maybe I should have added Heat and Cold Miser and a reindeer or two:) But for the few audience members who don’t get it, many DO get it. We don’t dumb down our stories but challenge and encourage people to talk and discuss often hard topics. So ENJOY a watch and discussion.  At one of my distribution content meetings we had discussion about more biblical adventures. I might have my next three films and one of them is written. So we will see said the wise man.

Asking Forgiveness

MBF: MAN’S BEST FRIEND – Due to the season where many are enjoying family and friends and watching films, I’ve gotten a spike in fan mail. This film has been generating a good buzz and we have some exciting events and showings coming up in 2020. But you don’t have to wait. You can watch on Amazon today! If dogs and/or support of our military touches you, please do take a watch.

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LOST HEART – The fine cut is getting close. After a wonderful first cut by editor Scott Magie, welcome to the CDI Tribe, a second final cut is near. This week we had a post meeting with Dennis Therrian (music/sound), Jesse Low (Director) along with Melissa Anschutz, Shane Hagedorn and even John Mashni made a stop by. Come mid 2020 we will have a most excellent story to share with you all.

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In the meantime – please watch the CDI Film collection and share your thoughts.

DEVELOPMENT 

HOPE for HEAVEN – is the script I’ve been working on. It’s been developing in a wonderful fashion starting with some great characters. We’re working development on several properties that could go full green light in 2020/2021.  A sequel to KNIGHT CHILLS, perhaps? We’ve had a few screen and camera tests. WW2 drama – coming together. Kids adventure film – might happen:) WILD FAITH TV series:) With some of the new meetings and opportunities before CDI, I promise we will continue to create. Thank you to all of you for your continued support.

WRAP UP…

Ok. We had a wonderful first Christmas gathering yesterday. Friends tonight and several gatherings in the week ahead, including two more family Christmas gatherings. I am down to just a little bit of shopping. I give thanks to those who sent a card or gave little love gifts, much appreciated. But the most important thing you can give anyone is a bit of your time, laughter and joy.

I’ve been questioned about my verbal non-involvement in politics. It’s because much like the ‘golden rule’ I believe in focusing on what we all could benefit from. When people are drained from endless debates, divided by priority differences and angered by the never-ending shortcomings of each another – I say relax. Sit back and watch a story with universal messages woven within. My friendships with people are more important than trying to convince someone I’m right about an obvious self-opinion. So set aside your differences and focus on what brings us all together. Fellow human beings trying to live a meaningful life with health and joy. Even if it is for a few days, try it and you might find it a better way to live, to cope, to exist, to grow, and to be the better you.

Fear leads to anger, anger to hate and hate to suffering – MERRY CHRISTMAS!

DJ


First Showings, Winter Snowing’s and What’s to Come!

 

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Ah! Nothing like a good steaming cup of coffee on a snowy Saturday. I think I’ve been good at trailblazing ahead in filmmaking and not sweating the nay sayers. I DO care about our audiences and I DO care about the artists I work with. I want them to be proud to be part of a Collective Development project. The films have always been made with passion from the very beginning. So last night on the big screen, we did our first showing for our Michigan-based cast and crew of “40 Nights” that traveled to Yuma. A few significant other and special guests attended but I wanted to keep it intimate and low key. The theatrical version will be a more powerful 7.1 mix but even stereo, the film played powerful. What it will mean to each of you – that is what peaks my curiosity.

I wanted to share that screening with some good people – and we did. Thank you so much to the Lansing Media Center for hosting our cast and crew showing last night. It was great to see it on the big screen. Yuma, AZ-area cast and crew get ready. I’m very excited to show everyone there VERY soon.

Also we’re entering another phase in the filmmaking journey. I compare finishing a feature film to dropping a kid off at the bus stop, ready for their first day of school. At home, you can feed the child all the encouragement, love and preparation before the harsh world has contact. Our child is now on the bus. Creatively, what is – IS. Now the debates can rage – love it, hate it – why didn’t someone fund my film versus this…like I said in a post, “stepping out of the darkness where the masses wait with rocks or roses”-

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“40 Nights” – the 1st film in the QUEST trilogy.

Audiences will decide. I shift to business mode arranging things that will assist exposure of this film. My biggest regret on “40 Nights” after watching in studio was that it lacked P&A to show in theaters around the world. I thought it would play epic – last night at our first private viewing – it did. Much is credited to the capture of beautiful locations and the skilled hard work of our production team. A special credit to the vision of our director who translated the story from page to screen.

Feel free to sign up your local theater, church or venue for a screening opportunity. The page is on the http://www.40nightsthemovie.com website.

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BTS of “40 Nights” – the camp of John the Baptist

My upcoming director and editor on the second film got to attend the showing. I wanted to show them for weeks the cut of “40 Nights” as we prepped for part 2 “Chasing the Star” BUT I wanted them to see it EPIC. I wanted them to get to experience the world and I think they did just that. This second adventure will also be one for the books. Getting ready to chase the star:) Building the team.

Team –

I’ve talked about this before. I’m blessed with having played team sports from a young age. My father was big into sports and so that was part of my life. You rise and fall together and you participate in witnessing what can be done with proper COMMUNICATION and COLLABORATION. Coordination is that synergy between it all and the lines run on professional respect. That is, respect for the story, that will all bear their names. As stated, my goal is to have my cast and crews be proud of the participating. These teams can develop over time but I’ve realized, some don’t really know what a team truly is. I am going to give an example and perhaps it will help someone, somewhere.

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1st official teaser poster from the 2nd film in the QUEST Trilogy

Three films with fixed budgets are contracted. A team is hired for project one. Project done. Proposed hirings again for project two from project one – A few want more compensation. (Who doesn’t) But the trilogy was outlined – it is a business plan. Now the end game goal, is to take the three completed films to sell NEW development at a studio or TV network. Or just raise budgets to reflect ROI from the trilogy films and move forward with a new slate. Budget increase will equal pay increase. Okay, everyone should be with me.

As a producer,I HIRE, yet as a writer or actor I’m often, THE HIRED. If you made an offer for a short time commit at lower rates (I did not say FREE nor for IMDB credit). These are rates with transportation, lodging, food and such. Now as an actor, would working under your assumed rate, on a short term project, by a company that hires repeatedly or on a regular basis. That sounds good.

To me, the quality has to be at a certain level for acting consideration, but I think when possible that quality should also be looked at by crews. I know many do pick and choose very carefully where to put their artistic heart. I understand schedule conflicts – why work always wants to land on one another versus nose to tail? It just does. But doing a project, that I believe in for a smaller rate. I’ve done it. And it won’t kill my yearly income by working a few days under rate. I have often nurtured relationships that would grow and expand in scope and budget over the years. The movie BOTTLE ROCKET shot immediately to mind. Several creative individuals that collaborated and still collaborate.

Back to the job offers, I watch people work on a series of free projects and turn around to tell me a rate offered is too low. Do I carry the burden that this person chose to play versus work? Other client(s) that did not pay? Whatever the case, now someone behind in bills, pushes to get more $$. Now, I’ve been successful as an actor because I respect the long game. A career of building respectful relationships that when the large paycheck opportunity comes along that person is happy to give it, because you gave so much when they had so little.  Respect is real power. I give people a clean slate to make their own respect. Together I invite people to travel on a journey of storytelling. I’ve dedicated my life to following this path.  I will be direct and people understand, I’m looking at the end game. A finished film. A story made by a  team of artists. One that I can only hope everyone is proud to have worked on. Enough of this ramble.

I’m going to cut this short as I have some work to attend to and I want to finish a polish on a script. I’m almost there. That script is the 3rd film in the QUEST TRILOGY, “The Christ Slayer”…

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Have a great Saturday! Keep clawing!

DJ

 

 

 


“Ashes” Test Audience, German Acquisitions and Self Accountability

Last week I did some writing about overcoming chaos in your personal life or career. If you have a well build ship of “self” and a calm center you can brave the storm and get back to your calm waters. But you have to ask yourself “Did I sail into that storm”? “Did I think the PROS outweighed the CONS and change my course?” I guess part of the lesson is that if your own actions bring you into chaos you can’t go without blame. I’m happy to say that the waters here are calming and we are back to some smooth sailing. Are you saying enough with the damn boat analogies? Okay let’s look at this in a filmmakers view whereas it can apply in many other situations.

You should just like a navigator look at each proposed journey. Damn I’m doing it again:) Okay… you should look at every opportunity presented and VET it out. Many actors/crew are so excited about the idea of a creative outlet and a paycheck that they fail to ask the questions that really matter. I think some don’t want to know the truth but when things go to hell in a handbag they are the 1st to be most vocal. OK. You trusted a liar and they lied. WOW! That is like trying to tap a cobra on the head and acting surprised when you get bitten. Also you have to look at the talent behind the camera – the director, DP, Art Director – the quality of equipment and the other actors involved. I’ve heard of starting filmmakers getting mad or defensive if talent asks to see THEIR reel. It is a collaboration and the door swings both ways. Just because someone can crowd fund raise a small budget doesn’t put them above vetting out. If they are experienced they will proudly point to a few examples of their work. If those people were riding on false ego – anger and defensive attitudes are usually what you get. I don’t really deal with that too much these days because I can usually smell inexperience and a chaos storm coming. You need to check your excitement and make sure you want to work with them. I will never do a project without reading a full script. Bad format and such in a script is a huge flag as that is the blueprint to an entire film. In the studio world a badly formated script heads right for the trash can. Maybe you should adopt a similar detection process. Why give blood, sweat and tears for something poorly captured that will take years if ever to finish and will likely only be seen by friends, family and a few local film festival goers if you are lucky. IF you are doing this as a fun hobby this doesn’t really apply to you. In summary be your own agent/management and keep that person apart from the artist. Make sure the boat you get on won’t sink once out to sea. Sorry I must have nautical theme on the brain.

This week had many small moves on the chess board but I did lock a “Soul Eater” pre-distribution deal with Germany that includes a nice cash advance once the film is delivered. I think since most of the film is interiors I will shoot in the winter and the outside scenes will have that FARGO like feel.  I’m also working the licensing on 3 feature films also going to Germany for release. We have enough business under us now that we are also talking development on other projects including a WW2 film. Note that one film “7 Stones” fell out of this line up after they realized it was a short. They loved it but the run time killed it. It is a 47 min TV length and all the other deals are feature-length. Shorts are good director/writer business cards but not a good investment. They can help train a crew to get them ready for long format and showcase actors but will not bring the higher returns of a feature. Just a good lesson which I had pointed out even on this film but consultation is just that – advice to be taken or rejected. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good to be right. It is a strong film and it will find its own outlets.

“Darkest Night” is on the runway for launch in July on VOD, DVD, TV. I’m excited to showcase the hard work of the cast and crew to the USA/Canadian audiences. Germany is also one of the buyers of this film so be ready German fans. We will get the film around the world as horror fans everywhere have been taking a great interest in this film. If you like intelligent horror (not just masked killer stalks kids) and like “Found Footage” format I think this could win a place in your heart. I like traditional filmmaking but I enjoy watching some of these “Found Footage” sub-genre films and was happy to make one. I will take audiences to the Philippine countryside and that in itself adds a great element. So PRE-ORDER now and let’s show these Philippine artists that we appreciate their work.

“Supermodel Showdown” TV series is moving steady along and I think by next week we will have show 2 edited and be into show 3. It is FUN. I know a handful of distributors already waiting to pounce on this so eventually you will see a small crew struggling in the jungle to film a show about beautiful girls learning about themselves on TV.

I might be producing and acting in another drama here soon in August. They are on a fast track to hit a window with one of the stars that needs to work within their current TV schedule. Another associated CDI deal is in talks and may come to light. That would film almost right after the drama ends in Sept. Also once “Ashes of Eden” is off to sound/music the next CDI/New House Ent/Aphtic film will move into more serious development. I’m very excited about that project!

I will end this blog how I ended my week – “Ashes of Eden” had a test audience screening on Friday with studio style survey. I will say that I always remain cautiously optimistic these days having had good films under-perform but I’m sincerely excited about this film. We did a major adjustment to the ending to enhance pacing and what I watched was one powerful scene after another that flowed to a powerful conclusion. I watched people in the audience weep. I’m not talking about watery eyes I’m talking about weeping. The surveys reflected ALL high marks and rated the performances and newly adjusted ending as the most powerful elements. I know this film will get a strong distribution push. I know it will connect with audiences. I will be curious to see this time next year what this film has actually done. I can make some powerful predictions but I would rather let actions speak over words. I’m proud of Shane Hagedorn our writer/director who also produced with our team. The journey has been ORDER throughout the process devoid of chaos. The respectful communication has resulted in a film that makes us all proud. I’m excited for fans to see this movie. It is easily some of my personal best work on both sides of the camera. This film will create new stars and make others shine that much brighter. I also think it will be a proud mark for Michigan and even our little town of Lansing. Soon my friends. Time to mow the yard before screening MAN OF STEEL and getting some good eats.  Have a great weekend!

DJ