This past week First Signal premiered on The Roku Channel. With Roku, First Signal is now available on five major VOD platforms and is virtually available anywhere in the world. While I was certainly hoping for a solid distribution deal when I was producing First Signal, I honestly had no idea where the film was going to go. The one thing I was sure of, is that the film had to be placed properly if I was to continue developing and producing films.
On the subject of producing, over the last couple of months I’ve been participating in a variety of seminars and discussions on film financing. While the industry has changed from a technology (production) and distribution POV, the world of film financing is still populated with the usual characters and discussions – i.e., if you pay for services, you have a better chance of success.
Before I get into the weeds on film financing, let me break it down. When I say film financing, I’m talking about raising a couple of million (or more) to produce a feature film or a series. The “dream” way is that an agent, producer or production company discovers your work and sets up the project. The way that takes “work work” is pitching and presenting your project to the aforementioned entities. This is where the usual characters and discussions apply.
While there are many qualified, talented and connected people that are selling their services and introductions, all I can say is caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. When you listen to these people there is a narrative that populates the majority – if you don’t do it their way, you won’t be successful. While listening is important, at the end of the day you just must throw caution to the wind and produce. There is no easy path to producing. Whether you do it yourself or in partnership with others, the risk and reward are the same. The only difference is the dollars – are they yours or someone that’s investing in you.
One thing I learned when revisiting this world of film financing, is that I discovered that some folks that were pitching their projects over ten years ago are still pitching and paying along the way. How much money do you need to spend on contests, experts, etc. to get that perfect approval? You could spend from here to next never and still not get a green light. But one thing you can do, is listen, research, plan and then produce – on your own. I’ve taken this approach on five occasions with three shorts and two features. Had I waited for all the planets to align, my two feature films, Justice Is Mind and First Signal, would still only exist as a script.
Although I’m often approached by filmmakers on a variety of topics, I never sell my services. What works for me, might not work for you. What I do contribute is my experience. Some may like my approach, while others might find it too direct.
All this being said, while I continue to pitch and present, I’m actively working on self-producing my next project. I can’t wait for next never!
This weekend I hit page 110 of the sequel to Justice Is Mind. For the last several pages the characters and related plot points have been converging to an end point. It’s moments like this in my writing that I find myself going back to the beginning of the script to make sure I haven’t left anything out. But this is the first draft, and like any first draft, there will be edits.
As some may know, one of my favorite authors is Barbara Taylor Bradford who wrote A Woman of Substance. I came across an interview she did in Gotham last year on what some of her writing secrets are. She makes an outline that doesn’t go more than 10 pages. That’s generally about the same practice I employ. For me, I want to have an idea where the characters are going, but to give them flexibility if some new idea or plot twist comes up. In fact, I already adjusted the ending a bit for the sequel.
The one thing I don’t do is over edit. I really believe you can edit too much and water down what may have been OK in the first place. But this is all personal preference. Of course, if a project has been green lit there are those adjustments that sometimes you just need to make for a variety of reasons. I was looking at my first draft for Justice Is Mind back in 2010. I’ll just say this, thank God I changed the last ten pages!
But like Emma Harte in A Woman of Substance had her “Plan with a capital P”, I have the same thing with the “Justice Is Mind” project. It may take some time to implement, and I certainly won’t divulge it all here, but with a short and feature film completed, a sequel in development and notes for the fourth leg of this project, it’s moving. With each leg the goal is to continue to increase the profile of the project. Ambitious? Sure. But so was the feature film.
Speaking of the feature film, I’m pleased to report that Justice Is Mind can now be streamed on Roku through the new VHX channel. VHX just announced it last week. It’s certainly a great development and it just gives audiences more viewing options. I’m hoping to announce some additional distribution options for Justice Is Mind shortly.
On the political front I was more than delighted to read last week that relations between the United States and Cuba continue to thaw. In my political thriller SOS United States, it’s Cuba that comes to the aide of the United States. When I think of the number of times I have travelled in the Caribbean (mostly by cruise ship) only to see Cuba just over the horizon. It’s time this failed embargo is lifted.
And just as I was finishing up this blog post one of our supporters said, “You know when folks see a movie I don’t think they really get the work, the really hard work the writer has thinking up every word and making it come out sounding natural.” Suffice to say I appreciate those words!
From the writing of the screenplay, raising the money, producing, directing and marketing, audiences really have no idea what goes into the production of a film. And as Emily Best of Seed & Spark said in an article this week, “Every film is a business.” Because in today’s day and age of independent filmmaking, there is one thing you need to have.