“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ― Sun Tzu

Posts tagged “home

FOUR Secrets of Filmmaking – Plus CDI Updates

Good morning from HOME! Yes. I’m sipping some coffee after a few puppy cuddles and now I’ll be sharing with all of you some updates and insights. First I want to talk about LOST HEART. What a ride we had. First it was just amazing to go from just a blueprint with the script to capturing magic. This script has been hailed as one of my best pieces of writing. I know that writing is much like a film in that it’s subjective. But the story did a great job of painting interesting characters in unique places and situations. It was my first script with Melissa Anschutz in the lead and she performed beyond all my expectations. Much like Shane Hagedorn in Wild Faith, it was great that my scripts could be used as starring vehicles for my friends/peers.

Frame_015

While we were filming LOST HEART, WILD FAITH was rolling out across the nation. Wal-Mart’s and other retailers around the country starting carrying the film DVD and the fans responded. I had so many people approach me the last few weeks who had watched several of the CDI films. One day in prep – Shane Hagedorn (Emmett) got stopped by a maintenance guy who had seen Wild Faith. Already thrilled to met Emmett, he was further thrilled to be led into a room where Melissa Anschutz and I worked accounting. His eyes got big and his smile wide as he got to meet Ben Lily and Hester Thickett. This meeting of fans played out several times during our multi week stay. All around town – handshakes and kind words. I’m so proud of both Shane and Melissa – they are true leading talent. Everyone sits around and wishes for a starring role but only a select can really ‘lead’ a film. It’s not easy physically, mentally and keeping that arc requires constant adjustments. These two along with my ole workhorse buddy Anthony (Tony) Hornus made up my senior producing team. We have a great associate producer team that helps us do what needs to be done.

3-stooges

Jesse Low made his third film with CDI (Forty Nights & Wild Faith) and now Lost Heart. Nate “The General” Robertson led a great production campaign. One of his very best to date. We had Nancy Oeswein and Witney Wagner working with CDI for the first time in our office. I think it was a great collaboration and while they had to jump into a very existing system they adjusted and brought some new ideas to the table. I look forward to another future collaboration. Now it cannot be all rainbows so what were some of the issues. Now before addressing that I will again say that prep is so important because it allows a production to aim all its efforts at the immediate problem solving. I see too many businesses run in reactive mode putting a bandaid on something but that in turn causes three issues. Put in the hard work in advance – it pays off. We did this and it was apparent on set and in the final footage.

  • Communication – making better communication is always the goal. While we are VERY good we always strive for better. Most small issues arrive from assuming and not knowing. We are all guilty of that at times and work hard to correct that.
  • Focus – when we are at work people need to set aside their personal relationships aside and focus on the goals of the day. From Call to wrap a film crew works to get its puzzle pieces (Footage). Time is the essence each day and focusing on task will result in earlier days, less mistakes/damages and make a better final product.
  • Representation – When you work for a company you not only represent the film company but the craft as a whole. One of our major locations had someone call and warn them before shooting about “filmmakers” because of a bad experience they had. When asked if it was our company they replied NO. CDI was defended by the owners by telling them their experience had been 100% positive. It is why I am so protective and communicate with locations that all companies are NOT equal. I’m not even comparing subjective final films but how we conduct ourselves while working. I’ve had people try to “drop” my name or our company to gain access to a place. Location owners all know to call us first if approached because if your operation is ‘slash and burn’ meaning getting footage by whatever means possible, that is conveyed. Or at the least letting them know we are not connected. Our team was raking up mulch at one location after the shoot. Pride in how your company/work is looked upon as a fine quality.
  • Positive Attitude – This is something especial required of KEYS. You set the department tone.  For example at CDI vulgar or aggressive outbursts are not tolerated without being addresses. Those examples again show poor communication and tells others that you’re not in control of your department. We always have a few that rise to the new challenge and fly while a few perhaps need more time under an experienced key. Skillset is only part of the equation – being able to motivate, inspire and lead a team with positive enthusiasm is the sign of a great leader. CDI is about developing leaders.

2nd AD directions

Once things are running smooth I get to sit back and watch everything. I get to ninja about and observe. I see who treats their gear proper. You should always treat gear as if you own it. Watch someone who does own the gear care for their gear. This is much like the care given to our locations. I can see when outside personal issues intrude upon someone’s focus. I see when personal interactions interfere with work flow and cause distractions. I see when people rush versus moving quickly with care. I see when people are not fully conditioned for feature length shoots either due to lack of rest, poor nutrition and/or lack of prep. I’m proud to say our production only had a few occasions where these things happened. But it is easy to spot on a film set that runs smooth. It is the job of management (producers) to sit back after and evaluate performance. This leads to rehiring or perhaps realizing someone needs more development. Sometimes it was a person was used in the wrong place and would be better suited elsewhere. But applying the 4 principals listed above will improve any production.

IMG_1732

MBF: Man’s Best Friend – This film is about to heat up! A premiere in the director’s home town is being explored first. The film will be releasing into select theaters and home video in the next few months. We got to do a small private screening in pre-production and…(SMILE) – I cannot wait for people to see the film. It showcases beautiful performances by wonderful actors. The hardworking crew made this story flow and it shows. So get ready for this story that showcases the plight of military vets and adoption dogs to come to the big and small screen.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 9.47.14 AM

The Quest Trilogy – The films are continuing to produce even in the non-holiday season. These are adventure films set in biblical times and so they can be enjoyed at anytime. So as we prepare to market for the holiday season ahead – enjoy now. FORTY NIGHTS, CHASING THE STAR and THE CHRIST SLAYER.

I’m going to do final wrap up this week on LOST HEART. We’ll meet next week over post process again and to evaluate the shoot. I have a few acting reels to update – one with Ben Lily (Wild Faith) and one for Jesus (The Christ Slayer). I additionally need to work the final paperwork on the new agent collaboration for my screenwriting/producing. Lastly, I have a week-long vacation in the U.P. coming up. But right now it is about unpacking and also getting the yard/house caught up from week’s away. I hope you all enjoy your weekend and the week ahead.

Be good to one another. Doh! The coffee cup is empty.

DJ

 

Advertisements

Desert Stripes and Developments

cropped-img_1720.jpg

I’m sitting in my hotel room looking out over the mountains of Yuma. That day of travel snuck up and once again I find myself in our old filming grounds. This wonderful town was first found when we shot the film “Deadly Renovations” a handful of years ago. I was looking at various locations to stage biblical films and the desert here was the perfect answer. We call it DESERT STRIPES when producing here because the desert comes with unique challenges that you don’t usually find elsewhere. We’ve got a good mix of returning cast and crew along with a new batch of artists ready to make it all happen. “Doc” our transportation captain takes care of us so well and we’ve really gown to have a film family here. I woke up refreshed after going to bed at what would be around 5am Michigan time. I know it will catch up to me later but right now I feel great. I’m sipping the coffee and catching up with all of you. I had all my gear, computer included all packed up yesterday – so you’re getting a slightly late update.

We just concluded our first production meeting down by the pool where we always hold it. The hotel crew here loves our team and they go out of their way to try to add a bit of HOME to our stay. I’ve just concluded my first batch of spending reporting to accounting and wanted to get this blog written before more hits my plate. Today for me will be working to finalize the cast/crew aspects which are minimal and look at our equipment. I will also carve out a little time to take my Michigan white self pool side and also run a few lines. I’m excited to be returning to this role and to tell this story.

This week we should also see final DVD artwork on FORTY NIGHTS (releasing April 3rd) and the CHASING THE STAR film should be completed by week’s end. Another exciting development is the WILD FAITH teaser trailer should also be completed by week’s end.

On the 19th we’re planning a “thank you” test screening for our friends at Champion Church. The Michigan premiere is looking like April 22nd bring my communications with our director Bret Miller.

It is exciting to see Nathaniel Nose our director on “The Christ Slayer” settle into this fine production machine. They are reviewing the schedule and looking at locations later this afternoon. I’m sure we’ll have lots of BTS photos and such start rolling out as we get deeper into pre-production and production. I’m going to cut this short because we have a list of TO DO’s but I’ll be here Sunday to report on the week of prep.  I hope each and every one of you has a productive week.

Coffee sip! Cheers!cropped-img_1720.jpg

DJ

 


Social Media Pros & Cons, Policy and Premieres

Another week down and the first signs of spring are showing despite the 2 days snowstorm that we had. I’m sipping my coffee and reflecting back on the week which was highlighted by the fact that I got an oak roll top desk for the house. I’ve got my office in full swing but I still wanted a place to work from in the house. I found one I liked and was offered a deal I could not turn down especially because it included drop off delivery. Let’s see what advice I can try to give before getting into updates.

SOCIAL MEDIA FUNDRAISING

We call this “tin can” shaking for handouts. We at CDI keep a policy of not supporting these campaigns in part because I know so many aspiring filmmakers that if I supported one we would be expected to support them all. Second, I don’t think this really helps develop business skills in filmmakers. Some of these campaigns allow people to keep money even if the full amount is not raised. I think this is the worst violator because I see people who every two months they have a new campaign for a new project. They set an unreasonable goal and when movie X doesn’t fund they cash out that account and move onto movie Y and movie Z and none of them ever get done but people give and people take. It reminds me of people on the corner with a sign and cup. Best situation would have been to budget properly, manage budget correctly and do it all on the business level. Now others might use it as an addition to a budget raised sometimes for post funds and sometimes for “marketing”. That to me is where it gets tricky. If marketing is giving money so a group can travel, party and try to get a pat or two on the back, I can’t support that. Now perhaps if it was a reasonable amount to create screeners and postage to send to distributors maybe but even that perhaps should have been planned on ahead of time. I just know a few people who were put in uncomfortable positions because of these campaigns. I think this would not sit well with investors either because if you can raise a set amount of money you can start to repay capital investment. I always say, a LIKE doesn’t = a BUY and when the family and friends finish giving money – the well dries up and usually only 10%-25% has been raised but that money will get used anyway. Note the project isn’t any closer to getting into the marketplace. Also if you promise perks and that is dependent upon raising ALL the money what happens when only a small % is raised? It all can lead to disappointed campaign backers, investors and potentially hurt the reputation of those who supported and/or endorsed it. You just have to be careful who or what you endorse and so the policy of not doing this works well for us. Bring a business plan and you never know. But if I’m giving away money it will be to the homeless vet with a disability versus a party fund for filmmakers.

Now onto some updates –

– As a recent PR release pointed out “Darkest Night” will release into Germany, Austria and Switzerland on March 28th. This is the 3rd release to those territories and we are currently working on getting more of our titles into this territory and many others.

– We are working on getting the CDI library organized with everything digitized for future delivery.

– The “Donors” film is completed and we are looking at a premiere in Yuma, AZ before going to our distributors.

– We’re also looking at doing another film that would be based in AZ again. We are getting very close to releasing some info on this project. Right now talks with distributors are underway and a few are already on board. Some early casting on IMDB has begun and I’ve been looking at a LOT of reels. Sorry but NO reel NO consideration. Young children can be an exception once in a while but experience gets 1st looks.

– First draft of a script that I’ve hired to write is complete and I’ve been doing a second pass and polish. CDI will also be producing it and so I’ve been having some great talks about distribution on it already. Stay tuned!

– These distributor talks have extended over to ASHES OF EDEN which is VERY close to being done and we will have some possible news on the premiere next week. BESTSELLER’s 1st CUT is being reviewed and notes gathered for the second pass at month’s end. Both of these films have distributors excited to review and they will without question find a home. I’m excited for audiences to enjoy the storytelling. Also THE TERRORIST is moving into sound design and music after a final edit polish.

– A theatrical showcase of CDI and CDI associated films is happening in the Detroit area. We are finalizing the deal and looking at a line up that will include weekly showings. If you ever wanted to watch the entire CDI library on a big screen this could be your opportunity. This type of program is also in talks to happen in the near future in the Lansing area. We will have a good template to follow once this Detroit deal is complete. Look for PR on this soon!

– CDI TV is making some small steps but those could turn into major strides mid year. Again stay tuned!

– Some incredible talks this past week with a studio that we’re in talks of doing ongoing business with. I’m starting to send packages for evaluation this week. I’m also being talked to about participating as an actor in a few of their films. So I will be transitioning into some studio level films for acting but I am doing via the producer path instead of the actor/agent…path. I see big things on the horizon and I’m honored that they want to bridge a deal. This is also a nod to all the artists who I work with who know how to follow through and collaborate as professionals. Those cast and crew that work with CDI know our sights are set high and we work hard to achieve it. I have patience and will do this right. I refuse to cut corners or step on people to get where I need to go. I hear the horror stories weekly and I say it again, be cautious in who you choose to work with. Two weeks due diligence can save two years litigation. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is. Be smart.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few things but I’m ready to get on with my day so thank you again for your support in following my blog. I was recently made aware of how many followers I have from all over the world. I’m humbled and hope some of these reflections can help you on your own path. Dream but also be prepared to work hard to make those dreams happen.

DJ


Mother Nature and a Week in Review

WOW! Mother Nature is showing who the boss is and it is not the tiny ants fondly known as human beings. I was having a great conversation yesterday with a friend of mine who is Native American. The topic was about taking environmental issues serious. Now global warming scientists may not have it all correct but certain actions won’t help the issues. Many choices are all about financial and lower EPA rulings to better exploit valuable resources. When out of the norm storms wipe out the child home homes of some of these lawmakers maybe they will look at things differently. You can’t lobby mother nature or buy your way out of the path of a storm. Again it brings me back to what I use to teach at the Ebersole Center (A nature camp for city kids) about Chief Seattle and the web of life. Basically it talks of how everything is interconnected and the balance is vital to our continued existence. Well I feel very bad for all the folks out there dealing with such destruction.

Today I want to try to oversee some changes to the CDI company site. We’ve got so many good things moving and grooving and I’ll try to hit on a few major updates here.

– “Ghost Town in the Sky” the location of our “Ghost Town” western is set to re-open after a mudslide caused issues a year or so ago. So go check out the locations and get your special edition release.

– CDI Co-Production “Deadly Renovations” will be heading to the Hong Kong film market this month and we are awaiting a new sales trailer from our international distributor.

– CDI Co-Production “Donors” is now in post and has been getting some good PR buzz out there including distributors coming at us early.

– I’ve been working on a few Corporate programs for CDI product one with a major beer company.

– We know that New Video is releasing some of our titles (Figure in the Forest, Heaven’s Neighbors, An Ordinary Killer) late 2nd quarter and I’m working on hard dates now.

– The sequel to “An Ordinary Killer” is packaging with an updated “Race to Judgment” formerly known as “A State of Hate”.

– CDI The highly anticipated Co-Production “Darkest Night” is getting a lot of press and fellow producer Russ Williams is now in the Philippines overseeing the final post for the theatrical cut. Screening for distributors in LA will likely happen in April.

– Development on “Secondary Heroes,” “Soul Eater,” and “Long Road Home” continue as well as a handful of associated CDI projects

– CDI Co-Production “Locked in a Room” has announced a May 3rd Michigan showing.

– CDI Co-Production “7 Stones” is in final post polish and is slated to be done this month and several festivals are targeted.

On a personal acting level I’m waiting to see if a deal happens this weekend on a film in NYC. I also am waiting on a 2nd project that if we agree would film in Texas in April. I also have a project in June that I’m awaiting my deal memo on as well. The snow is starting to fall here and I’ve been a hint under the weather. I will likely do some reading and perhaps bottle the “Green Goblin” our batch of Green Tomato wine.

That is enough of an update for today. I wish safety to all those in the path of these great storms. Have a great Saturday.

DJ