Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Do it Yourself"

"Do it yourself." That’s the mantra most Indie moviemakers follow, and to an extent it’s true. In order to see a truly indie project through it is necessary for the director to wear several hats. On my previous projects, I’ve served as the main editor, DP, Caterer, Location Manager; the list goes on and on. However, I think it’s a mistake and a detriment to the project to take on too much.

On my 1st movie, I literally did everything, from securing locations to catering. I did have help from my directing partner Shannon and producing partner Brandon, but for the most part I did it all. I handled casting, catering, locations, scheduling, crewing up, auditions, ect… I took on so much it left little time for the actual directing. Shannon and I did very little prep. There were no shot lists. We went over our directing plan usually the day of the shoot. Then during the shoot we were so busy actually producing the movie, we had no time to actually direct. He was more our DP and I was more the AD. We simply put the actors through the motions and captured the script. That’s all there was time for. Thinking back on it, we didn’t even look for more help.

When it came time for my 2nd movie, I actually had a producer, crew and AD. But I was so used to doing everything that I found myself moving back into old habits. I could’ve stepped back more. I had a good AD. There was no need for me to coral cast and crew on set, but I did. My AD was also line producing and was very good at it. She could and would’ve been more involved in the prep. I should have relied more on her for that and spent more time preparing to direct. In the end, my prep on Edges was superior to Rise and it shows in the finished project, but it wasn’t enough and the movie suffered for it.

That brings me to Trap. I worked with a producer who actually tired to shield me from production troubles. We had a capable line-producer who was very good at prep and scheduling. I spent the most time prepping to direct that I have ever. My only mistake was taking on a bit too much in regard to the script breakdown and pre-production duties that my line-producer could’ve taken on. I had a decent rehearsal period and plenty of support on set. It shows in the finished project. I think Trap works creatively and technically better than any of my previous works. A lot of that is due to me letting go of responsibilities that shouldn’t fall on a director.

Sure, when you’re doing a micro flick, there are things you have to double up on. But if you just look a little, usually no further than your friends. You can find competent people to fill roles and support you in production. Nobody, well most people, don’t like to ask for help, but moviemaking is collaborative process and even the most developed AUTUER needs help to bring their vision to life.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to Shoot a Feature in One Day

****I’m not recommending it or bragging. But certain circumstances aligned that made it necessary to do, so here’s how I’m doing it.

  1. Have a script that takes place in one Location. Play-esque.
  2. Shoot in as few rooms as possible. We’re using four rooms and the exterior.
  3. Get a few cameras. We’re using three.
  4. Hire a good cast and make sure they’re prepared (fingers crossed)
  5. Set up the three cameras and shoot the scenes without stops. Scripty is following along. If an actor drops a line, she calls it out. They move back a few lines and resume.
  6. Change the angles and shoot the scenes again. If there are no major snafus and the cast is prepped, you should be able to make it 3 times through each scene. Giving you 9 pieces of editable coverage per scene.
  7. While changing rooms, leave one camera op behind with cast to snap inserts.

And if you think this is crazy, wait til you hear how long I have to edit the thing….

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Another Wednesday in the Life…

3:30 am : Up. Gotta get to the coffee shop at 4am and get in 2 hours of screenwriting. 4am – arrive at the coffee shop. Gotta whip a 76 page one location script into shape. I was just hired to shoot this script (someone else wrote). It needs work and the main location needs to be changed from a house to a church.

6am – 2pm – Day gig.
230 – 10pm – Sound editing gig.
10 – midnight – More script work.

I’d say more, but it’s 10pm and I gotta be back up at 330am tomorrow and do the whole thing again.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kickstarter Post Mortem - Eat

So five days in almost $2500 dollars raised, press was taking an interest and I and I up and pull the plug. Why? Well, I had multiple reasons.

First off, we were not going to make our goal. $65,000 was pretty high and we had not even scratched the surface. They say that somewhere around 50% of your donations come from people you know. Well, guess what ? I had contacted pretty much everyone I know and only came up with a few grand. My reach was at its end. Sure more would have eventually donated, and as more folks I know did, others would too. Hell, we might’ve even got to $30,000, shit, maybe $40,000 who knows, but we were never going to reach the full goal. In hindsight I realize the arrogance in setting it so high. Had I been smarter, I would have tried to raise $20,000 or $30,000 for partial funding and sought the rest from outside investors. With my track record this was a real possibility.  But, I didn’t do that, so be it.

2nd thing, running a kickstarter is not fun. Yes, I know I’ve said in previous posts that is was. Let me explain,  parts of the campaign are fun. Interacting with friends and strangers over your project is fun. Seeing friends and strangers support your project is fun. Soliciting donations is not fun. It is really not fun. In fact, it sucks. It sucked so bad for me that I did want to give the kickstarter another week for a possible turn-a-round. Soliciting donations made me feel awful. I lost much sleep over it. Now I’m not saying that it is, but it made me feel like a panhandler begging for money.

3rd thing, I will get Eat made regardless. There are plenty of other projects on Kickstarter that simply will not exist if they don’t meet their goals. The same cannot be said of Eat. It’s not a do or die situation and I think if you’re going to run a successful Kickstarter it has to be do or die.

So that’s it in a nutshell. I have nothing against Kickstarter and other artists have and will continue to use it successfully. I just will never be one of them.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kickstarter Diary - Day 5

Dear Kickstarter Diary,

Today was good day. I’m feeling a little emotional this evening. The support that I’m receiving from perfect strangers, folk I know only through social media and friends from up to 20 years ago has me a little choked up…. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry!

I also had sort of an epiphany. I had been stressing a bit over numbers and while I was responding to a tweet it just hit me. This is fun! Sure it’s work. But it’s fun work. I’m out there interacting with people, getting feedback on my work, learning about other people’s projects and supporting them. It’s fun. A kickstarter Campaign is fun, if you let be.
Then something really funny happened... the numbers started to climb.

Ok, here’s my day.

6am – up and adam. Slept a little late today. The lack of sleep over three days caught up with me.  I start with my morning interweb routine.
8am – breakfast. I cooked me a hearty serving of Biscuits and Gravy. I then took my sweet time eating it.
9am – started helping a friend edit his 1st short film. He directed it. It’s actually pretty good. Some great looking shots and solid performances. Sound is a little shaky though.
3pm – finish up with him. And jump back into campaigning.
5pm – Break for dinner and a little Parenthood. I’m almost done with Season 3.
6pm – back to the campaign trail. Oh, I forgot, today I paid to promote a specific post on our facebook. I chose a 10-dollar a day limit, just to see what would happen. We gained over 50 new followers today.
9pm – clean up my computer desktop. My organization has gotten a little sloppy. I need to get everything in order.
10pm – bed. 

Kickstarter Diary - Day 3

Dear Kickstarter Diary,

Today I got up at 430am and composed about a dozen emails. Then I went through all the Eat interweb stuff.
This is my usual routine when doing so.
  1. Check Email. Respond to any new ones.
  2. Check Twitter. Respond to any new tweets or mentions. Follow back new followers.
  3. Check FB. 1st my personal page. Respond to any posts, messages ect. I also take a few minutes to check out my news feed. Share and like some other people’s stuff.  Then I head on over to the Eat page and do the same.
  4. Head over to google. Run a search for a few different iterations of Eat, using the last 24-hour search. Then post any relevant new links that may have popped up on either Twitter or FB. I try to stagger this post. With so many popping up, I’ve actually created a word doc with a complete list that I can pull from.
  5. Head over to the kickstarter. Respond to any new comments or messages. Gotta stay interactive with the donators.  While there I’ll also go through some other active projects to see how their campaigns are going. I try and donate to others as much as I can.
  6. Start composing private emails. Again, I’m going for 40 plus a day. Each of the individual and personal.

My day job sliced out 8 hrs of my day from 6 to 230. I got home at 3, went through my interweb routine quickly and had lunch with some friend. All the while my iphone in hand, responding to emails, tweets, fb messages ect.

Got home at 5. Spent a few hours doing more general Kickstarter research. There’s tons of material out there about prepping your campaign. But it’s harder to find info about what to do once launched. I’m always looking for new ideas.

Did some editing on our BTS stuff til about 9 and went to bed.  I’ve been operating on little to no sleep the last few days. Tomorrow is going to be a major day for me. I’m going to try some new stuff campaign-wise to see what happens.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kickstarter Diary - Day 2

Dear Kickstarter Diary,

Today was the 2nd day of our Kickstarter. I’ve heard many other Kickstarter users talk about the rollercoaster of emotion you go through during a campaign. There are on days and off days. The on days feel great, the off days, well not so much. The day started out really slow, donation-wise and I was really down. Then it picked way up at the end, and.... well you can see where I'm going with that.

5am – Up to check stats. Nothing. No new donations and pretty much crickets on FB and Twitter. I was a little taken aback considering the deluge of press we got yesterday. We had write ups on at least four major horror sites. I expected at least an increase in traffic.
I worked till about 630 drafting and sending emails and then buckled down for some day job work.

7am – 230 day job.
I’m also finishing up two feature film editing projects. I’m uploading one while I encode and build the DVD for the 2nd.

3pm – Back at it. I just had a cool interview posted. I
We picked up some new donators. Things are starting to look up.
4pm – Looking over our Kickstarter strategy, trying to figure out some new ways to bring in some backers. At the moment I’m perplexed. We have a great pitch video. A good trailer. A fairly solid social network. I expected our opening days to be bigger.
5pm – Eat dinner and try to relax for half an hour.
530pm – Got some last minute notes on Worth. Gotta make a few changes.
630pm – back to composing emails. Can’t remember if I mentioned it but my goal is 40 a day.
9pm -  Send out a few facebook messages to some old friends.
930pm – bed.
4am comes early.

What struck me most about today is how supportive strangers and old friends have been. People I haven’t spoken to in nearly 20 years have donated 100’s of dollars and shared the hell out of the page. Yet, we have a nearly zero balance from anyone who I actually hang out with now. This whole experience really has me questioning some of the personal choices I’ve made over the past few years.

Anywoo, I’m beat. Good night Kickstarter Diary.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kickstarter Diary – Day 1

Dear Kickstarter Diary,

Today is the 1st of our 32-day campaign. I had originally planned to do a 30 day campaign, but chose 32 to give us a 2 day “soft launch,” in order to get the url active and work out any bugs.

12am- LAUNCH!
12:01 – start composing personal messages for my close friends regarding the support of the kickstarter. I went through my email and social networking contacts and came up with 800 people that I actually know. There’s plenty of other “friends” but I’ve chosen to leave them alone for now.  I plan to send individual messages to each of my 800 contacts over the 1st three weeks of the kickstarter. That’s 800 folk divide by 21 (we’ll say twenty for easy math sakes) days.  So roughly 40 people a day need to be contacted. I did 34 before 2am. In addition to monitoring all the social media and laying in the music for the documentary I’m editing. (hey, a guy’s still gotta eat.)
2am – nap. Hadn’t gotten any sleep in 24 hrs.

4am – Start composing emails for press. They are notoriously shy when it comes to promoting Kickstarter projects, but I’ve built many solid relationships over the years with online journalists and expect a decent response. Plus I have some good material to share; a kick-ass teaser trailer and a ton of new art, photos and one-sheets.
 I’ll up my email writing with social networking, trying to get some last minute non-eat related tweets and FB posts in. I think its super important when using social media to promote anything to break up your self-promoting posts with regular posts, retweets and support of others. For every one of your promotion posts, you should be making at least 3 regular ones.

5am – another quick nap. Yeah, I’m sounding lazy now.
7am – wake up to discover we’ve raise $300 bucks between the hrs of 1am and 7 am with minimal notice. Is that good?  Then I compose a quick update to the supporters so far, giving them my email. I want to stay in touch with everyone, if they want to.

8am – edit some more behind the scenes material to intersperse throughout the campaign.

830 am – Eat. No really, have breakfast. 50 minute time out to munch and watch an episode of Parenthood. WHAT!?

930am check on the campaign. Reply to messages, donators and social network stuff.

1030am – receive and fill out an email interview for a crowd source-funding site

1130 am – bath
1145 am – more social networking.

12pm – start encoding documentary I’m working on. Still gotta eat.
Hit a lull in donations. We were going strong in the morning. Nothing for the past few hours. Trying hard to resist the urge to twitter and Fb blast.

2pm – Meet up with the Producer to go over our Kickstarter campaign one last time and to collect some graphic art material he’s been working on.

3pm – Go over some other kickstarter campaigns both successes and failures.
4pm – make new changes to the documentary. Got some last minute credit changes. Then re-encode the movie.
7pm – catch up on twitter, facebook and the kickstarter.
8pm – draft an update to our current donators.
830 – dinner.
9pm – author final documentary dvd.
930 – start dvd upload. Make final tweets and fb posts.

Turn in. Cuz 4am comes early.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Director on Director: KICKSTARTER EDITION


Tomorrow we kick off our Kickstarter for Eat. See what I did there?
While waiting for documentary to finish encoding, I had a minute to sit down and ask myself a few questions about Eat and it’s Kickstarter Campaign.

Me: So, What is Eat?

Myself: Eat is the story of a dysfunctional family trying to survive a zombie ap—

Me: Yeah, yeah, yeah, sell that shit to the tourists, dude. I’ve read the synopsis. WHAT”S IT ABOUT? What kind of movie is it? Tell me something I haven't read already.

Myself: Oh, well simply put, it’s a zombie movie. More specifically, it’s the kind of zombie movie Romero was making in the 70’s and 80’s. It’s about a family that is broken by the zombie apocalypse and their struggle to put the pieces back together.  Even more specifically than that, it’s the story of Maxie McCarthy (our heroine) and her character’s journey from a mousey, insecure young girl to a independent, kicking ass, woman.  I’m not reinventing the genre or the concept of zombies, although I am adding a few of my own flourishes. I’m just telling trying to tell a good story.

Me: Ok, that sounds cool.  Where did this idea come from?

Myself: The idea came organically from the themes I was trying to explore.

Me: A less artsy-fartsy answer please.

Myself: I was hired and wrote a series of faith-based Christian features for a producer. Which is odd, because of my past work and the fact that I’m neither religious nor more specifically Christian. But I took the gig and wrote the very best Christianly scripts I could. During the process, I really began to warm to the themes that are inherent in the genre, like hope, forgiveness, redemption and family. Even when writing a darker, more nihilistic piece like EAT, I think it’s important to have these themes underlining it.  But don’t get me wrong. Eat is not an ABC family version of the Walking Dead. It’s a hardcore, splatter-zombie flick.

Me: Good, I was getting worried. Why go with Kickstarter?

Myself: First off, I'm an all or nothing kinda guy. I like that about Kickstarter. I decided to pursue crowd-source-funding because of the negative experiences I've had with some financiers in the past. One the cooler aspects about doing a movie this independently and with Kickstarter funding is that I can do WHATEVER I want, without having to worry about financier or producer interference or ratings. I plan to take full advantage of this and push things beyond their boarders. There are a few kills in this movie that will raise a few eyebrows, will be controversial.

Me: ooo, ooo! Example!?

Myself: Gotta save something for the release. You know, spoilers and all.

Me: Well, that’s all we got time for right now. I have to get back to editing this thing and prepping this Kickstarter.

Myself: Good talking to me. Nice hair.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Low Budget Moviemaker - Pre-Kickerstarter Edition

The past three months have been intense. I’ve edited five features and written another, all while prepping my own flick, EAT, for production and putting together it’s Kickstarter.  This is an important weekend. I’m wrapping post on one feature and making final preparations for Eat’s Kickstarter.  So let’s get on with my day.

4am – up. Don’t pass go. Don’t collect $200. Straight to work. I laid out all the footage for the feature documentary I’m editing last night. 1st step is to organize the footage on the timeline into what will become the final order.

8am – break for breakfast. Biscuits and Gravy if you’re interested. While eating I’ll catch the Sons of Anarchy Premier I missed this week.

9am – compose kickstarter promotion instructions for cast and crew of Eat.

930am – do some social networking. I’ve been working really hard the past few months to build a strong support system for Eat. Hopefully this will pay off Monday when the Kickstarter launches.

10am – re-review our kickstarter page.

1030 am – back to the doc. Clean up and finalize the 1st 30 minutes.

2pm – break for lunch.

3pm – more social networking. More Kickstarter research.

4pm - clean up and finalize 2nd 30 mins of doc.

8pm – break for dinner.

9 pm – finalize final 30 minutes of Doc.

2am – more social networking, followed by bed.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Edit a Feature in 7 Days

How To Edit a Feature in 7 Days

DISCLAIMER: Editing a feature in 7 days is not necessarily a good idea. I would never chose to allott that time frame for a feature edit. However, sometimes extreme circumstances align themselves and you have to churn out something in a very short amount of time.  So, here’s my 7 day formula when you’re back is to the wall.

Day 1 & 2 – Hand Sync Footage/Review Footage

I know most editors will scoff. Why waste a whole day hand syncing when you can use something like plural eyes?  I use the sync process as a chance to review all the footage and takes carefully. I sync the shot and then watch it in its entirety, making notes of specific takes and bits that I may want to use.  You see, I feel that its super important to watch ALL the footage before cutting a single frame. You need to know what you have, before you can shape it. Even if you directed the material yourself, you can’t be 100% sure of everything you captured. If the clips were already synced the impulse to jump right into the cutting would be too strong and I would definitely miss certain takes.

Day 3 & 4 – Rough Cutting

Layout a rough cut. If I have reviewed all the footage completely and made proper notes and work hard, fast and concentrate you 1 cut 45 to 50 mins of material in a day. 

Day 5  - Clean up Cut
Clean up the cut. I tend to cut long in roughs, leaving handles and pregnant pauses. But I’ve also already captured the best angels and performances. So now it’s just a matter of cleaning up what I have.

Day 6 – Sound Design
I work with a top-notch sound guy in production, so I usually don’t have to worry about bad production sound. So cleaning up the audio is usually a breeze. I spend most of this day doing sound design. Adding folly and hard effects where they are needed.
**** The particular project I’m working on now is set in one room and is a drama. There is no complicated sound fx and much of the production sound folly work is actually usable.  Towards the end of the night, I will start and export and make a DVD.  The next morning, before starting color correction I’ll watch the DVD, making any final sound, or cut notes.

Day 7 – Review DVD / Color Correction
This is a task that normally takes weeks on a feature. In order to do it in only one day you have to limit you expectations. I’m simply looking to even out the picture as a whole. And fix any grievous miss-matches.
While working on this I’ll also implement any final changes from the DVD viewing.

Just before bed, I’ll start a new export.
That’s it.

Of course the next morning I’ll check that final dvd for quality control purposes before sending out, but the cut is done.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Things to Do While Waiting for Worth to Transcode

So I have to transcode a whole feature’s worth of footage from R3D to Pro-Rez . I do not possess a red rocket card, so this is going to take a while. At the current rate it will finish up sometime Friday.

In the meantime, I’ve got a few other things to occupy my time.

  1. Writing a new script. Last week a producer made me an offer to write and direct not one, but two features I figure tomorrow morning, I’ll start on the 1st. I should be able to bang out the 1st draft by Friday.
  2. Work on developing Eat. I can’t really work with any of the promo footage we’ve shot so far, but I can continue to develop our social network connections through FB, Twitter, Blogs and cast participation.
  3. Blog, blog blog. I’ve fallen behind keeping up this and the Eat blog.
  4. Watch The Dark Knight Rises. Yeah, I still haven’t seen it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to Shoot a Promo-Trailer for Nothing

Well, really next to nothing.

First off, I don’t believe in not paying crew/cast. I may from time to time ask a friend to help out (by friend, I mean an actual friend, not just an aquaintance you may have worked with). When shooting something like this when I don’t have money for crew, I don’t use a crew. I shoot, light, ect…all by my lonesome. I have a good friend who owns a nice camera and that I do editing favors for all the time. He allows me to use the camera in return and when he’s free, he’ll help me shoot as well.
Our producer is also a FX make-up technician, so he handles all the blood and zombie needs. I have a couple of good friends who happen to be excellent actors, so that helps.

Today, we’re picking up some of the more complicated fx gags. I shot the stuff with the actual actors a few days earlier. Today we’re shooting some of the more gruesome blood gags. In one the shots we did the other day, two zombies tore into an actresses back. The shots looks super-cool, but we need some more explicit gore so we’re going back today with a fake back and torso to tear more guts, gore and bone from the victim.

We’re also going to spend a little more time on the individual zombie’s make-up for some close-ups and headshots on them. By headshots I mean, bullets and exploding brains. I’m also doubling as a Zombie today. Then in full zombie attire, I do an interview or two for our eventual Kickstater campaign. I’m trying to take our budget from a meager 20k (which we have) to 80k. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

An Under-the-Weather Thursday in the Life of a Low Budget Moviemaker

4am – alarm goes off! I’ve been starting my days early, regardless of outside work. I find that I work creatively really well in the wee-hours of the morning. I’ve written 90% of my last two screenplays between the hours of 4 and 9 Am. NOT SO FAST today. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather, so I went back to sleep.

7am – official start of the day. I spent about half an hour checking up on email, FB and twitter. I’ve been getting more social network active the last few weeks in preparation for the upcoming Eat kickstarter campaign.

7:30 am – catching up on my blogs. In addition to this one, I also have an official Eat blog; I’ve been neglecting the past week. I’m going to set a new goal of 5 new posts a week.

9:30 am – finally emerge from bedroom to face the world. Well, my kitchen anyway. You need guts to win and the guts need fuel. Today’s menu includes biscuits, sausage gravy and coffee. (Thrill next week has I recount my breakfast again!) During breakfast, watch a little Breaking Bad. I’m currently re-watching the 1st season between new-episode Sundays. Walt’s journey is one the most fascinating character studies ever. Love it.

10:30am - back to work. Pull some still frames from the footage I’ve shot for the promo trailer so far. I’m planning to reach out to a few media outlets about Eat after this weekend. I have to keep in mind that horror sites like exclusive photos.

11:00am – my camera op for the weekend shoot just picked up a high paying gig and had to cancel on me. He was kind enough, however, to lend me his camera. I need to spend some time getting to know it. So we’re going to have a little lunch date and shoot in the (hopefully) sunny afternoon light.

2pm - lunch - at Momma Hong’s with an old friend. I’ve been waiting to try this place.

3pm – trailer prep. I’ve shot listed and storyboarded all the FX shots for Saturday. But I’ve still not really picked many good verbal exchanges or lines for the trailer. I know the script is chalk of trailer worthy lines. I just have to go pick a few out and make them work in the context of the trailer.

4pm – Have lunch/dinner. Another Breaking Bad episode. hopefully I’m feeling better. Need to decide if I’m going as planned to tonight’s Shakespeare in the park. My ride arrives at 6.

5pm. – clean out my desktop. I have over 100 gigs of files I’ve been holding onto for a client. The projects have been delivered and one month as passed. The projects are hitting the streets this week so no further changes will be needed. Delete.

6pm – 9pm – Shakespeare in the Park? I’d hate to cancel

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eat? What's up with that?

I set up a website/blogfacebook page and twitter page for Eat. Yeah, Eat. Not Eat: A zombie Movie as I sometimes dub it for clarity. What is it? As the faux title suggests, it's a zombie movie and my next feature project as a writer and director.

Production for Eat is set for October 2012.

One thing I'm doing different with this flick is in regards to funding. There is a budget in place, however I'm seeking to up it substantially in order to bring my full vision to life.  In September, I'm planning to run a kickstarter campaign in order to raise an additional $50,000. With the budget increase I can transform this small personal piece into something a little more bloody and fun.

That's the plan anyway. So follow along and see if I can make this sh#! happen.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What I've Been up to this Summer so Far.

I’ve been busy editing a few projects for new company. Over the last two months I edited three features (well really just re-edited two of them.) For the same company, I also wrote a script and developed it through pre-production with the intent of directing. Well, we had some irreconcilable differences in regards to the casting and look of the movie, so I walked off as director and they bought the script and continued on. They just wrapped on it. It’s kind of crazy. I wrote the script in less than a week and three weeks after they were shooting. But, no hard feelings, I still continue to edit for them. I just most likely won’t write or direct anything else for them.

However, prepping to direct said movie really got me in directing mode and I’m anxious to get back behind the camera as soon as possible. Which brings me to my latest project, EAT. Yes, EAT. It’s a zombie movie. I know, I know another zombie movie. There’s tons of cats out there making zombie movies, I know. But I feel like I got something new and good to offer. So I’m finishing up the script this week. My intention is to shoot it in October this year.

I just launched the website.

There’ll be much more on this project in coming weeks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Monsters in the Wood Art

One of the producers recently had a graphic artist in the Ukraine do up a few new one sheets for Monsters in the Woods which I'll be posting here.

1st one is very Pirates-esque.

Don't forget to pick up your copy on DVD today.
MITW on Amazon

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Authorized Trap Commentary

So I recorded this commentary for TRAP with Producer Robert Bravo and Production Designer Blaine Cade a ways back. It was not available for the initial dvd release, but will appear on the new ones. So here it is for any who've already purchased the movie and want to check it out. It syncs up with the Zapruter Logo at the beginning of the movie. It's pretty much just us rambling and is not very scene specific, so don't freak if the sync is a bit off. Anywho....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Monsters in the Woods Video Interviews: Jason Horton (writer/director) and Robert Bravo (Producer)

Monsters in the Woods FLASHBACK: What Was I Thinking?

One of the producers of Monsters in the Woods wrote this last year.

I’ve been involved in the film industry for many years. Over a varied and eclectic career, I’ve worked on a number of projects as an Actor, Writer, and Producer. As a Producer, the projects I’ve been involved with received financing mostly through outside sources, either through investors, banks, etc. Most recently, though, I did something I never thought I would ever do. I got involved in co-financing a movie. Now let’s get real here. I am neither wealthy, nor financially well off. What I did get was a few grand from an inheritance, and I do mean ‘few’.
While I was contemplating what to do with the extra funds, I read an article from an independent filmmaker’s blog whose subject was “Making and Releasing The Micro-Budget Indie”, and one of the respondents to the blog had this to say: “The micro-budget feature is probably most functional in the hands of an experienced producer. Those of us attempting to break in from the outside with a 10k comedy are in an uphill battle. Folks who have made a few movies, and have the requisite connects and experience, could probably make a very profitable micro-budget piece. The tech is there to make a movie look good for cheap. The two keys are to write a story that can entertain an audience without a huge SFX budget, and to have a way to get the film seen. The latter half of that equation is where experienced producers/writers have a real leg up. It would be a grand experiment to see a Hollywood veteran do a “made by hand” film and make it financially successful. That might really change some minds.”
Ok, made sense to me. But did I really want to put my money into something like this? I didn’t have a project that fit the mold. That is until I received a call from a friend who said another friend of ours was going to make a micro-budget creature feature and he needed a “few grand” to make it happen. Weird, huh? What timing! I had known this young writer/director for a few years and had watched his career carefully. He had already made a few micro-budget horror movies, one of which had very good critical acclaim. So, I knew he had the know-how and experience to make another good horror movie. I was also familiar with his writing skills, as I had read some of his bigger budgeted scripts. He is an excellent writer. So, when he sent me the script for his creature feature, I couldn’t wait to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. It was scary, action filled, had a lot of emotion, and the dialogue was witty. “What a clever project”, I thought. And I was convinced, I wanted to be involved.
I Just Want To Invest And Then I’m Going On Vacation… What Could Go Wrong?
I think the first thing I said to both the writer/director and his young producing partner was, “I have enough to cover the costs of your five day shoot”. (Did I say five days?) Well, I was assured that the movie was already in production, was being shot ‘guerrilla’, with everyone on board (Producers, actors, and crew) all gung-ho and raring to go! All they truly needed were the finishing funds. I told them I think they have a fun project, and if the production turns out anything like the script, we would have a very marketable movie. I shook their hands, handed them their first check, and accepted the role as Executive Producer. “I think you guys have a good plan for production. It’s too bad I won’t be there for the first part of the shoot as I’m going on a long planned vacation, and since I haven’t had one for years, I can’t cancel now. So, I’m leaving you with great confidence that everything that we have discussed will come to fruition, and you shouldn’t have any problems.” I walked away confident that within a couple of weeks we would have wrapped principal photography by the time I returned from vacation.After all, what could go wrong?

Monsters in the Woods Video Interviews: Composer and Director

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Monsters in the Woods FLASHBACK: Micro-Budget Drama

Here's an interesting bit on some of the production drama that plagued Monsters in the Woods. It's amazing to me now how trivial much of it seems, including my ego-centric antics.  

Ballooning budgets, on-set drama, producer/director in-fighting, prima dona actors, these things are often associated with big budget productions. But is the drama any less significant when it’s thousands of dollars at stake as opposed to millions. Well, that’s obviously a matter of perspective, but for the most part I used to think the answer was no. I was wrong.

Monsters in the Woods is the most expensive production I’ve directed. It was not originally intended to be so. It started out has a low-end production, even by micro-budget standards, to be shot for a low wage job’s monthly salary using friends for cast and crew. Almost no one was to paid, I was either multi-taking crew positions myself or calling in favors (I’ve done plenty over the years.) And I was totally cool making this kind of movie.

Then a few things happened.

One of my friends had a personal connection to Glenn Plummer. He said he could get him in the movie and he did. Glenn was cast in the role of Jayson. While he would only be shooting a few days, it still put a substantial strain on our extremely meager budget. I also wanted to get a legit location, permits and insurance to shoot our massacre sequence. These two costs were starting to push the budget beyond what we could manage on our own. So, I reached out to a producer friend of mine and he came onboard, along with another producer. They brought with them a little more funding that would cover the location (Big Bear), insurance, permits and Glenn Plummer. The budget basically doubled. But we were still talking very low. And I was ok making that movie.

Then a few more things happened.

We get to Big Bear. We have two days to shoot out Glenn Plummer and get our major massacre sequence in the can. Things didn’t go exactly as planned. As with most productions, our 1st day was full of hiccups. We got started a few hours late. The 1st scenes took much longer to shoot than expected. Then we had some major drama between a few actors (which I can’t really get into). By the time we got to our second and last day, we were more than a half-day behind. Luckily we came back strong in the 2nd day, finished all of Glenn’s stuff and were ready to shoot our massacre sequence.

Then something else happened…

Our monsters weren’t ready. The crew helping out with FX had to exodus early the 2nd morning (personal reasons.) This left a one man FX make-up crew to do 3 full monsters. We were already behind and it just wasn’t doable. When it came time to shoot the sequence we had less than one full monster. The massacre sequence (one of the main reason we were shooting on location in the 1st place) could not be shot.

These two days in Big Bear were the bulk of our budget and we only got done half what we needed to. Well, Glenn was shot out. The massacre could most likely be done somewhere cheaper, probably guerilla. We were going to soldier on. And I was still ok making that movie.

we also had some drama with one of the lead actors. He had to be replaced and we had to reshoot footage. 

Then something else happened…

I reviewed the footage we shot in Big Bear. It was awesome. Glenn Plummer and the rest of cast were incredible. They were clicking and gelling better than I could have ever imagined. I think the script is pretty damn good, but they were taking it to a whole other level. If done right, this could be a really good movie. Of course, done right = more money. So I first asked the producers for more cash to hire a proper fix company. They agreed and we hired Tom Devlin’s 1313 FX (in retrospect this turned out to be one of wisest decisions.) It was also decided to upgrade cameras from the JVC with which we had shot the entire 1st act behind the scenes perspective stuff to a CANNON 7D for all the “real movie” stuff of which we had shot almost none. And I was really ok with making that movie.

Then a few more things took place…

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the upgrade from the 720p JVC to the 1080p H264 Cannon was going to strain my older editing system past it limits. Not only were we going to have to spend money on the camera and FX, but also now I need a new editing computer has well. The budget kept rising.

Now the producers are getting miffed. What started out as a minimal investment was becoming much more substantial, especially by micro-budget standards. In addition to reshooting the big bear stuff, now there was additional post costs. The budget had pretty much tripled. I had pitched a movie to be done at a certain budget and now it was 3x’s that. I was still cool making that movie.

Then more shit went down…

I had never shot on the 7D before and am pretty much the DP on the movie. I needed at least a day before shooting to familiarize myself with the camera, especially in the lower light of our cave set. I was supposed to get the camera the day before we shot in order to do this. The owner of the camera had a shoot pop up and I could get it until the night before the shoot, late. I had no time to work with the camera in the dark cave setting beforehand. It cost us. We shot over the next 2 nights in our dark cave set. While not unusable, the footage turned out less than stellar. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly didn’t match the superior performances by the actors. I asked for more days to reshoot the scenes. The producers were not happy, but I was fine with making this movie.

Then something else happened...
A new investor turns up, brought in by yours truly, who wanted to put a substantial amount into the movie. This investment would cover a new computer for editing. The 3 days of reshooting or a new cannon of our own. I suggest that we use it for this.

Then all hell breaks loose. I get angry emails and calls from producers, saying I’m outta control, spending too much money, mishandling money, that purchasing a new camera is unreasonable. I was told how “easy it was to spend other people’s money.” Ect.. I don’t know, maybe they were right. I don’t know anymore. I did promise to deliver a certain product at a certain price, in this task I failed. The final budget was just under 4x’s the original. Now, the movie we’ve got in the can is more than 4x’superior to the one that was originally intended, but I don’t know how much that counts for. In the end the new investment was put towards the computer and the reshoots. We continued to rent the camera, went back to Big Bear for three days, got the massacre and a bunch of new fx shots. We finished out production and I’m ok with making this movie.

Then something else happened…

Well, we did finish the movie. It has been released, and all involved are pretty happy with the results. There are those that believe that I was initially aware that the movie could not have been finished at the original budget, and pretty much lied in order to get the movie going. This is simply not true. I did think that the script I wrote could be made for 10k.  And I still say had certain things (most not under my control) not gone wrong that it could've been done. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Monsters in the Woods FLASHBACK: F*&@ and MPAA

Way back when, I wrote a series of posts regarding the pre/pro/and post-production of Monsters in the Woods. With the movie just now being released, I thought I'd repost some of the better ones.

So, there's been a concern amongst some of our production team about the overuse of the word "fuck" in Monsters in the Woods. That it will cause us problems with the MPAA.

I at first dismissed this as ridiculous. I even started counting fucks. Tonight me and my pal counted 65 give or take in the 1st half. (it was not fun). Double that for the 90-minute run time and you get 130. Which is well under acceptable MPPA R Rating standards.

Casino had 422
Summer of Sam 326
Born on the 4th of July 289
Pulp Fiction 252
Jarhead 251
Big Lebowski 281
*although we did beat out Glengarry Glen Ross which had only 138. Woah!

Shit you could straight double my estimate and still be under the top 3.

But it keeps coming up and then a producer brought up a more artistic concern, that the overuse of the word takes away its power when you do need it. Now this I can agree with. It’s a valid point. So I looked back over the cut with friend tonight and I have to admit, that yes, it is overused. The actors took what was in the script, which was a lot of “fucks” and added another 15%. If I had the whole production to do over, I’d have had a full time script supervisor and I’d have reigned in the improv a little more.

But I didn’t. There aren’t alternate takes and without cutting whole scenes or making really awkward cuts to existing scenes, there isn’t much that I can do about it now. And really when it comes down to it, I don’t have a problem with it. I personally use expletives that way myself, as do many people I know, and I enjoy hearing it onscreen. To me it feels authentic.

It definitely can be off-putting to some. But, it’s not to me. And I have to ask myself, even if I could, would I want to cut them down, would I want to neuter my movie, because of what some may find offensive? Because it might limit the movie commercially?

Wait a minute! One of the characters refers to another Hispanic character as a spic. Might the Hispanic community be offended? I better take that out too. Then there’s the whole Jesus action hero thing (That’s gotta offend someone). Then there’s characters committing adultery, nudity, monsters, blood, a character wearing white after Labor Day… Damn, who won’t be offended?

I made a micro-budget horror flick. It’s not a 4-quadrant Pixar movie. It’s a gritty, no holds barred splattery horror movie. That’s what I set out to make and that’s what it is.
So be it.
But, I am cutting the Michael Bay, Donald Duck stuff…
Sorry Lee, there are legalities to be considered.

post-mortem-one year later.
I still think my above argument is valid. However, I do think I probably over-did the profanity a bit. I recently watched the movie again with an audience and have to admit there were a few instances where I was a bit embarrassed by the overuse of the F@#! word. But it's not because of it's profane nature. It's simply because of the repetitive nature in which it's used.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monsters in the Woods Screening March 31st

There's going to be a screening of Monsters in the Woods in Redlands, Ca on March 31st.

We're given out screeners of Trap (the movie that inspired Monsters in the Woods) to the 1st 25 people through the door.

Click here for more info.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

SSA Public Relations NEWS RELEASE

Osiris Entertainment Unleashes Monsters in the Woods Overseas For Immediate Release:

Leading independent film and DVD distributor, Osiris Entertainment, has acquired international broadcast rights for for Monsters in the Woods, the shock- horror film that parodies the pitfalls facing filmmakers trying to make it in Hollywood, it was announced today by Evan Crooke, Founder and CEO of Osiris Entertainment.
Monsters in the Woods tells the story of low budget filmmaker, Jayson, who has made the movie of his dreams. But to his dismay, it can’t sell in Hollywood. In order to salvage the film Jayson is told to add sex scenes and more violence. Out of money and clinging to his last chance to get the movie sold, Jayson approaches his psychotic producer Bravo and orders him to assemble a cast and crew and immediately begin a re-shoot of the film
With a precarious promise of a share of the profits, the crew and a ragged group of ‘B’ actors head to the back woods of the Great Bear Mountains to begin filming. Tragedy strikes immediately when Jayson is accidentally killed by his inept crew. Amidst all the chaos, Bravo strangely convinces the cast to finish the movie. They reluctantly agree, but soon after, are attacked by an unrelenting swarm of deadly ‘devil dogs’ from Hell. Bravo and members of the cast briefly escape the danger as they are rescued by two ‘angels’ sent from Heaven to battle the monsters. Unknown to them all, Bravo has made a pact with the Devil to provide twelve souls (theirs) in order to get the movie made. Mayhem ensues as the survivors attempt to kill the ‘demons’ and close the entrance to Hell before the whole Earth is consumed by evil!
Monsters in the Woods features memorable performances from Glenn Plummer as the unfortunate Jayson (Sons of Anarchy, ER) and Blaine Cade as the desperate Bravo (Edges of Darkness, Rise of the Undead). They are supported by horror genre regulars, Lee Perkins (The Living Corpse), Linda Bella (Filth to Ashes, Flesh to Dust) and Gladys Otero (Z: A Zombie Musical).

About Osiris Entertainment:
Based in Chatsworth, California, Osiris Entertainment was created in 2008 by Evan Crooke, a noted filmmaker with a mission to provide a distribution company that meets the business and creative requirements of the independent film and music community and serves the global broadcast and DVD marketplace with the highest quality film entertainment in all popular genres.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I Voted 7 on My Own Movie...Does that Make Me a Bad Guy?

We'll get back to that in a sec...

Two funny things happened on Wednesday (the day after Monsters in the Woods was released on DVD).

1. It popped up on over 200 torrent sites.
2. Several hours later it started to get a ton on hate on the IMDB message Board. Most of the bile seemed to be centered around that fact that the movie was rated 7.5 by users prior to it's release.

I checked out a few of the THEFT links and think I figured it out. Pirate sites give a quick synopsis of the movie, maybe the poster and the IMDB rating. So most of these folks see the 7.5 and go about stealing the movie without so much as checking out a trailer. Then are mad if they don't like it.

Then they complain that the cast and crew must of bumped these ratings.
To this I fucking shit Sherlock! The movie has been listed on IMDB for about a year (prior to it's release). The only people that could have possibly seen it are cast, crew, distributors and a few critical reviewers. Some of these folk worked on the movie for over a year. And you're telling me it's not cool for them to cast a vote on their flick? Sure, I'm the first to admit the movie doesn't deserve a Casablanca 10 and I have tried to dissuade cast, crew and friends from that kind of hyperbolic voting.  I voted a 7 by the by. ***unusually high and low scores outside of the median are not taken into account in the final # anyway. As time goes on and more fair and unbiased votes (somewhere between 2-6 would be my guess) are given, all the 1's and 10's will not even be taken into account.

In this day and age, do you think there are many (or any even) new indie flicks on IMDB that don't get votes cast from cast and or crew? If you answered no, then you are truly naive and deserve to have your illegal downloading time wasted.

As anyone actually every purchased a 16 dollar movie based on the IMDB rating? If so, wow! That's not too bright. Especially since it's pretty easy to find more info about flicks.
There's plenty of trailers, actual critic reviews  and video clips from the Monsters in the Woods. Most of which can be linked to right from IMDB. Check out the movie here and join in the discourse.

So am I in fact a jerk or douche for casting a vote on my flick?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Check Scam Beware!

So this is not really movie related... well kinda, since it was attempted on me and I make movies.

Anyway, so here it is.
I received a check in the mail for 3,950 dollars. It looks legit. A letter accompanies the check saying that I've won some sweepstakes. I'm to call the number to activate the check. The guy on the phone says to deposit the check and call back.

I called the bank that the check was drafted on to see if it was indeed legit. They knew all the info and said it was in fact a scam. After you deposit a check it can take weeks for it to actually bounce. In the meantime the scammers will try and get you to wire money to cover some processing fees.

If you get a similar letter and or check, report it and then rip them up. The company mentioned on the check was
MPR SUPPLY COMPANY, turns out MPR is totally legit and they've been bombarded with calls over the last month due to this scam. They have nothing do to with it. They are just another victim.

Anyway, here's Jason Brown's # 905.781.7233
If you get a chance give him a call and hassle him... it'll be fun.

Turns out this is a pretty common scam. So the names and business may change, but the grift stays the same. Look out!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Win a Copy of Monsters in the Woods from Fangoria

Click here for a chance to win.
It's just a link to Fangoria's site. I swear. I wouldn't lie. Not about that.

Monsters in the Woods Video Interviews: Blaine Cade (Bravo Roberts/Production Designer)

Blaine Cade gives one of the more popular performances in Monsters in the Woods as "Bravo Roberts" a part semi-based on our actual producer. He also did the production design, building an entire cave set on his own property.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

…and Yet Another Exciting Saturday in the Life

One movie out and another two in the pipes. Things are looking good. I did a phone interview with Dread Central yesterday for their Indie-Horror Month. Look for that around the 7th of March.

630am – Up and Adam. Slept in a bit so that I wouldn’t be to tired and lame at my little shindig. I’m having a few close friends over to celebrate the release of Monsters in the Woods.

630 – 9am – don’t get up, don’t get coffee, don’t do shit but go over my latest script fresh. I find I do some of my best work in that magic hour when I first wake before my anaylitcal mind kicks in and inhibits creativity. I’ll go back over this work later, once that anyalitical brain has kicked in. Got a little bogged down in the my 3rd act…need to go back over it.

9am – 10am – coffee, breakfast and internet corrispondence/social networking.

11am – late morning fun time. (pre-prep ingredients for gumbo) and organize house for the festivities.

11am – Noon – upload latest MITW internet clip_Blaine’s interview. It’s pretty freaking funny. While I’m waiting on that upload, I’ll do a little more work on that script. (gonna be sending it out to some name actors on Monday)

Noon – 5pm – cook Gumbo, Rice, Sour Cream and Chive mash potatoes and get the house in order for the celebration.

5pm - ? Drink, eat and watch the movie a couple of times as new folk arrive and old folk leave.

That’s how I plan to do it today.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monsters in the Woods Video Interviews (The Outtakes)

A candid behind the scenes look at the behind the scenes of Monsters in the Woods.

Marvel at my wonderful hair!

Yes, it really was as fun as it looks.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Support Indie Horror - Track Down Monsters in the Woods

Monsters in the Woods begins a limited DVD release Feb. 21st.

It's a rough time for indies. With the current fractured market place it can be extremely hard for an indie to reach its audience. Monsters in the Woods is a movie deserving of an audience. So take the time to track and down and check it out.

For now its available through:
DVD Planet
CD Universe
Family Video (rental too)
Deep Discount

It will depend on how well the movie sells through these outlets that will determine whether or not it gets an increased availability and release. If you're on the fence, dive in and check it out. There's no one trying to get rich off this flick. We just want the opportunity to have our movie seen by as many folks as possible.

Check out some reviews here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Win Your Free Copy of Monsters in the Woods

Dread Central is giving away five free copies of my little opus.
click here to enter.

Fangoria is doing the same.

Check out some reviews here.


Distributor's Newish Plan for Micro-Budget Movies

Osiris Entertainment is distributing my latest flick, Monsters in the Woods. It is a prime example of a new distribution strategy being employed by such distributors who are putting out smaller movies. Distributing these movies is full of risk. When you sell movies to a retailer like Wal-Mart, for example, they order say 5000 units. And you go, “great! We just sold 5000 units!” Yeah, not so fast. See if Wal-Mart doesn’t sell those units they ship back the unsold ones and the distributor eats that cost. So now they’re putting out these movies in a more careful manner, which strongly resembles a limited theatrical release.

They start with a limited VOD. The movie will go out to Comcast, ATT, Verizon FIOS ect. Then about a month later they make the DVD available though online outlets like Amazon and CD Universe. At the same time they may sell to a few regional DVD retail/rental outlets. For example, Monsters in the Woods is going out to a chain of FAMILY VIDEOs in the Midwest. The distributor than sits back and watches the numbers for a month or two before deciding if the larger retail outlets are worth the risk. If they are the movie goes wider and makes them a ton of money. If not, they make a few smaller sales  (domestic and foreign) and let the movie wither and die.

I can see the logic in the method, but it’s very frustrating as a filmmaker to not be able to point to a single universal release date. It makes your release feel less legitimate. All I can do is continue to promote my movie and hope that the positive press for it translates into some sells.

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Reviews of Monsters in the Woods

Aint it Cool News
I know it's not that big a deal but this one has me excited. I've been reading this site for over 10 years. I visit at least once a day. It's really neat to see my movie mentioned. Then add in that it's a positive review and I'm ecstatic.

28 Days Later Analysis
Michael Allen has been reviewing my flicks since Edges of Darkness. He always gives an honest well read opinion. It's the 1st site I usually send screeners to.

Beyond Hollywood
called MITW "one of the strongest straight-to-video efforts in recent memory."

Cool Awesome Movies
This guys HATED Edges of Darkness. He checked out Monsters in the Woods and found it more to his liking. Not a glowing review, but one of my favorites. I also did a really in depth interview with him. It's my favorite interview so far.

The Independent Critic
The guy reviews everything from Studio Tentpoles to obscure micros... So it's cool to see him give out some praise for this little monsters movie.

Video Views
One of the only reviews the distributor landed us. And I'm glad they did.

The Movies Made Me
Cool site. Good review. Still would like to see what Chad thinks.

says MITW can be summed up in two words "cave vagina." Enough said!

Igor's Lab
An infectiously fun review.

More Horror
My all time favorite review. This dude just gets it! And he wrote a really fun and well-written review about it. Did a cool interview with him too.

I quite liked this guy's take on the movie.

Jo Blo
Reads like a pretty positive review. The guy even said he liked the movie, but scored it 1.5 outta 5. Weird.

Horror Cult Films UK
He likes us. He really likes us. Great review. Did a fairly lengthy interview for this site as well.

Dread Central (Doctor Gash)
So this guy hated the movie, gave it a one out of five something-or-others. But, he stated his opinions intelligently and backed them up with specific examples. He just wasn't having it. You can't fault him for that. It's a good (albeit really negative) review and I appreciate him investing the time to write it (which is why I'm sharing it here).
****another writer over at Dread Central also as the movie. Hopefully she'll dig it more.

Yeah, so all in all, we're off to a good start and the dvd release hasn't even got here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Another Exciting Tuesday in the Life

With Monsters in the Woods release happening, that’s pretty much been my life for the last few weeks. The last few days I’ve changed gears and have been working on the development of Chophouse. It’s an older script that there may be some movement on finance front for. So, I’m whooping it into shape.

5am up and adam. Finish up an email interview in support of Monsters in the Woods.
630 am – 1pm – gotta earn that paper to pay them bills
130 pm – lunch and a quick trip to the gym
230 pm – start work on Chophouse rewrite (well, it’s not so much a re-write as a touch up. This script is much better than I remembered. It’s a vicious, non-stop thriller ride about the important of family. Darwinism at it’s most brutal.)
5pm – burn out a couple of MITW screeners for reviewers. Got a few to mail out tomorrow.
530 pm – shower and groom for a wild evening.
6pm – continue work on Chophouse till my ride gets here at 7pm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

And Another Thing About Self-Promoting Your Micro-Budget Movie…


When distributor’s pick up micro-budget movies they’re not usually going to do much to promote them. Most actually pick up micros in bulk and package them together. They spend little to no energy to promote individual pieces. Example: Monsters in the Woods was released on VOD in the US and Canada over 2 weeks ago. The distributor didn’t even let us know. We got the list of VOD markets from them 2 weeks after the movie was out, and only then after pestering them repeatedly for it.  The only thing more frustrating than not having any help promoting your movie, is to not even know when or how to do it yourself. The smaller distributors may even have PR firms working with them. However, in most cases these firms’ resources are allocated to promoting the distributor as a whole. I’ve found from experience on 2 different flicks that these guys don’t give a fuck about the individual movies or moviemakers. Even slightly bigger distributors like Anchor Bay or Lions Gate do very little for their micro releases, aside from doing up some artwork and putting the movies into the market. So if you get your micro-budget picked up it is most likely going to be 99% up to you to get the word out.

Now I’m not shitting on the distributors here. They have little incentive to really push these “little” pictures. Unless lightening strikes, these movies have a rather low ceiling in terms of their market potential. The chances of them making their promotional money back are slim for most of the stuff they pick up. It’s just a fact many low-budget moviemakers are unaware of. And to be fair, my last distributor actually did send screeners of movie to several press outlets for review (albeit as a part of a package of several of their other movies.)

Oh yeah... 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monsters in the Woods on VOD

So Monsters in the Woods is on Video on Demand in the US and Canada starting this month. If you have one of the following providers check this shit out!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Monsters in the Woods: Unauthorized Commentary

The official Monsters in the Woods dvd features a commentary by Robert Bravo, John Mcgil and yours truely. It was really fun to do and I hope as much fun to listent to. However, Al Gomez (Executive Producer) and I recorded what I feel is a more informative commentary for the movie as well. The distributor decided to go with more fun one, but I wanted to make the other available as well.

Below the full audio commentary is embedded. To sync with your dvd or vod just turn down the source and start the commentary at the beginning of the Zapruter logo.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Promoting your Micro-Budget Movie

When making a micro-budget movie there’s hardly enough money to make a movie, let alone marketing and promotion. Any good producer will set aside a portion of the budget for these things, but when things go wrong in production or post whatever little bit was saved for promotion gets spent. I’ve yet to work on a movie (with a budget under 50k) that had anything left for promotion once it was completed.

So how do you promote when you have no money for a PR company? You have to become your own PR machine.

The 1st step is to start making contacts with press. I’ve spent the better part of 7 years cultivating different print and online press contacts, starting with my 1st movie Rise of the Undead back in 2005. ROTU was a horror flick so I started by researching print and online publications that specialized in horror, particularly ultra-low budget horror. I spent weeks just looking up sites and magazines. A good place to start online is to look up similar movies to yours on IMDB. Look for movies with several critic reviews. Then find the contacts for those reviewers. Next, I started sending inquires; letters to the magazines and emails to the sites. I must have sent out over 200 inquires, from those I got maybe a 25 percent response rate and out of those 40 percent agreed to print articles or to take a look at a screener. In the end, I got maybe 6 online reviews and a couple a dozen short articles (more like blurbs.) It seemed like a lot of work for so little pay-off. However, a few years later when I did my 2nd movie, I already had some relationships established. I had kept all the contacts from my 1st time around. I started with the ones that actually printed stuff for me and I started sending them “exclusive” content (stuff no other press had.) They reciprocated by printing more detailed stories and more stories in general. This time around I started sending stuff out right after the movie wrapped; early screenshots, trailers, production news ect. Then I went through my old list of non-response and reached out again, adding newfound sites to the list. This time around my response rate jumped to 40 or 50 percent. By the time I got to Monsters in the Woods, about 70 percent of the press I reached out to responded. That in addition to my established contacts makes for a pretty good media blitz with no money in (aside from duplication costs and postage for screeners).

The 2nd step is to make use of social media. I pretty much stick with Facebook and twitter these days. In addition to my personal pages, I set up new ones for each movie I put out.
****One word of warning. Watch for over saturation and duplicate posts from your personal and movie pages. Don’t over-clutter people’s news feeds. I try (for the most part) to keep the movie stuff compartmentalized. I do usually post interviews and blog posts on my personal pages, because they’re about me personally. But, I keep the bulk of the specific movie news to the movie pages. Of course, that’s just a guideline that I don’t always follow myself. For example I got a really good review the other day and posted it everywhere.

3rd step. Ask for help. I’ve done just about 100 percent of the promotion for all of my movies up to Monsters in the Woods. On Monsters, the executive producer is helping quite a bit. And I’m getting to the point now where to get more or better press I need to make the kind of contacts you can’t get by cold calling. I need referrals ect.  So I try to find individuals who work in the PR game and pick their brain or feel them out. If they’re open to doing a favor I ask them.

Self-promotion is tough, especially since it seems narcissistic and self-serving. Unfortunately that’s what it is and on a micro it’s exactly what you have to do.

Another Friday in the Life

The weeks leading up to your movie’s premier can be bit of an emotional rollercoaster. You go from super busy: promoting, sending out screeners, doing interviews to not busy at all, waiting. Today is a busyish day.

  1. up at 7am. Check emails.
  2. 730am make a few new screeners for press review and review screeners
  3. 9am head off to post office to mail screeners. Then back home to get one I missed.
  4. 10am head off for a quick breakfast.
  5. 1030 write a quick blog on promoting micro-budget movies.
  6. 11am meet friend/writer for a screenplay workshop. I’ve just finished outlines for three new screenplays and need help picking which one to develop.
  7. 4pm check email and do a little horror website research, looking for potential reviewers/interviewers.
  8. 6pm head back home for dinner.
  9. 630pm read a bit from Storm of Swords. Hit the sack around 11pm.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Low-budget Moviemaker’s Guide to Reading Reviews of Your Movies: PART 2

Ok, so I promised myself I wouldn’t become one of those moviemakers who is hurt by or complains about negative reviews, but after reading one our latest Monsters in the Woods reviews, I just had to say something.

Let me begin by saying I’m no egomaniac…Well maybe I am, but I certainly have no problem with folk not liking my stuff and being vocal about it. In fact, I welcome such input. I enjoy it, A few years back I got a fairly scathing review from fatally-yours for Edges of Darkness. Chris Jacques didn’t like the flick at all. He did however take the time to write a full, well-written and entertaining critique. Though it is negative to be sure, his review remains one my favorites. There are other examples of negative reviews that are hell-a-entertaining, and what they have in common is quality writing. The best negative review I’ve ever read was of Alone in the Dark by Devin Faraci, then of Chud. (I looked for a link to the review but couldn’t find it). That one review kept me following his writing for much of the past decade. It was one great, negative review. Then there are several negative “regular folk” user reviews on Amazon, Netflix or IMDB that really get a kick out of, and honestly that is where a recent review of my latest flick belongs, not because it is negative, but because it’s so poorly written it has no business being on a pro-site.

I’m not jerk, well maybe I am, but I won’t name the author or the website, but trust me, it’s pretty bad. Granted, if the review had been positive, I wouldn’t be writing this. In fact if I were to be completely honest, I’d admit that at least one postive review of the same movie was equally was poor. So yeah, I’m a hypocrite, but when a critique is so poorly informed (doesn’t comment or describe anything that transpires after the 20 minute mark) so poorly written (a clique is a group of like minded individuals who hang out; a cliché is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect) and is about my movie, I just have to speak up.

2/3 of the review is dedicated to the plot, which by the way only goes through the 1st act or the 1st 20 minutes of the movie and gets many of the details wrong. Then there’s a paragraph and a half of very general criticisms, again of the 1st 20 minutes. I can’t fault the author for not getting the movie or not liking it but they obviously didn’t watch the entire thing and wrote a review based on what they thought the movie might be. They never backed their opinion with any specific examples or gave a well-thought out critique on any aspect of the movie.

This kind of message board criticism is best left there. If you consider yourself a professional reviewer, than you owe it to yourself to at least watch the whole movie and give a review that does more than go over the 1st 20 minutes of a movie. If watching a particular piece is that much of a chore for you than just don’t do the piece. I’m also wondering if the site (a fairly reputable one) has an editor that actually reads theses posts, because a lot of the grammatical errors could’ve been caught easily. As posted it reads like it was written by a 14 year old who’s failing English (ok, that was just mean. I’m no English PHD myself. But then again, I’m not a “journalist” reviewing flicks for a professional site. However if I were, I’d put a little more care into my work.)

Lazy-ass reviews like this just really suck, especially for ultra-low budget movies that have enough trouble getting people to watch and judge them on their actual merits. I’m not saying that reviewers shouldn’t trash these movies when they’re bad, but they owe it to their audiences, the movies and themselves to actually put some effort into their work. 

***** Yeah, ok, so this probably 99% sour grapes. Wasn’t I the one who wrote a post a few days back about not taking criticism too seriously? Yet here I am getting all bent out of shape by 1 negative review outta 6.  Time to take my own advice and move on.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Day Off from the Life

 My head has been swimming with work, Monsters in the Woods and new developing projects. It's time for a break. Today, I’m planning to do absolutely nothing (aside from one short trip to the post office to mail out some long overdue screeners of Monsters in the Woods to some long-waiting parties)

My day of nothing will begin with a trip to gym. After taking sick 3 weeks back, I’ve neglected my regular routine followed by my aforementioned post office trip. Then I’m planning to spend the bulk of the day catching up on PARENTHOOD on netflix. I’m totally smitten with this show. I’ll break this up with a few chapters of The Fire and Ice saga, peppered with some meaningless and random interweb surfing.

Got a lot of nothing to do, best get to it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Low-budget Moviemaker’s Guide to Reading Reviews of Your Movies

Over the years my movies have gotten a ton of reviews from all kinds of sources. I’ve had glowing reviews, tear-the-movie-part reviews, eh reviews, well-written reviews, reviews that didn’t use spell check and everything in-between.  Early on I got a little more worked up over them, but over the years I’ve mellowed and learned to just have fun with them. I enjoy reading the horrible reviews every bit as much as positive ones. Sure it’s always nice to get praise, but negative reviews can spark interest in your movie just as well.  Anywho, here’s a few guidelines for reading reviews of your work.

  1. Don’t take it too seriously. Sure it’s nice to have someone gush over your work, but you need to remember criticism is subjective and totally dependent on point of view.
  2. There’s no such thing as bad press. A scathing review is as likely to draw in readers as a dick-sucking one.
  3. The worst reviews are apathetic. It’s best to be loved or hated. The only reviews that ever bug me are of the middle-of-the-road take it or leave it variety.
  4. Don’t take it too seriously.
  5. It’s not personal. The reviewer (most likely) doesn’t know you. There’s no axe to grind. And if they do and there is, then it’s not about your movie anyway.
  6. Don’t take it too seriously.
  7. If you’re an actor, remember that movies are a director’s medium. If you get a bad notice, it’s most likely the director’s fault. He or she cast the movie and decided if the performance was “there.” If they took anything less, that’s on them. Another thing to remember is some critics mistake bad dialog for bad performance.**** All that said, sometimes director’s are saddled with certain performers and there’s nothing to be done.
  8. Don’t take it too seriously.
  9. A good review from even a small publication feels good.
  10.  Don’t take it too seriously.
Oh, I almost forgot. Be gracious. If you have the time and info, contact and thank the reviewer (even if the review was bad.)