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

Posts tagged “money

Losing Luke Brown and Seeking New Balance

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This Sunday has been a change for me. Balance is such a key to happiness and we all seem to strive for that balance daily. In filmmaking – my main artistic medium, it’s about giving your all to a story and after recharging. There is more time spent in development, pre-production and post-production after filming. How you spend that time can do much to influence your productivity. My family, friends and my furry pack have always helped give me peace and recharge

We proudly had the ‘Brady Bunch’ pack consisting of three cats and three dogs. Almost two years ago we lost our elder dog Joplin. She lived a long 15.5 years, longevity for a Rottweiler. Two months ago, we lost Jameson, our eldest cat who grew from a shy, scared cat to a chill-relaxed adventurer. He passed after a long life and was joined by his brother Dmitri, whom I affectionately call the gray rat.  Last Monday what we thought was a tooth infection turned out to be much worse. So Monday at the day’s end, he was laid to rest next to his brother.

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My life was/is changing. Some who know me well, know that our silly, funny, happy boy Luke (Our youngest dog) has fought various life threatening illnesses for the last three years. We gladly sacrificed many social outings and gatherings so we could tend to and enjoy our borrowed time with our buddy. Monday night Luke’s journey started to get harder with the onset of some more serious neurological issues from his tumor on his head. As we treated him over the last 5 months his quality of life was very good. His attitude was always happy and adventuresome. He loved his walks in the woods and his couch cuddles. He never feared the hospital and remarkably brought joy to everyone there.

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He was strong, brave and loyal, and I took lessons from him everyday. He had beat the odds so many times and after the second illness I prayed that his body would know health again, and for a while he did. But when in pre-production on MBF: Man’s Best Friend we discovered he had a cancerous tumor in his sinus. Here I was producing a story inspired by my ‘Mr. Brown,’ that showed the positive effects dogs can have on all of us, especially our wounded service men and my boy has what? I did love watching the incredible cast and crew work hard to capture our story, but my heart was breaking. It worked for my role of Paul, but with so much work to launch a film, it was an ironic shame that I could not fully enjoy it.

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Soccer season this year also brought my 1st ever bone injury to my right wrist. That slowed my roll with typing and all activities requiring my right hand. So at the homestead we’ve got the one-arm gimp and tumor-head, taking care of each other and getting by. The new script LOST HEART was going slow, but I worked it with my buddy beside me. I often read aloud to him and while his feedback was limited, it always helped me. I know that a Fall shoot means a last paycheck for all our cast and crew before the holidays. But while Luke’s decline in health was slowed by treatment, I could see the direction of it. We knew the battle was for time, not a total win. There was no way I could leave my loyal buddy to go off and film. I know it was selfish when I looked at the whole but it’s what I had to do. I hope others will understand. If you don’t understand, I feel bad for you, because you’re missing something.

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Luke had a wonderful past couple weeks that included walks at his favorite nature park, which was a Sat. morning ritual. A Sunday cookout with his grandma’s, which he loved so much.  Last Monday is when we lost our Dmitri, and that is also when Luke had his emerging issues intensify. The location of the tumor and the meds used to help were also likely hindering him. Vision and coordination loss started to develop, with episodes lasting longer, more often.  By Weds, the fight was real. So many times he had bounced back. His body was still so strong, so maybe – HOPE. His will was there to fight a bit longer but it was not meant to be. A great dinner of venison and rice followed by an unexpected walk to the park. (His idea) He had not wanted to go to the park, or perhaps could not, for weeks, but that night he did. He wanted to lay out in the warm breeze, listening and smelling the birds, squirrels, the wind in the pines, the softball game cheers and kids laughing. It was really nice.

What followed was a rough night and thankfully the next morning was the most beautiful Fall day. He was done fighting and was resting peacefully. We had a doctor come to the house and with cool breeze blowing in the windows, wrapped in his favorite blanket, head on his most beloved stuffed animal, he opened his good eye looking at his momma holding his head, daddy holding his paw – he put his head back down with full love and trust and left his broken body behind. He also left a huge hole in our hearts and daily life. Everyday was a smile, a tail wag and something silly that always reminded you not to take your setbacks to serious. He was an inspiration on how to live each day.

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I’m happy that his frustration over a body that no longer wanted to respond was very brief. At the end he had peace with his two remaining sisters and his momma and daddy with him. I will miss all of our furry pack that we’ve lost but Luke taught me so many lessons that I will hold onto.  My final polish on the ‘LOST HEART’ script as I read him each line, was almost done. I had stopped to devote my full time and attention to him. I slept with him on the floor for the last few nights because his vanishing sight made our brave boy nervous. I’m sad but filled with new motivation moving ahead. We never took any of his good days for granted. I will carry that into my future day-to-day where I do cherish each interaction, be it business, friendship or both.

I KNOW how bad many of you WANT it. What is IT to you? Expression of your art, words, craft? Fame, money and appreciation? I’m here to tell you, don’t sacrifice everything. I recall being tethered to a pager back in the day. It always came first. I see that behavior in the upstarts of today with cell phones. It’s like a self-imposed tether – like what people wore after legal trouble. It’s like people have forgotten that the phone is a tool that works for you, not the other way around. Gather a ‘TO DO’ list and do all your phone and/or computer work all at one time. Aspiring actors/filmmakers can get requests from all time zones often bringing the Hollywood pressure of dangling opportunities.  Whereas someone “needs something like yesterday” only to have something sit on a desk for weeks. What was sacrificed to get that summary to that desk to sit for weeks? A sports game of a sibling or child? Storytelling around a kitchen table with family? Hanging with lifelong friends?

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Since I was a young boy I loved telling stories. Upon discovering that a lucky few could actually create make-believe as a job, cemented by direction, gave me my dream. But I could never sacrifice everything else for that dream. I did not move to Hollywood, NYC or any of the other places that people always said I had to go to in order to MAKE IT. Why? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what I do as an artist but I did not love it more than the people in my life. So, a battle to compromise and do both was and IS a battle worth fighting for. I want to create memorable stories and characters in timeless movies but I don’t need to climb onto any A lists to feel accomplished. Many climb very high only to find themselves alone. Think on all this.

We’re adjusting to life whereas our past stories, memories and lessons are what we have left of Luke. Next week LOST HEART will get the final polish. The wrist is almost healed and getting stronger. I look back and feel like I did right by my buddy as he would have for us. I feel full of grace, compassion and appreciate for life and those we share it with. It’s again why you should examine your circle and remove negative, toxic elements and be the change you want to see. Lot of drama in life amplified by social media and 24/7 ‘Breaking News’ environment. Unplug. Listen. Communicate. Laugh. Be loyal like a DOG to those around you. Trust, is a learned behavior and if you’re a tribal leader of artists – take this role serious. Don’t let the lure of shortcuts hurt or kill what could be lifelong friendships. Ask anyone who has joined a team of CDI artists in telling a story and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Beyond making our days, I want to make lifelong memories for cast and crew. Laughter and Love.

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Next week I will have more updates on the films. THE CHRIST SLAYER, WILD FAITH, MBF all have amazing things happening. We’re focused on finishing these stories and bringing them to audiences. We’ll be moving into official development on ‘LOST HEART’ for Spring 2019 this month. I want to continue to try and move people’s human-emotional compass in a positive direction.  I’ll be making some great announcements moving forward but today I want to just sit on these words. I’m sorry if you’re here more for the film updates versus listening to my ramblings. Those updates will return next week. Thank you everyone for joining me here to share a coffee and listening.

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Be good to one another. Love one another.

DJ

 

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Keys to a more successful 2018

A101_C001_03254IWell Winter has fell upon Michigan for sure with a good amount of beautiful and chilly snow. If it is going to be cold I really do enjoy snow. It is brighter and I love the look it gives to everything. Yes, it makes the hazelnut coffee taste that much better. Christmas is only a few days off but we’ve been enjoying the season everyday. Where do I even start with all this? STAR WARS (No Spoilers I PROMISE) has been front and center with the media and most folks. I had the pleasure of watching the latest installment yesterday. It was made extra special because I attended a showing with my lady, I put girl elsewhere and some people thought I had a hidden love child. My brother and his wife and my friend of about 40 years whom recently moved back to the area to work at MSU. We saw the original 40 years ago together and to have him there again was very special to me. I enjoyed the film very much. Now as an artist I really try to avoid too much judgement. I’ve been to art museums where a few tin cans  and some string displayed about is called art. I saw a waste of space but respect the decision to present it. I know that for me the prequels don’t work but I’ve enjoyed these new films made by fans of the originals like myself. I think that sometimes less is better but again that is just me. I sat and watched the end credit roll and smiled as we’ve been proofing our end credits on WILD FAITH. For all intent and purpose the movie is complete. We’ll be watching the final proof here soon at our post-house. Color correction was the final tweaking being added and that was almost complete. The film actually required very little due to the quality of the photography from Jesse Aragon and our team. We’re doing the final sound/music on our theatrical trailer. We plan to release it between Christmas and New Year. I was sincerely thrilled by the cut. I watch a lot of trailers as they are one of my favorite things to watch. A visual synopsis and a tease. This movie is exciting and I hope that audiences out there will also enjoy the efforts of many wonderful artists. SOON:)

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The reports have been coming in on the first two films in our ‘Quest Trilogy’ and it is quite amazing. The few off reviews I’ve seen either stem from someone wanting a Hallmark film vs a Chuck Heston style Christmas drama. CHASING THE STAR is our EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. All three films are purposely done in a STAR WARS style with the camera work and epic music. A few that are unaware that it is a trilogy are surprised by our ending of CHASING THE STAR but if you watched FORTY NIGHTS it makes perfect sense. You don’t need to watch them together but they do all fit. Fans of FORTY NIGHTS who were unaware of the trilogy aspect have been thrilled to find out there is three interconnecting stories. 2018 will be the lighting of the PR campaign on the 3rd installment THE CHRIST SLAYER. I think once the news of the three stories being a trilogy becomes wide-spread – many will re-watch with joy – as they pick out the strands that bind them all together. All in all the trilogy is one of the great accomplishments in my life. I’m very appreciative of all the artists who participated. I will be thankful for them my entire life and I hope some of them do take pride in their involvement. We created something special.

Here is the trailers for all three films again.

I’ve spent a good amount of time organizing and prepping for the year ahead. I’m trying to have a smooth end of year tax season with the films. The business responsibilities behind all these projects. When people invest in your endeavors there are many tasks that go along with that. Filmmaking is fun but there is a lot of biz that goes with the show. That is why when people don’t respect that fact I don’t respect them. For many their work ends when the film is done. For the executives it does not end for many years. So next time you’re on a film as cast or crew give a little consideration to those people who make it possible for you to be there working.

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I had a meeting not too long ago where I asked and was informed of the recent work this person had been doing. It almost always comes with a preface that it (the work) was done for a small fee or free because it was for a friend. I’ve found that this is usually said to give some leverage to ask, suggest or hint that they would appreciate more money on one of our next projects. I hear this story year after year from many people. Some of these same people are the first to say something if we overlook something while busy or it did not quite meet their expectations, but have been again paid, paid, paid and paid. But you find out that these people are still waiting on compensation for previous friend films or again worked free as a favor to a friend. Are these people/friends really friends helping to move that person in their career? Maybe. But when they are doing all these low/no paid gigs it puts more pressure on them to push us for more $$. I wonder at what point do I/we earn a bit of give in the name of friendship? Who is helping to pay their bills? Who is concerned with them staying in the game as a working artist? I’m not saying you cannot or should not do favors, I’m just saying that financial hardship from taking too many no pays should not fall upon those who do pay. We pay in tiers equally and not just pay 3-4 people and try to go all volunteer on the rest of the crew with no pay to talent. Our product has a certain quality because we pay for the artists we need. The rates are smaller vs commercial because the crew and cast is MUCH bigger. We’re climbing back to some of the larger budgets we once had but I still occasionally hear the moans. I’m climbing the ladder again responsibly and my advice would be treat those who pay you like gold and do less free projects. My ‘friends’ in the business are those who have compensated me and allowed me to survive and continue to move forward in our difficult business. Just a thought to put out there for 2018. And lastly, this is straight truth advice. NEVER turn down a modest paycheck offer by informing someone you’ll “wait for the larger budgets/rates”… I can say directly that when the bigger budgets are there, those individual(s) who made such a statement will not get that call. Some of those will turn around and again work for no pay again for a friend. In this industry you have to bet on winning horses. Because when those ‘friends’ bottom out and leave the industry – as I’ve seen hundreds do, they will not be concerned with their ‘friends’ – this is truth. Ponder that as you enter 2018. I’m not saying, don’t do favors. I’m just saying ‘friends’ can also be those that allow you to earn and grow in this business.

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As for 2018 – we’re getting closer to locking up our business on MBF (Man’s Best Friend) our next CDI film. This week we gathered more paperwork and money and we still have a way to go in the week’s ahead. Additionally we’re developing a couple westerns, a TV series, a new biblical trilogy and a couple animated projects. It will be a good year. This week I’m filming for a non-profit which will be nice. I’m planning to get back on my writing schedule too which has gotten off track.

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Okay. I had to take care of a few things. But again another little observation. A few years ago I met the nicest man working on an animated children’s movie of “The Patchwork Girl of Oz” with his modeling based upon the original illustrations from the 1st public domain book. His passion reminded me of everything good about being an artist. It took a few years of watching, giving notes and tweaking. We polished it with the same music and sound design love we give our feature films. The film is now getting ready to start rolling out to Amazon and other platforms. I do a little instagram promotion and of course some aspiring comic illustrator had to throw a stone. I took a glance to see who this all mighty person was to make such throw away declarations on someones hard work. Not a bad illustrator, but I’m sure unaware of the hard journey and the actual illustrations from the 1913 book. Likely a frustrated illustrator unable to get his foothold in another hard industry. I only guess this because successful people don’t usually throw such negative barbs. They appreciate where they are on the journey and that others are working their way. One of his personal descriptions was “All around good guy” – Hmmm…I guess our definitions are different. Also in our circle – if you watch an old black and white film with subpar effects or whatnot respect and recognize that these people were working hard just like we do now with more limited tools but imagination none-the- less. You can apply that to the new Star Wars films. I’ve seen the haters. If it is not your cup of tea don’t drink it and move on. I like TRAILER PARK BOYS Canadian TV series and have for many years. We use to get bootlegged VHS copies recorded from Canadian TV. Now many years later the show has found its way into the US pop culture. But go watch CART BOY or their earliest stuff. High production values? No. But the heart was there and they evolved – some out there would definitely not find this to be their cup of tea. So move on. So many people want to enforce their opinions but when it is tinged with jealously or just spite it’s sad. Many are just frustrated artists. If they happen to find any success the irony is they will just have their work attacked by people who were just like them.

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Social media has just made people brash. I try not to comment anything that I would not say directly to that person. And also know when it won’t do any good. I’ve seen features that I did not really enjoy by aspiring filmmakers but I KNOW what it takes to finish a film. The art can improve but if you cannot complete a workflow and the film, you will not evolve. So just consider being a bit more classy and a little less assy. I made that word up. Because you could be the stick today and the pinate tomorrow.

I vent these few things only because I truly want to see 2018 be more positive for people. The rise in mental issues/depression that I see touted in the news doesn’t surprise me as the seas of negativity are everywhere. But you don’t have to swim in it. I can promise you that once I hit publish on this blog and it posts I don’t come back checking it each hour for acceptance or to see who dislikes it. I won’t even have the computer back on until the morning when I start in on my list of business TO DO’s. I don’t notice if I lose followers, friends or care how many shares, likes or whatnot. StarMeters up or down, doesn’t matter. I’ll be spending time with family and friends. Laughing, sharing and living. Don’t let life pass you by as you stress over acceptance. Be you. Be good to others. Create don’t hate. Be happy.

Be LOVE.

DJ

 

 

 


Strong Week of Developments

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Cool photo that I found inspiration in this week.

Hello my friends. I find the blog worldwide breakdowns very interesting. These are the countries my leading readers are hailing from. 1) The USA. I would hope so but you never know. 2) Australia. Hey Mates. I’ve never been down under but would love to one day. Mad Max/Kings Road/Miller…I’m looking at you.  3) Denmark. I LOVE this country. Always will. 4) Germany. I’ve had a lot of releases here. Wonder what their favorite is? 5) India. Namaste. Thank you. 6) Philippines. Like family. Great hospitality. 7) Ireland. Never been but will one day. Irish/Scot blood runs through me.

Okay. I was just enjoying where everyone is tuning into from. It has been a good week. Okay. That is modest, the week felt ultra productive. I think once you set a destination it becomes easier. A target to focus upon. In our business it starts with a solid blueprint (script) interested key talent and crew to make your proposal package. I think many chase money and when someone does say YES, at that point they start looking at details. I look at the details first knowing if they say yes, I can do this. I have the team that can make this happen. Again I see too many people saying yes, to endeavors they are not qualified to handle. And if they mess up it just becomes one more poisoned well. I personally would love 3-4 Michigan film entities making films and a few TV series rolling. That might lead to some good roles and guest star moments. So I really do wish all those around me the best. I’ve just seen over 20+ years so many good contacts ruined by bad business. I’ve actually reached a point in my career where the bad business makes us look better. But some drop out of the film game all together and everyone loses. So DO THE WORK. GIVE YOUR BEST.

Let me see where to begin.

The new CDI website is under construction. I will be uniting all the films and product to a central place where audiences can find what they are seeking. This new platform will eventually help other filmmakers out there. It will explain itself in time – stay tuned as THE TRIBE is on the move.

Here is the interesting side note… I was just having an unplanned chat with one of our vet members going back to the late 90’s. I was trying to explain where I was with everything. There is potential all over the board and I’m looking five years down the path and trying to chart the best course. But it actually feels fun. The final product is actually making it fun again. Make the wrong alliances, associations, partnerships or agreements and you lose time. Time is LIFE. The saying Time is Money is smaller in value to the other. Time is LIFE. I work as concise as I can and encourage the team to do so because another story is always in the womb. I have no less than two films I’ve given myself as a role in a world created by artists. The management in both cases – WAIT. Accountability – I’ve also WASTED time in my journey so refrain from a defensive stance. I’m saying IF you’re truly doing it for the art don’t hinder the endeavor with people who are not serious. How serious you say? Serious to me is when actions speak and words are not even needed. So be more careful with your foundations. Work out all the details before you accept investment. I know artists whose years have become consumed with production entanglements and endless legal loose-ends. That will rob you of your time, your LIFE. That space & time dance where you can create art for audiences if you choose. Just make good choices. Allow it to be fun.

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Knight Chills

OK. So when CDI was a tribe consisting of three crazy artists – myself, Jeff and Juanita Kennedy – we hatched many great ideas. Much inspired by our mutual love of classics especially in the fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, Pulp genres. See STRANGER THINGS was my childhood. The love of the vibe that is that Golden-Age of Nerds whereas by playing Dungeons and Dragons you could also be a Rebel. Because much like young Rock and Roll, they (mainstream) did not understand it and feared it. “Knight Chills” is a classic tale, an urban myth almost of the bullied nerd. Retold in a world that now people are trying to recreate. STRANGER THINGS does that and my amigo Myke Michaels is up for an Emmy for his work on that show. But the film was shown in many circles over the years including Special Edition releases and box sets. It was released legally and not in several foreign territories. The film was common talk on Comic Con circuits. Hey, I didn’t believe “In the Woods” truly had a drinking game until I saw a theater full of people doing it Rocky Horror Picture style. So my vet of the Comic Con circuit David Hayes was a fan of the film. We joked about him doing a book until finally we made it happen. I wrote three other scripts that all took place after the first. Each one a small budget likely as we tried to harness and contain our imaginations. BUT graphic novel and comics…

Some of our early content is a perfect fit. KNIGHT CHILLS is the first and it will be for order in stores and also E-Book I believe. I know they are going to be selling on the Comic-Con circuits and we’ll be doing some cool promo. PR will go out next week but for all of you. Here is our new front cover.

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I also think this could be a jumpstart for the original film for new licensing and the sequel script is written and director talks have taken place.

THE QUEST TRILOGY

Forty Nights continues the roll forward as Chasing the Star enters the home video orbit. DVD’s were being mastered to prep for the warehouses and Sept. 5th release. Now this Friday following a development meeting we were all treated to the first teaser to The Christ Slayer with temp sound/music. What the…! Holy…! Speechless… Play that again please. And another time. It pummels you with emotional power. What moments given by the cast and what power captured by the crew. I’ve been feasting on the Summer Movie Trailers so my taste are high. (Production Value)

I’m proud to once again have our collective names put on a story invoking much emotion. Right now its being used just for a few business things but audiences, cast, crew will get a first strong showing of the Official Teaser. But the few who’ve seen it can attest – it makes all the hard work worth it. It almost makes it fun again.

Wild Faith sits in a good place right now. Strong interest as business talks keep moving ahead. The talks are centered on the first season of the TV show. The interest is there on a few fronts and once we have the additional trailers and final film to show I feel that the tv deal is a real possibility.

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Looking forward to working with this guy as an actor again on M.B.F. –  The last time was ‘An Ordinary Killer” a few years ago. Mr. Anthony (Tony) Hornus is our director.

Man’s Best Friend is Officially going to go by M.B.F. – we’ve had a surge in business since announcing this project. The foundation of the house is almost in. Another great meeting this week is showing us a clear path. The response to the script has been on-point, luckily:) Some people are being reached out to about availability. Casting Calls will be going up. I’m excited about telling this story. I think it will strike a chord with many people.

Okay, I’m off to eat some lunch and I have to get ready for a soccer match in this balmy heat. The garden has been kicking and I’ve enjoyed the results. I had fresh BLT’s yesterday. I didn’t grow the bacon:) The masses have enjoyed the Irish Stout and I’m soon to make my batch of mulberry/rhubarb wine.

Have a great Sunday and rest of the week.

DJ


Premiere Report and Fundraising Advice for Filmmakers

A beautiful and slightly chilly Sunday here in Michigan but I have the hot java to warm things up. Grandpa Jones playing the Bluegrass tune Mountain Dew on STING RAY music. It reminds me of some of the wonderful mornings at Robert’s Roost with my dear friends Robert and Ralphene in N. Carolina. Today I’m going to give the yard its first mow and rototiller the garden. Grilling is on-deck along with a little chilling later today.

Chasing the Star 

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So as a young actor I use to dread the trek into Detroit traffic and bustle for any meetings or auditions but I always found the “town” of Grand Rapids to be a much easier destination. Well, that has changed as Grand Rapids proper is a CITY no doubt. Our director of “Chasing the Star” Bret Miller, calls GR home and so last night we had a premiere kick off of the film at the UICA last night. It was a beautiful showing that showed the incredible camera work and art on-screen and I’ve never seen Dennis Therrian, our post sound and music supervisor so happy. The 5.1 surround sound mix was amazing and put you front and center of the action. We did a little Q&A after the film before heading to a local haunt which was a small joint with several pinball machines. I am not a fan of crowds and small places and so it was a celebratory king can of PBR and headed back home. I was up later than I usually stay up save being on night shoots on set. We had all three directors of the trilogy at the showing which was a special thing.

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A lot of creative talent between these individuals. (Tony included:) CDI seeks out the wildly original and imaginative artists who also work within a no-nonsense business structure. I also got to share some advice with other upcoming filmmakers, which is always rewarding.

My advice when asked –

First, don’t say YES to that which you cannot do. Unfortunately, many say yes figuring we’ll just figure it out as we go.  NOT WISE. Also, make the best of every opportunity. The question was narrowed to “how to finance your film?”

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It’s hard, REALLY HARD to initially get business people behind you. You earn it by strong preparation, solid execution and staying on a timeline that other business entities (distributors) can rely on.  Also don’t BS just be honest in these pitch meetings. Many of these people have been there, done that and gotten that Tee Shirt so don’t be a used car salesman. Also my advice was work out all agreements amongst production in advance of seeking or spending any investment money.

Why?

Once money does come in people change. People all have other ideas on how to spend budgets. They recall deal discussions differently. Deals cannot exist by hand shakes alone. Maybe at first but paperwork spells it out clearly. How much pay, when you pay and what you expect for that pay. Like bands many good creative teams break up because of misunderstandings. Eliminate that possibility by TCB (Elvis “Taking Care of Business”) before seeking out money. Also be reasonable about what amount you’re seeking and ask yourself if you can you really manage a project of that size. If no seek experienced help. By help I mean – Not “find me money” but “I now have this money can you help me manage my project” help.

Realize Truth

Also don’t make heroes out of incompetent business folk in your circle. I was asked – Why is it so hard for us to raise $? I said, because you all have peers walking about that have poisoned the wells with their screw ups. Yet they are hailed as heroes of their own PR spin. That is not tolerated in many industries but they are allowed to survive and sometimes thrive in our industry. They leave a ruined path of projects and poisoned wells for those that come after. When the area is too poisoned they move on seeking new areas to exploit where their screw ups are not as widely known if at all. The issue is that it’s a small industry overall.

What I enjoyed about last night is once again, the important word is AGAIN, we showed that Collective Development Inc. pulls from a clear well where business artists can invest knowing their investment is getting an A+ effort.

Back to Chasing the Star… 

The film is now heading for Lansing, MI followed by Royal Oak, MI and it was announced last night that the film will return for a run in Grand Rapids, MI at Celebration Cinema.

Celebration C-Lansing

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We’ll announce the GR dates soon! The national release is Sept 5th but if you get a chance to experience this on the big screen treat yourself.

FORTY NIGHTS

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Released by BMG April 4th to home video and will keep expanding its distribution to other countries. Take a watch if you have not and get ready for the third film releasing next Spring.

THE CHRIST SLAYER

A050_C008_0318MHIt has officially moved into editing with our director Nathaniel Nose and we should have theatrical poster and teaser trailer coming soon.

WILD FAITH 

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BTS photo (Hagedorn, Perry, Anschutz)

This amazing film was a main topic at a recent meeting with one of our distributors and the interest in the TV series is there. We just have to pull all the right elements together. The feature film now has a picture lock and has moved to music and sound design. Stay tuned for many great updates including the first official teaser poster now in the works.

MISC DEVELOPMENTS

We’re in discussion on several CDI past films re-releasing out into the market. I’ve been prepping development work on new projects and doing some script writing. But right now I have to get to some yard work. Time to refill the coffee cup.

Have a great Sunday and rest of your week. Perhaps I will see some of you at Celebration Cinema on Monday and/or Tuesday for the 7:30 shows in Lansing, MI.

Be good to one another.

DJ


A Story Can Change the WORLD

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It is a peaceful Sunday morning and I’m sipping the ole hazelnut coffee and about to give some updates on our film endeavors. First, I want to note the earthquakes that are hitting multiple areas around the globe.  Also with the new wildfires erupting in the N.C. mountains.  I hope my friends there stay safe. Earthquakes and wildfires and that could also describe the political shake up here in the USA. I’m not a politician and as a storyteller I want to enrich the lives of all people. My only note as of late is I’ve never seen positive communication between parties when the volume becomes LOUD and the EMOTION sets in. Ears close and frustration mounts as people feel unheard. Talking is always better than yelling. Trying to hear both sides and seek compromise will always beat out yelling in someones face. I think a majority of people who felt unheard just went silent and let their vote speak. Also as a former soccer coach I’ve noted that many people do not know how to lose. I saw a climate of “everyone wins” grow over the years and many of us know that is seldom the case. Now I’ve had immense amount of set back in my life and I try to waste as little energy as possible on things I cannot change. I try to accept situations and make solid moves from that stance. I hope that the divide which is now more in the open creates good communication, understanding and compromise. Time will tell.

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About film

The Quest Trilogy

I hinted at a deal that is going done to take these films and other CDI properties to the next level of distribution and production. We have our first paperwork and are reviewing. I plan to put pen to paper this forthcoming week. I’ve been also prepping the other projects for presentation.

40 Nights

DJ Perry as Jesus in “40 Nights”

40 Nights – the beautiful comments continue and the new marketing teams will start work to prep for the new 2017 release push. I cannot discuss this too much until we have concluded the deal.

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Chasing the Star – we’re entering the final phase of post-production. The first look trailer is being polished up and will be released soon. Audiences will be in for a great journey with this second film in our trilogy.

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The Christ Slayer – this film is now moving into active development. We’ll be announcing new developments on IMDB.com and via new PR releases. I will be returning to my role as Jesus in this film. I look forward to completing the trilogy with this heart-moving, thought-provoking film.

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Wild Faith – the editing is underway and approaching the half way point. We’re also prepping for one last pick up day that will be flashbacks of our main character. It is a return to shooting some Civil War footage and so fans of “Wicked Spring” will be happy.

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Terry Jernigan and DJ Perry in “An Ordinary Killer”

I plan to roll out several of the classic CDI films from the library but I’m holding while we work out this new deal. But I assure you we will see several of the films re-release. Some will see their 1st Blu-Ray or streaming/digital deals.

I’ve had several people ask howe they can be considered for CDI films. The first thing I always say is get that showcase reel together. GAME FOOTAGE. On the CDI site http://www.cdiproductions.com we do post what we’re currently seeking. We do sometimes use IMDB Casting, Backstage or other casting notices but as a company of actor/producers we keep our eyes and ears open. When new talent is found that fits – they are brought into the discussion. Also if you’ve worked with CDI with no issue that puts you to the front of the list for consideration. I’ve talked about being ready for opportunity in past blogs but it is important. If you work a day job get one with flexibility. I use to live, and still do, quite conservative. I don’t spend money I don’t have on flash. I try to stay on top of my personal so when duty calls I can transition into business as needed.

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On set of the thriller “Bestseller”

I did have one good conversation with an actor aspiring to produce at a certain level. I gave my honest advice which essential was about taking steps. If you’ve only done 5k shorts what experience says you’re ready to manage 2 million dollars?  If you’ve never done the 50k or 500k project you’ve missed so many lessons. I liken it to the martial arts whereas you learn in phases. Nobody jumps belts or degrees without learning the lessons at each new phase. I don’t see where people in film think that is a good idea. And if you lack that experience it is easy for outsiders to run amuck with your project. And team building is so important. One bad “player” can damage/kill a project so the team is so very important. If you can make a solid 50k film you will be in better shape to do that 75-100k film. The learning curve is so very important. So if a project, passion or not is too big for you – set it aside and do something smaller. BUILD.

I’m going to go do a few things in the yard to stay ahead of the snow which will find us. Embrace the differences amongst us and communicate calmly. Less shouting. More listening. Smile. Work towards real change. I will keep influencing people with a story. A STORY can change the world.

Be good to one another.

DJ

 

 


Filmmaker Pitfalls + Distribution & Development

It’s a chill morning in Michigan and I’ve got my trusty coffee by my side and I’m ready to share a few moments with all of you out there. It has been a good week of business and personal so let’s get into a few topics that were floated by me this week. Let’s start with a question that comes up often. I’ve been asked about my thoughts on “Social Fundraising” or social handouts as I like to call it. I’m mostly against these Kickstarter and other “fundme” campaigns for several reasons. Let me explain myself before everyone questions my answer. Now I am going to relate this to what I know, that being filmmaking.  So this may not apply to other justifiable causes such as raising money for illness, funeral expenses, transplants and other real NEEDS. I’m not talking NEED but people and their WANTS…Big difference.

Did you ever know that kid who was always spoiled, bothersome? Like I recall kids begging their parents for quarters to feed into video game machines back in the day. Yes. They use to cost a quarter:) Someone would give the kid a dollar or a few quarters just so the adults could be left in peace to talk alone and socialize. It is that, “At least they are staying out of trouble” mentality. So that kid goes off and likely after a short while is back with his hand out again and again… People will again give a few dollars to him so that he goes away. But I can assure you, if that kid was borrowing that money or had earned those quarters from hard work, he would not be as loose – keeping that flood of coins dropping into those machines. When it’s your money or money that is borrowed with expected results – the appreciation and use of those funds is much more focused.

Someone else I know called it “Mercy Giving” because it is easier to give a little versus hurting feelings. Maybe this is seen as positive or is it? If something ventured is obviously lacking in quality but people give to it anyway it does make one question why? Why?  As a parent, would you encourage your child to take up “corner standing” with a cup and sign that says, TOO HONEST TO STEAL, TOO UGLY TO PROSTITUTE?  Would you throw money at someone building a house that is nowhere near being up to code and will likely with end up overgrown and forgotten because it is red tagged?

I don’t overly think on these things as people will quit giving when the results are always the same. My world view is different, maybe a tad more realistic. Despite what people think, we don’t live in a world where everyone who plays wins. I think people who are actually in SHOW BIZ – (Let me break that down because not all who play are in the business) SHOWBIZ  – That is where quality art meets business in a blend that results in something that can be sold in the marketplace. More novices are into the SHOW but not truly SHOWBIZ. They want to focus on the art because that is fun – the interviews, the mixers -all fun. Fun – Even if the process is only creating content nobody really wants. And so they ask, ask, ask for others to give, give, give – so they can create nearly unwatchable, unsellable material. Now if this is a hobby, which for many at this level that is what it is – and that is exactly how your filmmakers learn and grow. But after once or twice of allowing filmmakers to play why continue to support? Maybe this is acceptable?

I mean golf is an art of sorts but I don’t see people kickstarting so they can get a new set of top-of-the-line clubs and a years worth of greens fees. (I’m sure someone has tried:) But unless this person was playing golf at a level whereas true PRO development was required/justified this just sounds silly and many sane people don’t do it.

I think handouts dull the sword.

How you say? There is no accountability to be had if everything is just given because this is again that kid with quarters. He is never grilled after on how well he spent the quarters. “Did you get a high score?”  “Did you get an extra ball or get a match?” (Pinball reference people) No. You were just given money so to be “out-of-the-way” for a while occupying your time. That is until they want the next handout. These are all things you would do with a child but I see it happening everyday with adult artists. But if artists are truly striving to excel both at business and art those will be the survivors. Nobody would drop coins in the hat of an awful sounding corner/subway playing guitarist, unless it was for them to stop.  So I guess I’m just saying support the arts responsibly. Look for those that truly have developing qualities. Look for those that are looking to eventually stand on their own two feet not just be blindly supported. Give your money to the hungry or homeless instead.  If you are over 25 and still taking handouts to produce sub par product – and I use that term loosely because someone would actually have to want to purchase this film for it to truly be a product. By purchase I also mean beyond your 100 family or friends that are expected to support you otherwise your glares will make them uncomfortable at every holiday or local gathering:)

So in summary, I guess if the person only comes begging at the table once in a while and consistently is given a few coins to go distract himself – maybe that is acceptable to some. But I just can’t endorse that sort of action. I won’t support or LIKE something just for a half ass effort. In our business we face acceptance and rejection daily and that is part of the business. Success and failure hardens the steel and makes you refine your process. I just ask those out there who seem to be like a needle skipping on a record (Another reference – look it up) – What do you want to be? How do you want to be seen? Is your art evolving in quality? Are you ready to earn true success with increasing quality and business refinement or do you want to continuously beg for handouts only to create material that is never challenged and would not survive in the worldwide marketplace. Begging for financial handouts is not a business plan. “We hope to get into a high-profile film festival” is NOT a marketing plan. As many of our artists seek the easiest way the Chinese, Indians, the Europeans…the world over are all pushing their creative artists to survive and thrive in a business environment. Meanwhile we reinforce mediocrity and endorse begging as a business plan. It is sad but true as we are losing ground to others willing to put in the hard work. OK. Ask me how I really feel about all that:) Embrace the hardships you face because it with sharpen your sword and make your steel strong.

Enough sword and steel babel…onto film news:)

On the distribution TIP – we now have a few distribution offers on “Ashes of Eden” and the film screeners continue to be requested. More interested parties are coming to the table every few days. It is getting exciting and we will be announcing our Summer Michigan theatrical VERY soon!

Our thriller “Bestseller” is about to schedule its one  day of pick ups. That film is really looking great and after the release of the 1st trailer last week we have several distributors waiting to see the final film.

On development updates we’ve got several new funders looking at projects of their liking. I think we will soon be moving into some pre-production on  some of these new films.

A couple of big budget film projects are back in motion again with new funders. We will wait to see if these projects move forward but things get complicated when talking tens of millions of dollars. When you really see how big the game is that is when you get down on someone who can’t even conduct fundamental business. I am learning leaps and bounds every day but you must challenge yourself.

Additionally, I did some wild lines for the dark thriller “The Terrorist” this past week. I’m very happy that the picture is about locked and is looking powerful. We’re going to polish up the audio and we will see this film released at year’s end.

On the acting front, I was in talks on an indie project that just didn’t add up at the end of the day. Again if you’re not a hobbyist and you’re doing this as a career you have to look at the complete picture. I do have one other local indie I’m still having talks over – no telling if that will work out or not. Don’t be afraid to say, NO.

As I vet out projects I’m very content finishing up the post projects on my plate. My new acting management is really trying to get that right 1st big studio film under me. Several talks are underway with casting directors, producer and directors. I have opened myself up to consideration on a few TV projects also. There is a big trend towards TV mini series and such so I will keep myself open to these opportunities. I like the idea of guest spots more but if the right series came along I might consider something on-going.

Enough business for the day:) I pointed out what I did in regards to social funding because if new filmmakers never learn the art of business they will be replaced by those who do. There are always exceptions one can argue but on the whole I would say many are just too lazy to learn the valuable business lessons required to play at the highest levels of our film industry. OK. I’m going to do some work in the yard and relax from my long week. We got the new floor in the office/fort last week and so more tinkering may be the order of the day. Tomorrow is Father’s day and so I will be spending some time with Pa Perry and family before heading off to the soccer field. It has been a good season and as always the workout is second to none. I’ve also been enjoying the WORLD CUP matches and look forward to the USA playing on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

DJ

 


“Bestseller,” “Best Efforts” and “Being Responsible”

It is a wonderful Saturday and the dogs are watching some Scooby Doo as I’m doing some morning film work over coffee. This was a week full of announcements, many business calls and exciting updates. We will look at some of those updates and discuss a few situations surrounding them.

I think last week we talked a bit about the temptation for struggling artists to take on parts that aren’t right or tasks that they are not suited to do. It was announced this week that CDI http://www.cdiproductions.com will be the new management/production company on the Michigan-based feature “Bestseller”. Due to my association with the lead Melissa Anschutz I was in the knowing on the journey she was undertaking. I was privy to all the bumps, blunders and lack of organization. I was aware of who was solving problems and who was creating them.  I let most of it roll off with a shake of the head because it was not my issue. Even so, it disappointed me greatly.  Any hardworking filmmaker will tell you how hard it is to finance a film. That’s because of the large number of potential investors who have been burned or who associate with those investors who have been burned.  By burned I also mean – unfinished films or films that have had such bad business done that they are not able to be taken to market. If someone truly puts their BEST EFFORT (That legal term from last week) into a project and it still fails that might be a different story. But when someone doesn’t put a best effort forward and they fail – where is the accountability? Many want to take accountability when things are looking good. When the PR releases are spewing hype or one is  prancing about set playing “Hollywood” looking busy BUT when things go wrong they are the first of the finger-pointers.  You MUST “own” both the good and the bad if you are in charge. If you are a chaotic mess that is the ripples that you will send forth from you.  If you radiate  a calm center that too spreads throughout a production.

COMMUNICATION

Screaming is NOT communication and shows weakness and frustration by the party doing so. I know personally an associate in the insurance realm who had to also deal with this chaotic force. I heard the stories from multiple people about this communication. You tie that with the lack of pre-production work and the picture is perfectly clear.  Now on a personal level –  I’m offended by people paid to guide who use inexperience against others to try to disguise their own shortcomings. A film set is full of challenges but the only ones you should be facing are those things you could not control with good pre-production work. I’ve halted shoots and pushed start dates when I saw a ship was not yet ready. If I see a place where leadership is lacking in a department – be it in the director, AD staff, office, anyone –  I will rearrange or replace someone. You don’t just watch a boat fill with water and do nothing.  If you are a lead producer or that staff – It’s your JOB to fix things that are broken. It’s your JOB to anticipate what could/or may break down and try to prevent a breakdown. It’s your JOB to fix something quickly, quietly with the least amount of attention or distraction. That means that this is not a dramatic “LOOK AT ME FIX SOMETHING” moment. The best producer work is often never seen or heard. It is known by the experience the cast and crew had and the final product they captured.

Now this situation on “Bestseller” is not isolated and this issue of poor management seems to be a pattern. Sometimes one  doesn’t  hire enough artists to properly execute a job or make sure that money truly finds its way onto the screen. You also don’t start playing “Hollywood” George Jefferson because you are connected to a large bank account. You treat those funds like your own funds and stick to the budget. Overruns are poor planning.  A producer team is responsible for the hard work of all those artists. You represent how people will look at our state’s artists. Are we seen  as capable leaders or forever doomed to feed on the scraps of others coming into our state. Now I did not have anything to do with this situation. As a matter of fact I turned down earlier invites on acting and producing. That rejection was based upon the fact that fires were already burning in PRE-PRODUCTION crisis mode.  I also knew that much misinformation was flying everywhere either implying deceit or disorganization – both bad. Bottom line – I don’t like fixing other’s messes. The problem seems to be that while I’m hard at work finishing projects (2 features (Donors, Ashes of Eden) and 1 TV series (Supermodel Showdown) – someone else is at the local film festival mixers smoozing up any starry-eyed potential investor or novice filmmaker with a budget – selling a skill set they do not possess.

Now potential investors – YOU have a responsibility to vet people out and not get stung by the BUYER BEWARE. This “Bestseller” ship was professionally parked and the responsible parties removed.  After that my company was recommended again to come manage. With a clean slate I listened and the deal was made. The ship is now being refitted and we will make one heck of a movie I can promise you that. I can  promise this crew and cast will have an enjoyable experience filled with hard work but will be rewarded with respect. Those that know me can vouch that I take my film jobs very serious.  I turn down lots of work because it must feel right. In this matter I wanted the truth out there. The fact that I don’t wander in many social circles I thought this direct statement best. I will say this to anyone out there unqualified to produce or unwilling to make the Best Effort –  Stick with what you are good at and don’t muddy the waters. The sooner that the proper artists align in Michigan and the BS artists are benched – great things will come from our State.  As we have more stories of success vs screw ups investors will start to take our artists more serious. So I ask you all to please clean up your act. For those who don’t – I would gladly testify at any arbitration or legal proceedings on how a film set should be ran. Enough of people giving half (if that) efforts and poisoning the money wells here in Michigan. I’ve been personally part of 2 projects that went south because of false promises from people. It hurt our momentum as a company but luckily our productivity outshines those few dark moments.  One bad deal can kill others momentum and ruin dreams all together.  And just how truly sad is that? I’ve made many friends in this industry around the world because of respect that grew from doing what was expected. I’m not in this industry to make friends first – I’m here to tell stories with other hardworking, passionate artists. Friendship and respect is earned. Period.

Okay, I’m off my soap box now. Other updates –

– It looks like I finally got my German invoicing all complete. It has been a good learning experience doing these foreign sales.

– “Ashes of Eden” new trailer is a week or so out from release. The trailer looks great. The film is having the dialogue polished and is almost done. Music and sound design is on deck.

– “Supermodel Showdown” I was in search of a few B roll tapes that we feared missing but I think those have now been recovered. The show is coming together and is looking great. Not as fast as I would like but there is no script. This is truly a reality show.

– I have agreed to play a role in “Bestseller” now that we are officially “in association” because with myself starring in 3 thrillers in the last 10 months it really boosts distribution. With CDI’s involvement I can say to all the artists that the film will get a release in several countries.

There is a possibility of another film shooting prior to “Bestseller” going into production but next week will tell. We have a window because of schedules and so will the chips fall right? That is the question:)

I hope you all have a great weekend and keep Clawing your Way to the Middle:)

DJ