I’m once again sipping the hazelnut coffee and feeling good about the week’s accomplishments. It has been a hard week in some ways simply because for me it is A) Keep business as usual moving, which is on many fronts with our library of films B) Promote the most recent releases C) Prep the new projects about to launch
It has been trying in some ways because I’m dealing with the pre-hiring practice of discussing deal points. Here is that point where after explaining the business model of three nearly identical films in a series – people want to try and go outside that model. You have to have people who really believe in a project and want to put forth their very best. Some people got the call to see if they wanted to return and work on the second film. Some are returning and others are being replaced. In this industry people wait for that opportunity to step UP because someone else stepped DOWN. That is often the way. Are you going UP or DOWN?
After this Quest Trilogy is complete we will be adjusting our slate to larger budgets. I had a few people say, maybe when you have more funds in the future, contact me again. I was just honest, No. I will likely be working with the team we develop during this “team building” phase. They must trust in our path and be willing to grow with us. I’m not asking for volunteers, free help or paid with credit – this is offered work. I’ve been doing this a long time and I firmly believe what is to be, will be. Casts in development may change but once a film is done you could never imagine anyone else in that role. Crews create the “perfect storm” with their collaboration and determination. They win those daily battles that give them the holy grail of movie puzzle pieces. Those battles are the tales of old men many days from now. I’ve looked back on battles fought 15-20 years ago. I’m damn proud of most of the artists I’ve ever worked with. We share history, life and collective art. Once done – you can’t take that away.
We had a great compliment while in a meeting this week. Someone in our circle had recently worked a larger million plus dollar film and it was hectic and chaotic. They said, they didn’t fully appreciate the experience of working with CDI until they worked on that film. I’ve heard that story from several people and I’m proud of that. We work to TRY and achieve that but you must go that extra mile. It shows that money will not buy RESPECT, ORGANIZATION or RESPONSIBILITY. How much money was thrown at problems that were emergency reactionary because proper planning was not done? Probably enough to make a movie:)
I’m also trying to develop the next group of artists who want to make a living at this. It isn’t about the short game I can tell you that. A recent conversation – on public relations. Early in my career I tried to promote our film endeavors more within the state (Thank you Michigan Vue – miss you) but back in the day, the feature filmmakers were few. Newspapers and magazine wanted to follow more theater and any number of silly trends but seldom gave filmmakers a serious spotlight. As our success grew elsewhere with newspapers, magazine, fanzines and such taking interest in our work (I have storage crates full of paper PR from around the world)- It also gave rise to some local Michigan dreamers unwilling to invest in the hard work. For many years, anywhere I would go for a drink or to socialize, everyone had a great idea for a movie. You got a script? No. Money? No. The story repeats itself.
These “ideas” came from all places including some family/friend connections. Filmmakers are seldom at a lack of “ideas” it is money they lack. My Uncle Bob was in the film business but due to trying to hide his actual age from some in-laws, he gave me the arms length treatment. I wasn’t asking for handouts, I was ready to work. Even some REAL advice would have been helpful. But years later the tables had turned – Any chance of hiring him? I guess, I didn’t really give it much thought.
Locally, I grew up in Lansing, Michigan. I went from Northwestern Elementary school to Michigan State University. I have friends from first grade on up and still play in a Men’s soccer league. Years ago when news would hit our local state media, my closest friends or associates would sometimes seem off around me. Maybe having your face in the video stores, posters or on TV makes some uncomfortable. I understand that.
But, actors are just people. But it was odd and annoying for some of those friends/family I’m sure. I was the guy with a beeper and agents calling. Talking about places, people and things my closest didn’t understand. You can explain co-starring in a film in India but unless you lived it…very hard to convey. Now, I enjoy my quiet in Lansing, Michigan. I would say I get much more done than most because of living here. In my many Hollywood business travels, they were always amazed because I was’t just talking, I was coming to them having done. I have many relationships in Hollywood and some still not mined. You want to come at a deal the right way. Many beg, plead, dance, ass kiss and such for an opportunity. My opportunities come on equal ground and where a mutual positive potential is present. The funny thing is for the appeasers in Hollywood and elsewhere, most of their hoop jumping doesn’t even promise results. It’s not a “this for that” deal. It’s “do this and this and this and this and maybe…maybe we can see if anything can be done” lure. Don’t take the bait. Don’t watch the flashy hook being pulled through the water.
And when these people get trampled and burned in our industry they became jaded and hateful. Sad people who live in sight of their dreams but never touch it. They have straight up actor ghettos in Hollywood. Bars that are filled with the failed and broken. Go off the strip of Las Vegas to see another example of this. I’ve seen these circles exist in the smaller markets like Michigan. Social ghettos where struggling artist meet to try and establish some pecking order amongst themselves. Many followers of the fake it to you make it clubs. A mutual life boat of hope that loves to dissect and critique art despite the fact that styles vary and change. People still jump on bandwagons. There was a slew of wanna be PULP FICTION like films after that released. Funny thing is many of the critics, sitting around the craft beer watering holes, were shoving crayons up their noses when we were making films. I have found some very talented young filmmakers and I ask for patience in my dealings with them. What were they doing seven years ago? You can see what we were doing – being #1 western rental. Actually that remained for 7 weeks and stayed in the top ten for 17 weeks.
If someone is going to boast something to me it better be real or based on some actual knowledge, experience or facts. If not, I will call you every time. I’m offended by idiot statements and I’m allergic to stupid. So most of the time I don’t travel in places where I may be forced to be brutally truthful or where the BS is just too unpleasant. In our production circle you are expected to keep the drama on the screen. Only a handful of days to act like a professional on set- after that you can go all Charlie Sheen on your own time.
To bring it back around – I don’t promote as heavily in my own home state. It’s my shelter. It’s where after weeks in the Philippines, I want to come HOME to. I like to be treated as a non celebrity most of the time. I do enjoy some great sponsorships in leather goods, hot sauce, candles and more. I’m still waiting on coffee:) Call me. So I do enjoy a few perks here and there. Our CDI projects we’ve produced are in broadcast around the world, streaming, DVD’s and more. I still get consistent fan mail (emails these days) from people who appreciate our collective works. This blog was started so I could talk about films and my industry, maybe giving the guidance I lacked early on. If you wanna know what is going on with me – you can stop by weekly. If you don’t – I won’t be filling your ears in person with my boasts. I don’t need to – I like this saying. I’m not quoting here. It went – when a person drives a BMW, which is a good car but not a great car, they race around, trying to show people how fast they are. They are revin’ their engines trying to draw attention and tell people they are fast. BUT…When you drive a Lamborghini, you just cruise about. You don’t rev your engine, don’t need to boast and race about trying to show you’re fast. Because you know you’re fast. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that. I’ve always liked that approach and I do feel that confidence. We live quiet but we are capable of great things.
Many years ago, I saw a greater picture. I didn’t just want to be known for our art in the USA – I wanted to cross lines, build bridges. This work started many, many years ago. Now, this blog reaches 80+ countries and we keep widening our film sales deeper and deeper into the world market. I am not making films for the little pond of Michigan but for the expansive ocean of audiences worldwide. That said, I love and appreciate you all who follow our art. For the peers striving – draw strength from yourself and once you find your audience – their appreciation will feed you. Be smart. Speak less and do more.
I’m not going to go on and on with individual updates on films. We have many films coming out in March, April and May so it will be a busy next couple of months. Read earlier posts if you need updates on releases. We’re about to start signing cast and crew onto the next film “Chasing the Star” which is getting very close to being ready – a few more weeks.
Keep at it people and don’t worry about twitter followers, Star Meters or seeking validation from insecure people. Make your art respecting the business. Seek to entertain and educate your audience. The audiences will allow and inspire you to grow. The source of your strength should not be peers that often are unhappy with themselves and seek to unseat you with words. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER always!
Be a doer not a talker. Okay, I’ve got to get doing so enough talking(writing):)
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!