(The Fort – Tribe CDI – 2019)
Welcome new readers from Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, India and beyond. We’re in the final days of 2019 and so far it has just been a great season. This past week I’ve had a few meetings at the fort with the fire burning bright with ideas and friendship. We have some great updates to share with everyone but before that lets looks at someone else’s art.
Star Wars – (NO SPOILERS) – I went to see Star Wars at 7 years old and it was the seed planted in me to become a storyteller. Last week I got to see the final film in a series of interconnecting stories started by George Lucas. My issue with many films these days is just trying to do too much. Instead of one star ship in pursuit there has to be 100. Tension is created in moments. Those can feel stolen when trying to do too much. Character development is still king in my world of viewing hence by love of shows like BLACK SAILS. Bringing together all the ‘Star Wars’ loose threads was surely difficult but overall I really did enjoy the final film. That said, I feel truly like the torch has been passed. I feel like I do a good job of creating characters on the script page with depth. I feel we have stories to tell and we will. The goal is to create a few classics in this lifetime. In 2020 will see more writing, producing and continue to try and captures hearts and minds with our stories.
(WILD FAITH brand – Hastings TV series in development at CDI)
I see a lot of talented artists who spend a lot of time creating in someone else’s world. But the bottom line is you don’t own the brand. There are several filmmakers that do a great job creating fan films from video games or Star Wars and The Mask. That said, all that hard work is building someone else’s brand. I’m a fan of brands also but I let it influence my work but I don’t work with someone else’s brand unless hired to do so.
All three biblical adventures in THE QUEST TRILOGY (Forty Nights, Chasing the Star and The Christ Slayer) are all on Amazon. I was given an opportunity to produced these adventures with a ‘Star Wars’ feel. The cinematography and often the music was influenced by the Star Wars style. Star Wars was influenced from earlier works like THE SEVEN SAMURAI. A good reason for your own brand is that you don’t have to ask permission to create your own world. And if you succeed those people are becoming fans of your work. Again instead of the hardships of growing an audience around your brand, if you pick a strong brand with dedicated followers you can get a jump on exposure but…. I mean if you create a great Star Wars fan film you might get millions of hits. But try adding a price tag, although you cannot sell someone else’s brand, and it becomes like buying a knock off cologne. If a non-official derivative of someones brand is offered free you may get a lot of eyes but unless the creators take notice and hire you, you’re just building someone else’s brand. Beware of legal also with others brands. Just my two cents.
So again just like role playing, cos-play or any fun group activities, fan art has a place but film work is really hard work for someone else’s brand. My advice is do your own thing or work WITH an emerging artists to create a shared brand. Again I’m not a “my way is the only way” person at all. But I’m not into fan films or hobby films or anything that isn’t building our brand. Now you can build your skill set (acting, directing, writing) with the previous two mentioned types of films so there is value. I do appreciate anyone who uses their imagination to create. We just have long term goals and so those need to remain in focus for us. It is a hard industry to survive in. Take that from a survivor.
Please do enjoy the holidays with a watch on the trilogy and watch all three in order. Poor ‘Chasing the Star’ sometimes takes a few rocks because someone did not realize they were watching part 2 of 3 films. In time audiences will understand they are a trilogy and a bigger picture will emerge upon watching in order.
I also see a few people who thought the Magi story had nothing to do about Christmas. Maybe I should have added Heat and Cold Miser and a reindeer or two:) But for the few audience members who don’t get it, many DO get it. We don’t dumb down our stories but challenge and encourage people to talk and discuss often hard topics. So ENJOY a watch and discussion. At one of my distribution content meetings we had discussion about more biblical adventures. I might have my next three films and one of them is written. So we will see said the wise man.
MBF: MAN’S BEST FRIEND – Due to the season where many are enjoying family and friends and watching films, I’ve gotten a spike in fan mail. This film has been generating a good buzz and we have some exciting events and showings coming up in 2020. But you don’t have to wait. You can watch on Amazon today! If dogs and/or support of our military touches you, please do take a watch.
LOST HEART – The fine cut is getting close. After a wonderful first cut by editor Scott Magie, welcome to the CDI Tribe, a second final cut is near. This week we had a post meeting with Dennis Therrian (music/sound), Jesse Low (Director) along with Melissa Anschutz, Shane Hagedorn and even John Mashni made a stop by. Come mid 2020 we will have a most excellent story to share with you all.
In the meantime – please watch the CDI Film collection and share your thoughts.
HOPE for HEAVEN – is the script I’ve been working on. It’s been developing in a wonderful fashion starting with some great characters. We’re working development on several properties that could go full green light in 2020/2021. A sequel to KNIGHT CHILLS, perhaps? We’ve had a few screen and camera tests. WW2 drama – coming together. Kids adventure film – might happen:) WILD FAITH TV series:) With some of the new meetings and opportunities before CDI, I promise we will continue to create. Thank you to all of you for your continued support.
Ok. We had a wonderful first Christmas gathering yesterday. Friends tonight and several gatherings in the week ahead, including two more family Christmas gatherings. I am down to just a little bit of shopping. I give thanks to those who sent a card or gave little love gifts, much appreciated. But the most important thing you can give anyone is a bit of your time, laughter and joy.
I’ve been questioned about my verbal non-involvement in politics. It’s because much like the ‘golden rule’ I believe in focusing on what we all could benefit from. When people are drained from endless debates, divided by priority differences and angered by the never-ending shortcomings of each another – I say relax. Sit back and watch a story with universal messages woven within. My friendships with people are more important than trying to convince someone I’m right about an obvious self-opinion. So set aside your differences and focus on what brings us all together. Fellow human beings trying to live a meaningful life with health and joy. Even if it is for a few days, try it and you might find it a better way to live, to cope, to exist, to grow, and to be the better you.
Fear leads to anger, anger to hate and hate to suffering – MERRY CHRISTMAS!
So I’m balancing my laptop as I sip my coffee and try to type. Lulu our cat has taken an interest in our new little furry boy Finn. Daphne our other dog is taking her time to warm up. It took her 3-4 days with Luke before he was totally accepted and it was a lifelong love affair from there. Little Finn has all the same courageous and brave attributes. He was his puppy pack leader. He’s slept great for two nights now and has had zero accidents. He had the outside potty down from his two visits. Play, sleep, explore and eat. Repeat as needed. It was an emotional tear to put this bundle of joy over the pain of losing Luke too soon. I joked that Luke’s ‘force ghost’ is coming to Finn and teaching him all the fun stuff as we sleep. He is his own little man but he will definitely be the new cuddle king and will grow into the protector. Even last night on the back porch Daphne was barking at the top of the stairs at whatever critter was wandering the yard to collect food. Finn ran up beside her to give his support. They shared a sniff as if to say, “I got this” and Finn bounced down the stairs first. No lack of bravery. After a hard month of loss in October the month of November is shaping up to be a thankful one.
This past couple weeks has been extremely busy with the movie business. I remember being in the midst of the storm, working five projects with different artists. Finishing sound design, listening to musical score, VO and title credits approvals, new trailer, new posters, finalizing deals, development but before frustration could ever sit in, I felt blessed.
I get to work with all these fellow artists creating beautiful stories. I get to watch such talented actor friends become these roles. I know the hard work that our crews gave each day so that we could assemble the pieces. I was moved by the music that just injected the scenes with hair-raising emotion. What are these developments? A few early spoilers before the PR releases.
- The Wild Faith phase one deal is done. An actual purchase of the property will take place before a TV series moves forward. But that has to wait because as the kick off film in a new partnership/division WILD FAITH will be going into theaters in March 2019. This will be a wider release vs our limited showcase that did very well. We’ve added a new narrator that will start and end our story. He will be well-known to almost everyone and our own Melissa Anschutz got to be in-studio with him in Nashville. There is your hint:) We started delivering elements to the distributor and we’ll deliver the film later next week. The theatrical screens could be tens, hundreds or even a thousand plus as that is what is in their network. They LOVE the film and we know that this film is very timely so I hope many get to see it on the big screen. But any number of screens over our 10 or so we did on our own will be viewed as a success.
- THE CHRIST SLAYER is looking and sounding so powerful. It had a great response at mipcom and AFM markets. The new poster art is beautiful. We’ll be announcing that with our release dates that will include 2/4/19 broadcast/digital, 3/4/19 DVD and national “special event” Easter theatrical showings in April. This is all being done through BMG with their theatrical partnership. I’m so EXCITED to see this film on the big screen. Model building, digital matte paintings and more make this one of the largest scale movies we’ve produced.
- We have a batch of new teasers inviting families to watch FORTY NIGHTS and already CHASING THE STAR is being add to many Christmas line ups. I encourage you to take a watch or purchase for your collection. If you enjoyed the experience leave your thoughts on IMDB.com or Amazon. Both are on Amazon Prime along with many other great platforms and networks.
- MBF also made an early appearance at the film markets. We’ve had major interest including in the theatrical. A rough trailer made an appearance at AFM and we’ve polished it up and will announce Tuesday when and where audiences can see it. Also the first official poster will be released. Here is the bottom half of it above. MBF was one of my, if not my most vulnerable roles emotionally. After seeing the trailer and about 30 minutes of the rough cut I think I’ve succeeded in honoring the most important people, our vets. Dog lovers will also enjoy this story because it rings of truth. So much that ANIMAL PLANET is making it one of their featured shows on “Amanda to the Rescue” on Sunday nights. I’m told it’s one of the later shows.
- Development. LOST HEART. Often when I write I sometimes have someone in mind. I know literally thousands of actors and that gives good imaginative fuel to me as a writer. That doesn’t mean that the casting always falls that way, sometimes my imagination gives the better read. But often it works out and that leaves only a few castings to find. We’ve started to get in a few requested reads. The response to the script has been very good. I had good talks about it with our distributor. I’m excited about the upcoming slate of movies that CDI will produce. The theatrical aspect will be incorporated into this new production deal. Yes. PR will be coming out on this as we enter into the new year. 2019 will be exciting.
My last point that can be applied to your own situations. First, vet people, companies and projects. Valuable time can be wasted from your personal or business time on unrealistic or unattainable goals. I’m an optimist for sure but no matter how high I train to jump the peak of Everest will still remain out of my reach. But a path. Many, many steps. Good prep and planning and the goal of reaching the top is possible. Others profit from your time or efforts if you make it or not. These are dangerous people and performance is key. Actions vs words. I see many more projects getting launched and finished. At my various meetings I still hear the horror stories and they often include the same names over and over. So do yourself a favor and be careful where you put your trust and energy. This weekend while concluding some business with an executive I received this added note which I have to say made my day.
“BTW – thank you for the business partnership and friendship. It’s relationships like ours that I can point to as the reason why I love what I do.”
Generations of Collective Development Inc. directors
People have often looked for an agenda in me because of my kindness. It’s real. I can be tough when required and the trick is not to be tough on a new contact because of scars from old business wounds. I am proud of what I’ve done with others in this lifetime. I hope I have many more stories to tell before someone adds a RIP next to my name. The truth is we don’t really know. So how I get to my goals is more important to me versus just getting them at all cost. My goals will not be obtained by stepping on people or screwing people over. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. I’ve made unpopular decisions. I’ve miscommunicated before. I’ve unintentionally hurt feelings. But my actions on this path tell people I’m sincere. This is my path. Like me. Dislike me. Nobody can question my dedication to the hard path.
Furthermore, If several projects that your associated with keep having issues, is it bad luck that you keep stepping into? Or are you part of the issue as a common denominator? Passing blame is weak and poor leadership. Accountability is power, take it. We’ve had various small bumps while working on all these projects associated with several films. Any bad communication is always my bad. I spend a good amount of effort trying to keep the communication lines strong and proper. Some days it can be difficult managing but once a good flow is established things really do flourish.
Enjoy the harvest of November. Be grateful for what came to be. Reflect and take accountability for what did not. How can you make a positive change and increase the harvest next year? Do the kind of business you wish to receive.
Have a great week ahead. Watch for those PR releases.
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.
We had a nice day of sunshine yesterday and that allowed us to get outside and do a little bit of yard clean up. Today the weather is back to wet and overcast but tis the way in Michigan. In a few short weeks we’ll be back in Yuma, AZ to film our third installment in THE QUEST TRILOGY. Let’s examine those films and the journey that these projects take.
The Christ Slayer
The bank account is open and the finalizing of people’s paperwork and getting their investment into the bank is always a task. People are busy but we work on tight timelines. We only have a few units to assign before we’re a fully functional battle station. Paperwork between crew started this week and next week some paperwork on talent will begin. Right now rooms, flights for the pre-prod team are the priority of the production office.
On cast we’re waiting for our schedule this week so we’ll know how many days talent will be required. Casting has been mostly a joy but you always get to those few hard choices. This past week we came to a few casting decisions after some healthy back and forth. We finalized casting on one of our last co-stars, a supporting role and a few featured roles from the AZ area. Each artist brings their unique talents to the screen. I’m so excited about the casting choices that were made.
I’m also happy that because of distribution being in place we don’t need to drop any ‘lure castings’ as I call them. That’s less than ideal casting but it’s done with the possibility that it may help grab the attention of a distributor. I understand why this is done but it can have a backlash. Distributors we’ve spoken with will tell you that certain names are known but they’ve become known for less than inspired product. They spoke of the flood of films that basically takes (Insert animal) and (Insert Holiday) add (Insert lure casting) and repeat. Now, I respect the fact that it’s a business model but I need more to invest myself in. I need a story that means something to me deeply.
“On schedule, on budget and our projects bring high artistic value.” That’s how we’re described by distributors and why we’ve been developing our ongoing business. I’ve said it before, you need to streamline your operation so that you can work with marketing teams whose job is to put the film into the marketplace. No excuses.
As I’ve done before I’ll give you a hint to the upcoming casting along with a story. First one of the roles WAS hard to find because it possesses a quality you can’t easily manufacture. In this case it was the “innocent role” which in “Forty Nights” was our T-Rex/Moses and in the upcoming “Chasing the Star” was filled by the amazing actor Logan Kishi. Thinking outside the box led me to looking at a certain spectrum of talent. From there I saw an actor who shared by last name. I looked at his materials along with dozens of others actors but kept coming back to the one with the famous last name:) His humor was right on point with the writing and he had that IT factor people talk about. In moving down the road in the casting process we discovered this talent had a sibling who also is an established actor. Another read for another role and BAM it has become a family affair. I’m excited that these two siblings will get to share in this journey together. People may assume I’m casting from family but I’ve never met these two brothers with the cool last name:) If we are related it’s buried up in the in the limbs of the ole family tree.
Two local actors who’ve participated with us before in Yuma, AZ have landed featured extra parts that while small are very important. (As all roles are) I’m sure they’re excited to be participating and we’re excited to have them.
In summary – We’re moving forward strong. I’ve been spending time with the story and it’s a joy to be able to imagine the talent in the roles on the page I’m reading. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. I am also looking forward to a little sunshine and Mexican food!
Chasing the Star
I’ve been assembling information for our end credits. This week we’ll also start moving over photo elements to the distributor. We should get our street date set in the coming weeks. I’m excited for audiences to get their first peek at the film. I’m trying to make it possible for our friends at Champion Church to see the film before we roll cameras on “The Christ Slayer”. They’ve helped us in so many ways as part of our Yuma team and I like to give them a special treat as a thank you.
The Easter stuff is slowly making its way out and that brings us closer to the 4/4/17 release date. The nice part about this release is that we’ll create a nice flow between the releases of the three films.
Once “The Christ Slayer” releases around Easter 2018 my hope is to see the three films play together or over three nights on television. I’m anxiously awaiting the new artwork which I hope to see this week. Fingers crossed.
Lisa Lauren Smith drives the drama as Haddie in #WildFaith
We’ve had many people reaching out about this film. I sincerely think we’ve got some gold with this film. The energy while making it was just powerful and cast and crew alike brought their A game. This week we’ll be seeing the first full cut of the story. I would say I’m excited but that would be an understatement. Keep following us and I’ll keep you updated after the first watch.
I’m not going to wax on about development at this time. Truth is I have much to turn my attention to and so I will cut this short. All of us artists appreciate your time and attention and in a few short weeks and months ahead we hope to entertain, educate and inspire you with your stories. That is an artist’s hope.
Be good to one another.