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!
So it’s quiet here on Saturday night and I’ll be releasing this in the wee hours of Sunday. We had a nice family gathering to celebrate several birthdays and we’ve got two more days of more such celebrations. Before we get in too deep – welcome readers from Uganda. It has been a whirlwind of business both development, promotion and post-production.
Grand Rapids, MI appearance with Shane Hagedorn and Melissa Anschutz
It’s been wonderful to first see all the cast and crew from “Wild Faith” and following that – to have audiences enter this world we’ve recreated on-screen. We had a solid run in both Grand Rapids and Lansing. Lansing, Lansing, Lansing… I’ve always been proud of being from Lansing and still call it home to this day. I’ve always felt somewhat that the saying you can’t be a prophet in your own town, applied to me. I understand it. I think it applies to many artists.
But, the power of a story is proving me wrong. We’ve been selling out “Wild Faith” all weekend and so tomorrow Celebration Cinema jumped us from one showing to four. This after several fine folks were unable to attend after the shows sold out in advance online. I went to run errands this morning and heard people talking about the film. Often we as the filmmakers can grow tired of the story after the long post production phase. But I’ve enjoyed the handful of theatrical showings I’ve attended. I’ve enjoyed the laughter most of all. To hear a full theater laugh together at certain moments is priceless.
I think with the last several films I’ve played emotionally heavy characters. It was a pure joy to be Ben Lily. A tribute to a character with more bravery than brains. With my trusty half-native sidekick, or am I the sidekick? Either way, creating with these two characters was special for me because of the humor intertwined in the performance. I also know that my old friend Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty would have approved with a hearty laugh. I do wish old friend Rance Howard could have seen the final film. He loved the trailers and truly loved the genre. The film will continue to move and play. If you want the film call/email your local theater and request the film to play. We’re in talks with several new venues and may announce new screens as early as this week. But if you can – treat yourself tomorrow. 1875 Michigan.
SUNDAY ‘WILD FAITH” SHOWTIMES AT CELEBRATION CINEMA (LANSING)
10:45, 1:05, 6:00, 8:05
In other news, Collective Development Inc.‘s next film MBF/Man’s Best Friend has been given the green light. All funds are committed and being pulled in as we prep the ship to sail. We’re working on setting our schedule and I’m also proud to have ‘Paul’ front and center again. This script is another story I’m extremely proud of. I’m challenged greatly by this next role and I find that exciting. If we’ve spoken to you as cast and crew just be patient as we move down the TO DO lists. We’re working hard to create that environment to create within. I’m excited to share this film next year with audiences. In the meantime…
The Christ Slayer is now in color correction and audio with Nathaniel Nose, director and Dennis Therrian, composer. I like to use that example of kids who get together after school to play. They have ideas, they get excited and they play. Inside the imagination play is what drives the process forward. This film will be a gift to audiences at the Christmas season. Part 3 of The Quest Trilogy will pull it all together.
Working backwards – Chasing the Star is playing the big screen at the International Christian Film Festival up for five awards. It was nice to catch up with director Bret Miller at a “Wild Faith” screening in Grand Rapids. We got to toast a beer to the adventure in the desert we called “Chasing the Star” CTS. This film is moving into more foreign territories and platforms.
“Forty Nights” is being promoted heavily going into the Easter season by our distributor. It is such an inspiring story I can see why it was recently chosen to kick off their Easter promotions. I will admit here, of all the ICFF awards “Chasing the Star” is up for I hope we see another ‘2018 Most Inspirational‘ take home to honor our amazing cast and crew.
I can say I’ve been enjoying experiencing the reaction to this films. I’m appreciative that these stories are giving some entertainment and comfort to audiences. I’ve been writing weekly and plan to get even more focused. Wheels are in motion. Several scripts that have been waiting for their time just might find it. Some exciting developments underway that will lead to many more years of stories been told at CDI. The tribe is on the move to create and we appreciate all your support. We cannot thank you enough.
Be good to one another.
2018 is underway and I’ve been spending my energy on several projects. The end-of-the-year taxes for our business ventures is a yearly endeavor. We’ve got a good start and will look to have everything submitted to our firm next week.
Also working to launch the new Collective Development Inc. website. Merchandise and streaming services will be some of the new phase 2 and phase 3 additions.
Wild Faith’s Ben Lily says, Soon we gonna tickle the snake and rattle the wagon
This week we have a final watch through in studio with our color correction and audio mix. I’m excited to have a few more conversations on the TV series. But we’ll be meeting this week about the premiere and theatrical roll out. Here is the new theatrical trailer for the film. I’m really excited about the film and think audiences will enjoy it.
NEW “2018 Wild Faith Trailer”
Staying in the period – the re-release of WICKED SPRING is underway. I have been working with the distributors team. They have chosen one of my favorite pics for the cover. The new transfer looks strong and they’ve been mixing and cleaning using some of the newest tools. I’m excited to get this film back to market and available to the streaming digital crowd. I’m in hopes that they will be cutting a new trailer. We will see in the coming weeks.
Another film just released is a CDI associated animated project “The Patchwork Girl of OZ” which is a children’s tale based on the original book and illustrations. It is now on Vimeo On Demand and will be coming to Amazon and other platforms.
RENT/BUY HERE: Vimeo
MBF (Man’s Best Friend)
We’re still fighting to get all our investor paperwork signed and funds in the bank. We’ve still got a few units to have spoken for so ongoing discussions with investors will continue this month.
Meanwhile we have announced more of our cast. These are first-time film talents that will be working with us. Read about it below…
READ THE NEW PR HERE:
The Quest Trilogy
As Easter approaches our distributor will start to push “Forty Nights” part 1 of the trilogy. The three films together tell their own story. Part 2 “Chasing the Star” had a great holiday run and it is still a wonderful adventure tale to watch at any time of the year.
DOVE Review of “Forty Nights”
DOVE Review of “Chasing the Star”
At the end of the month we will be releasing the poster and theatrical trailer for the third film in the trilogy “The Christ Slayer” so that is being worked on. Music and sound design plotting has begun and it will be awesome to see the audio come to life behind the visuals.
I’m not going to ramble on too much here. Lot’s of development and post work ahead. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful start to your 2018.
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.
A beautiful morning it has been to kick off 2017. The sun is shining and the coffee is flowing and we just had a modest meal of bacon and eggs. Last night we rang in the new year with some family. I got to share some samples of white whiskey made by wonderful traditional distillers. Also a touch of Sanctuary Spirits HOP TONIC and a few crafty beers. Shepherd’s Pie made sure to soak up most of the bite from the libations. We just stepped outside into the glorious sunshine that is radiating. The dogs played a bit and we reminded ourselves here in Michigan what the sun looked like. Yesterday I completed some organizing getting ready for the new year. Let’s look at a few of the final developments in our film work.
The ACTOR was represented by Adler Ent. and I’m told they will have some news very soon about where this cool NYC based drama can be seen.
I still do not have any updates on DEAD QUIET – things have been dead quiet about the status of this film:) Maybe 2017 will be the year.
WILD FAITH is in editing and on the social media Facebook site we’ll start releasing some actual STILLS from the movie versus behind-the-scenes. We’ll be closing in on a first cut in the weeks to come. The interest is there in a series so those materials will be developed. I will be looking for more key crew members should this series start to take shape. So AD’s, coordinators and other such keys feel free to start sending me a resume to have on file to firstname.lastname@example.org – also if you’ve worked with any of our other crew members please note that. The feature will be done this summer and start showings this fall.
The QUEST TRILOGY
This amazing set of stories starting with FORTY NIGHTS will be releasing this year with our new partners at BMG. The release for FORTY NIGHTS will be around Easter 2017. Look for new artwork and the film is getting a remastering before the new release.
CHASING THE STAR the second film in the trilogy released a powerful trailer at the end of the year. The film is close to be done as we move into credits, color correction and complete the VFX work. We’ll be doing some event showings leading up to the Sept 2017 general release. I’ve seen this film at various stages and I’m excited for us to share this story.
THE CHRIST SLAYER is the third film and as we speak the business paperwork is being pulled together. We’re going to once again travel to AZ in March to film this final chapter. We’ve settled on our director and we start story meetings on Tuesday. We’ll be doing a PR announcement this coming week once they have their bio materials around. We’re looking for a few crew members to fill in on this film and if you are an actor we’ll be doing a casting call soon. West coast talent is actually better on this film due to limited flight budget. We also might be announcing a few cast members soon since we’ve been casting internally for a year plus. I’m really excited about filming this third piece of the story. It should release around Easter 2018.
We’ll be looking ahead at other projects in development. Change in the new year can come from changing old patterns, especially patterns that have had negative consequences. Last year we had many positive things happening and I can only hope to build off those advances. We have a wonderful team of artists and I’m looking forward to creating with them again in the new year.
Happy New Year to all of you!
I have finally landed back in my comfy chair and will take a few moments with all of you. MSU plays football in a short while and I enjoy that time. We will watch and enjoy some Mexican eating as the night falls and the air turns cold. We had a streak of beautiful weather and only a short year earlier we had major snow. I’m not sure how Michigan will be this winter but we’ll deal with it. I think an oil change before the snow hits but other than that we will be ready. I need to do a final mow and put away certain things until spring. I’m ready to enjoy the season and continue to prep for the 2016 season ahead.
We’ve been all hands on deck with post production trying to bring “40 Nights” to a close. Many people are VERY excited including our marketing people with Lightworx. Sound design and music at one studio, VFX at two studios and color correction awaits at the end. The distributor wanted to know if they could get screeners now (work in progress) but the film is in layered pieces. But soon the pieces will all be married together into one final film. If you are just starting to hear about “40 Nights” check it out.
Theatrical showing events will take place before our April 1st release and that is no joke:) Some may know that “40 Nights” is the first in our QUEST TRILOGY. The second is entitled “Chasing the Star” and we’ve just announced our director and some of our returning cast. Take a look at the press release below.
I’m excited to once again play in this powerful, moving world that we’re exploring. Jesse Low, our “40 Nights” director will likely be ready for some R&R before moving into our CDI mid-“western” that he’ll direct. I purchased something today that will either be a costume or set dressing. It was a bear skin. Now I’m personally not for hunting predators. I think these sport hunters who kill at some silly distance with a rifle are disgraceful. It isn’t like you used a bowie knife. Anyway, I knew that this could be an awesome prop that fit our period. So this animal skin is now in the office. I have also been looking for something long to hang on a wall beam in the office. I had someone approach me with a trade that was just too cool. It was a 7 foot long whale harpoon mounted on this beautiful aged wood plank covered with nautical rope. Again, I’m not a supporter of whale hunting in this age of easier food. I know religion, beliefs and other traditions factor into the practice of whale hunting. But those who did this by hand were obviously also putting their life on the line. So today I took possession of a whale harpoon and a bear skin. I don’t say that too often. Okay, I’ve never said that.
“Bestseller” had a great showing in Owosso, MI last Sunday and I want to thank everyone who came out. I want to thank filmmaker buddy Nathan Quinn for coming out and supporting. It was good to catch up and I appreciated the beers. CHEERS! Chris Knight aka Johnathan Rand had a great signing earlier that day for his young fans. Next stop for the film might be Detroit area following Grayling, MI. It was fun to once again watch the audiences be scared. It’s worth a watch with a group in a theater but I know it will also play great in that small dark room late at night. Did you hear something? Boo!
We are so close to announcing our TV premiere with “Ashes of Eden” – I can’t get ahead of our distributor’s PR so I have to wait. But that film will be getting out to audiences worldwide every soon.
The Nov 19th CDI film mixer at Sanctuary Spirits in Grand Ledge, MI will be showing “An Ordinary Killer”. Now if our transfer worked correct from the D5, I intend to make DVD’s to purchase also. We’re planning on doing new runs of all the classic CDI films.
We’re passing contracts back and forth on the book/DVD re-release of “Knight Chills”. I’m excited to revisit this world in the many formats. The sequel film and comic book adaptations could be happening sooner versus later. Stay tuned!
Well, I’m going to wrap this up and do a little work while watch MSU. Enjoy your weekend.