It is a beautiful afternoon here in Michigan. I had a good week overall despite going to two memorials for friends that had lost parents. Conversely, I just found out that a buddy of mine (Casey Sweaten) had a baby boy – well, not him…you understand. So the circle of life is in full motion this week with life and death. I guess this leads me into a few other thoughts I’ve had this week.
I know many directors out there. Many are doing short format to develop their style and learn how to communicate with crews and talent. Many of those aspiring will never make a full feature film. WHY? It’s hard work. Anyone who has made a feature film can attest to this truth. To work with any real budget you must be a producer’s director. By this I mean able to work within the business limits set by the producer. This ability requires a responsibility by the director to stay on schedule and budget. It requires a self starter who is very motivated throughout the process. A film that has pre-signed distribution must be completed in a pre-determined timeframe. We work towards being tighter and tighter as a production unit because as we continue to enter a distributor/studio relationship we must maintain and improve that reputation of being a reliable source of content.
SUMMARY – Directors must be reliable and time motivated
I have director friends outside CDI whom I’ve done on-camera work with that still hasn’t seen the light of day. (Some almost 15 years) Other’s have been grinding at post-production for years upon years. That’s their accountability to live with to their people. I feel an accountability to my cast and crew along with my investors. Those that do not see that accountability factor makes me sad. Sad because they likely will not work in a true business structure. Others will not thrive because they can’t see beyond personal ambition.
This is hard to grasp but is a secret to at least some of my success.
Let’s see if I can explain – actors tend to think that after years of struggling – once cast – the one film released will make them an instant star – that all the suffering is over. It DOES and CAN happen like that but someone also wins the daily double – daily. It is possible but not good enough odds to build a career from. Actors may not connect with audiences until they get several films down the road. I’ve never had what I would call a home run. Oh, you’re the guy from THAT MOVIE (Home run) but I’ve been a steady base hitter. My market penetration has gotten greater and greater internationally with each film. People have connected/embraced certain roles and so thanks to all of them- I get paid to bring my version of a character to the screen. A major humbling reality from a dreaming kid with a VHS camera who was constantly told he had to grow up someday.
Say when;) That’s for you Tony.
Now directors don’t have as many opportunities as actors. Why? Just numbers. Many cast members and only one director’s chair. From there – quality opportunities are even more scarce. Funding even a quality opportunity is hard. Look at any film school – a room full of directors. Not always true but many do have this desire. How many feature directors in that room? A few perhaps.
Facts I’ve often found to be true with directors
First – Only a few directors will ever actually direct a feature length film. Some may start one but for countless reasons – many don’t finish.
Those that have finished a feature film – they’re in a special club.
Now only a few of these directors who finished had a team behind them that created the quality worthy of distribution. What is that? If X distribution company values your film above and beyond the time and cost required to exploit revenue streams.
One Example for rejected films:
Actor Appreciation – If you view actors as just props and try to replace seasoned talent with volunteers – it will almost always show. If you spend it on cameras spend it on talent. Bad talent shot with a RED EPIC is anything but EPIC. I had to use that camera for the joke. Someone out there is correcting my joke that this or that camera is better…next.
Distributor likes it but do you have the business organization/releases to deliver a film. It can be a bitch – especially to a major studio.
Now pending the performance of their film in the distribution market – many directors will never direct a second feature film.
It can take a few years to put any clout behind a directors name. It will likely take a half dozen films realistically.
The director may just be unwilling to create product that distributors actually want. I do know of several directors that are just working on things they deeply enjoy. Like painting, drawing or any number of creative releases IF it’s just a hobby that’s cool. But you can’t complain about the system. The system is largely set by audiences. Business is catering to their tastes in order to sell them stories.
What happens often when it’s just starting to work –
Like a band – some production outfits start to get rolling and they change too much, too soon. Someone wants to explore their inner blues and Tommy really wanted to try drums. Two lead singers. Before they can establish themselves as a pattern of success – the band breaks up.
Why all this director talk?
We’ve been looking at directors with this slate of CDI films before us. In summary a director must prove himself to a producer’s director and execute product that we’ve identified as something the distributor wants. I like to use the example of a well established film director I know. Most of his films have been with 20th Century Fox. He initially had a film get accepted into Sundance. He got a behind-the-scenes directing gig for a big Hollywood name. Soon an opportunity to direct a studio film came up. He stayed on budget, schedule and people liked the film. He’s often given a choice between two or three projects that the studio has approved. He’s done a few smaller personal films and his clout has allowed that. I see directors who want to grow too fast or get stuck -and can’t take the self-inflicted frustration. They don’t ask themselves the hard questions and accept the real situations. Directors like actors must earn the right to creative freedom in the non-hobby world. It’s not an entitlement that comes with the name tag. It’s a business. You want total freedom? 48 hour film challenges are all over the country. Giddy up:)
SUPPLY AND DEMAND or is that SUPPLY and COMMAND:)
Here at CDI we’re really getting into the business of working with distributors and cutting out the shopping aspect. That’s great for investors because the revenue stream starts sooner and we have financial guarantees from distributors to help protect our investors. This exists because of what I was writing about earlier. Professional dependability and quality of our product is what creates the relationships we enjoy.
If you are exclusively into your scripts – you must bring the money at risk with your story. If you accept this situation and want to turn out quality on schedule and budget maybe a collaboration with CDI is a worthy discussion. Raising the $ an undertaking is only the first big battle. Don’t go inexperienced into important endeavors. Be honest in your accessment of your team.
We’re making films that distributors want and that is the way it will remain. I’m getting too old for spec films/shopping and at higher budget that’s not a responsible action. (Filming without distribution) So I’ve been sitting down with lots of filmmaker/directors. I was happy to sit down with another on Friday. A young man who is paying equal attention to SHOW and BIZ. He has completed his first feature and it has landed initial distribution. It was scary for him being out there facing the rejection. They had enough quality onscreen to pull it above the other films struggling for attention – and because of that, got a good starter deal.
We’ve got both types in CDI – directors with pet projects – that if they bring the bank we’ll make that film on schedule and on budget. Additionally CDI is picking/creating projects based on distribution/marketing meetings.
It is a tough game. We debate these things with ourselves where art and business meet. I enjoy bringing to life other people’s characters/stories. As a writer I love to see my own story brought forth but only if the product is in demand. We make collective art for the collective masses. I know several directors that only get excited by what they pen. If that becomes the routine you better keep writing and get it into development. I think this is on my mind because I was asked twice about directing this week. I don’t “desire” to direct. I don’t want to take an experience and building opportunity from someone really trying to get ahead and would appreciate it beyond words. If you want to see my directing go to indieflix and watch the first three shows of “Supermodel Showdown” – enjoy:) I have enough hats and I’m not looking to direct.
ASHES OF EDEN is holding on our domestic home video street date. We’re in negotiations on a TV deal and so we’re open to adjusting our release pattern. Additionally I’m told it is playing Oct. 17th and 18th at the Sun Theater in Grand Ledge, MI. Check online this week for times.
Funny thing – Also in Grand Ledge, MI – on Oct 15th we’re kicking off a monthly art mixer at Sanctuary Spirits distillery. It’s $5 at the door- starts at 6:00 and at 8:00 (sundown) we will be playing our smoky mountain western that was released by Lionsgate. Come watch “Dean Teaster’s Ghost Town” and mingle- see some of you there!
On November 1st at THE WROUGHT IRON GRILL in Owosso, MI we will be showing BESTSELLER. Author Chris Wright/Johnathan Rand will attend. It will be a nice event at another cool venue brought to you with our friends at RED WHITE and BLUE Project. I’m trying to close on a run at the Alamo theaters in K-Zoo and we are working towards a Detroit area showing.
I’ve been reviewing the KNIGHT CHILLS book that will release with a reissued film. All this is to prep for KNIGHT CHILLS 2 in development. The script is being actively worked on and casting talks have started.
We have kicked up development on CHASING THE STAR which is set to film in Feb 2016. Our talent initially approached thus far have loved the script. This is a follow up to “40 Nights” that is chugging down the post production line. We will be starting music on “40 Nights” soon. VFX work should be finalizing in a few short weeks and color correction can begin. It’s all very exciting. The 3rd film in this trilogy is about half way done. We will have a 1st draft by the end of the month.
I’m enjoying the fall immensely. Next week I will be making a batch of wine I will call RETURN OF THE GREEN GOBLIN. If you’ve been lucky enough to try the GREEN GOBLIN wine you’ll be excited by this news. I also have a new beer brew batch to mix up. I’m healing up nicely from a brutal soccer season. Acting – If the right acting project comes along great – but right now I’m just focusing on our end-of-the-year business and prep for 2016.
I’m going to wind this down but have a great weekend.
It is a late night Saturday blog. It will actually post in the wee hours of Sunday but today was full and kept me away from my computer. It has been a good week of film business. Most of the week I worked from early morning until about 2:30 or so before moving to yard work. I had such a wild week full of many emotions as projects moved to different phases.
BESTSELLER coming off the sold out premiere started its run in Grand Rapids. That day leading up to the GR week of showings – had me feeling blissful. I had watched the 1st full cut of “40 Nights” the day prior. I was just stunned as I watched that film play out. It flowed so well and was moving in the performances and camera work. This was only a rough cut without music or sound – and what a great ending! I know what went into the shoot by the hard working cast and crew. It was such a good cut that if polished slightly it would be ready to roll into the next audio phase. We will do a few more test showings to get feedback and make minor tweaks. But I was so at peace because it was powerful to watch – even in this rough stage. I had a few great conversations about the film with people in the circle including our distributor. I’m excited to lock this edit by month’s end.
Back to BESTSELLER –
BESTSELLER playing on the Celebration Cinema screen in 5.1 was cool to watch. Seeing an audience JUMP and GASP in terror was truly a wonderful experience. We had a Q&A after this kick off which was nice to interact with an audience after they watched the film. There were a few aspiring filmmakers in the crowd and their questions are always fun to answer. The night ended with fish tacos and so that is pretty good.
Paperwork was exchanged this past week whereas CDI Distribution brokered TV license deals for OUTSIDE THE WIRE and STANDING POST for Red, White & Blue Non-Profit and also for the TV special – 7 STONES. We will be doing some official announcements but remember you heard it here first.
I’ve been writing everyday – I’m reworking an older script, writing on two others and outlining our next biblical faith drama. I’ve been enjoying this time with coffee and imagination. I look forward to seeing some of these go to the screen.
The WASTELAND poster is just downright cool as all get out. I’m looking forward to that hitting some festivals and shooting Part 2 in the near future.
This Sci-Fi piece WASTELAND was so much fun to shoot.
A PASS –
Recently, I considered being involved in another feature – a comedy but it was just bad timing. I have lots going on in June with writing, promotion, distribution and getting the garden and yard around. I’m also going to be an uncle this month again and our soccer season is in full swing. I will start some heavy developmental film work soon. I have to admit – the break after shooting “40 Nights” has been refreshing. As of today – the garden is now in and I did some clean up to the office porch. Productive day!
We had a rain out on soccer last week and I hope we don’t repeat that again. I’m going to do a few last things tonight before getting some well deserved rest. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and have a productive week ahead. If you are in the Grand Rapids, MI area and want to check out BESTSELLER it plays twice a day until the 11th of June.
I’m sitting here relaxing and thinking back on the busy week. It was truly a busy, busy week but I’m happy with all the new developments. I’m happy to report that almost all these business actions were all done against the backdrop of our emerging fall. Let’s look at some of the things that happened this week and let’s hope that I don’t forget any.
ASHES OF EDEN – We just concluded our theatrical run in Canton & Novi in Michigan. No sooner had we concluded and we have more good news concerning this film. I know that PR is about locked and loaded to share some of this good news with all of you. I enjoyed the nice comments from all the people who came out to see the film. This film has been a strong showcase for Lansing, for Michigan and for some of the best emerging talent in the region. There may be some new opportunities to see this film – stay tuned.
LOCKED IN A ROOM is getting a new Halloween season release from Echo Bridge Entertainment packaging us with some classics.
BOOK OF RUTH, Journey of Faith is now selling in a 2 pack at major retailers.
“GPS The Movie” that played CHILLER TV is getting a new release in November and heading to the foreign market.
BESTSELLER has started sound work and CGI/Graphic work. We are all excited to have this moving down the post production line.
THE TERRORIST is another film that is in post sound and we hope to have done at the year’s end.
I also was informed that my 1st feature I starred in called IN THE WOODS is having a theatrical screening to celebrate 15 years since the video release. That is the film that put me on the map first. While it does have a good cheese factor it has become a favorite of many fans out there. For all of you – some special news will be forthcoming! Stay tuned.
I think one of the biggest questions I get is WHAT’S NEXT? My management has been in talks with several casting agents as we try to find the right projects to showcase my acting craft. I’ve been introduced to some amazing production groups working on some amazing films. But I did have one extremely exciting project come to me. In the period of a week this film just seemed to just come together. The ink is dry, flight and hotel booked and I’m excited to announce this week my involvement in a SciFi/Western. I’m playing one of the leads and will be assisting in distribution via a CDI association. The official press release will be coming this week. It will be shooting out west in a famous State park and I’m beyond excited. The 7-year-old in me who wanted to be Han Solo is excited:)
I’m sure I missed a few updates – mostly development talks. We’re close to launching a few other films. Upcoming 2015 will be a BUSY year I can tell already. This weekend will be some fall clean up, football and archery. I’ve bottled up the TROPIC THUNDER wine and I think next week some hard cider might be in order. I’m also almost through my STAN REED SUMMER BREW and so time to get another batch of that going. Michigan folk know how to stay warm.
Have a great weekend!
Okay! I made it. It was an early morning of activity that ended with us getting everything we need for the garden. The seeds, the plants and everything to get that underway. The pond that we finished now has fish in it and I love the little solar fountain that creates such a relaxing sound. The backyard is really coming together which is nice because that is where many of the recent film meetings have been happening. It was interesting that I recently read an interview with music producer Rick Rubin and much of what he had to say were lessons I apply to my life. The best meetings don’t happen around a boardroom table and controlling your environment allows your energy to flow positive. I think that is something many people find attractive. I had several meetings with a director on a soon-to-be-released feature that I’m a producer on and also co-star in. I was watching the edit and giving notes and suggestions. We really came up with a few good ideas to add layers to the film. He commented on how he enjoyed our talks because they always left him feeling positive and full of inspired ideas. That is what we as artists should do and in the best collaborations that is what happens. Not ego-wars and bullshit drama but solid strides and passing of creative ideas. This particular director is excited to work together again on his next feature and a TV show that he has in the works. Life is too short for bad working relationships and so if you are in one – finish your obligations and part ways with sincere well-wishes.
I’m sure many out there are not tuning into my blog to listen to my rambling on gardening:) Let’s get to some film updates…
“BESTSELLER” – The 1st trailer for this thriller based upon Christopher Knight’s book of the same name is DONE. Tomorrow we will be releasing a PR release with the link to the trailer. So watch the BESTSELLER FB page and such for this official release. I’m very proud once again of the cast and crew made up mostly on Michigan folks doing work at the international level. https://www.facebook.com/BESTSELLERTHEMOVIE
We have had early interest from distributors and so I’m excited to give them the look they have all been waiting on. Oh! And you too – the audience:)
“ASHES OF EDEN” continues to move forward with distributors. This week we had a few respond with their interest. We have some meetings being set that will be our first rounds of negotiations to see who can provide the best home. We also have some exciting news coming this week about the 1st Michigan theatrical releases. We have a deal on the table and pen and paper should meet this week. Once that is done a press release with full details will be forthcoming. Multiple theaters, multiple screens, multiple weeks, multiple showings – very exciting stuff for all involved.
Lots of development work is underway with many investor talks, script reviews and such. As we get these post production films into their final stages it will be exciting to get into production with a new slate of film work.
Enjoy your weekend. I’m off to sow some seeds to reap at a later date. That is what you should do in your creative life also. Sow the seeds of good honest collaboration. Sow seeds of mutual respect and hard work. Sow seeds of always giving someone more than what they paid for. Sow seeds of not cutting corners, holding yourself up to higher standards and taking pride in your work. Do this and your personal garden will be filled with bountiful rewards later down the path.