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.
Good morning! I’m writing you from the deck of my patio that has hop vines wrapping around all it. (The pic above from the spring) The squirrels are busy picking the last of the ripe mulberries and birds are singing while playing in the bird baths. Without question the coffee sits beside me flooding me with the wonderful taste of hazelnut. If I cannot find a coffee sponsor in the next few years I just going to open a coffee business. I have to try harder with some of the local Michigan roasters.
The office fridge might have seen its last days. It’s almost fully defrosted and we’ll see once we plug it back in if it lives. If it’s dead I’ll be getting a more fuel-efficient replacement. The one now was from my buddies basement where we would skip class at MSU, drink beer, play pool and listen to jams. It’s been a worthy chiller of beverages so we will see.
This week was a hot, humid wave that’s not really to my liking. It was followed by just a few extremely beautiful days consisting of warm air and cool winds. During the heat wave I got a lot of writing and paperwork done while watching the various nations go at it on the World Cup soccer field. Let’s look at a few of the movie updates.
I’m happy to say that the domestic home-video deal on the 3rd film in The Quest Trilogy – THE CHRIST SLAYER is signed. It will join parts 1 & 2 at Bridgestone Multimedia Group. The Christmas theatrical will be followed by an Easter home video release. I’m excited to have all three out there together which will reveal more about the overall storyline. Interweaving of the story arc goes through all three stories/movies. IF you have seen part 1 (Forty Nights) or part 2 (Chasing the Star) please do leave a review on amazon or IMDB and leave what you took away from it. I think people unaware that it was a trilogy felt part 2 kind of left them hanging – well it was meant to. The next few months will see things heating up PR-wise on part 3 with more BTS and still photos releasing. It really is an epic way to end the trilogy. I know Dennis Therrian will do another incredible score. The VFX work coming in is just incredible, not surprising as their previous work included BLACK SAILS (One of my favorite series) and ROGUE ONE just to name a few. They built models and created digital matte paintings just for this film. This film was a really cool step for us as a company allowing us to use as many VFX shots as we did. I have director Nathaniel Nose to thank for all that.
I will use that example in discussing development work at CDI. I’m trying to make more time to sit down with people in our field. Directors, actors and those trying to produce content. From the earliest days of CDI it was about bringing cards to the table. CDI is an actor/producers company looking to tell powerful stories. Currently we have momentum behind my scripts – distributors like the content and final product. Talent loves the style and depth of the characters and situations. We also have some talented writers within our ranks. ADVICE – IF you’re bringing a script to the table the best thing is to also bring the money.
BUT THIS IS THE HARDEST PART! Yes. I know this. After many years in this industry – a truth is – every NEW variable could lead to new advancements OR disaster. The wrong crew or cast can be devastating to the overall quality of the final product. I’ve been scrutinized because I would rather pay a broader crew base a modest wage versus overpay a name talent, at the expense of the crew. It’s a difference of opinion in business models and a happy medium does exist. I feel a larger name can move more initial units but a bad movie with a larger name will also die off quickly. I had to turn off a multimillion dollar film lately. It was long, plodding (nice camerawork) but after an hour plus we still had 45 min plus minutes to go. We didn’t care about any of the characters. That’s the result of either a poor script or just bad chemistry as you know they had a huge crew base. I’m saying that I would rather have a modest, long-term success with a good movie vs a flash hit with a bad film. How long before it gets lost in the shuffle of bad films? What do you have to show for all that hard work years later?
OK. I went slightly off topic. But anyone new is a wild variable, and therefore a risk. Skill is only part of the equation whereas personality/character is the other big factor. Do they play well with others? Positive? Respectful? I’ve had others say “so and so” is a great artists but grumpy or aloof and that’s just how they are. Well, they can go be that somewhere else. I have reduced all this down to a simple saying – Always be a sail and never an anchor.
So with these sit downs – I’ll be getting to know people and informally evaluating to see if they would ever work well into our system. The CDI system. What does that mean? Well…these films were not the result of some money thrown together to rush together a film – perhaps with no accountability. I shudder when I hear of all the films being done with no script or the script is just an afterthought. I recall one time an actor friend telling me they were on set and the director was having them write the script on the spot. He called it interesting and I called it incompetence. I guess it was both. But here we’re taking on investment capital and we must give best efforts. This company was founded on best efforts and striving to always be better. CDI today is built upon its earliest endeavors. Future CDI endeavors will be built on current endeavors. This is a tradition not a hobby. Not a film challenge but an evolution. This is a business that works in deep creative waters. My expectations of myself and the producers/directors are high. My expectations of the cast and crews are high. If you are not serious about the process and the end result – off the deck. No point in trying to sign up here.
Now some people just don’t know any different but once shown a better way they are willing to adapt and thrive in a more structured endeavor. Others can try to drag negativity or bad habits from previous experiences but I’ve been doing this a long time. If you start to feel like that anchor, stating obvious problems versus presenting viable solutions, being a sail – I’m going to drop you at the next island. Lose your professionalism and respect and the immediate gangplank walk could be your fate. I don’t fire often but I’m more than willing to do what needs to be done. That said, every firing has been a failing on my part. A failure to properly evaluate someone before a hiring or just failure to lead that person to a better way of co-existing on a film set. Management is something I enjoy because I’ve had the opportunity to create the environment that I want to work in. The environment that allows the best creative juices to flow.
I guess in summary – you could be involved in a CDI association or collaboration IF you have your own funds and seek a machine (production unit) that runs like a CDI film. Now $ still rules so if you bring a majority of the production funds, unless decided differently in contract, we consult or bring options to arising issues. That controlling entity makes the final decisions. Those decisions need to be made with wisdom and balance or trouble can quickly develop. I think I make fair decisions and I’ll say, I’ve made unpopular decisions. But I think it’s about working to be able to see the big picture. Not being drawn in by the ego into trying to force something to fit that does not. Don’t say yes to things that should be told no.
I had productive talks this past week with an experienced director talking about possible CDI collaboration. Our management at Collective Development Inc. was recommended to him. We shared mutual Hollywood horror stories usually stemming from fast-talking, car salesmen-like distributors and wanna be producers, mucking things up. Much of this proposed collaboration will just depend on pros, cons and schedules. I have another past producer collaborator getting close to having his next financing. He wants my involvement again. Evaluate: Content, Script, Schedule… All these variables when kept in-house tend to run very smooth. Adding these outside variables are where most issues lie. Most of the rough waters are in the associated projects but that is also where collaboration exists. But make sure they are a good fit. So I have more phone calls and meetings this week to network and get to know a few folks working hard telling their stories.
WILD FAITH – Lots of exciting happenings here. The home video deal is being worked on while we discuss the option of also launching a TV series. I am really pushing hards on this as I love the character I play. I love the world we built. I love the talent (both sides of camera) and know we would incorporate lots of Michigan talent into the various shows. We’ve been working to set up some additional theatrical showings and we wanted to look at showings in LA and/or NYC. The costs involved were steep and for me I’m watching the bottom line versus the red carpet strut. But I’m happy to say we’ll be screening at the AMC in Burbank as part of the invited line up at the Burbank International Film Festival. I think I’m going to make the trip and my LA-area amigos can finally see one of our films on the big screen. It plays great theatrically and I will enjoy the conversation with film friends after. You too can join us on Sept 8th in Burbank. Read about it here-
Our last film Man’s Best Friend is having the post materials organized as editing is about to begin in full. The opening credit sequence was heavily discussed and that is being worked on. We will also start having more solid talks about the 1st teaser trailer. Also trying to get the right color correction on the first stills before we start releasing those. The story is in puzzle form and soon we’ll start to assemble the film.
I’ve really been enjoying the writing as of late. I’ve taken a few good script concepts and I’m infusing/weaving that into what will likely be our fall film. It’s been refreshing to be back into the imagination and putting it to page. Some location scouting and ground work is also being done. I will say that the initial script concept was to be shot in another state. I was so happy with our last crew that I am revamping the script to Michigan. I’m sincerely thinking we can convince a few of the MBF crew to return:)
Well, it’s a beautiful day and I might spend a little time engaging in some writing. We will also likely go walk a flea market. I love what you can find at those things. I often find props or things that a story might hinge around. No soccer today as we have a BYE week before starting the second half of the season. Next weekend I have a class reunion which will be interesting. I did actually see a Michigan-based, non-CDI project casting that caught my eye. I asked a few questions and we’ll see if any chemistry exists. If not, I’m happy to wait until fall. I do have a script to finish.
Be good to one another!
Much of the country got hit by a major winter storm. I thought this pic would remind us of a warmer place. In Michigan we only got a dusting thanks again to the protection of the Great Lakes. It has been a busy week for sure wrapping up old business and beginning new business. To look back upon the previous week’s news of death, it reminds me to live. Do what you’re suppose to do. Use your gifts. Be happy. I’ve been entering new areas of business as we climb higher on the ladder. It’s always an adjustment to climb higher, to believe and in our case, put forth your art to a wider and wider – world audience. I talked prior about my refusal to complain but adapt to our new growth. I know a few filmmakers with talent but they don’t really grow. They spread along the ground – ground cover but they don’t grow UP! You have to compete with other trees for sun to do this. So while some will play if safe and spread – making more or less the same material. It’s about taking bold moves but having the right business in place. Sunshine can equal shelf space, theatrical time slots or just the attention of an audience pulled in a thousand directions.
I’m thrilled that younger people are again gaining patience and a new appreciation of character development that is coming through mini series and TV shows. I think that Starz or HBO may be one of our future destinations for production. I place “Game of Thrones” and “Black Sails” as two of my favorite shows. I like that different time and place – world creating. We’ve done it on several films and it takes artists who are 100% committed. I’m so happy with our latest and greatest period film. It takes place in biblical times, “40 Nights” the first of a three part trilogy. The three films explore the quests of some amazing individuals. Early test showings have way exceeded expectations. Now I would rather pull expectations down and not light a match to fire up the haters, but I think many audiences will sincerely enjoy this story. I think within the story is something for everyone. We’re now done with the film. From here, we’re looking at theatrical and event showings. Our distributor may do a month push on domestic release to give us a little more time. It’s a film that truly should be seen on a large screen if possible.
I’ve finally circled around back to the business of the soundtrack deal. The agreements are being put together. “40 Nights,””Donors,” “Ashes of Eden,” and “Bestseller” will be the first ones to roll out.
A lot of prepping and energy spent on these new films releasing to the world market. We have an entire group of the older CDI films in the library heading for a new release. At least in one case “Knight Chills” – it comes shortly before a sequel moves into production. Essentially, instead of going to film school for 4 years we made 4 test features in various genres – crossing all the T’s and dotting the I’s so they could keep selling like they do today. I like to call them the CLASSIC CDI FILMS. They can also be defined as the pre-HD generation of CDI films. I was working in film in the early years before it became video with poorly attempted film looks, hopeful multi-chip improvements and frame rate adjustments. CDI moved aggressively into HD using some of the first cameras used by George Lucas in “Phantom Menace”… Lastly the journey has brought us to the age of RED and a slew of great HD cameras in the digital uprising.
We’ve got so much going on with prepping for the roll-outs on these films. We’re looking at a few projects we were approached on for feature film production. (They have their $) A few script reads teasing future acting roles. But we’re excited as “Chasing the Star” is gearing up to enter official pre-production. Some good news is that 4 days will be shot in Michigan which will allow some of our great talent to be showcased. Right now we’re finalizing our business. Almost done. From there we get ready for the first part of the shoot in Yuma, AZ.
I’m happy to announce I’m done with the 1st polished draft of “Knight Chills 2” and almost done with the polish on the third script of the QUEST TRILOGY. (“The Christ Slayer”)
Stay safe. Stay warm. Stay the course with your dreams. Have fun:)