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

Posts tagged “students

Discussions on Compensation and Advanced Release Dates

Good morning and welcome including our new readers from Bahrain. It is a peaceful morning with hazelnut coffee and a sleeping puppy. Michigan is foggy but without snow currently. I’ve been balancing all my post work, development work and family activities. First I will comment on a request for insight on a work question in-state (Michigan) in regards to compensation.

KNIGHT CHILLS

The symbol of the KNIGHT CHILLS franchise.

The first film CDI did KNIGHT CHILLS was unpaid cast and crew with us spending money on gear, food, props, FX (we crashed and blew up a car). Everyone was in the same boat. We were not even sure if we could shoot a feature film but intended to give our best effort. In the beginning a group of people with little or no resume experience may group together to take that first step.

On our second film we started paying cast and crew. Not extras and not PA’s but everyone else was paid what the budget could support. I will tell you that paying artists cast and crew is one of my favorite things to do. I remember an actor crying in a van when I handed out the first week paychecks. For this person and many it was the first paycheck these people had every received for their art. The act of paying was more important than the numbers scribbled on it. It was giving artists hope, pride and dignity after countless rejections in our business. In 1999 the film scene (Ha!) was much different. The opportunities many have now just did not exist. The only benefit I saw from the tax incentives was the acceptance of the “Film Business” in Michigan as a legit careeer path.

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To this day we pay all our cast and crew but not PA’s and Extras. We feed and take great care with the extras and that’s where we meet many future cast mates. We create tiers for keys and department crew. We also have a two tier pay for union and non-union talent. Our feature rates are lower versus commercial rates. As I noted last week I believe one is an investment and one is a service. We’ve had a few outspoken crew people spoiled on a few good commercial payouts complain about rates. To these people – just pass. Don’t torpedo your ship because you can’t make a rate work for you. These people might have debt, high cost of living (beyond your means) or any other reason why they need to say no. But that’s not everyone. Also the positions on feature film sets are earned early on and crews often grow with the company. Those people who say “I’ll catch up later when you have larger budgets” often won’t. Because loyalty does mean something. If you’ve been the Director of Photography when they had nothing they will likely want to keep that DP as they move into larger budgets. Often if a crew gets out of line there are hundreds that would jump at the opportunity. But you have to be a company that finishes and releases films. People grow tired of putting blood, sweat and tears into a project that never finishes. I’ve got a couple of films I’ve been paid for but they never finished. A waste.

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I like to say we will be defined by what we say NO to. I say NO a lot but politely as some people are just not where I would like them to be creatively. I know other companies and producers who do things very differently. Attacking them isn’t going to help and until you’ve raised funds and been responsible for millions of dollars – your opinion is pretty weak. That said, if you want to make your projects better, paying experience up front will keep you from paying for mistakes. Experienced actor means more options in editing versus that’s our one good take. Out of focus camera. Things left on set because art department last looks didn’t see something. Lack of hair or clothes continuity – all lack of experience.

My goals aside from making our days and getting our puzzle pieces (scenes) – I want every artists to 1) Have a lifetime experience that they will fondly recall like going to Summer Camp. 2) Become more effective in their craft and/or communication 3) Have pride in the final art

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I’m not following anyone else’s business model but what we’ve developed over two decades seems to work well. I do think that audition notices should discuss compensation up front. Artists should not waste valuable time reading scripts, memorizing lines and putting down reads for something they will not participate in because of no pay. I will not work for free. I have a few times in the beginning because I wanted to get the experience and I wasn’t bringing the experience. But now I bring experience and distribution opportunities for any film I’m in. Like many of us I have life bills so I no longer work without compensation. I also like when a project is compensating everyone because the quality is almost always higher. I don’t really want to act with someone’s Uncle Phil that they threw in because he had the day off.

Like many in today’s society it’s easier to cast stones. I often see condescending messages back and forth that really is just strutting for an audience. If you don’t like the way things are done be the change. Raise the funds and do it right. Lead by example not by running your social media mouth. Bad producers will quickly get a bad reputation and when nobody wants to work with them, they disappear. I know many in this state that if they disappeared from the scene things might be better. Some bad eggs have already left the state because they burnt all their bridges and need new grounds to BS. If your experience is beyond a production not paying, just give a PASS. This allows a new talent/crew an opportunity to step up and learn. But people do pay dues. No certificate from a film school or program is going to automatically get you in a key position. Doing a great job will certificate or not. Now they have many great programs so the students come out with experience. But they too might have to work free or discounted to get the experience needed to move forward. OK. Enough on that subject.

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BULLET POINT UPDATES AT COLLECTIVE DEVELOPMENT INC.

  • Visit us at http://www.cdiproductions.com
  • MBF: Man’s Best Friend is closing in on a 1st rough cut of the film. The first trailer was well received and the distributor is already talking theatrical.
  • We are planning to release a BTS for MBF on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as a thank you to our cast and crew.
  • WILD FAITH will have a PR announcement later this week. We will be announcing a new wider theatrical release – they’ve been working on creating the short marketing trailers. The film will release into theater’s starting March 1st I’m told. More info here soon.
  • WILD FAITH poster art is being worked on by the distributor. TV/Broadcast release will start 4/1/19
  • WILD FAITH digital purchase 5/6/19 on Amazon and other platforms
  • WILD FAITH DVD sales will be 5/27/19
  • WILD FAITH digital rental with be 6/24/19 * day after my bday:)
  • Streaming Networks SVOD (Netflix) and AVOD (Hulu) in early 2020

Part 3 of The Quest Trilogy – THE CHRIST SLAYER was announced with release dates. Here is the PR release from this past week. Read about it here.

https://www.prlog.org/12744411-the-christ-slayer-poster-and-release-dates-announced.html

Our distributor also released the poster art.

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The film is looking and sounding amazing. It is one of the largest production value films we’ve tackled. The music honestly is some of the very best I’ve heard in our projects. But Dennis Therrian our long time composer is growing like all of us at CDI. We’ve just about got all the dialog and sound design completed. Here is me in the studio fixing a few lines.

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This past week has also been development. We’ve got a few 2019 projects coming together. LOST HEART is being prepped for a Spring shoot. Talks on finally shooting KNIGHT CHILLS 2 have advanced. Also a few other exciting scripts that are being polished to possibly be put in the production line. Some exciting news about all this in the new year.

I’m going to go make some breakfast and go explore a bit with the new furry son Finn. Luke would have been very proud of this little gremlin:)

Have a great Sunday and a productive week ahead.

DJ

 

 

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Attitude, Actor Tips & Appreciation

DonnySS1Another beautiful fall day awaits us all here in the Michigan. If you are not treated to the harvest of plants, the change of leaves and the tastes of cider – you are missing something. I’ve spent a good part of the week taking meetings while burning brush/leaves and getting things prepared for the coming winter. I’ve had a lot of time to think upon many things happening in my career, in our state and in the overall career field. I often bite my tongue on many subjects and it is one of the reasons I don’t attend too many film functions. Here are a few of my thoughts that I’ve had over the week.

APPRECIATION

Much of my retrospective thoughts are because this Friday in Kalamazoo, MI they are having a big screen showing of IN THE WOODS, the 1st feature I starred in. 15 years ago this year it was released in the US/Canada, Germany, France and the UK. At that time in MI only a few people were making movies. There were no “film schools” here. U of M and MSU had some screenwriting classes. There was the occasional audio/video class around but what you had was very passionate artists who wanted to tell story. The editing was expensive and hard and not to mention analog so you could lose quality with every generation dupe you had to do. Cameras were expensive and film was expensive to process. How many of you have worked in FILM? 8mm, 16mm, super16, 35mm, super 35? Not many of you youngin’s. Everyone did not own an HD camera & edit software on their phone.  Now I went to college and graduated from MSU and cobbled together a degree that I thought could assist my efforts. The real learning was the daily grind to make progress in a field that wasn’t everywhere. Here is what I often see in Michigan – and if you fall in this description maybe it will make you rethink something.

Academic arrogance exists in higher learning. I had a wonderful business program for colleges that I worked to set up at MSU but by the time in filtered to the professors it all fell apart. There is much honor in teaching and passing info to the next generation but it is not the same as being on the front lines. It could have been a collaboration but egos don’t always work that way. I may attempt to set that up at some college as it is one of the best programs I’ve seen or heard of. I just haven’t been motivated after having it fail at my own university. President – on board. Provost – on board. Professors -bicker. NEXT.

So students are graduating and expect that they are entitled to just GET A JOB. I read where in NYC interns didn’t want to work free to learn any craft/profession. The cool part now days is you don’t have to guess what is on people’s mind because they whine and broadcast it on their social billboards. WHINE – No work. WHINE – at work. WHINE – back to no work. I’ve worked with self-taught and film school grads and while both bring pros and cons the attitude (one of THE most important traits) of the self-taught is usually more appreciative. Film students who got to sign out cameras, sign out lights, sign out edit time…tuition pays – they get out in the world and find out it is a new world. You are no longer playing with monopoly money. I see social clicks that are just an extension of the high school drama. I see popularity contests over trying to get exposure for 15 minutes of fame. I see lazy people who would rather be given fish than taught to fish. (Social funding) The danger lies in lack of any accountability. You give a guy with a food sign on an expressway exit $5 and you have no guaranty that he won’t go to the liquor store and buy booze. How are you going to fulfill the perks of some of these “awards” for giving a donation? No movie = no signed DVD. No VIP seat at premiere. It is protected fraud because it is a donation. The media in our state supports that also. I see 4-5 page spreads in media and people who donate time to kick off parties trying to raise $ for a film. Recently I saw a boatload of hype eating up my news space over a Grand Rapids Christmas movie that after a quick scan you knew (if you have film biz background) that film was never going to launch. Not the way they had it set up and not the money they were trying to raise. So instead of giving a completed film in the area the attention of a media spread they wasted space and people’s time (both reading and working events) instead. Now I’m 100% certain these folks all had the best intentions. I’m just saying as someone who has worked with film crews in many others states and countries that many here in Michigan need to readjust their thinking. I’ve produced several films here in Michigan and I will surely do more but I’ve seen many film communities with equal skill sets and much better ATTITUDES. There is that word again. Positive attitudes translates into good story telling. So this means that producers need to try to be organized and give the best “ride” on a film set as possible. Now it is making a movie – meaning I’ve been on Willie Nelson’s tour bus and while it is nice it is still a bus. It isn’t his ranch house but for on the road – it is nice. I’m saying while a film set will often lack comforts of home we try to make it easier. AND people will still complain. Those people need to get out and go work 9-5 at a tv station or post-house where they can keep their own routine. Money says they still bitch about something almost daily because it is about ATTITUDE. That is the #1 thing I look for in cast/crew/friend and associates. I pay for problem solvers not people who bitch and can point out the obvious. So adjust your attitudes, learn to communicate effectively and be that problem solver. That was my reflection for the week on our state. Now they do have degrees of this elsewhere but I guess I speak up because I do care. I think it is so very cool to see young people have opportunities here. I want you to succeed. Many are afraid to speak the truth because they are afraid their phone will stop ringing. I don’t wait for phones to ring and often I make them ring – offering this or that. So even if a handful of you read this and it changes your ATTITUDE slightly for the better – kudos.

Now the PR hit this week on the next CDI Associated project – WASTELAND. A distant toxic desert world will be our setting and I’m extremely excited. I’ve been a Sci-Fi fan since Star Wars in 1977 and I’m ready to do this. Contracts signed, flights and hotels booked and prop construction is underway in Florida. We will be shooting in Nevada at the Valley of Fire State Park. It was a great thing for Michigan when a 2nd lead was cast from our very own state. Yes. When I see strong acting reels from talent I trust to be professional (yes producers talk) and have that right ATTITUDE (there is that word again) – I can put people right under the directors nose. I did that with David Gries without him ever even knowing it. If you haven’t had someone call you out of the blue because they respect your art – it is a great feeling. No cattle calls. No casting agent favorites. No wasting your time driving all over. More or less it is “You’ve done great work and we want you to once again do that.” So if you ever desire to work on a CDI associated project get your reels together. I use them as #1 because I want to see GAME FOOTAGE at GO time. I don’t want to waste your time because I respect your time. It is easy for someone to say come on in because it doesn’t hamper them. You are a number at a certain time slot. Not with us – you are an artists. Let’s see what makes you unique. I guess I follow that TREAT OTHERS HOW YOU WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED. So congrats to fellow statesman David Gries. I’ll be seeing you in the desert and you better come packing:)

BESTSELLER – Music work underway

ASHES OF EDEN – Coming back to Lansing after being invited to East Lansing Film Festival

THE TERRORIST – Final sound work/color correction in NYC

This Friday as noted earlier Kalamazoo is having a big screen showing of IN THE WOODS the creature feature, at the Alamo Draft House. I think we are doing a TV show Friday morning. Several of the cast will be there for this reunion of sorts and we might have some fun news about where this film can be seen following the screening at the Q&A.

Lastly, I want to again thank my manager for her work as of late. You’ve got me in front of some A projects and I’m proud of how you present me as the unique artist. It only took me 15 years to find that right representation. I appreciate you.

I’m off to enjoy the day and I hope you all do as well.

DJ

 


PR, POLITICS and PREMIERE TALK

It looks like here in Lansing, MI we avoided most of the crazy weather. We had a little wind and snow but overall the sun gave us some melting.  It has been a busy couple weeks and I’ve just got to keep my patience and zen as many deals move about on the chessboard. I’ve had a few projects move a touch slower than I wanted but I will be happy for what did get done versus what did not. Let’s look at some of the positive steps taken in this past week. Before we get into that I will vent off on a small issue. IF you are a university who is making your money off film students in a film program. IF you make a solid film that really showcases good production value, performances and direction. The university SHOULD invest in promoting its own program. PROMOTION = ENROLLMENT = $ for the UNIVERSITY. I’m not going to waste too much time on this topic but I’m never surprised by people’s shortsightedness.

Also I’m surprised (No I’m not) that when local media is trying to promote a city/area to inspire others how only the hobbyist get recognized. What happened to real journalism whereas you seek out the real story. In our area it use to be our local media was only interested in local community theatre and now they are focused on local hobby filmmakers. Now you can give recognition to these aspects but they do not represent the professionals. POLITICS. To be direct it is why I like the business side of things. IF your art is good it will find an audience and sell. I feel as if these organizations and projects that put equal importance on SHOW & BIZ should be highlighted. Now for a long time now I’ve been content making my home here and that is good enough for me. Michigan artists are undervalued often on the world market and much of it is because many are seen as “Community Theatre/Hobbyist filmmakers”.  When the films and filmmakers that are making real business endeavors are overlooked for some social media panhandling a $500-$2,500 film that won dozens of remote festivals that never will get major distribution – it brands us. Now I consider myself MINOR LEAGUE so let’s get that straight. BUT we work hard to recreate a growing business like what Motown, Two Men & A Truck and many other business pioneers worked so hard to do. The worried parents of these starry-eyed filmmakers would be emboldened and given hope when they read of other business filmmakers making a solid go of it.  I’m content living below the radar most of the time because it saves me from the constant “I’ve got a great idea for a movie” talk that follows me. So let’s get onto some business updates!

A few months ago we saw our Civil War film “Wicked Spring” release into the German, Austria and Switzerland market. Now following that we just enjoyed a Feb 21st release of “Locked in a Room” to that same market. And next month March 28th will see the release of our 1st international collaboration “Darkest Night”. Also “Darkest Night” released recently to HULU PLUS and so that will help reach hundreds of thousands of new viewers.

Our CDI sales team is working hard engaging in talks with many new foreign territories. Also many great new deals are being negotiated on new upcoming product. “Ashes of Eden” has several buyers interested and once we have our finished film we will start that process. New poster feedback is being gathered from readers who can vote on http://www.ashesofedenmovie.com . Also our premiere is being discussed and we should announce on that soon. So look for a cast and crew premiere that will happen followed by a public premiere and theatre run. We’ve got excited interest from several distributor/studios in this film and our most recent ‘Bestseller”.

“Bestseller” is about done with the rough cut. I will be calling our editor today to get an update and soon we will screen the rough edit. I’m excited about this project and I think it will be a high intensity film. Patience:)

“7 Stones” is out on the market both streaming VOD and DVD so check out this powerful little drama.

While overseeing post work and sales I’ve been engaging in some major screenwriting action. I don’t promote this aspect much but I’ve been paid multiple times to pen original scripts and adaptations from books. I’ve had projects optioned ($ against a sale price) –  and I’ve had projects purchased and produced. I just finished a pet project script that I’m developing with an old school friend. Let’s just say that fans of “Book of Ruth” will be very happy. I’ve also got another script on deck to write after after that. The contracts are approved just need to be signed this coming week. I may also be taking on yet another project to write in the wake of an option/purchase agreement made with a studio in Florida. Some close to me know my furry boy Luke had knee surgery and so it has been good to hunker down from the cold and enjoy writing.

Also I’ve been doing some major internal CDI structuring with our accountant, lawyers and a film archive supervisor. All the CDI projects need to be put to digital to make it easier for delivery on all these new sales. This is again the BIZ side that has nothing to do with the artsy-fartsy aspects but it is what separates the professionals from the hobbyists. I love what I do but I don’t do it for just fun – I do it as a career. Therefore bad communicators, slackers, excuse makers will not find a home at CDI. Nothing like having your hard work and efforts wasted as something sits in limbo for years OR a film that lacks business structure leaving you with a well done home video to show family and friends. I’m happy that we have some new hardworking blood rolling with the CDI tribe. It’s quite an eye opener when they discover there is another way to do things. There is a better use of time and energy. Do we fall short and make errors? – Of course we do. But how many are really STRIVING! WANTING is NOT STRIVING. I mean really giving that extra effort at every turn that gets recognized. I’m talking about taking that pride in your work. Trust me, I know the difference by looking someone in the eyes. If it is just a JOB to you – find another industry because there is easier money to be earned elsewhere.  REMEMBER actions always speak louder than words.

ACT LOUDLY!

DJ


NEW Michigan Film Opportunities “Ashes” and More…

The last few days have been beautiful in the Michigan. My time has been spent on prepping the new home office and working development on “Ashes of Eden”. Our PR announced the project last week. (See http://www.cdiproductions.com to read story) We’re locking in many of our leads and talking with key crew members. More cast announcements will be forthcoming this week. We will be setting our firm start dates here in the next two weeks. The locations, scheduling and other pre-prod duties are being knocked down now that may allow for a shorter official pre-prod time. As for the other task of building my new “Fort Perry” it has been a wonderful experience so far. I’m excited to have the new space to store old files/paperwork and having a place to meet with all the artists I do business with. It will serve a few tasks just like the old “Fort Perry” did. I want to thank all those who have given a hand in the process this far.

“Deadly Renovations” had the start of its release on the 21st of August and I think a good many folks are checking it out. We’ve had DVD signings in Yuma, AZ that went very well. I’ve had friends say they rented it at Blockbuster and are having watch parties. Others have added to their collection buying it off Amazon. I’m not sure if Netflix has it up yet but they should soon. (Just call the number they provide and ask)  Also what would be a release without the haters:) You have to love those fans. I saw someone with the 50 accounts trying to throw up their (1’s) and a something that passes for a  review. (barely) With a little closer of a look that account shows it is just another frustrated film school grad that gets in the real world and can’t make a film. What? No school to give me lights and grip equipment? No school to provide a sign out camera? Nobody to believe in their script/story? BUCK UP CAMPER:) Welcome to the real world:) You have to sell people on you. Your passion has to push the story. It is like the new STARFLEET grad who thinks they are going to get the command chair on the USS MOTION PICTURE. I guess they’re stunned when they are handed a red shirt and assigned to shuttle crew duty. It’s that “I’m owed something” mentality of many young people today. NOT ALL! Many. I just note that many of those people who carry that negative attitude seldom get a project off the ground. Their personality does not inspire investors to get behind these folks. Investors are thinking, if I don’t like this persons outlook others likely won’t either and chances are the project will fail. Those negative people of course think the investor is stupid and all those who get their projects made are inferior artists.  They spew- if they had done it…STOP. You did not do it. And with a certain bad attitude you will not do it. They are reduced to slamming others work in hopes that the feelings of failure will go away. So try some respect in your life and see where that gets you.  I respect “doers” even if I don’t LOVE their work. I also understand “subjective” which is something many artists fail to grasp. Many times things are not better just different. Some will like this and some will like that. So it was almost fun to see some of those negative folks again like the crazy uncle at the family reunion. Don’t be that guy/girl:)

I want to give congrats to Gabrielle Stone who GPI has chosen to be my co-star in the 2nd Philippine feature “The Beast” to shoot in 2013. She and I have met on another set and also I know her momma. I’m looking forward to working with her and telling some good story.

“Benjamin” is playing the LONG ISLAND FILM FEST INTERNATIONAL

http://www.longislandfilmfestival.org/benjamin/?fb_action_ids=10151170474605306&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=.UEGFiXDmW9Q.like&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

So check out the times and catch it before worldwide distribution!

Same with “Darkest Night” that will play the FACINE festival in San Francisco this fall!

http://www.facebook.com/notes/gothic-pictures-international/darkest-night-to-screen-at-facine-in-san-francisco/490022041008747

“Donors” and “7 Stones” is post. I have a final ADR session for “Locked in a Room” before we send mixed master to distributor. I can say the deal is signed and it is a great mini-major studio. I’m happy about all this and I hope to have some exciting news to share over many of the other films. I think many of the foreign fans will soon be very happy.

I’m looking forward to shooting “Ashes of Eden” because it will give me the core of a Michigan crew. We’ve got other film projects launching both inside and outside of Michigan. If you have interest in seeing a sponsor package for “Ashes of Eden” let me know. I’m off to look at doors and windows this morning. Last night was a recharging (blue) full moon and I feel great and ready to go forth into Sept. and ride out 2012!

Have a great day and thank you for your continued interest!

DJ


“Green Goblin” and NEW “in associations” for CDI

The rain has been falling like crazy playing catch up for the poor crops here. The garden will surely drink all this up and we should have more harvest soon. We’ve been having a few tomatoes ripen here and there and so those are being enjoyed. We broke into the first bottle of the “Green Goblin” our fall harvest wine from last year made with green tomatoes and ginger root. It was a hit at our dinner party save for my mother. She’s picky – what can you say:) As I was told recently – at least I know where I get my brutal honesty.

I’m here to announce that CDI has entered into “an association” deal to develop and produce a feature film with local Lansing filmmaker Shane Hagedorn with his New House Entertainment. The working title is “Road to Eden” which may or may not remain – but we’ve been having all the foundation meetings to put key elements into play. This project will provide a chance for a mix of old CDI guard and new upcoming folks to work together. I will be producing and playing a role in the film. I was not expecting to dig on this one character as much as I did. Sometimes a character jumps off a page and right into your head. So we will be doing an official PR release this week but you heard it here first.

I also did a read on “Kinship of Death” the TV pilot to shoot after Thanksgiving and before Christmas in the Philippines. I was so surprised and really excited about bringing the character to life in that show. He is a cool antagonist and I think it will showcase a new side of me while also playing to my strengths. If network numbers are strong we will shoot an entire season early 2013. I hope to have some updates on “Darkest Night” here very soon for fans out there.

“Deadly Renovations” in 10 days – August 21st so get your copy on any of the various retail outlets. Blockbuster is one of the newest additions. I’m also hearing that an in-store signing will happen at THE HASTINGS video store in Yuma, AZ with director and producer. Here is a good interview I did last week that centers on “Deadly Renovations”.

Interview Link

http://alienbee.net/exclusive-interview-actor-dj-perry-talks-deadly-renovations-and-lots-more/?fb_action_ids=10151124800885306&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

“Locked in a Room” has isolated a distributor deal they like and are doing some back and forth to get all parties happy. It is a good company and will get a strong push. This will announce very soon so hang in there.

I’m hearing the wildly popular “Benjamin” has been invited to participate in another major festival –  29th annual LONG ISLAND FILM FESTIVAL. September 18, 2012 to September 29, 2012. Stay tuned….”7 Stones” is still in final post, “Donors” still in post – “Realizism” now in post – some good pics coming forth now. I still have had a little drama from certain members of that team but I’m trying to just write it off as just inexperience and leave it at that. These kids will find out that the world doesn’t owe them and everyone doesn’t always win. Things aren’t always  followed by juice boxes, cookies and pats on the head. A few of them I will likely see on film sets, maybe even ours – but more than most will realize the harsh truth that few will work in this industry of ours.

I still have the new draft of “The Beast” to read and another Philippine script with an acting offer attached. I also have some work to do on “Road to Eden” pre-prod. so I think I will draw this to a close and get back to some work. Thank you one and all for sharing your morning with me.

DJ


Blockbuster Release and Business Updates!

What a solid week it was for business and such. I love my Saturdays sipping coffee and giving you all a peek into the life I lead. I’m often one for just staying focused on what I need to do and not engaging in too much outside back and forth. My last few blogs that centered on the film “Realizism” (the default title since director Mitch had his hands tied on that issue) whereas I was ASKED to point out things that I saw that could be improved upon. I’m happy to see from the high traffic that the words were heard. And if those words help one or two students move to the next level – great. Job done. If some read only what they want to read – and take their own skewed  meaning – I can’t control that. Anyway – they wrapped principal photography and I think we put some professional work down on camera. They had a wrap party yesterday and I hope they do pat each other on the back but also look at where they could improve.  I was told that my words of truth offended a few people. Well, we self evaluate every shoot and look at what we did right. Those things often  become policy and what could be improved upon is noted without hurt feelings. These kids will be moving to the real world and I hope they are ready for a different set of challenges.

We’ve been in full speed ahead mode for distribution. “Deadly Renovations” is getting some good reviews and retail buyers are taking to the film. It releases August 21st and this week saw us get picked up for online/in-store buy with BLOCKBUSTER. We will be bringing you VOD information in the coming weeks.

“Locked in a Room” is in negotiations and I’m excited about the release being put together nationally on that film.

“Darkest Night” is negotiating US/domestic offers and working some foreign deals. In one of our meetings I was told of the wide South Korea release being put together. Also a Philippine theatrical where they are talking about me going there to promote the opening after Thanksgiving. While there I will be playing the bad guy in the TV pilot for KINSHIP OF DEATH.  It is their AMERICAN HORROR STORY and it has a network time slot and if ratings are good we shoot the 1st season in early 2013. I also got the new script for “The Beast” which is the next GPI/CDI feature film.

A new CDI associated film has been in the works and next week we will have some announcements. I will be helping one of my peers produce and playing a role in a powerful story. I’ve already got some major interest in the soundtrack and have started distribution talks. This month is development, next month starts pre-prod and October should be our shoot month. We’ve started some initial cast and crew talks while we finalize our company deal. Stay TUNED!

I’ve also had a good amount of interest in me participating in upcoming film roles. I’ve had casting directors from the west coast in touch with me this week. I’ve also had some direct talks with directors and producers. Many options.  What is meant to be will be. But it looks like I will stay in the USA for late Summer/Early Fall and end the year in the Philippines.

We do have some great development films that have been submitted to funding sources and we are awaiting word. So 2013 is being planned now. I look forward to bringing fans/audiences more stories. I wish each of you a great weekend. Enjoy!

DJ


In the Jungle the Tribe Marches

I’m back at home sipping the hazelnut coffee and watching some soccer on TV. I have to say the past week of shooting was exhausting. It was a combination of many factors which I’ll get into a little bit to share some of my insights with you all. This will be especially helpful if you are just starting out in the film business but I think  it will have some good insights for all. First I will tell you a bit more about the project. It is a program ran by Grand Valley University whereas they do a film with students intermixed with professionals. I was approached by the director Mitch Nyberg on set of “7 Stones” about participating. I liked the purpose of the program and myself tried to spearhead a program at my alumni university – Michigan State. I ran into politics not at the top but at the bottom. The professors from different colleges who just could not get along or agree. Film covers a vast spectrum and doesn’t fit neatly into one college or department. Egos are large in that arena and ultimately a program that I feel was superior to all I’ve seen was mucked down in politic mire. Not the first time we have heard of that.

Producing a film can be fun but it is not a game. It is a complex weaving of business agreements that align artists towards a single goal of telling a story and having the proper releases to make it a business entity. IF you are in one of those management positions you have to take it extremely serious. If these roles are not filled by highly motivated and organized individuals the project will fail or at best be like a horse drag over broken glass. On this projects the cracks of disorganization were there from the get go. Like I told the program and film director – this is not an everybody wins community recreational project. This is a program to attempt to prepare students for a chance to make it in the professional film world. 90+ % of these students will end up at TV stations or other smaller media positions that are a far cry from their initial dreams of working in our industry. There are no grades in the real world of filmmaking. No B, C, D – just pass or fail. I had inside info from the director on the state of things and secondly I know. I mean after producing 40+ projects in all formats, sizes and genres – I know. You can’t BS me and if you try I will call you out. If I had a dollar for every time on set I heard “I assumed” I would have doubled my pay. Every student should have been given or required to have a clip board, pen and legal pad. Pre-production meetings were obviously lacking as departments were not always on the same page. Furthermore producers are not hired shoppers. I saw problems that were only solved by spending and then trying to cut corners elsewhere. When you are attached to a learning experience the community participating via sponsorship or gifted use of vehicles, locations, services or products should come easy. You have to get off your ass and make contacts, shake hands, give out biz cards and make the deals. I didn’t see that – I saw them trying to go back to pre-made deals and try to squeeze talent costs. I hate to say it but that doesn’t usually work in the real world. You can’t make a deal for say Martin Landau and then go try to nix his pay because you can’t go get craft service sponsorship. Also contracts are real legal agreements and in the real world there are consequences and they are often costly ones. The hit to your reputation can be worse than the damages from legal actions – as I write now the Grand Valley Film Program is in breach of contract and working on a speedy remedy. They are in breach because of lack of organization. I truly love these kids but see that I had a passion for this industry that some of these kids lack.  When I was struggling there was not any film programs like this one available to me. We had to produce up everything. When I see lazy or lack of self motivation it really strikes a chord. I’m a nice person but many in our industry are not very forgiving. Honest mistakes happen via unforeseen events and the best of the best ANTICIPATE these events. Others create issues by “assuming” which as the old statement goes, will make an ass of you and me. Don’t assume! Know! Define! Eliminate gray areas and anticipate!

Technically the folks all worked very hard. They were 20-25% slower than a seasoned crew but that is just a learning curve. I think we captured some great magic on camera and I’m very happy about that. How many will take their errors, setbacks and failures and use them to propel them forward? I don’t know. I saw some fixation on things that created an issue versus just rolling with things. Filmmaking is a TEAM effort. A well oiled production machine is like army ants on a march.

I discussed some of the silly university politics around film titles and such in an earlier blog. The attempts at censorship really runs against the grain of artistic expression. I saw where a little bit of the University BS tries to tie the hands of the production. If the goal is to try to create a real world work situation than the sanitized, overly cautious  attitudes of the few need to go away. Marketing and promotion are real aspects of filmmaking and even though this project is more for festival and limited release – practice as if you are working towards worldwide distribution. You ultimately play how you practice so the program really needs to look at this as a model to professional production/distribution and not a summer camp. Now I always said, I always counted on folks being slack ass so that I could outwork them – And I did.   In summary – I appreciate the opportunity and knowing the reputation that we’re given here in Michigan (this holds true for entire Midwest) as being assbackwards. I’ve realized as a MI resident who works mainly outside the state or in other countries that in some ways, okay many ways – WE ARE! I don’t want that reputation and those who have worked on a CDI produced project where we were the parent company in control – know we work hard to not make that our reputation. Sure. We’ve made mistakes but it has to be about wanting to be better. The willingness to work harder to make things better vs the easiest path. The doing just enough or more often not enough. When that happens it is like the human body. If you fall into reactive mode it is like a virus or disease running wild through the body of the production. PREVENTATIVE is always the way to go. It is an Eastern vs Western medicine approach and I think my martial arts background helped me blend ideals. A surgeon knows the task ahead. He has anticipating several possible negative things that could pop up. He has equipment on standby should this or that happen.

Also accountability. IF you are in a position of monitoring for and addressing issues immediately – you must monitor all departments for accountability. I see a lot of friendly friendships that doesn’t allow direct brutal immediate corrective decisions. I’ve become friends with people who started as associates. First came respect for someone who worked hard and took accountability. From that friendships grew because we were interdependent with one another and these were FILM WARRIORS! They worked tireless to make sure the ship was SHIP SHAPE! So when you raised a drink at wrap with ship safely in port – friendships form. But I’ve gotten serious and firm with everyone I’ve worked with at some point and I would say that 98% of them know it is because I care about the ship and all of us on it. Usually if someone is messing up they know where that is happening and accept responsibility and correct it asap. Why? Because it is a TRIBE. One department affects the whole! Each department should strive to be the best they can be. That in turn inspires other departments. An AD will know exactly where a lag is and try to define the issue slowing things up. A UPM works tirelessly to prep for the days ahead. I saw a UPM on this last project who worked hard but was acting like a Key Set PA. They were swallowed in the NOW so how can they prepare (preventative) ahead? The answer is an external office apart from the chaos and getting stuff done. The producer if not needed on set should be taking care of things forthcoming and making sure with the UPM that everything done is business sound.

I think that many will grow from this experience. If you get offended by this blog you are one of those who will likely be working public access TV or not in this field at all. If you take it for what it is – advice from someone who has been there done that on various continents in various genres with various artists who are awesome – you will grow! I collect the daily resumes. I deal with the vendors, the distributors, the marketing departments and  as a younger man I didn’t 100% grasp that paying your dues statement. I do know now. I’m excited for the select people out of that student crew that will make the cut and join our ranks. We are the business artists. This is our tribe. Not everyone is welcome. If you don’t pull your weight or take pride in your work and work for the collective whole – move on. That is the heart of motion picture or TV storytelling industry. I always get slightly offended by outsiders who always think they could easily be an actor or crew member. That is like saying anyone could jump on a boat with a few folks and win the AMERICAN’S CUP (Boat race). So if you want to make it. I mean really make it. You have to give it your all. I’m here to tell you if you can be happy doing something else – do it. I’m speaking to those artists that have no choice. This is their calling.

DO IT!

IN OTHER FILM NEWS

I was just informed that http://www.darkestnightmovie.com will get a wide release in S. Korea.

http://www.deadlyrenovations.com releases nationally on Aug. 21st, VOD in Sept and is for pre-sale now!

“Locked in a Room” has an offer on the table that we like and so some back and forth will be happening with the N. American rights. More once a deal is done.

“Benjamin” had a great NYC showing and distribution will follow shortly I’m sure. The interest is already there it is finding the deal that feels right.

“7 Stones” stuck in post audio BUT it needed it. The film is too good to have poor sound so I say take your time and do it right.

Several new film projects about to finalize either in acting, producing or both. Internationally I’m still in talks on films in France, Mexico and Morocco. We will see. Also a few home state Michigan projects brewing so again students could be finding their way to PA positions if they have the right attitudes. Some guys may find their way on to grip electric teams because they impress the right people. HINT: David Lowing helps me crew up most of those departments and I trust David. He knows who hustles and who constantly disappears and is never to be found. So I’m excited about http://www.cdiproductions.com as we expand into more international work. I’m also excited by opportunities to film right here in Michigan.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. And if some of the G.V folks are reading this – hustle on my learning amigos. You could be our tomorrow storytellers and I’m here to tell you the road is hard. Only those with the deepest wells of passion will survive.

I hope to see you in the jungle. The Tribe marches!

DJ