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.)