Thinking of this fine man on this snowy Michigan morning – Mr. Rance Howard. I’m sipping at the hazelnut coffee and reflecting upon the past week and what lies ahead. I’m also very excited about the present day which is starting with spending time with all of you. I want to thank you all for joining us all. We have several new readers from all over the world. Okay I know what I can speak on that maybe some of you can apply.
For fear of sounding like the old man talking of walking to school with no shoes, read me there was not a known “industry” in Michigan when I started out. There was a handful of crazy artists scrapping together money for “short end” film stock. Pulling favors to allow one to edit or make analog transfers at TV stations in the dead of night. In 1989 to tell your parents you wanted to be a filmmaker you might as well been telling them you wanted to walk on the moon. Tax incentives come in and business media announce Michigan’s best incentive and suddenly people saw a new word – filmmaker.
Many people look for short cuts but I would suggest rather than short cuts (which only short cut your education) * THROW BACK LESSON – Senior year in high school I learned the REPEAT function in typing class. Using the free time to work on scripts and storyboards, I got away with it until just before final exams. I think my grades in that class were like A, A, A, C. Enter my life where I type all the time on contracts, scripts, proposals, pitches and so on. I would have more time to put elsewhere if I had been a faster typer. So don’t look to get around certain hardships. Change the way you look at it. A teachable moments for yourself. An opportunity to learn.
OK. So seek to waste less time and/or spend time wiser, not seeking short cuts. It’s that smarter versus harder approach. So where is this smarter attitude leading us you might ask? Smarter might be faster but faster is not always better. It’s the toxic variable or strings attached that come with certain choices. I had another week of developing opportunities and options. Some are for the company and some were on a personal business level. They are intertwined like quantum pairing:) But I have to remind myself and honestly it is not hard at this point in my life – to walk not run. If an opportunity is not a fluke it will not be there and gone. It strengthens and grows with each steady step.
I’m working out an agreement with a management company. I’ve desired for a long time someone who appreciated the art individually (me) and collectively (Tribe CDI) and works to the best interest of these endeavors. I’ve had many agents from a collection of smaller agents to one from a big 3 agency in Hollywood. It’s HARD to find representation that fits. Many have a hard time finding a rep at all but the right fit is RARE. I have many celebrity friends with long careers and they are still seeking that right fit. But, I think I’ve found a company/people I like and could be a good fit. Now, even without this new opportunity things are progressing strong in an upward direction. What is offered in part by this proposed arrangement is SPEED and SIZE.
SPEED: I recall a Hollywood lunch meeting with an arrogant agent from a major agency years ago. Without rehashing the whole story – maybe this person landed in a blessed place where they could with a phone call do what might take me months to do. But their power came from an appointment of position not an earned stake in creating motion picture. They were selling speed but at what price?
SIZE: I have been asked in a few high end meetings about my business goals? I answered, to do exactly what I’m doing now but for myself and my people to be better compensated for it. Can this new opportunity perhaps put our showcased projects even higher? I know that if we had strong P&A many of the CDI films would have soared to some decent box office receipts. But our films were built on a limited theatrical- home video model. Even that money was work to gather. That is the key for all filmmakers. The ONLY thing that makes it easier is your REPUTATION.
People have tried to figure out THE SECRET OF CDI. The answer is reputation. I/We’ve become known for 3 things. 1) On budget. 2) On schedule 3) Ability to assemble the right team behind a project * The last thing I have been doing since high school when I had tricked that old type writer to ‘repeat’ while I assembled the after school cast and crew for our silly videos.
Become known for these things and an abundance of opportunities may follow. That is why accountability is so very important and many artists avoid that. Talking accountability I recently had a non-film discussion with a young family friend. I asked him a question about how he had left a job. He prepared to give me a lie? An excuse? Justification? Instead he just took accountability for it because I think he knew he couldn’t get one by me.
* I think that is why many don’t engage me at functions or meetings…if you’re selling BS I will likely call you on that – maybe privately, maybe not.
My point was, I saw the relief in his eyes. I saw the power that washed over him by taking accountability. He had just up and quit this job by not showing up. He had later apologized and expressed a desire to return to work. His former employer was not prepared to forgive but he will remember the apology and who knows. And by taking accountability this young man took on a new strength and insight that he could possibly use in the future. This accountability leads to wisdom.
I think this conversation leads in nicely to the crew and cast talks we’ve been having on the new CDI film. A dramatic comedy with strong messages of hope, entitled BEST YEARS GONE. It’s an adaptation from a book that will be released in advance of the film. When I was approached with this opportunity I was prepared to say no if it wasn’t up to snuff. I can promise that even with money attached if a project is too outside my interest or the branding of CDI, a pass might happen. But CDI is a big garden that can accommodate many ventures of various genres. We’ve had several meetings to debrief and discuss cast and crew from previous projects. We’re always seeking the most artistically gifted with a positive “can do” attitude to develop.
Some of the past CDI directors…
* Side Note – I had a wonderful catch up conversation with an old school friend who has gone on to many great things including several government endeavors. We talked about people management. He spoke about the one person on a team often highly gifted but with a bad attitude. I said, I would not rehire the #1 guy and focus on the gifted #2 and #3 with good attitudes. Easier to inspire the best out of them. versus changing negative hard wiring. So now I work for the government. Just kidding. Wait! Do I? Like Elvis working with the CIA:) Hmmm…
My point – it’s about the journey not just the destination. As a former coach, sensei and camp counselor – I take even the few shortcomings personal. I’m about developing people where many are about using people. I see the potential to fail or succeed in a person. You try to inspire them to be the best version of themselves. A chaotic, disorganized environment would bring out the worst in some. We’re just about to build the new team and so you again you take accountability of past sets and look at all the variables. Also because of our budgets and just the scope of the story we can’t always work with everyone on every endeavor. That said, I’m excited to be working again soon with many of the ole TRIBE CDI this April/May. We’ll start making some announcements this week on BEST YEARS GONE.
LOST HEART – I’m looking forward to a sit-down with composer/sound designer Dennis Therrian this week. I’m excited to add all the audio layers to this charming and touching story of dreams. I’ll be following up to see what is also going on with our Nashville recordings. Poster art and trailer are being worked on and I hope to have something to share soon.
MBF: MAN’S BEST FRIEND – HELLO TEXAS!
MBF: Man’s Best Friend will also be playing Bedias, Texas Feb 9 at the Christian Film Festival. I’m excited for a new audience to experience our story. We’ll keep expanding the showings at events and platforms. If you enjoyed this film and think someone else will also – please do share it.
THE QUEST TRILOGY
This Easter help me make a tradition of watching the three films in the trilogy. FORTY NIGHTS focuses on the little known time Jesus spent in the wilderness. CHASING THE STAR presents a ‘what if’ you got to know the wise men magi. THE CHRIST SLAYER follows the Roman centurion who put the spear to Jesus on the cross. I can promise you that these films are unlike any other you have watched. We also see from the perspective of the angels both the fallen and faithful. They are a unique thread through all three films. RIP to Kirk Douglas who like Chuck Heston was an inspiration to me with their epic historic dramas. Please take a watch or re-watch and encourage some friends and/or family to watch. I watched them around Christmas and I’m very proud of what we created, collectively:)
WILD FAITH – Soon we’ll be entering into discussions over financing and distribution of a TV series spin off of WILD FAITH. If the time table works out I would love to roll cameras first part of 2021. Phase 1 – make our deal. Phase 2 – lock scripts/hires Phase 3 – shoot! If you have not seen this film treat you and your family to a watch. I’m happy to say just like several of the films I get weekly fan mail on this film. I’m passing on your howdy doo’s to Ben Lily. I am looking forward to having Ben and Hester return to the world of Wild Faith.
To wrap this up – I’ve got many people that I care and look out for as we journey. I’m excited about the prospect of SPEED and SIZE of the deals increasing to meet our needs better. But I also cannot tie my entire operations up. Blanket deals with no performance or exit clauses are often issue prone. I have meetings with my legal next week but I think slow and steady is better. I also think a trial period is helpful for both parties. My solution might just be to allow representation on a writer/actor level and production by a -la-carte not an overall. Also I always try same side of the table negotiations always. But sometimes when you receive harsh one-sided agreements it is from the scars of previous burns. We all have them. The secret is not to carry that over into your new relationships. If something or nothing happens on this front stuff is moving forward. The new screenplay I wrote will be produced this May and I’ve got a new character to become.
CDI in the Hollywood
Enjoy the day and the week that lies ahead. My congrats to all the Oscar nominations. I use to attend a yearly Oscar event “Norby Walters Night of 100 Stars” and might return at some point. I think we’ll be out in Hollywood next to show MBF.
Chatting it up with the vets of our industry like Martin Landau.
I’ve have had an opportunity to watch many of the films this year. What a great line up! They are all winners in my book. I could post my reviews but I have things to do today. Maybe next week we’ll compare my thoughts versus the actual outcome.
Oscar Night – going to Norby Walters ‘Night of a 100 Stars”
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!