Thursday, July 8, 2010

Easy come, easy go

This is the proposal that Phil came up with, including artwork and detailed information. This is what would be passed to private investors, everything from a poster we created to budget, estimated gross income, schedule and everything else assoicated with mounting a project budgeted at $5 million.

The cost of making this proposal could be in hundreds of dollars, but since we did it ourselves, mostly Phil and his partners, it cost only printing and binding.

Phil even autographed mine, the one you see.

I felt confident that the money could be found, Phil was not comfortable with the Alberta boys, Rick and Sean, but they had around 40 movies completed in the last 10 years, almost all of them with American partners. I couldn't really understand Phil's apprehension as they had almost 40 times as many movies as he had made.

Surely this should prove something; that they can make a movie and that they can work with Americans. But Phil resisted.

Part of it was probably the cost of these two Alberta producers, they would supply the crew, the editing and almost everything else except for the above the line costs, producer, writer, director and stars.

One of the things that happens on these privately financed movies is that the producers usually take a huge fee for themselves, and Phil already had several partners on this project, each wanting a piece of the pie. In fact the budget for above the line was almost $1 million dollars. This is 25% of the budget.

But a new budget made by the Alberta guys took the above the line to $1.7 million, adding more for a lead actor and for their salaries. And yet, keeping it to $5 million. And we would now have 6 producers. Except that the Alberta guys could come in with tax credits that would amount to almost $1 million alone.

This is best explained by saying that at the end of filming, the government of Alberta writes us a check for almost $1 million. And that could go to the investors (usually) or to the producers.

Phil was bent on doing it his way, getting the full budget from an investment group in the U.S. I still felt that the Canadian way was better, mostly because it was essentially a Canadian story; based on my childhood.

An essential part of the film was wheatfields; and as I knew, wheatfields are usually harvested in late summer, sometimes early September. And it was now June. In order to film golden fields of wheat we needed to start production now.

The hardest part of this for me was waiting. Phil would call from Rome or Paris as he was still flying across the world, his real job. He would say they were close, so close and to get ready. Since I couldn't really do anything to help them, I waited.

In July I left for Canada for a regular summer holiday in my hometown, spending time with my mother. I stopped in Montana and had the state film office take me to various locations in case we filmed in Montana, which I knew very well and would enjoy filming it there.

But as the days passed, Phil continued to have problems with his investors, there seemed to be disagreements over who got how much and how it would be divided. Since I was never part of that association, I just heard that it was up or down, or up or maybe down.

Finally, it was August and now, no real chance of the wheatfields being what we needed. In desperation, I called film offices in South America, Australia and even South Africa to see if they had wheatfields in December. And indeed, some did.

Then I got the big call. It was off. The investors, for some reason, couldn't come to an agreement. I wanted to know more but it turned into a bit of a shouting match over telephones with Phil and I.

It was over.

Another shot for the Emperor, and another downed attempt. 

(Mon: Never say it's over)

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