So it’s a rainy, overcast Michigan day with rain showers. Yesterday we had a beautiful day for a shoot we did. I use to love Halloween as a child making costumes with my mom and grandma’s. I use to try and make my candy last from Halloween to Easter by rationing. My brother would eat all his immediately and want some brotherly handouts. Lastly dad took his candy tax. Anything he liked, could be filled with razor blades or needles and so he would need to test a few. I recall childhood Halloween parties – one of my favorite at my buddy John Luginisland’s house. We made haunted attractions for all the neighborhood kids to attend. Later came costumes parties with spirits and “spirits” – drinks. I have not hit any Halloween themed parties in many years. Maybe because I play other characters in the movies I don’t have that itch like many do. Anyway…this is the reason I’m late with my blogging, doing it on a Monday. CDI was hired to produce “movie content” for a software company. We worked with director Nathaniel Nose (* The Christ Slayer) and DP Jesse Aragon (* Lost Heart most recently) and many of the CDI usuals. It was a turn of the century spooky short taken from a feature script of mine entitled, “SMOKE & MIRRORS”. We had a cool Model A car out and shot at the Dodge Turner House in Lansing. Watch out Downton Abbey:) It is about a magician-escape artist debunker attending a seance…let’s just say, it was awesome fun to shoot. The crew rocked and the performances were on point. I think I will polish up that script because I might have found the next project to develop with Nathaniel Nose in mind.
MBF: MAN’S BEST FRIEND
I’ve continued to have great fan communications on this film. We have had charity events invites, film festival invites with waivers and just a slew of general audiences emails expressing their appreciation of the story. I could not be happier. We are looking for written reviews in magazines that would appeal to the target audience. That audience being military and dog themes. The film is a powerful story and I hope it keeps growing an audience.
WILD FAITH – We just played the Happy Trails: Virginia Style Film event and I need to reach out to Darby Hinton and see how people enjoyed it. I’m starting to look at putting the pieces in play for the TV series. I think people would like to see these characters return. Take a watch this week and let me know your thoughts.
THE QUEST TRILOGY – We’ll start PR’ing these once we get past Halloween. All three are now in release and it will be great for people to see them all together. I’ve always said there is a greater story when you watch them all together. Take a watch on FORTY NIGHTS, CHASING THE STAR and THE CHRIST SLAYER.
Development is also underway with several other films to fill the 2020/2021 filming schedule. I hope to have a very productive writing schedule. I’m about to really start working a few scripts every day. We’re about to move into PR and development stages while enjoying our time with our families over the holidays. Thank you for stopping by and we’ll chat again on Sunday.
I’m sipping some strong coffee due to a slight malfunction in the back up coffee maker. It goes perfect with Fall which has arrived here in Michigan. The chilly air and leaves that are slowly starting to change signal this new push towards the harvest. I’ve had a few great sit down meetings this week with associates old and new. I’m a private person who really likes to focus on goals and stay far away from the drama or distractions. To isolate these elements from your life circle allows you to truly add as much creative into your business as possible. I’ve talked about people who tend to use the same variables and are surprised when they get the same results. If you are happy with your direction – great. But if you are not you have to look at your variables and see what is not working. Adjustments in attitude, time management or collaborations can greatly effect the outcome. I’m writing this week within the framework of this – 2 weddings and one funeral for a 18-year-old girl connected to our 4H yearly activity. To see someone who lived fully without any thoughts of a near end and two pair of individuals making a go of it in life can be rewarding. More so when you realize you still are alive and get to meet life’s challenges. It won’t always be so. One day be it tragic or peaceful – your journey here will end. Your children, your art, your words – what will you leave behind? Let’s move to our discussions on film and entertainment…
ASHES OF EDEN – I was proud when I saw the 42 new show dates for our film in Canton and Novi. (See pic for dates) I try not too let pride take hold to often but in this moment, I was. We are not 4 walling or renting the theater – we’re in a partnership much like the major studios. CDI sales team has a new head of theatrical which we will announce. This team will be pushing “Bestseller” and other films from the CDI library out to market. This is a new revenue flow that previously did not exist. A handful of showings were done in days past to avoid the label of DIRECT-TO-VIDEO but it is now a true avenue. Why? The technology and the quality of the product is at a studio level. (Distributor words not mine) Hiring professionals is not enough it’s the focusing of these artists efforts towards telling the best story possible. At the hobby level of filmmaking this is hard because some scenes stay in the film or aren’t cut because someone loved the scene performance, so and so would be mad, the camera shot is great BUT does it serve the story. I’ve seen much growth in this area and I’m humble enough to say I’m always learning both as a creative and as a businessman. You cannot walk around with a full cup or you cannot accept anything new.
I thought I would share some information that was presented recently to a rising filmmaker I sat down with. IF you have some backing and you want to showcase yourself stronger than you have you need good associations. Until you see a department run as it should it is hard to hold yourself to a certain level. We’ve opened ourself at CDI to associations but first it is with whom. Making films is a lengthy process and requires a lot of close collaboration. If your personality runs against this grain of respecting work flow, non-defensive discussions, openness to options – we will pass. I will not argue or deal with big egos. We PR films on a regular schedule but we also don’t attach any entitlement. It is marketing. If you have successfully done certain things you are entitled to an opinion but even that should be done with caution. I see many people not only marketing but believing their own fable. Now I believe that you must have faith in yourself but nothing says confidence like quiet at times. I had someone once ask me after conveying some negative comments about me – if I care? They were surprised that I wasn’t mad but sad for that person. All someone has to do is usually look at the accomplishments of the doer and the complainer and it quickly becomes apparent who is better at using their energy. The sad is for the wasted energy. That circle of negativity can envelop a person or a group. That old “birds of a feather flock together” saying. Seek something better. It doesn’t matter if you are a hobby artist or professional. Who would keep going to a scrapbook club that was plagued by negativity? Play for a team that is chaos and drama? Same in the workplace – people move on from bad work situations or there is a change in leadership. Decide if you want to be a flocking feather or soar with positive doers. Your choice always.
To circle around again to ASHES OF EDEN – we’ve also signed our National deal for home video and digital. We will be announcing more about that in the coming weeks. In the meantime Shane Hagedorn and I have been busy discussing what will be our next collaboration. If you don’t know Shane he is a salt-of-the-earth, hard-working man who I’ve taught and learned from. That is what a positive collaboration is all about. It was also brought up in a recent meeting (Not with Shane) about the divisions existing in Michigan. East-side, West-side blah blah…I say, we are Michigan. I’ve worked in all corners of Michigan with cast and crew from wherever. I’m looking at their art and attitude not their zip code. Lansing doesn’t usually doesn’t get involved in those film turf wars talks. I mean locally aside from CDI only Jeff Burton and maybe our Ahptic friends have worked at that international level. Still it doesn’t matter. It can be done. Our films can compete just like our cars, wines and other MI products. But to do so you have to make product people elsewhere want to see. You have to make it at a quality level that meets quality control. You have to have all legal aspects tied up so you don’t end up with a big home video for family and friends. This is the reality. If you tried to sell and market an unappealing (subjective) car that couldn’t meet safety codes and compliance – who would buy it? You could cobble together some off-road mud buggy for fun or a zippy little go-cart but you can’t expect it to be highlighted in the car industry. Some films are like Go-Carts and their makers think they can enter the Indy 500 and win. This is not a Pixar cartoon with nitro powered snails:) So be realistic. Set realistic goals. Execute with maximum pre-production so you can handle problems you can’t plan for. Don’t cut corners. Don’t allow your ego to trump the story. Keep modifying your process and watch the success start to grow. Good mentors and associations are also key to success – so if professional is your goal – take the realistic steps.
BESTSELLER – We had a great meeting over this thriller with the book creator Chris Wright/Knight aka Jonathan Rand. He is a self-made man like myself enjoys the journey to success. We made some solid decisions on our distribution flow that I’m quite excited about. If you don’t know him your children likely do may from his AMERICAN CHILLER, MICHIGAN CHILL, ADVENTURE CLUB books and much more. This film is now moving into the sound/music stage with Dennis Therrian and we will have a fun go at finishing this thriller. The 1st trailer has created huge buzz for us in the distribution circles thus far and so in 2015 we will see this film presented on the big screen, small screen and everything in-between. Great job Chad Ice on getting that final edit locked up. He had only done shorts when he approached me during our film shoot about the possibility of editing. I do know lots of editors but in this case having someone already invested in the material was a huge bonus. I think he discovered that a feature is very different animal from a short film. I’m proud that we were his first feature film and I think he gained some great experience and insight while we benefitted from his artistic talent. Much more information on this film will be flowing in the coming months.
THE TERRORIST is on a second pass of music and so they are very close. I really enjoyed this NYC based film and can’t wait to have this finished and in the collection. I think many people around the world will benefit from the messages within the story.
We are funding on a few films currently and with pre-set distribution and some great attachments we should be rolling camera again in the near future. If you have your own funding and want to be considered for an association reach out. If you are a new director without money chances are slim to none that we will slide you into a film that is financed on our end to direct. But if you have your $ support and want to create something that will help you move up the professional ladder feel free to reach out. We do say NO more than YES but it’s all case-by-case basis and much of the decision lies in how collaborative the person is. If you’re NOT a budget-minded/producer friendly director you will not work well in our camp. Same for aspiring actors – know your craft and be production friendly. Actors who have had or tried to produce tend to have a much better respect for the company and work flow. When PR was going around on ASHES OF EDEN announcing the new Canton/Novi screenings – one Detroit-based actor responded to one of our staff that he would support the film ONLY if the actors were paid.
NOTE: We’ve paid our actors since our second CDI film in 1999. It wasn’t much back in the day but it was a wage. It is like this actor was policing productions. The truth is we were likely paying our actors when this fellow was still playing a cloud in his middle school play:) But these jaded mentalities wouldn’t exist if not for shady production companies. We’ve all been there but don’t carry that negative with you from project to project or it will paint you in that negative light. To see what happens to “negative nellies” go back up and read the start of the blog. Okay I’ve enjoyed the chat with all of you. G’Day to our Aussie friends who have been tuned in to this blog. I hope you all have a great day and maybe a line or two of this word spewing can help you.
Keep clawing your way to the middle!
I’m sitting here sipping my hazelnut coffee before starting my day. I will be up North without my computer tomorrow and so I thought I would write my weekly blog update in advance. I want to thank all those who follow the blog on here from 13 countries. I enjoy using this as a way to praise, inform, vent and offer insights to our entertainment industry. The lessons discussed can be used in various industries but I speak about what I know best. Let see where to begin…
Let’s talk about our local entertainment media, not all, but some of them. I find it absolutely crazy that some projects get immense spot light when they have no chance of launching. You don’t see someone wanting to open a new steak house begging for donations so they can first buy the building (For 175k) and after that beg for an additional million plus dollars to put the… (business?) (venture?) I’m not even sure what to call it so let’s call it a pipe dream, in motion. This approach is so unreasonable. Since when is a begging venture worthy of being spotlighted in the media? Sadly that defines what is happening in our area. With so many newsworthy projects due attention someone deemed a begging project, that won’t even achieve the 1st goal, worthy. Thankfully I saw that this project doesn’t take any money if it can’t raise all of it. It only has a few days left and is not even close. But why was this even attempted? Did these people honestly think that they would be successful? No accountability to perform. Unreasonable budget. No real track record. I had a better chance of digging up Templar buried treasure in my back yard. Despite that some media got behind it as did various industry people. It must have been on the off-chance it succeeded those people might get considered for work. It makes those people look as film uneducated as those trying to do something way beyond their reach. Are all these folks just playing ass kiss – being too afraid to just speak it plain? If you’re factoring business logic into it all – it’s no different from community theater. As I’ve said, there is a time and place for that but these people are in hopes that someone will plop down hundreds of thousands of dollars on a whim. When was the last time someone wanted to do Shakespeare at the local theater raised a hundred thousand dollars plus for their show? Exactly.
I’m so thankful that a handful of filmmakers in the area are doing good business! Real honest to goodness film business. I hope these filmmakers help define us as a film community. Because anyone in the business who reads an article like I read will just shake their head with disbelief – “Ah silly little Michigan wanna be filmmakers.” This is what others do say about us when they read that nonsense. I’ve fought almost two decades against the backwoods mentality people assign to Michigan filmmakers. I feel proud when I see “Gods Not Dead” or any of the distributed films from a small handful of filmmakers. But as for the media – I ask you to embrace these projects that celebrate good art within a business framework. These projects with good management & business plans have earned the right to be recognized. But don’t support silliness.
I swear I am going to start a social funding campaign to do something crazy like build a space station or beg for someone to support me financially so I can try to earn a place on the Olympic soccer team at forty plus years old. I mean if I posted campaign people would say, “Come on DJ” or “That’s unreasonable” – BUT raising a million plus dollars by begging – sure SUPPORT. LIKE. SHARE. Please…if you can do that UNICEF, The Red Cross or any number of legit organizations would love to have you as a fundraiser. Now nothing personal as I don’t know most of these people and they likely would not appreciate my honesty BUT I would be the one person truly giving them helpful information. Or I could just LIKE something and once the time expires and the campaign fails I’m still just fine. Just a small waste of my time and credibility supporting something that was never going to happen. But when this happens we as a community are not fine. We are just that much more a joke to certain professional circles who are really working in the career field. And people ask why my production circles consist mostly of business-art doers from all over the world and not just from my local area. There is your answer.
I got a good response a few days ago because of a posting about clowns needing to get out of our business. Now many the people I mentioned above are NOT clowns but just misguided artists but we also do have our fair share of clowns. One popped up for a second this week on a project only to spout some nonsense in a voice mail and unfortunately remind us that you are still around. Investors must VET out your management staff. Let’s say that you actually have a business plan. You get investors to back your film plan. You seek out experience to help assure your project is successful but instead you hire a fast talking joker. The blame goes both ways with BUYER BEWARE. I always say, 2 weeks of vetting can save two years of litigation. Now this person doesn’t deserve any communication save from the legal department. This clown is just lucky he wasn’t sued for major damages. In my opinion he should stay under his rock and hope nobody comes after him.
Why DJ are you so unhappy about this? Good question –
If you actually have a person or group that would like to see a film made (maybe the first of many) and they get burned…what happens? Right. That well dries up and furthermore at every gathering of those with income to invest – IF film investment comes up – likely the response will be A) Stay away from film investment B) Hire someone outside the state because locals are not experienced. So you can see how one film screw up can have a run down effect on your (You aspiring filmmakers) projects. Still those hindered by these screw ups in our area will still endorse, LIKE and accept every move some of these folks make. It reminds me of a saying about SHI#@%# where you sleep. So when there is a lack of work in your region you can partially thank those who helped ruin it. You can’t blame everything on film incentives. Being positive, professional, passionate, hard-working people who turn out good product is what will bring more work to the area.
BACK ON TRACK
Let’s get back to talking about actual business. “Ashes of Eden” finished its 1st theatrical run and we will soon be announcing more theatrical play dates. We also are entering into domestic (US/Canada) talks and I can say we are targeting 1st quarter 2015. Look for additional theatrical and TV play prior to that national release.
“Bestseller” is about to enter medium GRIT editing. If you’ve ever polished rocks you know you have ROUGH, MEDIUM, FINE and POLISH. That pretty much sums up editing work. We’ve captured our required puzzle pieces and now the Medium edit begins. Test audience after that followed by a fine edit. Lastly, we polish up with color correction/CGI and such. It is going to be a very suspenseful film. This film rose above the initial issues and will be the first of a series of great films.
Music work on “The Terrorist” is underway and sounding great from my talks with director Jon Osman.
In talks with a few foreign territories on “Donors” so stay tuned…
Our recent development talks have gone great on at least one project that could have us filming at year’s end. I’ve also been in talks to possible play the bad guy in a Mad Max like film. We will see. Overall I’m just really enjoying working around here on post work, wine making, office organizing and such. I don’t work to just work – it has to be the right project and with the right people. Speaking of such – the yard/garden is looking good and I’ve got to prepare for my short trip North. An old-school soccer buddy will be getting hitched next month and the posse of amigos will be off to a cabin for a few. I do have another soccer match on Sunday so I will be back to do battle.
Have a great weekend and week ahead.