We are at the end of our pre-product week here in Algona, Iowa. We have the MSU vs U of M game on the TV which we work away. Saturday is our day off during the shoot but as you know us producers don’t really get a “true” day off. So from now until Thanksgiving I’m going to be doing my blog post on Saturdays. We started doing Saturdays off several shoots back since it allows crews to have more options open to take care of day to day things like mail, laundry and such.
Our pre-production caravan hit a small snag about 4 hours from Algona when the main RV filled with wardrobe and props had a belt break. The ‘Rambler’ was brought to rest in a parking lot of a grocery store. We had a friendly ex-Marine mechanic who agreed to meet us there in the morning. We sent our director and UPM ahead and I stayed in the RV with our Transportation Captain and Armorer. The Rambler lost power and so after an improve guitar jam fest we slept in the freezer, I mean RV. I got cold but after putting a few WW2 wool blankets over me, I was not going to freeze. Our Marine came to our rescue on a day that started pouring and continued all day. He really saved the day and we got to Algona the next day a bit sleep deprived but safe and sound.
BEST YEARS GONE which was just delivered to our distributor is prepping for their home video release campaign in early 2022. Meanwhile we have more opportunities to play the film theatrically and are working on those dates now. We also might have a special screening one night here on a day off for the cast and crew. Some really great news coming on that front.
WRAP UP – This morning was the last day of pre-production and the morning started with a haunting fog over the lake and now we have some beautiful sun. We had three days of rain but now for filming we’re suppose to have a week stretch of nice weather. Jeeps, trucks, extras and more all coming together to help create our world. We had first airport pick ups with actors flying in from all over the country last night. The remaining crew will also be rolling in today and prepping for an exciting day 1. We are filming our first 4 days in a historic park with a period farm. I’m so proud of all the departments which are all now humming along. This is going to be another great story. Fans of Anthony Hornus’s MBF: MAN’S BEST FRIEND will love this new film. He has been working hard to pull the vision together. I will update you all for the next couple Saturday’s versus Sundays on the filming. I know this journey in storytelling will bring new friendships together that will last forever. Speaking on friendships – cherish them just like family because sometimes you don’t know when some will leave us. This week we found out our good friend Pappy, David Papenfuss passed away. Mere hours later I found out that one of our childhood neighbor’s husband, also passed. He use to work for an airlines and if I’m not mistaken he might have given me a flight voucher back in the day for one of my early Hollywood trips. Either way, both passed away from Covid and so while things are getting better please do be careful. I saw Pappy at an afternoon get-together on my birthday. He once again brought me a musical card as that was his thing. I have Star Wars, Superman and Indiana Jones cards from him. Little did I know that the last one was the last one.
Cherish your loved ones.
Last week I did some writing about overcoming chaos in your personal life or career. If you have a well build ship of “self” and a calm center you can brave the storm and get back to your calm waters. But you have to ask yourself “Did I sail into that storm”? “Did I think the PROS outweighed the CONS and change my course?” I guess part of the lesson is that if your own actions bring you into chaos you can’t go without blame. I’m happy to say that the waters here are calming and we are back to some smooth sailing. Are you saying enough with the damn boat analogies? Okay let’s look at this in a filmmakers view whereas it can apply in many other situations.
You should just like a navigator look at each proposed journey. Damn I’m doing it again:) Okay… you should look at every opportunity presented and VET it out. Many actors/crew are so excited about the idea of a creative outlet and a paycheck that they fail to ask the questions that really matter. I think some don’t want to know the truth but when things go to hell in a handbag they are the 1st to be most vocal. OK. You trusted a liar and they lied. WOW! That is like trying to tap a cobra on the head and acting surprised when you get bitten. Also you have to look at the talent behind the camera – the director, DP, Art Director – the quality of equipment and the other actors involved. I’ve heard of starting filmmakers getting mad or defensive if talent asks to see THEIR reel. It is a collaboration and the door swings both ways. Just because someone can crowd fund raise a small budget doesn’t put them above vetting out. If they are experienced they will proudly point to a few examples of their work. If those people were riding on false ego – anger and defensive attitudes are usually what you get. I don’t really deal with that too much these days because I can usually smell inexperience and a chaos storm coming. You need to check your excitement and make sure you want to work with them. I will never do a project without reading a full script. Bad format and such in a script is a huge flag as that is the blueprint to an entire film. In the studio world a badly formated script heads right for the trash can. Maybe you should adopt a similar detection process. Why give blood, sweat and tears for something poorly captured that will take years if ever to finish and will likely only be seen by friends, family and a few local film festival goers if you are lucky. IF you are doing this as a fun hobby this doesn’t really apply to you. In summary be your own agent/management and keep that person apart from the artist. Make sure the boat you get on won’t sink once out to sea. Sorry I must have nautical theme on the brain.
This week had many small moves on the chess board but I did lock a “Soul Eater” pre-distribution deal with Germany that includes a nice cash advance once the film is delivered. I think since most of the film is interiors I will shoot in the winter and the outside scenes will have that FARGO like feel. I’m also working the licensing on 3 feature films also going to Germany for release. We have enough business under us now that we are also talking development on other projects including a WW2 film. Note that one film “7 Stones” fell out of this line up after they realized it was a short. They loved it but the run time killed it. It is a 47 min TV length and all the other deals are feature-length. Shorts are good director/writer business cards but not a good investment. They can help train a crew to get them ready for long format and showcase actors but will not bring the higher returns of a feature. Just a good lesson which I had pointed out even on this film but consultation is just that – advice to be taken or rejected. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good to be right. It is a strong film and it will find its own outlets.
“Darkest Night” is on the runway for launch in July on VOD, DVD, TV. I’m excited to showcase the hard work of the cast and crew to the USA/Canadian audiences. Germany is also one of the buyers of this film so be ready German fans. We will get the film around the world as horror fans everywhere have been taking a great interest in this film. If you like intelligent horror (not just masked killer stalks kids) and like “Found Footage” format I think this could win a place in your heart. I like traditional filmmaking but I enjoy watching some of these “Found Footage” sub-genre films and was happy to make one. I will take audiences to the Philippine countryside and that in itself adds a great element. So PRE-ORDER now and let’s show these Philippine artists that we appreciate their work.
“Supermodel Showdown” TV series is moving steady along and I think by next week we will have show 2 edited and be into show 3. It is FUN. I know a handful of distributors already waiting to pounce on this so eventually you will see a small crew struggling in the jungle to film a show about beautiful girls learning about themselves on TV.
I might be producing and acting in another drama here soon in August. They are on a fast track to hit a window with one of the stars that needs to work within their current TV schedule. Another associated CDI deal is in talks and may come to light. That would film almost right after the drama ends in Sept. Also once “Ashes of Eden” is off to sound/music the next CDI/New House Ent/Aphtic film will move into more serious development. I’m very excited about that project!
I will end this blog how I ended my week – “Ashes of Eden” had a test audience screening on Friday with studio style survey. I will say that I always remain cautiously optimistic these days having had good films under-perform but I’m sincerely excited about this film. We did a major adjustment to the ending to enhance pacing and what I watched was one powerful scene after another that flowed to a powerful conclusion. I watched people in the audience weep. I’m not talking about watery eyes I’m talking about weeping. The surveys reflected ALL high marks and rated the performances and newly adjusted ending as the most powerful elements. I know this film will get a strong distribution push. I know it will connect with audiences. I will be curious to see this time next year what this film has actually done. I can make some powerful predictions but I would rather let actions speak over words. I’m proud of Shane Hagedorn our writer/director who also produced with our team. The journey has been ORDER throughout the process devoid of chaos. The respectful communication has resulted in a film that makes us all proud. I’m excited for fans to see this movie. It is easily some of my personal best work on both sides of the camera. This film will create new stars and make others shine that much brighter. I also think it will be a proud mark for Michigan and even our little town of Lansing. Soon my friends. Time to mow the yard before screening MAN OF STEEL and getting some good eats. Have a great weekend!
A beautiful Saturday for drinking coffee, eating some peanut butter toast and organizing my communications from the previous week. It was a week of many happenings – first it started with me finding out about the loss of one of my close friends and business mentors. It continued with some great meetings over “Ashes of Eden” which officially announced this week as well. It is a CDI associated film teaming with New House Entertainment and Ahptic Productions. We’ve been in the scheduling, key casting and crewing stage as well as locking locations. We’ve had some resume’s and reels coming forth and will be announcing some of the first attached cast very soon. I will be playing a supporting character named “Donnie” in the film and that led to a newer shorter haircut as I find the character within.
I see that the French film “Man in Wood” made an IMDB appearance and I hope to have some more details on that film in the weeks to come. On the acting subject – I had an actor who has been touching base over the last year or so contact me upon reading about our next film. I asked for a reel of his dramatic work and he responded by saying it was in the works. I looked back and saw that a previous message had that same reel “in the works” from December 11th, 2011. Anyone who knows me or reads my blogs understands that REELS are the way we like to work. Show me your “game footage”!! – As talent myself, I hate “reads” and seldom do them. Sometimes a producer wants to see if you can play some nuance of a character that isn’t displayed in your reel. But if you’re out there saying “Why can’t I get any work” – yet your materials are lacking… SIMPLE – If you don’t have a reel you go to the back of the line. IF we watch EVERY reel link submitted for a character and cannot find the right actor we may go to cold reads. So I cite that as an example to help you all out there. Also a past associate messaged me with interest in a department – I said send over a resume. It has been 3-4 days and nothing yet. We are likely hiring that key position next week – so again not being ready will likely get you bumped. So if your career is lagging look first to your materials. Check your coverletters, resume, reels, websites…control what you can control.
This week also saw the national release of “Deadly Renovations” and I’m proud of the team. I had to give a notice to some of them stepping up on the stage with their art for the first time. See I’ve found that you NEVER will make everyone happy. Don’t try. Have a glass of red wine, fire up a steak and toast the success of job well done. There will always be a slew of unhappy actors not hired (check those materials:) ready to throw their frustrated opinions. Also aspiring directors, producers and writers who so far cannot get their projects produced, script sold or what not. They often see someone else doing what they want and they see green and red. Jealousy and Frustration- a misplaced anger that can lead to troll activity. I say, ignore their frustration and count them amongst your fans. What is Lex Luthor without Superman? I’m just saying, don’t waste your time in a back and forth, defending your art. While someone is trying to rip down your deeds you are developing new projects. You’ll end up getting yet another leg up and those same folks unfortunately get even more jealous and frustrated. Vicious circle of negativity those people live within. I just wanted to awaken some of the team to the rocks that will get thrown along with the roses. That is how some get attention by going against the grain. “AVENGERS” – Hulk smashes Loki – “it was okay – I didn’t really dig how…” WRONG! Scene kicked ass:) Move on. So I thank all of you that have sent roses and to the rock throwers – I sincerely hope to one day create something that you really like. If you find yourself spewing a pattern of hate, hate, hate…maybe it is your filter/eye and not so much the project. Just a thought…:)
We should have film festival dates soon for “Darkest Night” making its first non-distributor festival appearance in the USA. “Benjamin” looks to wow audiences in NYC again after its first festival showing. Distribution talks worldwide continue on these two projects and so they will find their way to audiences in the near future. “Donors” and “7 Stones” still in post-production and “Locked in a Room” is polishing up for distribution. There will be an official announcement on this in the coming weeks from At Risk Ent. CEO Larry Simmons.
I’m looking forward to making a few exciting announcements on a few biblical era films looking to follow-up on our very successful “Book of Ruth” film. Also looking for some good news on “Long Road Home” so stay tuned for that as well.
OK. I’m going to get back to my Saturday. I hope you all have a wonderful day.