Good morning! I’m writing you from the deck of my patio that has hop vines wrapping around all it. (The pic above from the spring) The squirrels are busy picking the last of the ripe mulberries and birds are singing while playing in the bird baths. Without question the coffee sits beside me flooding me with the wonderful taste of hazelnut. If I cannot find a coffee sponsor in the next few years I just going to open a coffee business. I have to try harder with some of the local Michigan roasters.
The office fridge might have seen its last days. It’s almost fully defrosted and we’ll see once we plug it back in if it lives. If it’s dead I’ll be getting a more fuel-efficient replacement. The one now was from my buddies basement where we would skip class at MSU, drink beer, play pool and listen to jams. It’s been a worthy chiller of beverages so we will see.
This week was a hot, humid wave that’s not really to my liking. It was followed by just a few extremely beautiful days consisting of warm air and cool winds. During the heat wave I got a lot of writing and paperwork done while watching the various nations go at it on the World Cup soccer field. Let’s look at a few of the movie updates.
I’m happy to say that the domestic home-video deal on the 3rd film in The Quest Trilogy – THE CHRIST SLAYER is signed. It will join parts 1 & 2 at Bridgestone Multimedia Group. The Christmas theatrical will be followed by an Easter home video release. I’m excited to have all three out there together which will reveal more about the overall storyline. Interweaving of the story arc goes through all three stories/movies. IF you have seen part 1 (Forty Nights) or part 2 (Chasing the Star) please do leave a review on amazon or IMDB and leave what you took away from it. I think people unaware that it was a trilogy felt part 2 kind of left them hanging – well it was meant to. The next few months will see things heating up PR-wise on part 3 with more BTS and still photos releasing. It really is an epic way to end the trilogy. I know Dennis Therrian will do another incredible score. The VFX work coming in is just incredible, not surprising as their previous work included BLACK SAILS (One of my favorite series) and ROGUE ONE just to name a few. They built models and created digital matte paintings just for this film. This film was a really cool step for us as a company allowing us to use as many VFX shots as we did. I have director Nathaniel Nose to thank for all that.
I will use that example in discussing development work at CDI. I’m trying to make more time to sit down with people in our field. Directors, actors and those trying to produce content. From the earliest days of CDI it was about bringing cards to the table. CDI is an actor/producers company looking to tell powerful stories. Currently we have momentum behind my scripts – distributors like the content and final product. Talent loves the style and depth of the characters and situations. We also have some talented writers within our ranks. ADVICE – IF you’re bringing a script to the table the best thing is to also bring the money.
BUT THIS IS THE HARDEST PART! Yes. I know this. After many years in this industry – a truth is – every NEW variable could lead to new advancements OR disaster. The wrong crew or cast can be devastating to the overall quality of the final product. I’ve been scrutinized because I would rather pay a broader crew base a modest wage versus overpay a name talent, at the expense of the crew. It’s a difference of opinion in business models and a happy medium does exist. I feel a larger name can move more initial units but a bad movie with a larger name will also die off quickly. I had to turn off a multimillion dollar film lately. It was long, plodding (nice camerawork) but after an hour plus we still had 45 min plus minutes to go. We didn’t care about any of the characters. That’s the result of either a poor script or just bad chemistry as you know they had a huge crew base. I’m saying that I would rather have a modest, long-term success with a good movie vs a flash hit with a bad film. How long before it gets lost in the shuffle of bad films? What do you have to show for all that hard work years later?
OK. I went slightly off topic. But anyone new is a wild variable, and therefore a risk. Skill is only part of the equation whereas personality/character is the other big factor. Do they play well with others? Positive? Respectful? I’ve had others say “so and so” is a great artists but grumpy or aloof and that’s just how they are. Well, they can go be that somewhere else. I have reduced all this down to a simple saying – Always be a sail and never an anchor.
So with these sit downs – I’ll be getting to know people and informally evaluating to see if they would ever work well into our system. The CDI system. What does that mean? Well…these films were not the result of some money thrown together to rush together a film – perhaps with no accountability. I shudder when I hear of all the films being done with no script or the script is just an afterthought. I recall one time an actor friend telling me they were on set and the director was having them write the script on the spot. He called it interesting and I called it incompetence. I guess it was both. But here we’re taking on investment capital and we must give best efforts. This company was founded on best efforts and striving to always be better. CDI today is built upon its earliest endeavors. Future CDI endeavors will be built on current endeavors. This is a tradition not a hobby. Not a film challenge but an evolution. This is a business that works in deep creative waters. My expectations of myself and the producers/directors are high. My expectations of the cast and crews are high. If you are not serious about the process and the end result – off the deck. No point in trying to sign up here.
Now some people just don’t know any different but once shown a better way they are willing to adapt and thrive in a more structured endeavor. Others can try to drag negativity or bad habits from previous experiences but I’ve been doing this a long time. If you start to feel like that anchor, stating obvious problems versus presenting viable solutions, being a sail – I’m going to drop you at the next island. Lose your professionalism and respect and the immediate gangplank walk could be your fate. I don’t fire often but I’m more than willing to do what needs to be done. That said, every firing has been a failing on my part. A failure to properly evaluate someone before a hiring or just failure to lead that person to a better way of co-existing on a film set. Management is something I enjoy because I’ve had the opportunity to create the environment that I want to work in. The environment that allows the best creative juices to flow.
I guess in summary – you could be involved in a CDI association or collaboration IF you have your own funds and seek a machine (production unit) that runs like a CDI film. Now $ still rules so if you bring a majority of the production funds, unless decided differently in contract, we consult or bring options to arising issues. That controlling entity makes the final decisions. Those decisions need to be made with wisdom and balance or trouble can quickly develop. I think I make fair decisions and I’ll say, I’ve made unpopular decisions. But I think it’s about working to be able to see the big picture. Not being drawn in by the ego into trying to force something to fit that does not. Don’t say yes to things that should be told no.
I had productive talks this past week with an experienced director talking about possible CDI collaboration. Our management at Collective Development Inc. was recommended to him. We shared mutual Hollywood horror stories usually stemming from fast-talking, car salesmen-like distributors and wanna be producers, mucking things up. Much of this proposed collaboration will just depend on pros, cons and schedules. I have another past producer collaborator getting close to having his next financing. He wants my involvement again. Evaluate: Content, Script, Schedule… All these variables when kept in-house tend to run very smooth. Adding these outside variables are where most issues lie. Most of the rough waters are in the associated projects but that is also where collaboration exists. But make sure they are a good fit. So I have more phone calls and meetings this week to network and get to know a few folks working hard telling their stories.
WILD FAITH – Lots of exciting happenings here. The home video deal is being worked on while we discuss the option of also launching a TV series. I am really pushing hards on this as I love the character I play. I love the world we built. I love the talent (both sides of camera) and know we would incorporate lots of Michigan talent into the various shows. We’ve been working to set up some additional theatrical showings and we wanted to look at showings in LA and/or NYC. The costs involved were steep and for me I’m watching the bottom line versus the red carpet strut. But I’m happy to say we’ll be screening at the AMC in Burbank as part of the invited line up at the Burbank International Film Festival. I think I’m going to make the trip and my LA-area amigos can finally see one of our films on the big screen. It plays great theatrically and I will enjoy the conversation with film friends after. You too can join us on Sept 8th in Burbank. Read about it here-
Our last film Man’s Best Friend is having the post materials organized as editing is about to begin in full. The opening credit sequence was heavily discussed and that is being worked on. We will also start having more solid talks about the 1st teaser trailer. Also trying to get the right color correction on the first stills before we start releasing those. The story is in puzzle form and soon we’ll start to assemble the film.
I’ve really been enjoying the writing as of late. I’ve taken a few good script concepts and I’m infusing/weaving that into what will likely be our fall film. It’s been refreshing to be back into the imagination and putting it to page. Some location scouting and ground work is also being done. I will say that the initial script concept was to be shot in another state. I was so happy with our last crew that I am revamping the script to Michigan. I’m sincerely thinking we can convince a few of the MBF crew to return:)
Well, it’s a beautiful day and I might spend a little time engaging in some writing. We will also likely go walk a flea market. I love what you can find at those things. I often find props or things that a story might hinge around. No soccer today as we have a BYE week before starting the second half of the season. Next weekend I have a class reunion which will be interesting. I did actually see a Michigan-based, non-CDI project casting that caught my eye. I asked a few questions and we’ll see if any chemistry exists. If not, I’m happy to wait until fall. I do have a script to finish.
Be good to one another!
So literally I just came back from watching STAR WARS The Force Awakens – I will not give any spoilers here, I promise.
I will talk about how at 7 years old I was changed by what I saw on screen with the original STAR WARS. I’ve never had any lack of imagination and that film set a generation soaring. It had that cathartic effect they talk about with the ancient Greek drama plays. It was almost an enlightening of sorts and I was thankful to be part of that. I wanted to be Han Solo when I was seven and Han was likely one of my 1st “roles” played in basements and backyards with couch cushions formed into our own “Falcon” spaceship.
At about the same time we – me and all my friends also got into DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. Epic tales, heroics and overcoming trials and tribulations – it all fed into what would push me into my career. I feel blessed to be a storyteller. I spent the back end of this week watching actors speak words I had scripted. It’s always magic to see artists of all ages from many places perform/pretend/be – doing what you also love to do.
Today with STAR WARS, I got to go back and be inspired – to drink at the creative fountain that started me down this path. It was a different experience today – I am also a storyteller. I work with artists who gather footage the same way by overcoming issues and gathering pieces of a cinematic puzzle. That will be edited into a final story. Blending it with sound and music and mixing into a final product that will hopefully move and inspire others.
It is no secret – the QUEST TRILOGY that we’re currently producing is directly stylistically based on Star Wars. That was part of the original pitch – the stories of that time period easily lend themselves to the heroes journey as Joseph Campbell would say. Our 1st in the series “40 Nights” is almost done. It was one of the most challenging roles for me and it wasn’t. Once there in the moment it was easy to be where I needed to be. But the meditations and self discovery of the man was complicated. I’m so proud of everyone involved. We have a large retail order awaiting us and so we were asked to move up our time table on finishing the film.
We’re prepping the ship to shoot the second film “Chasing the Star” which centers on the quest of the magi. I was feeling pressure finishing “40 Nights” and prepping “Chasing the Star” but why exactly? I meditated on that quite a bit as of late. Here is what I learned about myself.
- Every time you declare to make a film you have a chance to fail. I’ve succeeded more times than failed but those occasional failed projects do haunt you.
- The more success you have the more that pressure to not fail haunts you. When you have nothing to lose it is easy to be brash.
- Every film has so many moving parts and seldom do they all happen in perfect sequence.
- Scripts that require a near perfect sequence can be frightening
We require shooting when the desert is not at peak. “40 Nights” had some hot days and the final day hit 100 degrees. I’m trying to shoot earlier to make things easier. But can individuals do what they need to do in a given time? My job is to make sound choices that will result in success. We had a western nearly ready to shoot this fall with 75% of the funds. With winter and the holidays looming we pushed likely to a fall shoot. Now all these things have to fall into place to shoot BEFORE it becomes hell on earth in the Yuma desert. I was concerned about any bumps that result in a push because the desert heat doesn’t care. We need to let go of what we can’t control and work with what is before us. So we’re trying to get us prepped for late Feb/early March 2016. We will see if we can do that. I put so much pressure on myself because of how many artists are helped when we succeed. I don’t like to let people down more especially – our people. But I thought there had to be something even greater. What is that pressure, urgency and such? More meditation. The answer
- Every project pushed, delayed, stumbled is one film less that I’ll produce in my lifetime …and I may mourn that one day. I could have done one more.
I can say that casting on “Chasing the Star” has been full speed ahead. We’ve gotten many, many reels and our director asked for several reads. We’re focusing on our three magi leads right now. Soon we’ll begin working on our supporting cast. We might have found 2 of our 3 main leads. That is exciting for anyone who has been involved with casting. Not finding the right cast has shelved many films. So we’ll see if those attachments become solid in the next couple weeks.
(Russ Clark in “DONORS”)
We had to correct something on “Donors” that caused our distributor to push that release from Feb. to April 2016. For artists waiting on that film to release two months can feel like another two years. Patience is a big thing in this business.
“Ashes of Eden” TV and national release will also be in April 2016.
“Bestseller” and “40 Nights” both seem to be releasing in March 2016.
I’m closing in on a first draft of the third film in our QUEST TRILOGY. I almost typed the name – but I think we need to wait. Did I mention PATIENCE:) But I’ve had some exciting talks with cast on that third film. I even released the rough first 36 pages and that gripped the actors. It ties all three together nicely.
I’m also planning to finish the KNIGHT CHILLS 2 script here soon. I’ve just been beyond busy. I had word that things are moving along strong on C.U.J.O. and I’m reading a few possible scripts. (For acting not producing)
It’s bitter cold here in Michigan after some unnatural warmth. Stay warm. Stay safe. Happy Holidays! Go see STAR WARS The Force Awakens and dare to dream!
What a busy week. I’m sipping some coffee and reflecting upon the week and I’m smiling. Scenes are being knocked down on “Ashes of Eden” and it is rewarding to see those pieces of the puzzle coming together. We are on schedule and soon we will start to release more promotional materials as we move along the post-production line. As we work on the edit and the distribution flow another film “Donors” is even closer to the finish line. Locked picture is about done and sound design has been underway. Now it will come to Michigan for music scoring.
I’m excited about the March releases of “Locked in a Room” and “Darkest Night”. Echo Bridge Entertainment did an early “Locked in a Room” release to Google Play and we debuted in the top 20 with #12 being our highest. We were shoulder to shoulder with several studio films so we were very happy. “Darkest Night” will release on March 22nd in the USA and than we are going to release in Asia with South Korea likely being the first Asian territory.
“The Beast” will be the follow up from the GPI/CDI collaboration and GPI has been doing some casting as they adjust their filming plan. I think “Soul Eater” may shoot 4th quarter this year as well. That deal may be close to closing.
“7 Stones” is starting to shop international and domestic TV. That brings me to another announcement that CDI will soon be announcing a TV line up. These properties will be developed with TV play in mind. We have relationships with various networks and these will create some new business on those fronts.
I’ve been having meetings over “Rifle” a western I’m involved in but that may not be the only film in that genre launching. Yes. That is a tease and so stay tuned for more information on this.
We will be doing a call for ACTOR REELS here very soon. It will be for certain characters in a breakdown. So if you don’t have your reel together this is a hint and a half for you to GET R DONE. Damn. I think I owe Larry the Cable Guy a dollar.
Talks with several foreign distributors are also underway. We are licensing our films directly on some international fronts. It is an exciting time here at CDI and with so many new doors opening it truly is hard to keep up.
I’m in talks about a possible film role in April. I’m contracted to be in the film “Somnium” in March. May looks like it will be camera time also I just have to make an important decision on casting. Which role do I want to play. There are two different characters in this film. Both are powerful and have different vibe and character arc. So I plan to refill the coffee cup and take another read this morning. I have to get that settled within myself so I can move forward. It is a WILD time:)
Have a great weekend!