Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's My Motivation?

Last night I re-watched the Social Network, a movie where the main character's chief motivation was gaining the attention of a former lover. In the movie this guy built a billion dollar empire all for a girl. It got me thinking about my own motivations for seeking a career in movies.

So why do I want to make movies for a living?

The simple answer is that I love them. Outside of family, friends, food and sex, movies are only thing that has consistently brought me pleasure in my life. Sure I’ve had other activities that I’ve enjoyed but nothing comes close to cinema. But why try and make them and make money at it. I like food. I can cook a bit. I could have went to culinary school, became a chef. At one time, I wanted to teach English. I like kids. But I’ve always come back to my “dream” to write and direct feature films. Why?

Money? Money isn’t that big a deal for me. Just like anyone else, sure I’d like to have plenty of it. But it’s not really a big motivator. If I have enough for my own place, car and a small nest egg, I’m fine. I don’t need or crave big fancy shit. I just don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck.

Fame? Maybe. I do have a narcissistic personality and I do crave attention and respect. That is probably a big part of it. I can’t say I’ve never rehearsed a future interview with a big magazine or award speech, but I don’t know that it’s the main thing either.

Artistic Expression? That is a big motivator. I’ve found recently, as my work becomes more personal that I have that need to get things out. I always heard filmmakers, writers; artists talk about a burning need to get a piece of work out. I never really understood that until very recently. Now it’s a major motivator. I have 3 or 4 scripts that I just “have” to make.

A Girl? Well…. There are one or two that might recognize themselves in my next couple of pieces (especially Monsters in the Woods.) I’d be lying if I said some of it wasn’t out of a similar spite that the character in The Social Network felt. But while that might have originally motivated me, it’s now become more about working out those issues within myself.

When it comes down to it, at an early age, before I even considered or knew what making movies was all about, I knew that I was not meant for normalcy. I was never meant to work a regular 9 to 5. I was different. I fell in love with movies, first as a movie watcher then later as a moviemaker. Now I really don’t have any other choice. Sure I could take my degree and go get a job-type-job but I’d never be happy. I’d never find the joy in anything else that I find in making movies.

So making movies it is.

**** I originally posted this in OCT. 2010. It's just been on my mind again lately.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wasn’t Me. Was it?

Even on bigger Hollywood projects directors rarely have any input or control on how their movies are advertised. However, on micro-budgets this problem is worse. I’ve directed 3 flicks now that have been grossly mis-advertised by distributors and/or producers.

My 1st flick, originally entitled “Shelter: A Monster Movie” was about 7 strangers trapped in a government facility during an apocalypse. There was short dream sequence in the middle of the movie that featured zombies. The distributor retitled the movie “Rise of the Undead” and sold it as a zombie flick.

My follow up to Rise was “Edges of Darkness.” This movie did have a lot more to do with zombies, but wasn’t exactly the action/zombie flick that was advertised. It had more to do with 3 twilight zone style tales of terror (non-zombie related) that all just so happened to take place during a zombie apocalypse. I must admit some culpability here too. The trailers I cut were very heavy on the zombie action. However, it’s anchor bay’s sell sheets that really sold this movie.  ****And I have to admit I do like the sheets a lot. Even if they are a bit misleading, they’ve led to the movie selling very well, which as lead me to other projects.

3rd and worst of all was a faith-based flick I worked on very recently. (Funny how some of the most crooked people in Hollywood are making faith-based movies.) The producers, this time, are selling the movie as starring a couple of name actors, when the two are in the movie for less than 10 minutes of running time combined. Both their sell-sheets and ridicules trailer are straight up deceptive. Would the sales have been that much less if they had just mentioned they were featured? Or just not starring? Bigger budgeted fare often gives top billing to name actors even when they are not actually the “stars,” but this is just embarrassing. The biggest difference between this and my other movies is the distributors picked up the others and then chose how to advertise them. The  misleading marketing plan here was in place before the script was even finished. And before I get any more righteous, I should disclose that I was aware of this when I took the project on. Maybe I didn’t know exactly to what extent they would stretch the truth, but I knew that they would.

Whatever the market is, false advertising is part of our sales landscape. I chose to believe that is rarely malicious or purposefully misleading. There are often just flicks that are difficult to nail down. They are hard to advertise. Smaller distributors don’t have access to the tools to properly advertise all their products, so they do the best they can. “Rise of the Undead” and “Edges of Darkness” were hard films to sell, no doubt. But it seems more often than not in micro-budget cinema the distributors don’t even try. They just look at what is selling and how they can force the movie you give them into that category with no regard for actual content.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Year in the Life...

I completed and released 2 movies this year. That’s more than I’d done in the past. Sure I edited more in 2008, but these were both movies I put together and directed. But, all in all, it felt like a slow year. As I went through my blog, I noticed there were several months were it felt like I was not doing much at all. I’ve got the time. This year I will make more headway towards realizing my goals.

November 2010 – Production had just wrapped on Monsters in the Woods. I did the bulk of the editing. I wrote a shit-ton of blogs including cast and crew interviews for Monsters in the Woods.

December 2010 - I finished the main editing and sound design on Monsters in the Woods. Began to search for a composer. Helped John McGill complete his 1st short.

January 2011 – While still searching for a composer on Monsters in the Woods. I readied the rest of the deliverables. I also spent some time shopping my horror trilogy.

February 2011 - Finished temp score for Monsters in the Woods. Began search for a distributor and film festival entries.

March 2011 – took on several editing side projects, mostly commercial stuff. Continued distributor and composer search for Monsters in the Woods.

April 2011 - hired to do Should’ve Put a Ring On it. Completed pre-production and started shooting.

May 2011 – finished production and post on Should’ve Put A Ring on it. Found a composer for Monsters in the Woods.

June 2011 - wrote cast and crew interviews in support of Should’ve Put a Ring on it. Composer finished his work on Monsters in the Woods.

July 2011 - Re-release of Trap.

August 2011 – Found a Distributor for Monsters in the Woods. Begin delivery

September 2011 – Finish delivery on Monsters in the Woods.

October 2011 – Begin searching for funding for next project.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trailer for Monsters in the Woods

This my last version, but I eagerly await to see what the distributor comes up with.

Concept Art and One-Sheet for Feud

The 1st screenplay I'm reworking is Feud. It’s supernatural thriller about a group of angels and demons that join forces to save the world.   It’s a fun reworking of the creation story where Lilith, who was actually the 1st woman before eve, was expelled from the garden and became the 1st demon. I heard this story from a friend and wondered what might happen if this demon returned to earth, present day, to seek revenge on mankind. Yeah, I know, it sounds like a total dork-fantasy movie, but it actually has some cool, unique characters and action. Plus I think I’ve got a unique understated/gritty approach to the epic (i.e. arch) material that will be both refreshing and exciting.

Anywho… Here’s a few pieces of early concept art, drawn by Robert Bravo.
Zeke battling a transformed Liltih.
Zeke battle Lilith 2

Lilith takes a victim

I hadn't actually looked at the one-sheet in awhile. I like it.

10 Things I Learnt while Shopping Monsters in the Woods to Distributors

  1. Low Budget Found-footage movies are outta vogue. We had a few big distributors pass on Monsters because they didn’t want another “camera-crew movie.” (which sucks, cause Monsters in the Woods isn’t a found footage movie. But if you only watched only the 1st 15 minutes or so, you might think that it is. Which further sucks because of #2)
  2. Distributors give a movie about between 5 and 10 minutes to peek their interest before shutting it off. And even then (more often than not) will only watch the 1st and last 10 minutes of a movie.
  3. A great working actor does not guarantee a good, quick sale.
  4. Blood and titties do not guarantee a good, quick sale.
  5. A cool trailer doesn’t guarantee a good, quick sale.
  6. A good movie does not guarantee a good sale
  7. Guess I could have summed up 3-6 with there is never a guarantee of a good, quick sale.
  8. While you can make money on the backend, the only way to guarantee a decent pay day is to get it up front – during production – make it part of the budget. (I actually knew this going into Monsters in the Woods and dove in anyway)
  9. Film Festival Friendly movies and sellable movies are often two very different things.
  10. It takes time to find a good distributor. (Unless you have an existing relationship with a good, reliable and honest distributor, it can take a year or more to find one.)

In the Meantime...

So, I’m currently between projects. Monsters in the Woods is about to be released. Should’ve Put a Ring on it came out last month. I’m now faced with the question, “What do I do next.”  It’s funny, I’ve completed several features and every time I think the same thing. That right after I complete this one, someone (a producer, production company, financier) will find me and want to make another project. You’d think after all this time I’d learn that it’s just not how it works. Moviemaking is like any other vocation; 9 times outta 10 you have to seek work out. Nobody is going to hand you anything. By sheer force of will I’ve hit the pavement and made every other project I’ve ever developed come into being. Why should things be any different now? Well, they’re not. No producer is going to find me. I have to go out and find them. Nobody is magically going to appear with money to finance my next project. I have to find the money. The only thing different now is I’m looking for more money. I’ve reached a point where I feel it necessary for me creatively and financially to up the budget level I’m working at.

So now what? Well, I’ve got 10 finished scripts. So pick one and go shop it? Not so fast. 1st step, story is key. Are they all as strong as they could be? Maybe. But 1st I’m going to spend a few months going through all 10 to make sure. In the past, I’ve rushed into productions with scripts not being 100 percent. I’m not going to make that mistake ever again. It’s just when an opportunity presented itself I’ve always felt it stupid to turn it down. Well, now I’m going to dive into all my material and make sure that when I do get the opportunity to make another flick that it’s 100 percent ready to shoot.

Then what? Well then it’s back to hitting the pavement and scaring up some funding.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Monsters in the Woods Artwork

Osiris Entertaintaint  finished a new sales posters for Monsters in the Woods just in time for AFM next month.

Not too shabby if I say so myself.

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Success is Perception

So here I sit. I’ve made 6 movies (as a director). I average one a year. The budgets are slowly growing. The movies are making money, but I’m struggling to make my rent. I still work a full-time day job outside of the industry and scramble to find odd jobs within. I do not consider myself to be a successful individual. I’m currently trying to find funding or a producer to develop one of my 10 finished scripts. I’ve directed several financially successful movies, but just can seem to get to the next level. I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’ve hit a ceiling in my work that I can’t seem to break through.

I’m still having trouble getting my own stuff made, and people ask me for help; to introduce them to producers I’ve worked with or help them raise money. Truth is the only person I’ve ever been able to raise money for is me. That is not a selfish statement. It’s just true. The producers I’ve worked for invested not in some project that I brought to them… they invested in me, as a filmmaker, a writer, a producer. That’s what I can’t seem to make other people understand. They ask me to help them develop their projects, but I can’t. I’m still struggling to help myself.

On the flip side I recently asked a working director (someone who’s made a ton of movies you’ve heard of) to help me in the exact same way. I suppose my though process is no different than my friends. We all think, “This guy is further along than I, so he can help me out.” Right?

I think that most working artists are no t so different. We all want to help others.  And when we achieve a certain level of success we do. But where is that level of success? Is it the guy with 30 movies under his belt? Is it me?  And how much can we actually help? And in what way? Well unfortunately it’s most often not in the way the person asking for help wants or needs it.

I’m not in a position to help another filmmaker find money or a producer for their projects. I’m just not. Is there other stuff I can do though?

I may not be able to help a struggling director raise money for his project. I might not know of a producer that would help either. But I can tell him how I found money for my projects. I can go over what writing and directing techniques have worked for me, and what didn’t. I can try to find a position for them on my next feature (if there is one). Then hopefully one day as I make more money and connections I can help producer other’s movies myself.  I think that would be really cool.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Developing Monsters in the Woods: 2nd Outline

Just before starting work on my 1st draft I do one last outline utilizing all the work done before. It is usually here that I solidify my final structure. I interspersed character notes and some specific scene work into the outline.

Burt = co-dependent

Pages 1- 15 set up
Pages 1-3 movie within a movie. (Page 3 ask central question) Who if any will make it out alive? Finish the movie? Is it worth it?

Page 3-9 intro crew/Burt killed.
9-15 intro rest of crew/monster? Glimpse?

15-37 complete 1st act leading up to massacre.

2nd act
37- 43 intro Thomas and Ariel / commerce v. art.
43-50 cave stuff/personal/Thomas death.
50 -57 woods explore, find camp.
59 = burt finds hellhole
57 – 65 lead up to massacre/acts come together.

65-68 Bravo expo

70- 90 3rd act survivors come together. Go after bravo.

Strengthen 2nd act turning point. Act 3 more urgency.
Themes = lies, deceit/bleak/different types of monsters = people and creatures, what is worse./redos, 2nd chances, live in the moment.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Developing Monsters in the Woods: After the 1st Outline

After finishing the outline I wrote 30+ handwritten pages further exploring random scenes in the outline. Many of the scenes are very close to scenes that appeared in the final movie. It was during this process that I fell out of love with the “mad scientist” angle in favor of a biblical one. I was also on the verge of adding the found footage 1st act. The narrative structure for it was already there. I believe at this point I was planning to intercut regular and found footage throughout.

Names of characters began to change and the character themselves became more developed.

  1. Give him a better reason for going back. Ashley?Something sweet. “I always come for you.”
  2. Set up animosity/jealously with Jayson. Fired? Quit.
  3. CORE = Man’s man, but romantic at heart. Paradox. Honest, do the right thing kind of guy.


Bravo and Ariel = Mythos connected.

  1. Guy killed
  2. Ashely run off. Find Burt
  3. Kill Monster Actor
  4. Jayson maimed. Bravo kills him? Ashley witnesses and run.
  5. Ariel shows up. Exposition.
  6. Burt knows how to find cave?
  7. Confront Bravo in cave – gas explosion/homemade napalm.
  8. Get to the city

Foreshadow napalm. Cleaning supplies, gas generator ect..
Bravo expendable speech = sacrifice non-essentials for what really matters. Bravo’s interest in the occult/ too dead on?
Show Burt being badass without being too cheesy.

Monster sound, spiders, webs, deceit, lies.

Contrast Maria and Bianca/Ashley

How is each character feeling in each scene./expand on.

After another 20 handwritten test pages, I moved on to my 2nd outline. But that’s another story.