Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"I am interested..."

It was an email that read simply:      

"I am interested and I would estimate we can provide through the Manitoba tax credits, and equity programs, approx 40% plus of the budget.  If you like, we can talk early next week and go the details. "

Short and sweet as they say.  Seconds before the email appeared I saw the sender's name and realized it was one of the Canadian producers who might be considering working with us.  My first feeling was that it was good. But my skepticism crept in. 

He's passing.

But something told me different.  Most companies don't bother to tell you they're passing on your project these days, they just stop communicating.  Maybe he was one of the nice ones who still has some class and wanted to tell you in person that he is passing.  I clicked on the email and as it opened I scanned the sentences for one good word, it took all of 2 seconds. 

"I am interested."

 That's all I needed, and I reread it to get the entire message.  Then I read it a third time.  We did it.  Shirley and I did it. 

We have a movie. 

With Manitoba's minimum of 40% and our initial investor's 50% it suddenly became a reality. I waited for awhile before I would tell Shirley, I wanted to be absolutely certain of what he was saying.  I remembered that Rachel the movie channel exec (Eh Channel)  had asked the producer to look at my screenplay.  I sent a package of both the proposal and the screenplay as I have done to at least 50 other people of whom some never responded and some liked it but weren't interested and some just weren't interested.  Now we had someone who was. 

I knew what he would be doing, using tax credits in Manitoba which can be as high as 65% tax credit on labor from Manitoba.  For every crewmember, actor, driver, caterer, virtually everyone  except Shirley and an American actor, we got back 65 cents on the dollar. 

I think I must have read that message a half dozen times, putting different interpretations ton it, stepping away and walking outside my place, then back again. I knew where he would get his equity, it would come from one or more of those various private and government funding agencies that abound in Canada.  I took an early lunch at Carney's, a railroad car where I would celebrate minor victories with a split &  grilled red hot and a side of chili fries, best in the valley. 

Remember one of my rules;  reward yourself often.

This changed everything. We now, in theory, had the budget for Travel Day.  And if the exchange rate favored the U.S., it could conceivably mean our American money would be worth maybe 14 cents more on the dollar.  Which meant that $400,000 US would be worth $464,000, almost half a million if the U.S. dollar doesn't fall anymore.  

If we still had that $400k.

After my excitement died down I began to analyze exactly where we were.  On paper it looked damn good.  But I had emailed my $400k man a few weeks ago and he had not returned our email. My friend who knows him said he sometimes does that.  Privately it worried me.  I never told Shirley or anyone.  I fell into that mode of "better no news than bad news" when it came to the $400k man.   I re-read his email, particularly one phrase;  "I can probably find the rest"

What did that imply; will he do it? 
Will he consider it? Is he going to DO IT??

You're probably wondering why I so quickly left behind the good news to dwell more on the possibility of bad news.  Well, I'm not one to play with pop psychology and thinking positive or visualizing my goals, I'm a realist mixed in with a dreamer and an eternal optimist, although sometimes I use pessimism as a cover for optimism. Expect the worst and you won't be disappointed.

I majored in Psychology (encouraged by the lovely Crystal, a grad student four years older than me)  at Henry Ford College and was set to transfer to U. of Detroit.  But I dropped out and into the world of television but always joked that I knew enough about psychology to tell everyone else what their problem was.  So while everything sounded spectacular, there was just one hitch...

One word: experience. 

This is almost exactly what happened with my producer on Emperor of Mars after nearly one year of waiting to fund that movie for $5 million.  Since I was writer and director I was not directly involved in the financing of Emperor.  Like Shirley is now, I was the one who waited for the good news that we have our funding.  We had a similar deal, the majority would come from the U.S. and the balance would come from tax incentives in Alberta (Alberta is the only province to call it's credits "incentives" as it's the most American of provinces and refuses to use the word "tax" anything.)

And the funding came close until, and this is something I can only speculate on, the U.S money fell out.  And the previous year Emperor was nearly funded when the financing fell through again. In fact, Emperor had been the victim of 4 attempts;  one with an Academy winning director and three times with me.  And none of those had any involvement in the funding stage from me.  That's one of the reasons why I am producing Travel Day. 

Because I want to know everything that happens on this movie. 

Every detail from the proposal on to the release.  Now I was somewhat in the same position, except this time I was the producer,  I was the one who knew what was going on, hopefully to do what needed to be done and finally, to get this movie made.  Sensing a backup plan, I had already contacted several other potential investors and Hank, the presales producer who could presell to Italy and France, which could make up the difference. 

But at the end of the day, I was going to relax in the comfort of acceptance.  And I would definitely call Manitoba next week.  I called Shirley to tell her rather than email it.  She was totally excited and said she had a feeling we would be doing this in Canada.  And it took us less than 3 months to get here. But I didn't feel we were there yet,  that there is still a lot of work to make everything go right and that there will be bumps ahead. Big ones.

Regardless, it was a good day for us.


  1. Wahoo! That is very exciting news so far. I can just feel how you must have felt when you read the email. I have complete faith it will all work out exactly as you had hoped. Perseverance does indeed pay. I'll drink to that. Cheers!

  2. Oh, Happy Day!!!!

    Congrats, Jim! What a joy to celebrate another huge milestone on the journey to Travel Day!

    - Your fans just above the 49th parallel

  3. CONGRATULATIONS Jim. I will follow your story from beginning to end. I think you have majic and it came from that main street in Manitoba so very long ago. I've seen you there and it shone through like no one else can imagine. The temperatures plummeting so low(-38) the crystals hung in the air. You were dressed for California but walked down that main street like you had been transported in. The goal was to see the brand new puppies. Do you remember that New Years Eve????