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.
So today is the 1st day of my last year in my 40’s. How is that even possible? Time marches on and I’m blessed to say that I’ve almost hit half a century with only modest setbacks. Thanks to my love of the outdoors, soccer and martial arts I’ve managed to stay healthy. A few creaks in the joints on occasion and recovery from soccer battles might take an extra day or so to heal. I try to eat healthy and keep active and so far, so good. It feels like being a senior in the class of 40’s and soon I will be the ‘freshman’ in the 50’s. I was going to have a CDI/bday gathering yesterday but we cancelled when they called for rain. Well, it ended up beautiful outside. We worked the yard with leisure and put up some new lights in the yard that Santa Claus had brought me. It was a good day and much more relaxed. We will do an October Harvest party with more to be thankful for.
MBF: Man’s Best Friend – I was getting my special thanks around and the end credits are being worked on. I will be doing a watch through on Weds I believe before any last tweaks and we start to render for delivery to myCinema and Bridgestone. I’m immensely proud of this film and the topics in highlights. We’ll be starting up PR on this film with release dates in July. Congrats to all our artists involved.
WILD FAITH – TOMORROW June 24th is our DIGITAL RENTAL for those that want to take a watch but not own it. BUT if you like what you see the DVD is for sale starting July 2nd at several locations. Family Video, Target, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Amazon… The larger audience will get a chance to meet these wonderful characters in this late 1800’s world. If things progress along the same lines a sequel and/or TV series could be coming in the not-to-distant future. Congrats to all the artists involved.
THE QUEST TRILOGY – People are continuing to enjoy the three films in our trilogy FORTY NIGHTS, CHASING THE STAR and THE CHRIST SLAYER. I’m excited to see these three films continue to expand into more countries and onto new platforms.
LOST HEART – My world has been full of the fictional town of Lost Heart, Michigan. A small, semi-touristy lake town. Birthplace of fictional mega Country star Hannah Sweet. We announced Josh ‘Ponceman’ Perry and Don Most to our cast. We still have a few great artists to announce that will be joining us. Our young female lead is an ex-Michigan native now making her way in Nashville. The other is a SNL alumni who is beyond talented and will bring one of our leads to life. Another talent joining us was in CDI’s very first film and most recently in Wild Faith. So stay tuned for more announcements in the next few weeks leading up to our shoot.
We have a great crew shaping up and this is great development for the possible TV series and more. We are working hard to bring CDI production up under a few studios for future work. The number one thing I look for in cast or crew is the right attitude and of course talent. It is easier to develop talent versus attitude. I’ve had many ask me about “secrets” or “keys” to success and I will share this one tidbit.
LOOK AT THE LONG TERM NOT JUST THE SHORT TERM.
So many people ruin avenue’s for lifetime collaboration and revenue for a short term gain. I have people that I’ve worked with since the late 90’s cast and crew. A shoot is usually only 3-4 week commitment tops. I’ve seen people act as if their entire year is based upon those few weeks. I watch the film challenges, the fan films, the fun festival films and know that these are not paid. I see the hard work, the smiles and the final wrap pics. With some you get immense appreciation and others whatever offered will never be quite good enough. If your other choices during the remaining 48 weeks puts you in a place where a lower paid feature is not acceptable you are doing something wrong. I like those good pay days like anyone else. We have a new roof to put on the house but often it might take several smaller jobs versus one big one to get the needed money. If I like the project, the role and the pay is on level with other’s involved I will usually do it. They grow. The pay grows. It is a lifetime relationship of collaboration, art and pay that is being nurtured. Think on that one.
I am where I am by respecting numerous small relationships and collaborations. I appreciate and value every person who has ever put a dollar in my hand. I appreciate and value those who have helped me tell a good story with their blood, sweat and tears. I cannot speak for all the producers out there and I know some have flawed business models in my opinion. Hell, we are far from perfect in our own but anyone close to us will know how hard we work to try and do things right. But until you are out trying to raise money off an idea put to paper – you don’t know. It might be a corporation but it is still a small group of people working really hard. When you are trying to be fair to everyone some bumps in $ across the board can add up to thousands that producers don’t often have. I hear of lodging nightmares of tents, people sleeping in cars, 10 people in a cabin with one bathroom – but we are just as concerned with living conditions as the camera lenses. Now with your first film you might do what has to be done but quickly you see that the added things you do for cast and crew show up in the final product. I’m excited for this next adventure in part because of the cool lodging that our cast and crew will be able to enjoy. This is because we are a team who cares. We care about our artists. We care about the locations we are allowed to use.
- NOTE: To those companies/projects/films that walk behind CDI films at a certain location I sincerely hope that you manage those locations well. We are always invited back but a poorly ran set can close off a location from anyone using it.
While typing above I was remembering what a mess the original BESTSELLER film was before CDI took over and reshot everything. We had to change the minds of many people and we did. Shame on the management that allows that kind of bad reputation to fall on our industry. So PLEASE don’t just look at what happens in front of the camera. What happens behind the camera is equally important and DOES effect what happens in front of the camera. OK. Enough filmmaking secrets.
I’m going to hop off here and get cleaned up. I’m going out to eat and spending some time with family and friends. Tomorrow it is back to work on the LOST HEART pre-production. Thank you to all the kind people who have reached out with birthday wishes. Here is my hazelnut coffee CHEERS to you all. Have a great Sunday and remember to be good to one another. Keep following those dreams.