Again Michigan is covered in a blanket of white snow. I know that many of you are from various parts of the world. Welcome readers from S. Korea and Burma. How wonderful that all these artistic people have found our little corner of the internet. My hazelnut coffee is going down easy and I’ve got a list of updates on several of the projects. This morning I did take a stroll through the Facebook which has kind of replaced the newspaper sadly. I usually find science articles to read and enjoy certain animal posts that highlight how intelligent and soulful animals truly are. Where to begin?
I commented on a fellow filmmaker’s vent this morning. In short – a disdain for people who have more resources or who falsely claim experience. It’s a problem but one that usually works itself out. We use to lovingly refer to it as The Oregon Trail. For us older people it was a TSR-80 game. But in real history it was a rugged journey that resulted in many dying and being buried along the Oregon Trail. We use that saying to describe the many in our business who perished along the trail.
Many people have long-wondered what the “trick” is at CDI to producing their content. First, there is no trick. It is a logical checklist of work that must be done in a particular order. You can refine that over time but this takes an effort. Good management of people is something that you cannot buy for yourself. There is no piece of equipment you can purchase that will motivate good work flow. Some of the secrets, if you wanna call it that are…
- Hire artists firsts not friends – you can become friends (True definition not Facebook’s) through shared art, dependability, accountability and positive collaboration. But to assign/hire someone unqualified for a crew or cast role out of friendship hurts the collective endeavor and often the friendship. Don’t set people up to fail. Don’t let preventable failure lower the quality of your projects or worse yet – kill it. I think for young filmmakers that is where these 48 hour film challenge things help. With a youthful generation of highly creative, technology-adept youths INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION is a learned skill. It is easy to be disrespectful, behind a computer. But these comments in the real world to a real person, can get you kung fu’d, fired or create a poison in an otherwise productive creative atmosphere.
- Chiefs. I’m talking to company owners. I’m talking to producers, director and keys. You all set the tone for the environment. Define the roles ahead of time. Don’t figure it out as you go. Producers have months or years of development work before any camera roll – use it. Creative MUST respect the Business machine and the business must respect the artistic contributions that will elevate it above being a mere formula genre film. Only strong leadership can walk this balance between the two and enforce this kind of collaboration. NEED vs WANT…KNOW the DIFFERENCE.
- Follow Through – this means the same in micro as in macro – for anyone in the chain of execution. You NEED people with follow through or they’re simply a negative – excuses not withstanding. It does not matter what the creative potential of an individual is if they’re not able to follow through. This should always disqualify/limit a person from leadership. Now you can put creative slackers under a disciplined key so they can be exposed and maybe learn from leadership. Ego will sometimes make them reject the chain of command if they feel they are a superior artist. The best artist in our world has follow through and a “best effort” positive attitude. Again, the best artist is not always JUST the best artist but the best artist with follow through. If a creative caterer made half a crew lunch = fail. Someone at go time had collected only half the props = fail. Wrong instructions as to where to park support vehicles = fail. Hundreds of things a day can cause strife on a film set if your team is not properly prepared. Be prepared.
- Help is not weakness – many people have not learned the many important lessons from managing projects of various sizes and budgets. People need to know when to say NO or to seek out and hire the proper experience. But either greed or fear of loss of power, causes many to sell themselves onto projects that they are truly unqualified for. F- YOU DJ! YOU GOTTA START SOMEWHERE! Okay. Settle down, I hear you:) Now in the beginning, I might have been one of those people. But, I did qualify as a doer of many other things. Some of these things small and some large in other areas of my life. I have always been someone who has a natural drive to GET IT DONE if I’m behind something. Investors saw that eye of the tiger in me. Investor interest seldom comes from a fancy fluff package or a regurgitation of business buzz words – more often that investor see’s or feels something in you that was/is akin to his own inner fire.
OK. I need to save a little wisdom:) But I try to keep a pulse on this Michigan film community. I see positives and negatives. Michigan has always fought the ‘backwoods’ mentality given to us by Hollywood. Funny thing is much of the Hollywood elite is midwestern. But I will say that I see improvements. Tax incentives gone – my opinion – it never should have been about drawing work to Michigan but development of work from within Michigan. But it did help legitimize filmmaking as an acceptable title here in Michigan. Ask old-timers and MI filmmakers from the 80’s and 90’s, about being called a filmmaker. It was like telling your family you want to be an astronaut. It was usually met with a sideways stare and a loss of words.
Now people don’t sideways stare at me they simply want to know when the next film releases. They tell me they have young children interested in filmmaking. It’s great to see the parent support of these young dreamers. I burned out on festivals a decade ago but I respect all the great festivals our state has to showcase, network and nurture our creatives. I watch the yearly migration to the west coast where people learn that the increase in opportunities is usually matched by the increase in applicants. But many have to experience it. I will be out there for a week on some business this month. I’m looking forward to seeing some friends and associates. Oh, and the sun. But after a few I must return home. Home is Michigan.
Shane Hagedorn’s big shoulders to carry his first feature
We master the film off this week and I’ve got some meetings coming up over home video/foreign. The TV series is something that I’ve been aggressively chasing. I think it would be great for Michigan. I know a few other TV series working to get traction. How great would it be to have a string of TV shows happening. We’ve also been hard at work on securing theaters. We’ll be announcing soon as several deals are almost done. I do truly love the genre and I think it would be great to see weekly as a show. Once you watch the movie let me know.
If you cannot wait and need a fix of 1800’s action/drama our Civil War film “Wicked Spring” is getting a re-release 16 years later. 18 years from when cameras first rolled. We shot the pre-war and war stuff in two separate shoots and areas. I’m waiting for the streaming link to go live on amazon. 2/5/18 is supposed to be digital release date. DVD’s on 3/5/18. Here is the new cover that the distributor settled on. It has one of my favorite pics from the shoot and it is of Anthony Hornus, who played the Union commander. Also that’s Michigan’s Brad Egan front and center marching forth.
Look for this cover that has the remastered film. Also the DVD includes a 45 min Making of that is a wonderful look back at producing 18 years ago. Please do take a watch.
Cool look at the TOP Civil War Films
We’ll be posting places you can buy/rent as they go live on
Wicked Spring Facebook
Are you ready for another look at Part 3 of…
THE QUEST TRILOGY
Forty Nights and Chasing the Star are working into more platforms and networks. The push will start for Easter sales. I’m excited that the poster and movie trailer for The Christ Slayer part 3 is almost done. As if the excitement of “Wild Faith” wasn’t enough this first full trailer will allow BMG to start promotions. It is amazing the scope of it all and it brings the greater story of the trilogy together and answers many questions.
SIDE NOTE: Forty Nights is part one and if you don’t know I play Jesus. I’m over due on a few character reels but this one was hard. When you’re in about 70 min of a 88 min film or so and you are looking for 2-3 min sizzle it can prove to be…difficult. My actor/filmmaker buddy Shane Hagedorn knew I’ve been very busy the last few years working on the whole. He surprised me with a character reel of Jesus. I will be sharing that with you all in the coming days. I always ask that one good role just gets me one more. This will come in handy as I’ve got a few things in the works hence the LA trip.
Many have asked me what’s next for me on-screen. As we’re always working on delay – this year you can watch me as mountain man Ben Lily in “Wild Faith” and reprising my role as Jesus in “The Christ Slayer” film. I’ve got some good film role options that I’m not at liberty to discuss. It might be the year that several development collaborations pop. I can say that the main focus for me is MBF. (Man’s Best Friend) We’ve accepted collaboration with a military non-profit http://www.theredwhiteandblueproject.org/ that has done some great things in the past for our soldiers. They want to off-set some of our military cast/crew costs and create an educational aspect. That aside we’re trying to complete financing on this project and we’re getting close. I am excited about this project and I think so will you once you find out more about it. Here is our social media site.
I could go on and one but I have some snow to shovel and I’m prepping to do personal tax prep tomorrow. Coffee cup is low.
Be good to one another!
On this day we remember our stories about where we were at when the 9/11 attacks happened. I remember that I was having a morning much like today – hazelnut coffee, chill music and doing some film work. Dean Teaster called me to ask if I was watching TV, to which I said I wasn’t. I turned on to see one tower on fire and replays of the impact. BOOM! Another plane impact and we all know the story of the other planes. I remember MaryJo Cuppone’s flight attendant friend died in one of the planes. I remember Ed Schaefer in NYC being in the street dust after the impact. Killing is not divine. Hate is a choice. We are all neighbors in this world.
It has been a whirlwind of film activity. As we get ready to review some of the first numbers on “40 Nights” I’m proud of the growing base of viewers. The film did not roll out with huge fanfare but has become a film you hear about – you hear good things about and you seek it out. Here is one of my favorite reviews.
If you watched this film and enjoyed it – reach out and share it with someone.
Chasing the Star – the 2nd film in The Quest Trilogy has a first trailer which is still getting a polish. I expect we will roll out a new poster here soon. The music is almost complete and VFX has started. Our friends from CHOP & HUE have also joined the project – making this their second film with us.
The Christ Slayer – As soon as “Wild Faith” ship is out to sea I will start putting the business together on our third film in our trilogy. I’m actively looking at directors and speaking to talent and keys. We will look to shoot in the spring in AZ.
Our midWestern “Wild Faith” is loading the ship as I like to call it. The foundation work is well underway and this week we’ll open the account and start to prepare for the journey. We’ve identified most of our artist sailors of our cast and crew. This week we will finalize that process. I’m excited also by the idea of an ongoing TV series because of the great talent. I have ideas for many guest stars including many of your favorite legends of the genre. It looks like Mr. Darby Hinton will be joining our cast. He has a long impressive list of TV & film but many love him from Daniel Boone still playing strong on 3 networks right now. We also have a list of extremely talented actors from Michigan joining our cast. We’ll be announcing more of these cast and crew as we start signing deals.
Well, MSU is off this weekend. The Lions play in a few hours and so I’m going to get some additional work done around the yard. The garden is full and needs to be harvested. Speaking of, I bottled 2 cases of “Return of the Green Goblin” that came from last years harvest. I’ve been dealing with this mega beard during our humid heat but now we’re in a beautiful cool phase. Tonight I may even make a fire. Enjoy the remaining weekend and be good to one another.
The first snow of mention kissed the ground last night. It’s beautiful and welcome at least for a while. The harvest was finished yesterday with the pulling of the beets. A final mulch and mow and stowing the last of the yard items until spring. This morning has been all coffee (BREAKING update) I may have a new coffee sponsor – stay tuned. Speaking of sponsors, this morning has been wonderful with coffee and The Candleberry Candle Company! They have been a personal sponsor for a few years helping me find my mindspace to work on scripts. My zen to keep patience when dealing with accounting and BS technology issues. OK. Let’s be honest on that front. 98% of my technology issues are with my technological issues. From my earliest days of friends playing with the video camera – my buddy Darrel was always the camera guy. He could get the camera to roll back to the right VHS frame. We didn’t have editing back in the day. We shot one take in order. Boom box on set was our music. Those days were fun and free. Of course being young without the daily adult issues was more free. I cherish those days beyond words. I’ve worked hard to establish a worth in our business and I can’t just play. It reduces value and being part of something “bad” (maybe still fun) can make you go backwards. I’ve got management pushing me up into the larger films. I’ve got a few studios that have taken an interest in developing my branding. I still have fun when playing on set now – it just has to make sense business-wise.
I had a funny message a few weeks ago but I was too busy to really even address it. It was from a filmmaker whom I had heard all good things about. Previously they had expressed to a mutual associate that they wanted to get a script in my hands. It was in the thriller/horror genre as I recall. With good recommendations behind them I even thought a future collaboration might be possible. I have a few horror scripts with interested distribution and foreign sales waiting. It has to be the right director and the project just is not front and center right now in development. They were working on a script and we inquired about bringing to the table scripts that made business-sense because business was there. I recall the idea being just lukewarm. Lot’s of people have their own scripts to do but if distributors/retailers don’t want it why shoot it? So fast forward and coming from Yuma shooting “40 Nights” I recall getting a script and reading it at the airport. It wasn’t bad as I recall just not anything I was into doing. Maybe I needed time away from playing Jesus before heading into the dark side again? But whatever reason – it was a pass. Now under some odd screen name I got contacted and scolded for talking SHI$% about their script and making a Jesus film. OK. They wanted to twist a dagger with a “So and so also just made the same Jesus film…” 🙂 First, you have not seen our film. Second, that is like saying, “someone else made a film about a haunted house” – okay. I’ve had rocks thrown at me for years and I’m okay with that. It is a badge of honor and respect – some of my celebrity friends have all confirmed – when hate starts you’re getting success. Now, when I got around to reading this message I wasn’t mad. To me, I saw a frustrated artist who took my rejection of a role as a rejection of his art. Not true. I almost reached out because if he is a good artist this kind of negativity leads to career death. I can say that because I’ve seen it. That was the funny thing about our screening of “An Ordinary Killer” last week. A perfect movie? No. Art is subjective. It did sell out 12 of 13 theatricals, USA/Australia distribution and played on ABC. We made that film 13 years ago. WOW! And that was our 5th CDI feature and the library is much larger now. The point is I want people to succeed but by good business and hard work. No shortcuts and half-ass business. People who know me will say that I give you an honest opinion. I’ve had lots of experiences in our business and while I learn something new daily – I’ve gathered a good amount of knowledge.
RESPECT. I’ve given it and had several good advisors and mentors.
IF YOU GIVE IT – you too can learn, grow and thrive.
That one communication was just a good example of how not to build bridges. You get feedback and you get defensive – that shuts down any respectful communication. Do I practice what I preach?
CHASING THE STAR – On Friday Bret Miller, our director and I, concluded a three-hour plus script meeting. I’m happy to say we have draft 2 with the directors input. We moved a few scenes for pacing and flow and he had a few ideas that we put in there. Our distributors had purchased a suit and we were giving it a tailor. It is exciting and so that will start to go out next week.
On casting we’ve been looking at several reels – most on the west coast because we’re limited on flights. We also fly in several of our keys because that is just as important. They are stars on the other side of the camera. Funny. In Michigan I hear complaints when films come in and bring their keys. I will once again get back at them by bringing some of our Michigan keys. I can’t bring everyone and that is a hard balance. But once again some of us will depart Michigan in Feb for Arizona. Maybe that is why I can enjoy the snow.
40 Nights – This week my goal is to pull in the intro sequence and VFX. Sound design is closing up and our director loved the direction. The music score is also coming together. We released a teaser that used a snippet of music.
We’ve been re-mastered the CDI library in prep of some new VOD, foreign, TV deals and a possible CDI Online store. The book/DVD deal on “Knight Chills” is signed and some PR will release on that.
I thought some PR from our distributor was coming out on the “Ashes of Eden” TV deal. Something for next week! Closed caption deal on “Donors” releasing Feb 02. “Bestseller” is playing Grayling, MI Dec. 10th look for a new event page and updates. The national release date on “Bestseller” might be March 02 but we’re trying to confirm. I will confirm that artwork is being done and I’m looking forward to that.
Script, script, scripts… – I signed an NDA and had a book sent to me that will be followed by the script. A studio I’m working with sent me a script that they want me to star in. Also another couple of projects to consider/talk about – one is a TV show reboot and the other a major film on par with C.U.J.O.. That project is moving forward and looks to shoot in 2016. I will say more when I can.
Let’s wrap this up. I’m going to watch MSU and maybe read a script.
Enjoy your weekend!
Hazelnut hazelnut coffee of mine you warm my belly and make me feel fine:) I have to say it was a busy semi-chaotic week due to some of the elements floating about. The week had some great high points which include a screening of the rough cut of “Ashes of Eden” which was actually a very powerful watch. It is the performances that really make this film stand apart from 90% of the indie films. That was a comment by our DP and it is true. More times than not casting is not always giving the attention that it should. I also see trends in Michigan that will unfortunately keep our talent’s value low. It is the excitement of being offered a job at the lowest possibly fee and the talent and management way too eager to just say YES, YES, YES. What they need to realize is that those producers/directors want the best for their film knowing that talent is key. Why pay big money for a talent and surround them with the lowest fee taking/limited experienced talent? I had one film in Louisiana talk to me as a co-star but in response to a small counter offer they went with someone’s friend who volunteered. Now maybe that will turn out okay or maybe they will get just what they paid for.
I recently did a film at scale to help a friend/filmmaker out and that was because I liked the material, the lead talent I would be working with and it only took up 2 days. Now scale is about 1/10 of my normal rates and I’ve been paid considerably more. Why? All of you fans out there. That is right – after 40+ films playing on numerous networks in various countries and millions in units/sales – I have a beloved group of fans. I’m not talking about Facebook friends or twitters – I’m speaking of the people I don’t know that are reflected in the units moved, VOD watches and viewers on TV. I’m careful with choices I make these days because I’m thinking of them/you. I want to make good choices and help tell good stories. I do understand that different folks like different films and due to my work across genres not everyone might like all my films. My mother is not a fan of my horror films. 🙂 I’m not talking about these ego building “fake it” folks playing Hollywood. I’m talking about being true to yourself, your audience and in turn demanding true compensation for your art and followers.
Tuesday was a watch through on “Donors” with a full music score and it is always great to see how the images take on a completely different vibe once the haunted atmosphere is added. It is an artsy thriller and I found my attention captured and trapped right along with the films lead Niki Saletta. This film is getting closer to being complete.
Weds was a day of reworking the business summary for the “Supermodel Showdown” TV series in post. We have several interested parties in this series and I’m enjoying watching it all come together.
Chaos exists until the order within can be seen. So I wanted to express a few feelings on CHAOS. Recently an aspiring producer who I think bit off more than they can chew made a comment to an associate that “You know how chaotic production is…” as an excuse. If you worked on the recent CDI associated film “Ashes of Eden” or previous CDI films (especially the more recent) you will recall challenges but not chaos. I’ve been at this 17 years and I have achieved zen and peace in my personal life. Drama causing folks will be put outside the zen zone until they get their energy straight. I bring that calm onto a set because if you are in chaotic reactionary mode you’re always barely getting just what you can get. With strong pre-production and the right leadership – you get a peaceful fertile garden to grow new and exciting moments on-camera. IF you are existing in pure CHAOS something is very wrong and it starts at the very top. Even capable keys need that leadership glue – again there is no manual to teach some of these things. Either you have those qualities and possess the ability to align mutual respect in the most productive path for a given project or you don’t. One recent project I know of is operating in chaos. They are in total reaction mode and they have a serious cart before the horse issue. Also if you are producing always deal in truth. I know the reputation that some comically give producers as slimy car salesmen played by Steve Martin, telling everyone what they think people want to hear. I disagree – truth only. I vet everything out hard these days. When you discover things said to be untruthful it really destroys any confidence in a project. Producers-in-training in bad need of a paycheck should not accept or sell themselves on jobs they are not qualified. This has caused issue on our projects when I refuse a credit to a crew member. The last thing I want is someone to hire someone after seeing they possess a credit on a CDI project only to find this person NOT qualified once they hire them. This is how films go off schedule, off budget and poison investor wells because someone unqualified sold a skill set that doesn’t exist. Now I’ve had my set backs in this industry but it always has fallen on the integrity of 3rd parties. INTEGRITY once lost in this business is nearly impossible to get back. It is a very small world. Over the years I’ve seen many come and go – buried along the filmmakers “Trail of Tears”. Yesterday I had a phone call and a nice card from two investors on a previous film who had recently gotten checks. I love writing people checks. It makes me feel good. I know it is odd but I do. Be true.
Now I will get off my soapbox – We had 4 films in contract stage for Germany but one of them had to be taken off the slate after they realized it was a 44 min short. All the others are feature films but I was still disappointed. Not just the $$ loss but I was excited for German audiences to see the work of these artists. That film will find a home in various countries but I too get disappointed. But I had to look at the positive of the 3 films going to Germany. I’ve had some previous releases in Germany and due to “The 8th Plague” selling well over there we are doing a pre-deal on the “Soul Eater” prequel.
I’ve been communicating with various TV Networks and companies and I look forward to filming some of these other stories we have been developing. I’m going to have a nice breakfast here and relax into the weekend. I hope all of you enjoy your weekend and prepare for a good week ahead.
Live true, be you and let integrity be your compass in business and life.