Friday, September 28, 2012


Friday morning, I've finished the LA Times and now considering what to do next. I know what I have to do but am lingering, looking for something manual to do, vacuum, clean windows, re-arrange the fridge...

What I'm doing is stretching out the moments of freedom before I have to go to work.  Damn it. 

Bob Fosse, a stage and movie director used to start working by looking in a mirror and saying, "it's showtime".

You might think after over way too many years I would have lost that fear. 

No way. Going to my office to write is just as scary as it was the first day. Maybe even more scary. Maybe I won't be able to write anything. Maybe the story is awful. 

Then - freedom.

A freeway chase happens on the 101 freeway. I'll just watch a few minutes...

... honest.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Crowd Funding

I talked about Crowd Funding before but there's been some major changes that are quite good. Basically it's where people donate money to charities,  political campaigns, early software development in hopes of getting something going.

Where do movies come in?

Movies can be funded by these "donations".

It can work in a number of ways, you could create a proposal that looks like a Securities Commission stack of papers and spend tons of money on lawyers to make it look good.

Or you can go to and and by now there are probably a dozen more. These are websites that allow you to put your project onto their website to raise money for your project be it a movie, an artist, a recording artist, a poet, anything in the arts.

It works like this; you post your project, a movie, on which is probably the most popular. This morning I found that there are over 700 film projects on it's site. And they're everything from movies to shorts to documentaries.

You should have something for potential donors to see like maybe a video trailer or pictures or even yourself telling them how much you want to make your movie. First you give out the amount you need, let's say $25,000 for a movie with actors and a small crew. Naturally you should have this all planned, budget, editing, names of crew and cast.

Then you get a certain time limit in which the budget has to be raised. Then you wait and see who invests and hope you get your money. The amount needed is on the left side and the amount you raise is on the right side. And you should have photos and anything visual that will enhance a donor to put in $10 or more. 

That's what the average donor gives. And if you don't raise that $25k then you don't get any of the money. lets you keep whatever you raise.

And what do the donors get? Well, since they are donors, not investors really, they don't get anything. But someone figured out how to go around that. Donors, depending on the size of their investment can get t-shirts, a DVD of the movie, a visit to the set, even a part if you donate $500 or more, as long as there's enough extras needed.

And since there's over 700 movies asking for money, it is working. To see it go to either of those sites, it's quite interesting.

Enter President Obama.

You may have heard about the "Jobs Act" that he signed this year. This, interestingly enough, can apply to movies. The act was signed to help small businesses and startups to help the economy recover. The thing is that the maximum was raised to $1 million. 

Translated most of the movies in those websites are asking for anything from $5000 up to $500,000 but now, because of the Jobs Act, you can get up to that nice $1 million. It's a little harder than the scenarios I described above, at $25,000 you won't have to fill out complicated papers but if you want $1 million, you can and should hire a lawyer. In fact you should have a lawyer for the low budgets, if you can find a cheap one.

It's still too new to see how this will work. We had a similar plan in Canada from 1975 to 1985 in which investors could invest into movies and receive a 100% tax write-off. Meaning they could subtract that much money from their yearly earnings.

Obviously these people were high rollers, Ghostkeeper 1980 was funded for $650,000 by 4 Calgary investors. Other movies cost as much as $10 million.

But naturally there's some people who get a little greedy. And you know who. Lawyers and accountants and producers. And they begin to take money, some films I know had budgets of $5 million and only $3 million was spent on making it. The rest went to those bad guys. Eventually the Canadian govt cut the tax shelter off, saying they were just a little too greedy.

So let's see what happens.

In the meantime, I'm already planning a low budget feature for around $10,000.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Once again...

Well, we're back to the beginning, sort of.

I am working with a partner on Ghostkeeper 2 with the hopes of filming it in January-February 2013. I'm working on a website and have used a lot of the information in the book by Jason Brubaker in the previous blog. 

Along with that I have my book on screenwriting finished with the second pass. It's gone to 5 people to read, an editor and some writers just to see what they think and what is still needed.

I'm going to publish the book in early January as I learned a lesson with my Emperor of Mars book. I had published that in late November for the Christmas rush but there wasn't really time enough to publicize the book.

And that resulted in small sales and one more thing; in January 2012, the book became a year old, even though it was out for around 7 weeks. Why does that matter?

Because as of January 2012 it was a book published in 2011 and thus is a year old. Most people don't really care to look at when a book is published. At least I think so. I do look at the publication date to see how up-to-date the book is.

And I have a feeling other people do, maybe more than I care to know about.

So by publishing my screenwriting book in January 2013, it gives the book a full year before it's considered a year old. 

I'm also thinking of doing a crowdfunding movie for one of the 2 or 3 screenplays I have that are inexpensive to make. Crowdfunding is a way to raise money for almost anything, and is approved to some extent by the federal government.

I'll deal with more specifics on crowdfunding in Monday's blog.

The projects I have are two screenplays I wrote some time ago; one is called Mojave and follows a group of friends who venture into the Mojave desert where they realize they are being hunted by an unknown person.

The other script is called Casualties of Love, and very different than the above. This story is about three men nearing 40 who were members of a teen garage band 20 years ago. They kidnap an aging rock star who plans to sell his music to advertisers and the three want him to change his mind.

What's common between these two movies is this; both can be filmed cheaply. Mojave requires only 6 actors and it's all exterior and with no sets or complications. The biggest expense will be motels but all in all it can be done for $10,000. 

Casualties is even easier. It's set in a house with a few exteriors. And only 5 actors.

So why make cheap movies?

That's for Monday's blog.

I'm off now to find a viewing place to watch the spaceshuttle Endeavour hitching a ride on a 747 to LAX. It's doing a flyover LA and I'm sure thousands will be watching.

Have a good week-end.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Filmmaking Stuff

I recently was asked to read a new book out on filmmaking and as you know I’m notorious for being straight ahead, fair and honest. 

So ready? It’s called How to Make, Market and Sell your Movie Without the Middleman. And a sub-title called Filmmaking Stuff.

That’s a mouthful right there. Maybe two.

My first thought went back to a similar book from 1971 called Breaking Through, Selling Out, Dropping Dead.  Breaking Through was arguably the first book to use a casual “say it like it is” talking style rather than a formal instruction book and was the guide for low budget films for those of us working in 16mm way back when.

But we’re not in 16mm anymore.

My first thought was another Tony Robbins sell and the first few chapters deal with the writer, Jason Brubaker, and his early experiences and his successes and failures. But his advice on how to find money is filled with ideas and stories that should inspire anybody.

The book begins to shape itself and becomes both informative and entertaining. The early chapters are almost exclusively for beginners. He gives them a realistic take on the “business” and I particularly liked the real issues that he brings to the table. Being a writer and director with a reasonably impressive imdb, I lived much of what he talks about and it all is real.

The biggest difference in this book is the amount of information that comes not from theories and seminars, but rather from his own experience. Nothing like having failed to make you stronger. He begins with setting goals and takes the reader through everything from finding money, picking a team, branding yourself, picking your genre, creating websites, using production software,  and tons of other good subjects.

This is a book for the digital age and has more bits and pieces that are mostly left out in magazines and other books to make it worthwhile for even a seasoned pro like myself.

But what I really liked were the marketing chapters towards the end and they are in themselves a reward that even I highlighted sections. In short, his simplified explanation on marketing is probably the best I’ve ever read without having to pay a lawyer or investment specialist.

He brings in every new idea and what it takes to start, make and market a film including the crowd-funding choice and even an update on where presently is. The chapters on how to reach an audience for Video on Demand is amazing.Yes, he has links and connections to various websites and he does offer them, but at the same time he always gives the reader choices that make it even-handed.
I’d recommend this book to its obvious aspiring filmmaker market but also to the pros because they’ll find out things they never knew. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Guess who's back?

I'm normally an easy-going movie fan but this week-end there's a movie I won't miss. It's non other than Milla Jovovich in yet another Resident Evil movie. It's the 5th version based on the video game Resident Evil.

I just can't help myself, Milla just really knows action movies and even though the movies never really make sense, she can hold the screen. Not in all her movies, but somehow and for some reason, she really makes this franchise work.

And of course it helps that she's Ukrainian, just like me and I guess there's a feeling of pride that "one of us" made the big time. 

There's a lot of woman super heroes but Milla just does it better. A cameraman I know shot one of her Resident Evil movies and said she's quite incredible in terms of physical action. For a small, thin woman she can carry it through. 

He said that while she has a stunt woman for some of her stunts but even then, the stunt woman can't match Milla's energy and often, Milla's stunts are better. She just has that "thing" I guess. 

Garbo had the look, Nicholson had that smile,  Marilyn had that sadness, Bogart had... well.. Bogart. 

And give Milla a sword and a gun and watch her cut a swathe through zombies and whomever. And step out of it just as easy as she might step out of a limo.

Did I say this one's 3-D?

Her husband directs the films and never has a preview as critics mostly blast it yet it pulls in a ton of money, especially overseas.

Okay, I'm not expecting great things, but will sit there with the other Milla fans most likely a 3rd of my age, but hey, we all gotta have heroes. Eh?

Besides it's 104F in the valley today, 107F (feels like).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hollywood & Swine

There's a new website for film people called Hollywood & Swine, sort of a take-off on The Onion for those who follow that site. This one is about slamming Hollywood in a satirical way. Have a look, it's on the left side under My Sites.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Do you believe the image?

Martin Scorceses said of the young people now that, "they don't believe the image".

This was in relation to how young people watch movies and the fact that they don't really believe the image the way our boomer generation and the generation before us viewed movies.

By young people, I would actually go back to GenX who were caught between my generation and not the new generation, with X meaning more or less a confused generation. They are essentially not old enough and not young enough.

It was a GenX'er who caught my curiousity as he described movies he saw as jokes or stupid or uncool. I was interested in how that attitude came about, it seemed that to like movies was uncool. By the way "cool" and "uncool" go back to the 1940's, and it's interesting that the expression is still with us.

Movies for us boomers were major entertainment in the 60's and through the 90's when we began to stop going to the theaters and rather would buy or rent VHS and DVD videos. One of the reasons was that during our 60 years of watching movies we had seen every kind of plot and storyline there is.

Enter the "Millennials"who were born with iPods in their hands and parents who wanted them to be famous. 

And they see movies as only one aspect of entertainment. They can watch a movie on their iPhone and stop to text and then actually take a live call. They call it multi-tasking. However multi-tasking really isn't doing two or three things at the same time, despite what people think.

A few weeks ago I was doing several things at the same time; burning a DVD on my iMac, finalizing another DVD from my TiVo, printing labels on DVD's on my laptop and using my other laptop to answer emails.

At the same time. 

Well, really not at the same time. Very few people can do two things at the same time. What I was doing was compartmentalizing everything, check the TiVo, walk over to the iMac then go back to my laptop to  insert a new DVD to be printed. It really isn't doing 4 things at the same time, it's 4 things in sequence.

The only difference is that kids now can do it faster. In fact they want to get things done as fast as they can.

So what about believing the images.

Sadly, at least to boomers, the kids are missing out on stories and characters because you can't enjoy a movie and text at the same time. I sometimes have my laptop as I watch a movie on TV and realize that I'm often missing some of the story. 

But the story isn't really important now either. Movies were magic to our parents and to us and we would enter a theater to be taken away to another world for two hours. That's what it was about.

Movies like Lawrence of Arabia and The Searchers and so many others gave us legendary characters that we would hope to be or at least partially be like them.

Since DVDs began to be sold in supermarkets it was the beginning of the end of the magic, they became just another product and in order to impress anybody they had to be big. Very big.

Avatar big. 

But even big doesn't work for the audience that much. John Carter (John Carter of Mars) and Battleship both flopped. Batman worked because of Chris Nolan and his use of character and action made it enjoyable.

One interesting thing about Millennials is that they rarely watch the movies of the 1930's to 1950's, which boomers did, even though those movies were made years before they were born. There's still something about Bogart in black & white and Cagney on "top of the world" that make us believe.

So to Millennials, try to believe again, although I also realize that they are facing a world unlike ours, our generation only feared nuclear war, they fear they might miss out on the next generation of iPhones.

And a world of uncertainty.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


A little behind since I finished the book, already getting feedback of the usual things relating to the formats and typos and stuff. But ironically I discovered that a movie based on the classic 1050's book On The Road by Jack Kerouac was finally made into a movie. The book was published in 1951.

I first read On The Road at the age of 16 way back in the 1960's and it changed my life, sort of. The book is fiction but thinly so, all the adventures and characters were real and in the years that followed the published book, readers got to find out who was who.

Kerouac was from a French-Canadian family, typical of the mixed American/Canadian families who lived in Massachusetts. As a young guy, he went to New York where he began to meet what we would now call the "original hipsters".  They were mostly university students who were enjoying that period from the end of WW2 to the 50's when America was rediscovering itself.

It was also where jazz, poetry, coffee houses and of course, drugs became more common and many young people looked for more than what their parents, after  a hard-won war, wanted.

It was also where the term "beat" became popular. Kerouac explains on a recorded audio piece that the meaning was "the beat", the music, jazz. There are several other explanations for the term, but Kerouac's seems to be the most accepted one.

The book was picked as #55 on the "100 best novels in English language of the 20th Century and is right up there with two other outsider novels that revealed a darker and more explicit shade of America; Salinger's Catcher in The Rye and Peyton Place.

Most of the book, as the title infers, is about the road. Future great poets who were with Kerouac includes Alan Ginsberg, William Burroughs and others. They reluctantly laid out the ground work for beatniks and the 60's revolution among young people, and I suppose, including me.

It also influenced Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison among many others. Road pictures became popular in the 60's, Easy Rider was influenced by the book as was Thelma and Louise. 

The theme of the book was mostly the road trips across America in beat-up cars and seeing the real America from the midwest to the great plains and the California coastline. The book is made up of at least several trips.

Among these university kids were hobos and criminals and particularly one person, named Moriarity in the book, who was the opposite of them, a troubled guy with a dubious past who showed them his side of life, dank bars and crazy men and women and adventure for the sake of adventure.

There have been a few attempts at Kerouac, based on some of his other books. Francis Coppola bought the book and hoped to make it someday. He finally got it made but chose another director.

So what do I think? I saw the trailer and am not sure. It is a hard book to translate, but they seem to dwell more on the sex than the adventure. The sex in the book is mentioned but not ever shown and I'm afraid the film will focus more on that. If it is, it will spoil the story.

Reviews on a recent festival viewing were mixed.

One interesting piece was that Kerouac wrote the book on a scroll he created by taping sheets of paper to a length of 30 feet and he fed it into his typewriter as he would write so fast he didn't want to deal with putting a sheet of paper into the machine.  

So, I'm looking somewhat apprehensively to seeing the movie.

I have travelled a hell of a lot in the years and ventured on almost all the highways in the western states and provinces.

By the way, the photo on my blog is in Nevada on one of my roadtrips. Below a bad pic of the highways I've traveled.