FOUR Secrets of Filmmaking – Plus CDI Updates
Good morning from HOME! Yes. I’m sipping some coffee after a few puppy cuddles and now I’ll be sharing with all of you some updates and insights. First I want to talk about LOST HEART. What a ride we had. First it was just amazing to go from just a blueprint with the script to capturing magic. This script has been hailed as one of my best pieces of writing. I know that writing is much like a film in that it’s subjective. But the story did a great job of painting interesting characters in unique places and situations. It was my first script with Melissa Anschutz in the lead and she performed beyond all my expectations. Much like Shane Hagedorn in Wild Faith, it was great that my scripts could be used as starring vehicles for my friends/peers.
While we were filming LOST HEART, WILD FAITH was rolling out across the nation. Wal-Mart’s and other retailers around the country starting carrying the film DVD and the fans responded. I had so many people approach me the last few weeks who had watched several of the CDI films. One day in prep – Shane Hagedorn (Emmett) got stopped by a maintenance guy who had seen Wild Faith. Already thrilled to met Emmett, he was further thrilled to be led into a room where Melissa Anschutz and I worked accounting. His eyes got big and his smile wide as he got to meet Ben Lily and Hester Thickett. This meeting of fans played out several times during our multi week stay. All around town – handshakes and kind words. I’m so proud of both Shane and Melissa – they are true leading talent. Everyone sits around and wishes for a starring role but only a select can really ‘lead’ a film. It’s not easy physically, mentally and keeping that arc requires constant adjustments. These two along with my ole workhorse buddy Anthony (Tony) Hornus made up my senior producing team. We have a great associate producer team that helps us do what needs to be done.
Jesse Low made his third film with CDI (Forty Nights & Wild Faith) and now Lost Heart. Nate “The General” Robertson led a great production campaign. One of his very best to date. We had Nancy Oeswein and Witney Wagner working with CDI for the first time in our office. I think it was a great collaboration and while they had to jump into a very existing system they adjusted and brought some new ideas to the table. I look forward to another future collaboration. Now it cannot be all rainbows so what were some of the issues. Now before addressing that I will again say that prep is so important because it allows a production to aim all its efforts at the immediate problem solving. I see too many businesses run in reactive mode putting a bandaid on something but that in turn causes three issues. Put in the hard work in advance – it pays off. We did this and it was apparent on set and in the final footage.
- Communication – making better communication is always the goal. While we are VERY good we always strive for better. Most small issues arrive from assuming and not knowing. We are all guilty of that at times and work hard to correct that.
- Focus – when we are at work people need to set aside their personal relationships aside and focus on the goals of the day. From Call to wrap a film crew works to get its puzzle pieces (Footage). Time is the essence each day and focusing on task will result in earlier days, less mistakes/damages and make a better final product.
- Representation – When you work for a company you not only represent the film company but the craft as a whole. One of our major locations had someone call and warn them before shooting about “filmmakers” because of a bad experience they had. When asked if it was our company they replied NO. CDI was defended by the owners by telling them their experience had been 100% positive. It is why I am so protective and communicate with locations that all companies are NOT equal. I’m not even comparing subjective final films but how we conduct ourselves while working. I’ve had people try to “drop” my name or our company to gain access to a place. Location owners all know to call us first if approached because if your operation is ‘slash and burn’ meaning getting footage by whatever means possible, that is conveyed. Or at the least letting them know we are not connected. Our team was raking up mulch at one location after the shoot. Pride in how your company/work is looked upon as a fine quality.
- Positive Attitude – This is something especial required of KEYS. You set the department tone. For example at CDI vulgar or aggressive outbursts are not tolerated without being addresses. Those examples again show poor communication and tells others that you’re not in control of your department. We always have a few that rise to the new challenge and fly while a few perhaps need more time under an experienced key. Skillset is only part of the equation – being able to motivate, inspire and lead a team with positive enthusiasm is the sign of a great leader. CDI is about developing leaders.
Once things are running smooth I get to sit back and watch everything. I get to ninja about and observe. I see who treats their gear proper. You should always treat gear as if you own it. Watch someone who does own the gear care for their gear. This is much like the care given to our locations. I can see when outside personal issues intrude upon someone’s focus. I see when personal interactions interfere with work flow and cause distractions. I see when people rush versus moving quickly with care. I see when people are not fully conditioned for feature length shoots either due to lack of rest, poor nutrition and/or lack of prep. I’m proud to say our production only had a few occasions where these things happened. But it is easy to spot on a film set that runs smooth. It is the job of management (producers) to sit back after and evaluate performance. This leads to rehiring or perhaps realizing someone needs more development. Sometimes it was a person was used in the wrong place and would be better suited elsewhere. But applying the 4 principals listed above will improve any production.
MBF: Man’s Best Friend – This film is about to heat up! A premiere in the director’s home town is being explored first. The film will be releasing into select theaters and home video in the next few months. We got to do a small private screening in pre-production and…(SMILE) – I cannot wait for people to see the film. It showcases beautiful performances by wonderful actors. The hardworking crew made this story flow and it shows. So get ready for this story that showcases the plight of military vets and adoption dogs to come to the big and small screen.
The Quest Trilogy – The films are continuing to produce even in the non-holiday season. These are adventure films set in biblical times and so they can be enjoyed at anytime. So as we prepare to market for the holiday season ahead – enjoy now. FORTY NIGHTS, CHASING THE STAR and THE CHRIST SLAYER.
I’m going to do final wrap up this week on LOST HEART. We’ll meet next week over post process again and to evaluate the shoot. I have a few acting reels to update – one with Ben Lily (Wild Faith) and one for Jesus (The Christ Slayer). I additionally need to work the final paperwork on the new agent collaboration for my screenwriting/producing. Lastly, I have a week-long vacation in the U.P. coming up. But right now it is about unpacking and also getting the yard/house caught up from week’s away. I hope you all enjoy your weekend and the week ahead.
Be good to one another. Doh! The coffee cup is empty.
Merry Christmas – Holiday Updates
Today is the 23rd of December – the final days of 2018 are coming to a close. I’ve been bouncing between the sound studio where the final touches are being done to THE CHRIST SLAYER. Our director will be coming in to work the final mix after Christmas. Speaking of – we’ve had one of three family Christmas gatherings. Yesterday we enjoyed a good meal and opened presents with my brother’s young ones. We had a good time and from there I went to a yearly holiday dinner at The English Inn, a cool turn of the century manor house turned into a restaurant. Prime rib was my choice as I only eat red meat a handful of times a year. I felt a little sluggish this morning likely due to the Guinness beer added on top, but it was a nice holiday treat with old friends.
Today will be spent getting things around for the other two Christmas gatherings. I will be stoking on the fire in the office stove, trying out my new boiling vessel to make mulled spice wine. I do love that we got a powder of snow which makes it all so much more pretty.
Some journeys will be finishing up, such as The Christ Slayer and new journeys lie ahead. I’ll start talking to our investors about our new film projects. LOST HEART which has distribution lined up will be setting up for a spring shoot. We’ve been looking at cast and directors.
Also some moves are being made on the much-anticipated sequel to CDI’s 1st film KNIGHT CHILLS. We’ve been reading new possible leads and discussing the script. Lots to set up before we would shoot this one but good development taking place. More on this soon.
Also this year I want to package the original 4 CDI films into a DVD collection (Knight Chills, From Venus, Heaven’s Neighbors, Figure in the Forest) – the early years. Put BTS and interview material on there. Maybe do a few educational retrospectives. Because they were filmed in standard def many of these are having a hard time finding new distribution. We’ll see.
Merchandise is another 2019 goal – I want to see more of this. We might be pulling together the backers for this endeavor.
Representation – I have had several regional agents in the beginning. I’ve had CA/LA agents both large and small. In the recent years I’ve just rolled with legal and handled my own business. I cannot help but think that more could be done with the right representation. I will explore this more in the new year. I’m excited to get back in front of the cameras. This year wide audiences will get to enjoy Jesus (again) in THE CHRIST SLAYER, Ben Lily in WILD FAITH and Paul Landings in MBF.
Speaking on MBF – we’re looking to release a BTS piece created by David Gries, directed by Mel Anschutz and shot my Graham Turner during our shoot. We’ll release either Christmas Eve or Day, maybe sooner:) The film’s first edit should be close to being complete. We’ll do a fine edit in the new year.
I’ve said it before but in advance on part 3 of The Quest Trilogy (The Christ Slayer) releasing, I would ask you all to watch Forty Nights and Chasing the Star. They are an excellent watch for the holiday season.
I’m going to fire up the creative engines and get to making new art. I do hope to be approached for participation in new creative acting endeavors. This might be the year RACHEL, RIFLE, FAMINE and a few other films launch. I also plan to produce 2-3 films this year with CDI. What I’m meant to do, I will. Work hard and have faith in your path.
I’m going to get back to finishing up things here. My new furry boy Finn helped me rack the new GRAPE APE wine this past week. We had a little early sampling on our Viking Day this week. It’s our day of friendship and wood chopping. SKOL. I hope each and every one of you has a wonderful Christmas. Let the spirit fill you and be good to one another. Keep some of this holiday cheer and carry it through the year with you. Allow others to have their opinions. Listen as much as you speak. Look for unity with your fellow citizens.
Peace to you all.
The Development Storm Cometh
I love this sandstorm picture. The last few weeks I’ve been working on the follow up film in our biblical series with Lightworx Entertainment. It will be announced in some official development PR soon. The script is called “Chasing the Star” (working title).
Casting has been on-going and I have to say I’ve seen some great talent from around the world. This film is gearing up for an early 2016 shoot.
Staying on the topic of development – it’s an exciting and challenging time. I know what follows the casting, financing, scheduling and development work – PRODUCTION. (Battle Drums) I really take these opportunities serious. A successful project brings continued prosperity for all those involved. It’s a team of people making their artistic mark within set business parameters. If you don’t agree our “tribe” is not for you.
We’ve had exploratory talks (J.M.) that yielded good financial news. This week we’ve had several productive talks with certain keys on some of our upcoming projects. These films have their worldwide distribution deals in place. It’s a new experience working with the distribution studios in advance but I like it. It means no shopping required after the fact which increases production flow. With a good deal that means less financing effort and with worldwide rights pre-assigned – it means moving into development on something new sooner.
I’ve had representation of many types from small local agents to Hollywood big 3. I’ve had managers from many different walks – all with their own ideas of how to promote. Many wanted to mold or change you – following some trend. I think most artists fight to be understood and respected in our business. RULE #1 for someone representing – that is they have to believe in what they are selling. You NEED someone who really GETS YOU. Are you a character actor? A lead? Do they understand why you say YES or NO to a gig? Many agencies are shotgunning talent aiming for anything and everything. I recall years ago when starting out, I asked Bruce Campbell at a sit down with director buddy Mike Kallio, “Any advice on finding a GOOD agent?” to which he responded “Good agent? Good luck with that one kid.” I think he meant finding a good agent was like finding Bigfoot. At another dinner I asked actress Lana Wood the same question. “I’m still looking honey” was her response. I’m saying, if you find that person who believes in you treat that like gold. How many actors would be lured by the grass being greener seduced by bigger agents or opportunities? Be loyal if it’s working. Col. Parker, Peter Grant and others played a large part in the overall success. Art and Business.
She recently had my work put before a well known director. I was presented exactly as I should be and without any BS spin. I think in our faced-paced world just getting someone to stop long enough to see your talent is half the battle.
I will be working to get the release dates on “Donors,” “Bestseller” and “The Terrorist” . “Ashes of Eden” is gearing up for the 13th of October US release. I think we might have a theatrical ASHES OF EDEN re-run just before the DVD/VOD release. Stay tuned.
“40 Nights” is now undergoing dialog polishing. VFX work is underway and sound design/music on deck.
I’m very proud of the last three CDI associated films cast and crew. The Michigan reputation has gotten better with west coast executives but the truth is we have been seen as backwoods. Hey, I love the outdoor association to backwoods. We have our pines, birches, oaks – Michigan is full of breathtaking nature. I’m told, We’re Southern Canadians in many ways. They believe that in Canada because it helps soften the blow when the Red Wings kick on them.
Back to the backwoods and how that relates to the former incentives – let’s be truthful, our cast and crew got fed mostly scraps. There exists exceptions and if you’re an exception – GREAT! Only love. But for most – the jobs offered were much below their true skill level.
The State of the State Now
I think we’ve got great talent in Michigan. We produce good players but often bad teams. I think the competitive in-state nature doesn’t always allow the best collaborations.
– To bring this full circle
Kudos to the crews from the previous three CDI features. But if I’m going to do that I can go all the way back to CDI film one. We’ve always taken filmmaking serious. I knew what Hollywood thought of us even then. We often get labeled as inferior but I know we’re NOT inferior. But to say that isn’t the best way. To show them now that’s the way. I’m pleased by what I’ve seen in the wake of the film incentive death. Some cried and left and others are finding their grit again. As the eye of TMZ moves away from Michigan, so does the vast amount of people wishing to be celebrities versus those working to have their art revealed.
I’ve been filled with compliments recently by “Hollywood” insiders on not only the final product but our dependability. That is something that is such a secret to success. If you cannot keep a timely/on-budget production or post a film within a timely turn around -you’ll likely NEVER make it in a studio system where production funds are granted. They are investing into dependability that a marketing team can work with in unison.
CDI – The Brand
We’ve built a BRAND (Collective Development) that represents diversity, quality and dependability. And we’ve been able to do that because we hire people who take great pride in their work. Hire people who are truly talented, accept accountability and maintains a professional respect amongst peers. I’m just very proud because all these films are built largely upon the Michigan talent pool.
DO IT. DO IT RIGHT.
WE WILL ALL WEAR THE FAME OR SHAME OF OUR UNITED ACTIONS
BE THE CHANGE YOU DESIRE
DARE TO BE FAIR
SAY NO VERSUS GO IF THE SHIP AIN’T TIGHT
ONE STATE TO RULE THEM ALL (Sounds Lord of the Rings)
A STATE OF WINNING (Okay this fun exchange just went Charlie Sheen on me – I’m out-E)
Have a great weekend everyone. HOPS are almost ripe. Maybe time for a warm up cup of coffee.