The day I walked out of my family business was the worst day to walk out ‐ for I had only 15 cents in my pocket! But, my head was in the clouds!
I was the black sheep of the family. Rather than getting A grades in economics and accounts, I was making model toys and air planes with broken nails, chipped marbles and empty cartons picked up from the warehouse my family owned.
Not many years ago, sweating like a pig in the sweltering heat, my clean shirt sticking to my body, I sat next to three bare bodied laborers, near a stinking open drain in a ware house, waiting for a customer. I picked up my favorite broken blue marker and wrote this on the damp wall "the only life worth living is a life without alternatives."
82 trips from my ramshackle warehouse to my first client are what got me my first break to direct a commercial for $1,200. This year at AFM 2013 I will be pitching and negotiating a $15 million feature film project.
From 15 cents in my pocket to 150 commercials, music videos, 3 feature films (one with a national award), to finishing my 6th script DANCER WARRIOR. It's been a roller coaster ride!
Today I slip my hand into my pocket to feel the cold metal coins of 15 cents that I keep with me always.
My broken blue marker occupies a special place on my desk.
The words on that damp wall still imprinted in my mind "the only life worth living is a life without alternatives"
My only regret is that my father isn't alive to witness me at AFM 2013. 15 cents in my pocket is all what I had.
Get one in the can
After attending my first AFM last year, I was very inspired to shift gears in how I thought of filmmaking. I was banging my head against the wall trying to get big‐budget finance and it finally clicked: I really needed to get one in the can instead of continuing to seek funding for an "Opus" project.
A like‐minded friend of mine approached me with a wild idea to shoot a 90 minute length Feature in just 3 days on a smaller budget. I did some research and found that the only person to pull this off (on record) was Roger Corman in 1960 with "Little Shop of Horrors."
Six weeks after I received the script for "THE DARK", we shot our movie in less than 3 days at an abandoned, haunted hospital. The experience was FANTASTIC! We ran 3 crews, shooting 10 pages per crew per day and included SPFX and stunts. Nobody lost their mind, and we now have what we refer to as a "DARK Family" - the bonding that happened on that set was incredible!
We applied to the Guinness Book of World Records to compete as the fastest shot feature film and are waiting for final approval of the record.
We are now in the process of editing, finding a distributor, and furthering our Trans-media campaign. I have to say that "getting one in the can" feels so much better than waiting on big finance! I look forward to this year's AFM and invite you all to explore THE DARK with us at www.TheDarkMovie.com!
Thank you for this opportunity! AFM's support is tremendous and I appreciate what you do for us Indies.
Write a really good script
Probably like you I am a screenwriter and a producer. But probably unlike you my first screenplay and film, "5 Hour Friends", which stars the devilish and remarkably talented Tom Sizemore was actually produced. We also signed with sales agent which we met at the American Film Market.
So why me and not you? It has nothing to do with having a writers' agent; don't have one. I'm a 67 year old male ‐ never went to film school. Never worked in Hollywood. Never visited a film set. Never nothing ‐ except I can write.
It has nothing to do with Hollywood contacts; I live in San Diego but it did have something to do with making a decision that you have likely not considered.
You see I decided that I was not so much a screen writer as a story teller. Big difference. And that difference in the movie business is everything ‐ script writers write scripts and walk; story tellers write scripts stick around and make a movie.
Yes, I committed to producing my script, "5 Hour Friends" and this route may be your best and perhaps your only bet in Hollywood these days.
Let me be clear ‐ you need to know how to write because the very foundation of film are words on paper.
As the script writer ‐ you are the brightest star in the universe but if you sell your script and walk; you are instantly so much cosmic dust. Stick around and you remain in the power position; the emperor of the middle kingdom.
Here's my 6 step process:
Step 1: Write a really great script. Good actors are attracted to and love to act in great stories.
Step 2: Get as much information as you can by going to a no budget filmmaking class.
Step 3: Attend The American Film Market BEFORE production; ask sales agents the critical question: What they can sell?
Step 4: Hire a hungry, talented Director, Director of Photography, Casting Director and crew and get out of their way. Your crew is smarter than you; they actually make the film. By the way I learned about two hours into the first day of filming that a producer's job is primarily to say, "No".
Step 5: Get the most recognizable, most talented male lead you can afford like Tom Sizemore.
Step 6: This final step takes you back to the beginning ‐ the American Film Market. A year after asking for sales agents' advice we had a finished film in hand. At the AFM we had 4 offers for television Video On Demand distribution, and 6 additional offers from sales agents.
Yep it's a 6 step process ‐ 6 fewer steps than becoming alcohol free. It's not easy; it's not quick either but it works.