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

Posts tagged “SAG

Film in Michigan, Financing and the SECRETS

What a great week. We had some good rain here at week’s end which has been great for the garden. We ended up with tomatoes, beans, peas and beets planted. I also had to fortify a wood tee-pee structure that has veggies planted within. I had to make sure our dogs could not get in and dig as they so love to do. I also have been doing some work on the two-tier pond. All these things play into the overall as it provides a great atmosphere to sit and take biz calls. This week I had some meaningful talks with my management, new filmmakers and also a few distributors. Let’s look at a few project updates…

BESTSELLER

We also just concluded our BESTSELLER theatrical run in Grand Rapids, MI to some great response. The film is about to move to additional cities and I’m glad that so many want to see it. I had several great communications from audience members and I’m happy that we as artists did our job. People are being thrilled by this Michigan based thriller and we are all…thrilled.

ASHES OF EDEN

The distributor has announced the official release date in October and showcasing the new DVD art. It’s starting to appear as a pre-order in select retailers now. We will promote these rental/retail sites as we get closer.

40 NIGHTS

This coming week we’re preparing to sit down with our FX supervisor and plan out the required shots. We will also tweak the final film edit as we plan to move into post sound in July. We’ve been pulling promotional stills and have started working the 1st trailer. I’m excited to watch this one move down the production line. Stay tuned!

DJ Perry as JESUS in 40 Nights

DJ Perry as JESUS in 40 Nights

FILM IN MICHIGAN (My Opinions)

There has been a lot of news and anger flying around about the state of the filmmaking in Michigan. Now dear vendor friends such as David Lowing, lumber yards, hotels and many more such suppliers will certainly suffer some loss with the incentives gone. I see many people seriously upset about the tax incentives getting nixed. My initial hope was that the incentives would focus on the development of FILMMAKERS.

Education?

Previously I had helped construct a program whereas the arts (filmmaking) could be put on par with sports at the university level. Our program was well received by everyone from president down until it got to professors. Too many wanna-be chiefs with too little actual experience. TRUTH.

Maybe Government could be the answer?

The hope with the ideal government program would have been to assist business-minded (Read that part again) filmmakers to get to the next level. Controlled grants or matching funds programs for film corporations operating in Michigan for 5-7 years. Again I have many ideas on how we could have developed our creative force here. But importing was the agenda set with our incentives. Some of our best people on both sides of the camera would only find use as back ground extras, van drivers and production assistants. Good if you have zero experience and want a peek within – but these people I’m speaking of are highly experienced and working in non-challenging studio positions.

Filmmaking Added to The Vocabulary

All that the film incentive did in my world was make the word filmmaker legit in our state. When I started out we only had a handful of narrative filmmakers. People who didn’t recognize the industry in Michigan now saw enough headlines to put the word FILMMAKER out there.

New Growth

I think every young person unclear about what they wanted to do with their life loved the idea of filmmaking. To play with technology and create stuff to impress other people is enticing. But the business of it is not nearly as fun for most and that kills most careers. They don’t teach the business like they should.

Advice

SUPPORT THOSE THAT LOVE THEIR STATE. These people will plant and nurture seeds.

SUPPORT THOSE WILLING TO SUFFER THE HARDSHIPS OF LEARNING THE BUSINESS OF FILMMAKING. (Sorry social funding/hand-outs don’t count) ACCOUNTABILITY IS SOMETHING THAT MUST BE LEARNED! Mentors from the business community please help these people.

Interconnected

EVERY failed film project in our state that wasn’t self funded (By the artist) HURTS the whole state industry. Those that have disposable income to invest (Note they made their $ not begged for it via fundraising) will recognize a solid business plan. They see some of themselves in this young upstart. NOTE TO MANY – They also can see through BS. Many failed artists think they were/are smarter (in biz) than everyone else – they are not. The person who is being invested in is just as important as what is being invested in.

Character, integrity and responsibility. (People invest in this)

Peer Accountability

Artists need to hold one another accountable. But unfortunately for many in the local scene the worst offenders are also some of the best networkers. (Kind of) This often creates a fear of being blacklisted by the local networkers. But in my experience these people are rarely associated with the best projects. Why? Experienced people explore before hiring. The projects that do end up with these people are often not something to be missed – chances are strong for a disaster. I like to call it dodging the bullet. I’ve almost signed onto a few projects that I would have regretted.

Investors

Now – when an arts supporter/investor takes a burn on a venture they will surely communicate that to a wide circle. It may be it on the 19th hole of a golf course or some charity function. Often an industry/community can get defined by some of the worst participating in it.  I have seen official statements made by individuals that I know – they don’t speak for me.

Respect earns Respect

When someone refuses to RESPECT and take the challenge of producing serious thus creating a mess – the insecure masses are still there to smile, hug and handshake at their next mixer. These fiascos mean that Michigan filmmaking has once again been defined and not in a good way. That’s why Michigan cast and crew are mostly not respected – I know that as truth as someone who does a fair amount of west coast business. I’ve fought the “Backwoods Michigan” view held by others my whole career. It was easier back than to defend the lack of work versus incompetence of work.

How can we improve this?

DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY – NO! If the biz doesn’t add up say – NO.

Too big of a script, too little $, too few days – SAY NO PRODUCERS! You can’t remake the laws of the universe. People accept impossible tasks and I have to think it is for the paycheck. It’s like if you knew the ship the Titanic was going to sink how much would someone have to pay you to go for a ride? How much to charge a live firing squad?

EXAMPLE:

I have one project I co-starred in and finished all my scenes several years ago. It’s stuck in that in-between HELL. The result of a fight between the management entities of the film project. It’s hard because of all the hard work that many artists put into that project/film. I feel bad for all the artists but even more for the investors. They are victims of bad business. As just talent I just have to let things be.  As a producer I wish they would have found me. If I had said, yes – they would have a film on schedule and on budget.

More Advice

If you can’t manage a group effectively – DON’T PRODUCE. I could not be a DIT on a film. So I don’t accept a job as one. Same with producers but it is a flashy title and so many are drawn to it – moth to flame.

If long set hours are not for you on a non-union crew job – SAY NO.

I’ve just allowed my thoughts to roll out but I think in summary I see the death of the film incentives and perhaps office as a new beginning. A new chapter could rise from the ashes. Let the fly-by-night people seek scraps from another table. Once the grumbling stops creative circles will start to look ahead.

CDI

With the exception of when a script requires a certain location – we always consider Michigan. FACT: Collective Development Inc. will be making films in Michigan and incentives and/or film office is not required for us to do so.

As you form your circle of filmmakers – dedicate the time to learning to do it right. I heard a story this week that a film group didn’t want to learn SAG union paperwork because it was too much red tape. I’m not a union cheerleader but what is “too much” to advance your career and learn? Learn the process!

HOLD your people accountable! Producers hold your cast and crew accountable. Cast & Crew hold your Producers accountable. We all make mistakes and set life is NOT a vacation or PERFECT but stand accountable.  A full cast and crew should not have to lodge in one room – Poor planning. Tents are not acceptable crew quarters – Poor planning. Late. Unprepared. Lack of pre-production – failure is worn by all. Failure is a step towards success ONLY if you don’t keep making the same mistakes.

The Secret

I hear people asking about my SECRETS – The SECRET is if the business doesn’t add up – pass.

Inexperience in key areas + unreasonable schedule/script = PASS

Someone with a track record of bad producing = PASS

Dodgy answers or avoidance of answering questions directly = PASS

No plan of action after film is done “Get into some high-profile film fest” = PASS

If nobody would say YES to a poorly planned project they would be forced to re-evaluate a project and make modifications. Respect. Accountability.

Wrap Up

The incentives can come – go – come again and I truly won’t miss a beat. I’m a filmmaker who works with talented artists. I always strive to make things better. We make mistakes and try to always correct and learn from them. I hold EVERYONE of our artists on a project accountable and hire problem solvers not complainers. Your time working with us can be one and done or decades pending what YOU do. (Or don’t do)  I may not be everyones friend but those artists that I work shoulder to shoulder with – who respect their contributions and take pride in their final work – we all share something greater than friendship. Craftsmenship. A tradition of storytelling. We share that film as our collective work at that point in our lives/careers.

I had a lot of words and I tried to put an order to them. We have a family event this afternoon so I’m going to bounce off here. These are but my OPINIONS for those that wish to read them. You can apply these principles despite what state or country you live in. Artists are an insecure lot and that gets exploited so often. But work hard and believe that your artistry will find the proper outlet. Just remember you are more often defined by what you say NO to versus what you say YES to.

Have a great weekend!

DJ


Marketing, Magic Ruby Slippers and Michigan!

What a good week on many levels for me. I’ll sip some of my favorite coffee and reflect with you all. I decided to accept an offer to do a local Michigan project that is being done in connection with a university. It is a project that gives students experience and exposure to a professional world of filmmaking. I have to say I am deeply concerned on many levels about the future of filmmaking in our state. I ranted enough on the casting situation in Michigan last week, which in many ways is ass backwards. I saw more examples of it this week. For some I don’t think it is a desire to present poorly. It is just our entire environment is not accepting of the next level of film work. It is why in years past people would outgrow this market and be forced to move to another place. With the technology we now possess the country/world is becoming smaller. You have to believe in what you are selling. If an agent doesn’t fully know, understand and process this worth into a proper pitch they revert back to the one size fits all shoe store approach. The talent needs to be realized by the agent as a hand-made unique, special, magical pair of shoes – like ruby slippers or LIKE MIKE’s magic basketball shoes. You would have to sell 10,000 or 100,000 pair of average shoes to even come close to a pair of the above-mentioned special shoes. So if agents can’t get over the shoe store mentality they should at least become the seller of odd, unique, special, one-of-a-kind shoes. I can assure you the +10% will be much higher and you won’t have to do a mountain of paperwork.

The local acting union rep was approached to handle this university film program. When the programs information was brought forth to the rep they pushed the wrong agreement. This agreement had previously been used in years prior but still it was the wrong agreement. If you distribute the film for profit it is this agreement, if not for profit the one proposed would be fine. My question was why would someone push an agreement that puts already struggling actors on a “deferred” type agreement? If this agreement was used in past years whereas they did distribute the film for profit – why was this not adjusted? I can tell you those actors have monies due to them. If nobody brought it to anyone’s attention – Let’s stop there. I heard that the response to the notice of the wrong agreement attempted to be used was “If we get attention – we’ll renegotiate.” This is the person entrusted with the job of fitting the right project with the right agreement? Why would someone push an agreement that doesn’t pay talent up front and has no benefits of health and pension or residuals? There is more work associated with the next contract up, which requires deposits and more paperwork. Why do you think an employee on likely a straight pay would elect to take the easiest course of action. Again the same rep pushing the same agreement when confronted with the info that the wrong agreement was being proposed responded with – “Why not just accept donations for viewings or DVD sales?”. Again the situation calls for an obvious different agreement yet still the wrong one is pushed, why?  Also this is in an environment whereas the students are intended to learn the correct process. There is a reputation given to our local acting union and I’ve never spoken badly about them, but I see now where this stems from. This is the office responsible to work on behalf of our local talent. Put that with the one size fits all agent mentality and the casting director’s common view of talent as cattle – It doesn’t make me mad but it does make me sad. I’m not on a witch-hunt. I don’t want anyone’s job or head. I just want people to put in an honest effort and do things right so we can work to eliminate the backwoods reputation that people attach to our state and film industry. I think the project is now non-union because so much time was wasted and wrong information given. Good preventative action always outweighs reactionary fix it actions after the fact.

Now let us bullet point some updates –

–       The casting for the next GPI/CDI Philippine feature “The Beast” is underway. We are continuing our distribution discussions over “Darkest Night.”  Actresses meeting the requirements should submit!

–       I’ve been working on our “Faith” slate with Reel Frog Films and I think we will have an entire slate in production including Dean Teaster’s next feature “Long Road Home” which was requested by financiers this past week.

–       “Deadly Renovations” is going up for pre-sale and we will keep feeding you these outlets.

–       I’m waiting on final word on another film slate that CDI will operate as the production entity. “Soul Eater” is first on deck and it includes a series of western films.

–       Development talks to match the right project with the proper opportunity continue.

–       “Benjamin” is working distribution after a great NYC screening.

–       At Risk Entertainment and CDI have been evaluating distribution deals for “Locked in a Room” and I       think we will have something soon!

–       I’m looking at acting offers presented that extend from now to 2013.

–       CDI Commercial is working towards a few deals including a great “Making of” deal.

Lastly, I promised a little bit on my next acting role. The film has a working title of “Realizism” but I think I might start calling it “Strippers”. I play a colorful character Manny who I’ve been describing as a rogue with a heart of gold. The drama has a strong comedic edge to go with its serious message. Mitch Nyberg is directing it. It will have me working with some old friends and new ones. I film in a little more than a week and I’m excited to be working with my old friend the camera again!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! My best to each of you and your endeavors!

DJ