July 23rd, 2015

Fissure is now available on Amazon Prime

We’re excited to announce that Fissure can now be watched on Amazon Prime.

Here are some of the reviews from viewers:

“Well done! Actually left me thinking at first it was another haunting so I was pleasantly surprised with something different. Would make a pretty neat series.”

“A Lot of Twists and Turns, Held my Attention.”

“One of those, not sure what’s going on but you have to keep watching movies and then you go OOHHH now I understand, kinda!! Probably need to watch it twice.”

“Interesting concept. Enjoyed it.”

“Worth watching.”

“Pretty good movie but you really need to pay attention. Made no sense through most of the movie but you could tell something wasn’t right.”

“This is a very convoluted sci-fi movie with a much different twist on it than I have ever seen before, and it is so well done; especially the CGI, that it is spellbinding for a low-budget Indie production and proves how imagination can blend into a story-line to keep the audi9ence deeply involved right tup to and including the rolling of the credits! Good Job!”

“Engaging twisted plot.”

“Excellent movie that keeps you thinking. It took a very long time to reveal what was “wrong” but that made it worth watching. If this could only be real, it would give you a a chance to be forgiven and be to forgive, start life over if you should ever mess up. Awesome movie.”

October 25th, 2009

Paranormal Activity – Learning how to budget your indie film

The new, micro budget horror film, Paranormal Activity continues to rake in the cash, with this weekend pushing it above $60 million at the box office. That’s a Hollywood success story.  The budget to make the film was a whopping $11,000.  Not $111 million.  Not even $11 million.  It was $11,000 — $11K — $11 grand.

Paranormal Activity was purchased by Paramount for $300,000. That’s an amazing RoI (Return on Investment) for the filmmakers. The studio went on to spend $10 million on P&A (Prints and Advertising). If they pull in $100 million at the box office, this will become the most successful Paramount film in modern history.

Sure, it’s an anomaly as far as micro-budget movie successes go, but they did something right.  This success reiterates something I spend a lot of time communicating to first-time filmmakers: you don’t need lots and lots of money to make a successful movie.  You need a good story that’s well told. Production values are important, but thanks to the YouTube generation, we can run around with our camcorder and make a successful movie.

In my new eBook, From Dream to Distribution: A Filmmaker’s Journey, I talked specifically about budgets:

When I meet with first-time filmmakers, most of them dream big. And, I love big dreamers. I really do.  But, there’s a difference between “big dreams” and “unrealistic dreams”. These zealous filmmakers come to me ready to chase $4 or $5 million for their first film. Let me just say, bad idea, especially for first-time filmmakers.

First of all, it’s very hard for a non-established, unproduced filmmaker to successfully pitch their freshman project to a wise investor. Why would an investor take such a risk with millions of dollars?  Of all the indie producers I’ve met, I don’t know of a single one who secured that much money for their first film. It just doesn’t happen.

Secondly, the chances of a first film at that budget level being profitable is less than 1%. Again, what investor would want to take that kind of risk?  It would be nearly impossible to recoup any profits from that level of production.

How much should you try to raise for your first film?  The answer is simple—as little as you absolutely need.

When I worked in corporate America selling consumer electronics, our objective was simple: produce a good product as cheap as possible, so that we could sell it, make a profit and build some more products.  Making movies should be no different:

  • Make a good product.
  • Keep your costs low.
  • Sell it and make a profit, so you can do it again!

Grab your camcorder and go make a successful Hollywood blockbuster!

October 9th, 2009

Using Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube to market your film

With our movie, Fissure, we utilized a variety of online services and tools to market our film. Below is a list of the things we tried, along with what worked and didn’t work for us.

Website

This is one of the most important online tools you need for your film. Websites are easy and cheap to get online. They are working for you 24/7, and can reach all the way around the world.

Your movie website should have the following:

  • An easy to remember name like GoneWithTheWindMovie.com
  • Your trailer should be very, very easy to find.
  • A synopsis or summary of your film.
  • Prominent display of festivals, awards, recognition, etc.
  • Photos from both the movie and behind the scenes.
  • Cast and crew information, with links to IMDB.
  • Registration page to gather fans and email addresses.
  • Links to other social media and online resources.
  • A very clean, easy-to-use interface.

We used WordPress for the Fissure TV website. WordPress was perfect for what we needed:

  • It’s free.
  • It allows viewers to post comments.
  • Embedding YouTube videos is easy.
  • We could skin the system with our own themed template.
  • It comes “out of the box” SEO ready — Search Engine Optimized.
  • Oh, and did I mention it was free.

Facebook

Facebook has been a solid success for us regarding marketing. Using a Facebook Fan Page (http://www.facebook.com/FissureMovie), we’ve been able to communicate to fans, post events (screenings, DVD release, etc.), and keep a good general awareness of the movie.

Using Facebook Ads, we were able to fill up an otherwise empty theater for a screening in Portland. We created an ad to promote a “Free screening of an award-winning, indie film”. Then, we targeted film enthusiasts and sci-fi fans in the Portland area. We limited our spend to $10 a day, and paid about $0.50 per click. We had quite a few impressions.

Here’s a chart of our Facebook Ad metrics:

Facebook_Ad_Portland.jpg
    Impressions: This is how many times the Facebook Ad ran. As you can see, the ad was in front of more than a quarter million people at a cost of about $100. That’s cheap advertising!

    Clicks: This is how many times the ad was clicked. This is where we paid. Each time the ad was clicked, we paid about $0.50 per click. But, even when the ad was clicked, the clickee still hasn’t taken action, which for us was to register for the free screening event.

    Actions: This is the action that was taken–register for the free screening.

While you may think the number of actions is small (a total of 6), there is a lot of exposure and impressions going on. Again, all for about $100.

Twitter

We also had some great experience with Twitter. We setup a custom-themed Twitter page for FissureTV and started following anyone connected to, or related to the entertainment industry. And, a quite a few followed us back.

With those who followed, we would often DM (direct message) to give updates, especially when we released a new webisode each week. Twitter was very successful in helping us get the word out.

We also setup a Twitter “retweet” (RT) contest. Retweeting is where you take a tweet and re-send it with the name of the person who originally tweeted the message. Each week, when we released a new webisode, we tweeted the following from the @FissureTV Twitter account: “Check out this week’s episode, ‘The Call’ at http://fissure.tv and RT to be eligible for prizes.”

Those who retweeted the message were automatically entered into a drawing for a variety of prizes — iPods, DVDs, autographed headshots, etc. The retweeted message looked like this: “RT @FissureTV Check out this week’s episode, ‘The Call’ at http://fissure.tv and RT to be eligible for prizes.”

Using Twitter’s Advanced Search combined with an RSS feed, we were able to capture everyone who was talking about FissureTV on Twitter. And, it was all free!

Interestingly, here’s something that didn’t work for us. We had a grand prize giveway — a flat screen television. All you had to do was register at FissureTV and simply gave us your name, email and zip code. Then, you were entered into this free giveway. After 10 weeks of this, we gathered a whopping 20 names. Twenty! Fail.

Here’s what I learned: anytime you give away something for free, people either don’t believe you, don’t believe they will win, or there’s a catch. People have been burned by “free this” and “free that”. It’s near impossible to rise above the clutter. One way is to give away something cool, like a new MacBook Pro, but now we’re talking expensive.

MySpace

We setup a MySpace page (http://myspace.com/FissureTV), and gathered some fans and friends, but in all honesty, I don’t like MySpace–too busy, too cluttered, too hard to find the good content there. So, we didn’t spend a lot of time building our MySpace network.

YouTube

As we got ready to launch the DVD, we used YouTube to post all of our videos on the movie: trailer, behind-the-scenes and the webisodes. And, right before we started posting videos, YouTube added an HD option, which was great because Fissure was originally captured in High Definition.

We also tried running a YouTube keyword ad to see if would have any success. The “action” was simply to watch the movie trailer in hopes of getting them over to our movie website.

First, we chose our keywords: “film, movie, indie, thriller, drama, etc.” and then created the add. We started monitoring the impressions. At first, it was pretty much the same, averaging about 15,000 to 20,000 impressions per day, with a few clicks. Then, one day, all of sudden, the impressions jumped to 950,000 impressions! Almost a million impressions in one day.

What was going on? I couldn’t figure it out until I went into the keyword details and saw that one keyword was driving all those impressions–thriller. It was the day Michael Jackson died.

October 9th, 2009

Using internet to marketing and promote your indie film

When we launched our film this summer, we used both traditional marketing methods (press releases, radio, news, interviews, screenings, etc.) and Internet-focused methods (blogs, webisodes, social media, etc.). Which is the winner? Hard to tell. Here are some of my observations on the two approaches to marketing your indie film:

Traditional Marketing

We had some great exposure through traditional marketing. Our PR firm was able to secure lots of interviews and press events. Our movie was featured in a variety of media outlets, including a blurb in the Hollywood Reporter. And, reviews were positive. Out of the 30 or so reviews, we only had one that was negative. The rest of them encouraged folks to see the movie. So, it was a success. But, did it generate sales? Did it affect how many DVDs Netflix or Blockbuster bought? I’m not sure it did.

The difficulty for most indie filmmakers regarding traditional marketing is the cost. PR firms aren’t cheap. Media buys are expensive. Newswires, screenings, posters, post cards, advertising–all are very expensive. And most indie budgets don’t make room for these kinds of expenses.

Another challenge for traditional marketing is the ability to track how effective this kind of marketing really is. The metrics are hard to measure, the impressions hard to track. So, there’s no easy way to measure your Return on Investment (RoI).

Note to filmmakers: when you start budgeting your film, don’t forget to include a budget for marketing. When I was in the corporate world, we would allocate between 25% and 35% of a budget for marketing. Do the same for your film. And then guard that money. When you move into post, you will be very tempted to use that marketing money to polish and tweak your film. Don’t do it.

Here’s a list of some of the traditional marketing methods we used:

  • Filmmaker Interviews
  • Movie Reviewes (screeners)
  • Postcards at Comic Con
  • Theatrical Screenings
  • Cast & Crew Events
  • Film Festivals

Internet-based Marketing

We also decided to leverage the Internet and variety of web-based tools to marketing our movie. And, we had some very positive success.

One of our key methods for promoting the film was through a website we setup called Fissure TV at http://fissure.tv. On this website, we gave away the first part of the movie for free in the form of webisodes. We took the first 35 minutes and created 9 short webisodes, each building upon the other. We used YouTube to host and stream the webisodes and embedded them into the site directly.

One of the key benefits of using Internet-based marketing methods is the ability to track very specific information about those who you market to. On YouTube, for example, we can see how many people watch the videos, where they are coming from and which videos they watch the most. Also, we used WordPress to create the Fissure TV website. It also has tracking metrics that allow us to see even more detail about our visitors. The RoI is immediately measurable. This is huge, because we can make immediate decisions on how to adjust certain online marketing campaigns.

Another key benefit for Internet-based marketing is cost. While certain Internet marketing methods can be costly, there are also a lot of free and low-cost marketing solutions on the web. Websites, social media, web video, email–there are lots of options out there. The key cost for these is time.

With our film, Fissure, we tried a variety of online marketing methods, some with success, some with failure. In my next post, I’ll describe each method we tried, and what worked and didn’t work for us.

October 9th, 2009

The New Age of Distribution

Regarding distribution, everything has changed and continues to change. The entertainment landscape is vastly different than it was was just a few years ago. The Hollywood business models that worked for years now don’t work like they used to. The Internet changed everything.

The internet created two key paradigm shifts when it comes to media consumption: instant and free.

Instant

No longer do I need to hop in my car, drive down to the local DVD rental store, pick out a movie, drive back home, pop it into my DVD player, sit back down into my recliner and press play. That could take half an hour, at best.

No, today is different. Here’s what I did last night. While sitting in my recliner, I pulled out my iPhone and browsed some movie selections on Netflix. I found a show I wanted to watch, and moved it into my instant queue. Then, I turned on my HD Plasma screen and XBox, scrolled down to the new show and started watching it. 4 minutes. Never left the recliner. No extra charges for that show–just my monthly Netflix and XBox service.

Things are definitely different. DVD’s are dying. DVD rental stores are dying. Distribution as we know is changing.

I read an article yesterday about how media is being consumed with this new generation. It’s no longer the purchase of CDs and DVDs. It’s not even really the purchase and download of music of movies. Today, it’s all about streaming and media services.

What does that mean for indie filmmakers? Well, it’s a blessing and curse, a doubled-edged sword.

A blessing because anyone can tell a story. Equipment to make movies and tell stories is almost negligible. A few hundred dollars for a camera, a few hundred dollars for a computer, an Internet connection and a free YouTube account. It’s basic, but it’s possible. That’s a blessing.

The curse is that everyone and their dog and make a video and post it on YouTube. Everyone. That’s a lot junk out there. And, going the more traditional route (raise $2 million, make a movie, secure a sweet distribution deal) just doesn’t work any more. It’s way too hard to recoup money on indie films, unless of course, they are done really, really inexpensively. Then, there’s a shot.

The key is a well-told story. That’s what makes the difference. You’ve got to know your audience and you’ve got to focus on your audience. If you shoot for the masses, you’ll miss. But, if you focus on a niche, and know the audience of the niche, then you’ll hit your target. Avoid the shotgun approach, and go with a sniper rifle approach. Focus equals impact.

Free

This is another paradigm created by the Internet. Everything is free. It’s not, but that’s the perception of those who use the Internet. Free searches, free music, free pictures, free everything. So, when music and movies were digitized, uploaded and shared, everyone just thought they would be free.

While the “instant” aspect of the Internet can probably be adapted to, this aspect of “free” is far more challenging because it takes money to create content.

So, what’s the answer? Immediately, industries started going after pirates using copyright law, and technology specialists tried creating better encryption, but that’s not going to solve the problem. Ever-changing technology will make it near impossible to digitally guard content, and it’s sad to say, but people won’t change. They will continue downloading pirated content.

Even with that, I still believe there is answer. No one has really found it yet, but there is a business model built around “free”. How much did you pay for your Google search this morning? Nothing. How much did you pay for the YouTube video you watched last night. Nothing. Yet, Google is one of the most profitable company in existence today.

Chirs Anderson of Wired Magazine just wrote a book called Free, the Future of a Radical Price. In his book, he describes this new economy of Free. There is a business model around free, but what that looks like for indie films hasn’t really been tapped yet.

June 10th, 2009

Fissure.TV Webisodes start June 15th

We are making incredible progress in getting the webisodes ready to launch for our June 15th start date. Very exciting!

In the mean time, check out some of our “Behind-the-Scenes” clips from the movie:

We’re also getting some wonderful press about our launch:

We will have special, free screenings around the US starting in Portland, Oregon on Monday, June 15th. Check out our Facebook event for more details on the Portland screening.

For a list of other screenings, check out our Fissure TV Screening Page.

Our DVD launch is set for Tuesday, August 11th. We’ll have more details as the launch date approaches.

May 6th, 2009

Fissure co-star, Crystal Mantecon, wraps “Tree of Life” with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn

Fissure co-star, Crystal Mantecon, recently finished up work on a new film by Terrence Malick called “Tree of Life“. Crystal plays opposite of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

I had a chance to travel down to Smithville where they were filming. Our first AD on Fissure, Bobby Bastarache, was Terrence’s first AD on “Tree of Life”. So, Bobby spent the evening driving me around Smithville. It was great seeing how they transformed this town to a 1950’s town. Very exciting!

Crystal plays Rachel Claris in the upcoming psychological thriller, Fissure.

russ_crystal.jpg
Director Russ Pond with co-star Crystal Mantecon
on the set of Fissure

Recent press regarding Crystal Mantecon:

ENVY Magazine: “… Actress Crystal Mantecón is a bona fide class act. The next-big-thing starlet just wrapped filming on Terrence Malick’s upcoming film TREE OF LIFE, which also stars Hollywood powerhouses Brad Pitt and Sean Penn…” — Madeline Hollern, Editor

Blog de Cine about Tree of Life: “La película… está protagonizada por Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw y, atención al nombre, Crystal Mantecon [The film… stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw, and pay attention to this name, Crystal Mantecón.)” — Juan Luis Caviaro

rachel.jpg
Crystal Manteconas Rachel Claris
January 7th, 2009

Indie Film Distribution Offers and Deals

In my last post, I shared four steps you can take to improve your chances for successful distribution for your indie feature film.

In this post, I want to talk about the various types of distribution deals that are out there for indie feature films. It’s a bit confusing and very subjective at times. So, you have to be careful.

Before jumping into the actual distribution deal, let me take a moment to talk about what exactly can be sold.

Territories
First, you have territories. Often, a distributor comes in and wants to distribute your film worldwide. That’s every territory, every country, every region. Other maybe, they want just foreign rights (which is everywhere in the world except the US or US and Canada). Or vice versa, they may want domestic rights or North American rights.

For Fissure, we received a few worldwide offers. The foreign distribution company that we signed with initially approached us wanting worldwide rights, but we wanted to keep our domestic rights, so we negotiated out the US and Canadian rights, and let them distribute our foreign rights.

Rights
Next, you need to understand what can be sold within those territories. Here’s a list of the rights that can be sold within each territory:

  • Theatrical
  • Broadcast
  • DVD/Laserdisc (yes, Laserdisc!)
  • Online/Download
  • Pay-per-view
  • Airline

Most distributors will bundle all of these in their contract. Sometimes, a distributor may come in and just request “Domestic Broadcast” or “Foreign DVD”, but usually they want all of them.

If you wanted to, you could literally carve out different variations based on territory and rights. For example, you could sell the Bulgarian PPV rights or the Thailand Broadcast rights. But honestly, you need someone who knows what they are doing and has the relationships in place to secure those deals. That’s why is common to sell all of your foreign or all of your domestic rights.

The Offer
Now that you understand territories and rights, let’s jump into what an offer looks like. There are typically three things that are the focus of most distribution deals:

  • The advance
  • The marketing expenses
  • The royalty

These are often the three first questions I ask when an offer would come in on Fissure. What kind of advance are you paying? What are your marketing expenses and are they capped? After expenses are paid, what is our royalty?

The Advance
Today, with such a saturated market, advances are becoming more rare. I’ve heard that advances can often be your only revenue for your film. Exaggerated marketing expenses and hefty administrative cost can sometimes keep you from reaching the royalty stage.

I have a friend who received a good advance on his foreign deal and good advance on his domestic deal, but he told me that it’s really all he’s expecting in the way of revenue. There’s a royalty deal in place and even a cap on marketing expenses, but he’s convinced that the advances will be all he gets on the film.

Marketing Expenses
Marketing expenses were always the subjective part of the deal where most filmmakers were taken. I hate to say it, but this area is the most dangerous, yet the most needed.

Marketing is essential for the success of a film. You need to get the word out. Posters, advertising, PR, website, social media, box art, viral campaigns, trailer, contests, screenings, give-aways, tee-shirts, etc. It’s all needed.

The problem comes when distributors manage that. First, they mark it up to cover their management and administration of the marketing. So, if the bottom line costs for the trailer creation is $5K, they may market it up 40% and charge you $7K for the trailer. Now, they don’t charge you directly, but pull the $7K from the first money that comes in.

And, here’s the kicker–they don’t pay off marketing expenses until after they pull their royalty. So, for example, if the first order from Blockbuster comes in and it’s $50K order and the royalty deal is 50/50, and the marketing expenses are $20K, here’s how the numbers work. First, the distributor calculates his 50% off of the $50K. That’s $25K to the distributor. Then, they pay the marketing, $20K. That’s a total of $45K, and now your profit on the $50K order is $5K. It sure doesn’t feel like a 50/50 deal.

So, marketing expenses can be tricky. The two things you can push for in the contract are: a cap, so that they don’t spend more than they need and secondly, request that all marketing expenses must be agreed upon by the production company. In other words, you have approval over what they spend on marketing. I’m not sure if this is possible, but I know of a distributor who is doing this now.

Royalties
This is what is paid to the production company after all marketing expenses have been and all replication costs have been recouped. We’ve had a variety of royalty offers come our way:

  • 70%-filmmaker / 30%-distributor
  • 50%-filmmaker / 50%-distributor
  • 30%-filmmaker / 70%-distributor

There are quite a few different deals out there.

Recently, I have seen a new type of distribution deal emerge based on a unique combination of the three areas.

In the past, most distribution deals looked like this:

  • Advance: $5K to $50K
  • Marketing Expenses: Capped at $20K to $50K
  • Royalty: 30% to 70%

This was how most of the deals were made–an advance, with a marketing cap and a royalty.

Today, there’s a new type of deal being offered, what I call a “first-dollar, royalty deal”. It looks like this:

  • Advance: $0, no advance
  • Marketing Expenses: No marketing expenses
  • Royalty: 30% to 50%

It’s becoming more common to have no advance, no marketing expenses and then a straight royalty. This a good for both the distributor and the producer. There is no fluffy accounting that can happen. The distributor pays the production company on the first dollar that comes in. It’s seems to be a very clean deal compared to previous distribution deals.

Our foreign distributor, Boll, offers a straight, first-dollar deal. This deal is even promoted on their website:

    Our offer to you is better as what other worldsales company offers: we sell your movie for 30% but in that 30% are all our costs (from legal to marketing) what means from every sale you get no matter how small the deal is your 70%.

Closing
So, there you have it. Independent film distribution in a nut shell. Sure, there are many variations and details to film distribution, but this should give you a solid overview on the distribution process.

December 26th, 2008

Increase your Chances for Successful Indie Film Distribution

Now that we are coming the close of our movie project, I want to take a few minutes to share some of the learnings along the way, because there are many!

To start with, I want to talk about independent film distribution, because of all the various steps of this process, distribution has been the biggest mystery of them all. In all honesty, finding the story, raising the funds, assembling the crew, producing the film, and finalizing the edit were all quite easy compared to distribution.

There are certain steps you can take to increase your chances of having a successful independent feature film. Here are four key areas that you need to focus before you shoot your first shot:

1. Name talent: It’s the number one question I was asked when I told distributors that I had a feature film for sale. “Who’s in it?” Name talent is an essential ingredient for financially successful independent films. Is it always the case? No, not always, but if you want to increase your chances of success, then you can instantly move through the clutter of films by casting name talent. Your investment into a well-networked casting director will pay the highest dividends on your project.

2. Strong Story: Second to name talent comes story. Story is so important, so essential. It’s where every film project must start–with a good story. And not just a good story, but a well-structured, well-thought out, fully developed story. There are so many good books out there today on screenwriting. It’s easy to learn good story structure. Everything they talk about becomes so important in filmmaking–act structure, inciting incident, plot points, character arcs, beats, etc. All of it is needed for a good story.

3. Solid Production Quality: You can have name talent and even a good story, but if the production quality is not there, then you leave your audience with an inability to suspend their disbelief. If your audience keeps getting pulled out of the story, then you’ve lost them.

I remember going to see a movie at a theater in a small Texas town. They had forgotten to put on the projector mask that masks out the 35mm print into it’s correct aspect ratio. With nothing masked, I saw boom mics, camera flags, cables, everything. It was terrible. I can’t even remember what the movie was about.

Anything that pulls the viewer out of the story is detrimental to your film’s success. Some of the key areas to focus on that will increase your production value are lighting, acting, camera framing and movement, editing and color, sound design and music.

4. Distribution Plan: Before your first day of shooting, you should have a solid distribution plan in place. And, it needs to be realistic. If you’re thinking your film will be different, your film will be better, your film will break all the rules and be the next Blair Witch Project, then you are setting yourself up to be one of the thousands upon thousands of indie films that never see the light of day. You’ve got to plan. You’ve got to think ahead of time.

We’re in the process of putting together our next film project. Distribution is the number question to be answered before we get started. It will determine what genre we shoot, what script we select, what actors we cast, what locations we scout. Distribution will be the filter through which every decision will be made.

Obviously, there are others steps that can be taken to increase your chances of success, but in my experience on Fissure, these four areas are the foundation of success.

December 8th, 2008

Trailer Addict

The new, revised Fissure trailer is now online at Trailer Addict.  And, it allows you to embed the trailer in your own website or blog.  If you do post it somewhere, please let me know.

November 23rd, 2008

Foreign Distribution has started

We are proud to announce that Fissure’s foreign distribution has started. We signed an agreement this month with Uwe Boll. Boll will be managing all of our foreign distribution—theatrical, DVD and broadcast.

This past Friday, we delivered all of our audio and video masters, along with all of our current marketing material. We’ll keep you posted on how Fissure is doing throughout the world.

As for our domestic distribution, we are still digging through a few different offers. We’ll keep you posted.

October 3rd, 2008

Redemptive Storyteller Award

redemptive.jpg
We were notified last week that Fissure has won the “Redemptive Storyteller Award” in the Professional Category at the Redemptive Film Festival in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We are very honored that Fissure has been selected for this reward.

Early on the script selection process, I had only two criteria:

1. As an independent film, we were looking for low-budget scripts to produce. So, the first requirement was that the script be “low budget”.

2. Our second requirement was that the story was redemptive–that the good guy wins, the bad guy loses, or the hero gets the girl.
This award demonstrates that Fissure met all of our criteria.

For those of you in and around Virginia Beach, we will be having a screening of Fissure at the Redemptive Film Festival on Friday, October 31st. Check out the festival website for more information.

September 27th, 2008

Fissure voted “Best Locally Made Film”

In this week’s issues of the Fort Worth Weekly, Fissure was voted Best Locally Made Film in 2008.

header_logo.png

Here’s what they had to say:

Filmed in Dallas and the Mid-Cities, Russ Pond’s thriller screened at the AFI Dallas festival in March. The movie is about a cop who discovers rifts in the time-space continuum while responding to a domestic disturbance call. The action is set mostly in one house, and the first-time director handled the temporal shifts (and his actors) with an impressive degree of assurance.

culture_pic2.jpg

Filmed partially in the Mid-Cities, Russ Pond’s movie manages visual and narrative dynamism.

August 3rd, 2008

Fissure on Beyond Hollywood

Fissure received a relatively positive movie review at Beyond Hollywood. The reviewer writes:

Even with its relatively few shortcomings, Fissure is still worth a look. It’s especially great fun to see how director Russ Pond has taken two distinct genres – sci-fi and crime – and melded them together in a unique way. In so doing, Pond has made unexpected fissures in our movie plot expectations, and mostly with great success.

If you get a chance, go read the full review.

The reviewer also spoils one of the key plot twist in the movie. So, if you haven’t seen Fissure, and you want to keep it a mystery, then you may want to wait.

Note: Interestingly, at the bottom of the review, there’s a picture of our poster and a link to buy the DVD. That’s cool, but our DVD isn’t out yet. So, don’t get all excited.

May 3rd, 2008

Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt

This was at the closing banquet of AFI Dallas on Sunday morning. The place was as packed as a casino. I had the opportunity to meet Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt. Ron was running around getting his picture taken while Rosemarie and I ended up talking for quite awhile. She was really sweet.

Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt

April 14th, 2008

AFI Interview with Russ Pond

Here are a couple more interviews from AFI Dallas:

Also, you can watch James Macdonald’s interview from AFI Dallas:

April 5th, 2008

Fissure on Good Morning Texas with Gary Cogill

On Thursday, April 3rd, Fissure was featured on Good Morning Texas with Russ Pond, producer and director, along with Crystal Mantecon.

For those of you who missed the live interview, check it out here:

March 31st, 2008

AFI Daily News features Fissure

Russ Pond’s FISSURE Keeps Audiences Guessing
by Jennah Durant

Engineering and business marketing are not typically a director’s forte–unless you’re Russ Pond, who pulled triple duty as the director/producer/editor of Fissure, his first full-length film and an entry in this year’s Texas Competition. The corporate escapee talks about his feature-length foray, hoodwinking an audience and what it’s like to film in Dallas.

What drew you to the script?

By page 10 of reading the script I thought, “This is pretty interesting.” Then by page 20, I thought, “What is going on here?!” I realized if I could translate that feeling onto the screen that would make a great little movie.

The script has a lot of adult material–the pill popping, depression, violence–but it’s ultimately uplifting. Was that a priority for you?

I really go for redeeming stories. The script was a lot darker when we first got it, but we worked really hard with Nick [Turner, the film’s screenwriter]. He was great to work with, very open to the changes. His main concern was making sure I didn’t break the science.

Since the story is told through the main character’s point of view, the audience is just as confused as he is through much of the film. How have audiences reacted to that?

At screenings, we heard the audience whispering things like, “What’s going on?” That was
a plus to filming the story that way, but it also takes awhile to get things rolling because we had to set up so much for the plot.

The story starts off with a typical “haunted cop” scenario—James McDonald (lead actor) even looks like Michael Chiklis. Were you going for a Shield-type feeling?

We purposely built up a lot of those stereotypes–the substance abuse, the troubled past. We kind of lead the audience to believe that all the weirdness going on is because of what he’s going through, but then bam, we twist things really unexpectedly. But we also put in tons of clues throughout the movie that give you an idea of what’s really going on.

So much of the movie depends on playing with sequence. Did that present filming challenges?

Continuity was a big challenge, but we had a great crew, which made it go smoothly. We would shoot out each room, so all the living room scenes were shot at once, all the bedroom scenes. That kept the time of day consistent. I also had to trust the audience to let go and be open to the story.

A lot of those challenges stem from the sci-fi elements of the film. Was that subject matter intimidating?

I spent 20 years as an engineer, so the science and the physics aspects of the script really intrigued me. I’ve told my wife that if we cancel our cable subscription, I would still need the Discovery Channel and the Sci-Fi Channel to survive. Because I’m such a sci-fi fan, I saw that part of the movie as a way to challenge other fans of the genre.

How does that science and corporate background affect your filmmaking?

From my career I learned a lot about scheduling, budgeting, and other business aspects that other filmmakers don’t really know about. So producing a film was relatively easy for me, but the artistic directing side was more challenging.

Besides producer and director, you also had editing duties for the movie. Was that difficult to balance?

As a producer I had to make decisions about cutting this scene, saying no to this or that, so I kind of had to be the bad cop. But as the director you need to make everyone happy, so it would have been easier to have a separate person be the bad cop producer.

I originally intended just to put together a rough cut and have someone else edit. But then I started doing the first scene, and I saw the film just come alive. I got so excited watching and engaging in that process that I just couldn’t stop. I would sometimes spend 14 or 15 hours a day editing.

What was it like to film in Dallas?

The crew was great, the locations were great. The crew worked so well together–there was no yelling on the set. We wanted to keep it local because there’s so much great talent here. It also really helped keep the budget down–we didn’t have to fly people in or go all over the place to get shots.

Any plans for another feature?

Well, I have three things I want to accomplish when I make a movie: One–make movies that make a difference. Two–make a profit for my investors. And three–I want to do it again.

Fissure accomplished all those, and we have lots of investor interest in more projects. It’s really just a matter of getting a business plan together, but with three film festivals coming up it’s been hard to find time. But if things go well, I should start working on another feature this summer.

Fissure screens at 5 pm March 28 @ Angelika 7, and again at 7:30 p.m. April 3 @ Magnolia 5.

March 30th, 2008

The State of the State: Filmmaking in Texas

For you filmmakers in Texas, I’ll be speaking on a panel Monday at 5:30 about filmmaking in Texas. I’ll be joined by Garry Brown, Producer of Prison Break and the Director of the Texas Film Commission. It’s open to industry professionals, so I hope you can make it.

Making it in Texas: What are the benefits? Is there an effective local network of filmmakers and industry to support independent film production today and into the future? How has the new Texas incentive grant program impacted production in Texas?

Moderator: Chris Kelly, Critic Star-Telegram Panelists: Bob Hudgens, Director of the Texas Film Commission; Garry Brown, Producer; and Russ Pond, Director/Producer “Fissure”

The discussions are held on the beautiful 16th floor Wet Deck at the W Dallas Victory Hotel on Monday, March 31st at 5:30 p.m. They are free and open to industry professionals and AFI DALLAS pass holders.

March 28th, 2008

Fissure in Dallas Morning News as AFI gets rolling

Last night was the opening festivities for AFI Dallas. We had a lot of fun. My wife and I attended the opening screening of Helen Hunt’s film along with James Macdonald (aka Grunning) and Jim Blumetti (aka Roger Ulster) and his wife, Pam. After the screening, we attended a black tie party at Neiman Marcus. It was great fun!

Below is the article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News this morning. Fissure is mentioned at the end of the article. We’re looking forward to a packed house tonight!

——–

Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Mickey Rooney light up AFI opening night
Friday, March 28, 2008
By STEPHEN BECKER / The Dallas Morning News

The sounds of familiar cinematic scores wafted through the air. Cameras zoomed and clicked along the jampacked red carpet. Onlookers shouted out the stars’ names as they passed.

All the telltale signs that this was a Big Movie Night were present. And it was.

Thursday night’s festivities at the Majestic Theatre downtown marked the opening of the second annual AFI Dallas International Film Festival. The star of the show was Helen Hunt, the first-time director whose Then She Found Me screened as the festival’s opening-night film.

“It’s a total thrill. I would not have been surprised if I finished the movie and it was never released and I would have gotten to have it in my hands and say, ‘At least I made this,’ ” she said, sporting a silver floor-length dress cut down to there in the back. “So the fact that it’s going to be released in such a big way, the fact that I’m opening a festival of this cultural weight is incredible. Dreams come true.”

Other luminaries walking the red carpet included the night’s other major honoree, fellow Star Award recipient Mickey Rooney, as well as Fort Worth native (and Ms. Hunt’s Twister co-star) Bill Paxton and Josh Brolin, accompanied by his teen daughter, Eden.

The latter pair is here showing the short film X, which Mr. Brolin directed and his daughter stars in. Both father and daughter said working together wasn’t much different than living together.

“It was what you would think it is. We’re very close and we don’t have a lot of that angst going on between us, so it seemed like a fun thing to do,” Mr. Brolin said.

“It was actually really fun,” said Ms. Brolin. “He was very calm about it and he was really open to new things and new ideas, so it was actually really easy working with him and it was fun.”

Once inside, the attendees were treated to a medley of movie music from the Dallas Symphony Chorus, followed by speeches from festival dignitaries and the night’s Star Award recipients. Then, finally, the reason the festival exists: the film.

And, of course, the after party a few blocks away at Neiman Marcus. Film festivals can’t exist without parties, too. Today at AFI:

• The Visitor –Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) directs Richard Jenkins as an economics professor whose life changes when he befriends an immigrant couple in New York. Fine writing and acting. 7:15 p.m., Angelika

• Gonzo – A lively documentary on Hunter S. Thompson, directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side). 7:30 p.m., Magnolia

• Fissure – Local filmmaker Russ Pond directed, produced and edited this detective story. 5 p.m., Angelika

——-
Click below to watch the AFI Dallas Opening Night ceremonies.


AFI DALLAS International Film Festival 2008 Opening Night Highlights from AFI DALLAS on Vimeo.

March 27th, 2008

Getting ready for AFI Dallas Film Festival

It’s Thursday morning, and I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop getting ready for the AFI Dallas Film Festival. We have a slew of events planned. It’s a bit overwhelming, but terribly exciting!

Tonight, the festival kicks off with a screening of Helen Hunt’s new movie, Then She Found Me. After the movie, there will be a black tie reception that we’ll be attending as well.

Then, on Friday, we have our World Premiere of Fissure. Very exciting!  Our first screening of Fissure this Friday is already sold out. I’m not sure how we have received so much exposure, but it’ll be fun playing before a pack house for our World Premiere.

We’ll have a smattering of parties and receptions and movies to watch. On Monday, I’ll be part of a panel speaking on filmmaking in Texas. I was asked to join some folks from Prison Break and Missionary Man to speak on shooting in Texas. I’m looking forward to that. I may blog more details later on this event, in case anyone is interested.

We’re still giving away tickets to the Thursday, April 3rd screening of Fissure. To register to win, go to the home page of Fissure, and send an eCard to someone. Every eCard you send is an entry to win tickets.

March 21st, 2008

AFI starts next week. Get your tickets soon!

The AFI Film Festival starts next week. Fissure will be screening in Dallas on two nights during the festival:

• Friday, March 28th at 5:00 pm at the Angelika Theater

• Thursday, April 3rd at 7:30 pm at the Magnolia Theater.

Click here to order your tickets online.

For those of you planning to attend the opening screening on Friday, March 28th, we’ll be having a small get together at the Angelika Cafe immediately following the screening from 7 to 8pm. James Macdonald, our lead actor in Fissure, will be joining us at the private event. If you would like to attend the post-screening get together, please let us know so that we can add your name to the invitation list.

We hope to see you there. And if you are planning to attend, be sure to vote for Fissure as your “Audience Favorite”.

March 19th, 2008

Dallas Morning News Article

As we draw closer to AFI Dallas, we’re starting to get more press. Fissure was mentioned in a Dallas Morning News Article this week:

Dallas Morning News
By ALAN PEPPARD / The Dallas Morning News

March 17, 2008 – Segway inventor Dean Kamen needs to send a fleet of his gyroscopically stabilized transporters to Dallas advertising executive Liener Temerlin and make him the company’s new spokesman. Liener is the founder of the AFI Dallas International Film Festival. Last week, AFI Dallas had a party at the Current Energy store on Knox Street.

In 10 days, Liener will be 80 years old. But after a short lesson from Current Energy co-founder Joseph Harberg, Liener was up and riding one of the store’s Segways and proclaiming that he wanted to buy a couple.

Among those on hand for the gathering were Dallas Film Commission director Janis Burklund; director Russ Pond, who will show his film Fissure at AFI Dallas; AFI Dallas board members Stephanie and Hunter Hunt; and literary agent David Hale Smith.

Click here to read the full article.

March 10th, 2008

Fissure makes the cover of Downtown Business News

Downtown Business News CoverFissure is being featured on this week’s cover of the Dallas’ Downtown Business News. They are promoting the upcoming AFI Dallas Film Festival.

Inside the magazine, they quote me saying:

    Director Russ Pond, whose thriller FISSURE will make its world premiere at the festival says it’s the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, “My dream of making movies was birthed here in Dallas years ago, and to see that dream fulfilled at AFI Dallas is both exciting and humbling. Having lived in Texas all my life, I have a heart for Texas films.”

It is an honor that our movie has been included on the front cover photo with great actors like Robert Deniro, Helen Hunt and Josh Brolin.

Soon, they’ll be excited to be grouped with us!

March 7th, 2008

Fissure accepted into AFI Dallas and FirstGlance Hollywood Film Festivals

We are very excited to announce that Fissure has been officially accepted into two, upcoming film festivals: AFI Dallas and FirstGlance Hollywood.

AFI Dallas LogoAFI Dallas

We will be having our World Premiere at AFI Dallas this year! It is an honor to be kicking off the Texas Competition with a screening on opening weekend, Friday, March 28th at the Angelika Theater at 5:00pm. We will also have an additional screening of Fissure on Thursday, April 3rd at the Magnolia Theater at 7:30pm. Tickets go on sale this weekend. You may purchase them from the AFI Dallas website.

For those of you in the Dallas area, we will be giving away two tickets to the opening night screening of Fissure. Our lead actor, James Macdonald, along other cast and crew members will be joining us as well for the screening.

Here’s how you can win tickets:

Register for the movie eNewsletter by clicking on this link. Under “How did you hear about Fissure?”, be sure to select AFI Dallas.

We will be notifying the winners prior to the start of the festival. We look forward to having you join us at the AFI Dallas film festival this year.

FirstGlance LogoFirstGlance Hollywood

We are also very excited to announce that Fissure has been accepted into the FirstGlance Hollywood Film Festival. Fissure is one of only three feature films that will be screening at the festival. Fissure will be the opening night feature film at the festival.

We are very honored that we are part of this influential film festival.

For those of you in the Hollywood area, Fissure will be screening on Friday, April 11th at the Raleigh Studios Chaplin Theater at 5300 Melrose in the heart of Hollywood. You can get ticket information from the FirstGlance website.
FirstGlance Hollywood was named “one of the top 10 film festival investments” by MovieMaker magazine. And, Time magazine names FirstGlance Hollywood “one of the top ten festivals for the rest of us.”

We hope you can join us in Hollywood!

February 23rd, 2008

Fissure Movie Review

We received another movie review this week from Matt Mungle of Mungles on Movies.

Matt writes:

    Webster’s defines “fissure” as: The process of splitting or separating; division.

    Fissure is a perfect title for this film for two reasons. One, it defines the plot of the movie and two, the final product is in itself a splitting or separation from what you would normally expect from an Indie film. Director Russ Pond creates an engrossing thriller that though not perfect is an intriguing ride that keeps you guessing until the end.

    Written by Nicholas Turner, the story is a mind bending journey where time and dimension are living characters. Paul Grunning (James MacDonald), a police detective recovering from a personal tragedy, is called out to investigate what should be a simple disturbance call. What he finds is a dead body lying within a chaotic reality. As he begins to investigate he finds that nothing is as it seems. At least for any length of time.

    This element of bent reality helped me enjoy the story as I went through the same confusions along with the character. I knew something was odd, but like Paul, I wasn’t sure what was actually going on. It could have been in his own head, or maybe there was some twisty dimensional thing occurring. I liked the way you were eased into the chaos and at first you think the characters are simply being eccentric, then you discover why.

    I thought the film looked fantastic. It was rich with depth and style. Most Indie films I view are a little grainy due to artistic desire or just plain lack of knowledge, but this one had that professional look that I think raises it above most. The story takes place primarily in one house so it had to be sort of a character in itself. The red’s inside the house popped and added a nice contrast to rest of the film. It is a mental film and so the blast of color seemed even more prominent.

    Fissure is a superb film for the Indie realm. It is always pleasing to see film makers not use “Indie” as a crutch to cut corners, but instead a springboard to leap outside the norm and do something clever. Fissure made that leap.

February 7th, 2008

Movie Studio Busyness

CBS LogoToday kicks off a very busy weekend for our project! We have a lot going on, but it’s going to be a blast! My wife and I are headed to CBS Studios in Burbank for a few different events:

First, we’re having a screening of the movie at CBS Studios today at 4pm. We’re expecting about 40 people. Some of the team will be joining us as well–James Macdonald, Crystal Mantecon and Nicholas Turner. Also, some other industry folks will be attending as well. What fun!

Biola STF LogoAfter the screening, I was invited to speak at the Biola Studio Task Force Dinner. Between 120 and 140 industry professionals and students will be attending the dinner. I will be speaking about my production experience.

Fox LogoThen, on Saturday, we’ll be having our final sound mix at Fox’s sound stage. It’ll be great finishing our last major task for the movie.

January 7th, 2008

Independent Film Distribution

The more I learn about film distribution, the deeper the rabbit hole goes (to quote The Matrix). It’s amazingly complex and diverse. It’s never as simple as “Here. Buy my film.” There are so many degrees and levels and territories and rights and agents and rabbit holes.

With the advent of digital filmmaking, it has become a buyer’s market. There is so much supply that demand has dropped considerably. Let me give you one example. Horror films have saturated the market. Typically, horror films are cheap to make, require no name talent (you kill them all off anyway), and fear sells across cultures. But, horror films are a dime a dozen.

So, what are our options for our movie? The biggest challenge we have is that there are no recognizable names. We have some great talent and actors who have been in big films. James Macdonald’s extensive resume includes movies like Phone Booth, Hollywood Homicide, Space Cowboys, Stealth, Home of the Brave, Mercury Rising and Broken Arrow. His list of TV credits are even longer.

Our other actors have formidable credits as well, like Scarlett McAlister (The Missing & The Astronaut Farmer) and Crystal Mantecon (Road House 2 & Prison Break) and Todd Tyler (Walker Texas Ranger). We have some great talent! And it shows on screen.Then, there’s the story. It’s a wonderful, unique story that’s never been told before. It’s the kind of show that you can watch three and four times and still see new and fresh things. There’s an incredible science behind the story that indie film buffs will be drawn to. Those commenting on the film say it has the potential to be a cult classic.

So, how do you sell that? It comes down to marketing and being able to position your film amidst the fray.

Some of our strategies include an amazing website. This week we start work on a new movie website. It’ll focus on a lot of web 2.0 technologies, like blogging, commenting, email blasts and links to social networks. Which leads me to another marketing strategy…social networking. With explosion of tools like MySpace, Facebook, etc., it’s imperative that you start networking. There are blogs, newsgroups, networks, niche groups, and millions of others little networks–and it’s key that you plug into these groups.

I’ve now taken off my filmmaking hat, dusted off my old marketing hat from Corporate America and jumped back into the business arena. It’s familiar, yet new. Lots of the same concepts apply, but instead of selling mobile phones and services, I’m selling movies.

December 23rd, 2007

Movie Projects and Offers

We’re about a week away from finishing out 2007, and what a year it has been!

Current Project

We kicked off the production on January 15th of 2007, and here we are at the end of the year with a finished film. What a great year and what a rewarding accomplishment! I’m looking forward to seeing what 2008 brings in the way of distribution and exposure.

Last week, we received our first official offer on the movie from a distribution company out of LA. It was a pretty decent offer, but we’re going to study all of our options before making any concrete decisions. We have another tentative offer on the table from a local distribution company as well. And, we’re expecting some more offers just after the holidays. It feels good to have gone from an idea to sellable product in just a year.

Romantic Comedy

We’re about to start development on a new romantic comedy. I’m very excited about this project. Yes, it’s a chick flick. And, you’re going to cry. This story has been on my heart for about 4 years now, and I’m excited at the opportunity of developing this story and capturing it on film.

My dream would be to produce it in a similar timeline as our last project, with hopes of having a finished movie by the end of 2008. With all of our learnings, we hope to create a much better, much more sellable product by securing more recognizable name talent and to shoot it on 35mm film. All very exciting!

The Imposter

Right now, I’m working with Dan Millican on producing his new film, The Imposter. It’s an exciting film, and we plan to start shooting on January 15th.

Armando’s Chase

I’m also working with Rand Chesshir out of Portland on a new film called Armando’s Chase. We hope to kick off the film in 2008, around the same time as my romantic comedy. I’m very excited at the opportunity of producing this film as well.

I want to thank everyone who worked with me on this project this year. I appreciate your devotion and hard work. I hope and pray that 2008 will be a great year for everyone, and that God will bless everything you put your hand to do.

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

December 10th, 2007

Independent film reviews and distribution

I wanted to take a few moments to talk a bit more about distribution. It’s interesting talking to different people about this part of the moviemaking business. Distribution does seem to be quite subjective at times, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot like selling a home. Let me explain.

First, we build a spec home (the movie). When we build the home, we make sure the location (genre) is good, and what people are looking for. As they say in the business, it’s all about location, location, location (genre, genre, genre). Then, we make sure the amenities are of great value (casting, production value, story). And, we make sure we stay on budget and on schedule (budget and schedule).

Once the house is built, very rarely to home builders sell directly to home buyers (self distribution). Rather, the home builder (filmmaker) hires realtors (sales agents) to sell the home (the film) directly to the new home owner (Blockbuster), at a commission. When it comes to films, there are a variety of rights you can sell, but it typically comes down to three categories:

• Theatrical (in the theater)
• Broadcast (cable and satellite)
• Video (Wal Mart and Blockbuster)

And, those three rights can be sold anywhere in the world in separate territories. So, there are lots of variations and combinations of sellable options. For this movie, all rights across all territories are available for purchase at this time. We are currently talking to a variety of sales agents, and we’re getting some great feedback. Many are very pleased with the story and production value. These are some actual quotes from potential sales agents:

    “The film is very well made, and we very much enjoyed its visual qualities.”“It’s a well-shot film.”

And, we did receive our first critic’s review:

    Fi•ss•ure: A separation or disagreement in thought or viewpointIt can certainly be said that this was true of the discussion after the jam packed premier of Russ Pond’s movie, Thursday, Nov 15, 2007! Everyone bustled and buzzed about this fantastic project! My take? Well, where do I start? Slowly at first to be perfectly honest. It began with a great view, its main character. Instantly I thought he should be on 24. His look was perfect, his acting, good. His obvious discomfort about something we didn’t quite know about yet was well portrayed. Therapy session-good start as well.It took too long to get to the juicy part. But the juicy part was really good! It was enjoyable not having a lot of different locations in the film. You could then try to figure out what you’re trying to figure out! Casting was also excellent. Each person perfectly fit their part.The movie had a lot of great issues and to hear the way everyone thought it “ought to have gone” afterwards was really a testament to the greatness of the film. The struggle over death and hence despair, the battle to heal oneself, the mystery of science, the healing between father and son, etc…. My favorite part of course, was the end. I am a woman, after all, and nothing is better than a man wanting to tell his son how much he loves him, even though… The even though?Well you have to go through to find out!– Christy the Critic

For our first review, it’s positive, and that’s very encouraging. We’ll keep you updated on the progress of our new home.

November 24th, 2007

Film Distribution

Now that the movie is finished (mostly), we’re ready to enter into the distribution phase of this project. (I say “mostly” because we have one final day of audio mixing left at Fox Studios in a couple of weeks. And, I have one Visual FX tweak left, but the movie is ready to start selling.)

For me, distribution is a lot like going on a hike into some unknown woods with nothing but a backpack and hunting knife. You’re not sure what you’re going to encounter. There are bears, wolves, snakes…animals of all kinds. There are ravines, mountains and valleys. It can be dangerous, and yet exhilarating and terribly exciting. And with 16 years of marketing and business development experience in corporate America, I’m ready for this new hike!

November 9th, 2007

Cast and Crew Screening in Dallas

Inwood TheaterWe are having a private screening at the Inwood Theater in Dallas on Thursday, November 15th. You can register online by using the following link:

The movie will start promptly at 8:00pm. A Q&A session will follow immediately after the film. We will also have a cast & crew get together at the Inwood Lounge after the Q&A session.

If you are planning to attend, go to the above link and register. The screening is free, but reservations are required. We may call to confirm your reservations prior to the screening.

November 9th, 2007

New Trailer, New Poster, New Headshots

Things are busy! And it’s good. As we put the final touches on the movie (music and sound), I was hoping things would slow down a bit. Quite the contrary–things are speeding up. But, it’s all good.

New Movie Trailer
We’ve finished our new movie trailer, and it’s amazing! It really captures the story and keeps you wanting more. If you get a chance, check it out.

New Movie Posters
Fissure poster frontFissure poster backWe’ve also finished work on our moive poster/one sheet. This is the 8.5″ x 11″ marketing one sheet that we use to market the film to distributors. More than likely, the distributor we sign will create their own one-sheet and movie trailer. But, we still need to market our film to them.

New Headshots
Russ HeadshotI don’t really like pictures of myself. It’s a lot like listening to your voice on a recording. “That’s not me!” Well, I feel the same way about pictures of myself. But, my publicist needed some headshots of the director, so my friend Kevin and I went out to Southlake Town Center and took some pictures.

October 12th, 2007

Haunting Melody – Movie score

My sound guys in LA have been working hard on the score and sound. I’ve really enjoyed laying down the various music tracks, sound tracks, and effects tracks. Watching it all come together has been a blast.Just recently, we nailed down the melody. I don’t know how else to explain it expect it’s our haunting melody. If you’d like to get a taste of that huanting melody, click on this arrow: Fissure Melody

October 2nd, 2007

2008 Film Festival Circuit

Now that Fissure is coming to a close, it’s time to hit the film festival circuit. Typcially, Sundance is the one key film festival to kick off the festival season. They have a requirement of only accepting “World Premiere” films. So, most people start with them.We have a very specific film festival strategy for Fissure. Here are the top tier festivals we will be targeting: 

 

Film Festival Deadline Event Date
Sundance (pass) Sep 28, 2007 Jan 17-27, 2008
Slamdance (pass) Oct 9, 2007 Jan 17-25, 2008
Palm Springs (pass) Oct 9, 2007 Jan 3-14, 2008
Berlin (pass) Nov 1, 2007 Feb 7-17, 2008
Santa Barbara (pass) Nov 16, 2007 Jan 24-Feb 3, 2008
SxSW (pass) Nov 16, 2007 Mar 7-15, 2008
Tribeca Jan 11, 2008 Apr 28-May 4, 2008
Victoria (pass) Oct 2007 Feb 1-8, 2008
LA Independent Nov 29, 2007 Jun 19-29, 2008
Dallas AFI (IN!) Dec 1, 2007 Mar 27-Apr 6, 2008
FirstGlance (IN!) Feb 1, 2007 Apr 10-13, 2008
Salem (IN!) Feb 29, 2008 Apr 18-20, 2008
Phoenix (pass) Dec 1, 2007 Apr 12-19, 2008
Vail (pass) Dec 1, 2007 Apr 3-6, 2008
Nashville Nov 30, 2007 Apr 17-24, 2008
Florida (pass) Nov 30, 2007 Mar 28-Apr 5, 2008
GenArt Nov 30, 2007 Apr 2-8, 2008
Ann Arbor (pass) Dec 1, 2007 Mar 25-30, 2008
Cannes   May 14-28, 2008
Hollywood   August 2008
Montreal   August 2008
Telluride   September 2008
Toronto September 2008
Venice   September 2008
Hamptons   October 2008
New York   October 2008
Radiance   October 2008
Tokyo   November 2008


We’re very excited about taking Fissure to some of the festivals. We’ll keep you posted!

September 6th, 2007

On the Lot. Twice.

I’m writing this while sitting in the Burbank airport. Today was a very interesting day.

But, before we get to that, let me share what happened last month. Last month, my family and I took a road trip to LA. I had some meetings around our movie but had the opportunity to hook up with a high school buddy of mine, Rob Thomas. (No, not the lead singer from Matchbox Twenty.) Rob is the creator and producer of Veronica Mars. Recently, Veronica Mars was cancelled and Rob is moving on to new projects. His latest stint is consulting writer/producer for the new television series, Big Shots. Don’t know much about the show, but it’s supposedly the male version of Desperate Housewives.

Well, while my family and I were in LA, I decided to call Rob and see if he was interested in having coffee or lunch. He agreed, and so we decided to meet at his new offices on the Warner Brothers lots. I’ve never been on any of the production lots, but it was very cool. Part of our morning coffee was a golf cart tour–a Veronica Mars golf cart, I might add–of the Warner Brothers lot. I enjoyed the personal tour. Thanks Rob.

Yesterday, Dan Millican and I arrived in Burbank to meet with Kevin Max, formerly of dcTalk to discuss a new feature we’re starting work on. While in LA, Dan and I got to meet with a gentleman who was working on a project at Universal Studios. So, we met at the Universal Studios lot. Again, very cool to walk around and see the sights and peek into the various sound stages.

All in all, it’s been a lot of fun talking and meeting with those in the industry.

August 28th, 2007

Digital Goosebumps

I’m so impressed with how the coloring is coming along. It’s really amazing! You can so easily change the entire feel of a scene with color. Let me show you what we’re doing.

This movie is a thriller. There is a creepiness to it. It’s an “edge of your seat” kind of film. You don’t quite know what’s around the corner. So, typically, it’s good to show these things in darkness. But, our story takes place during the day. So, we needed to create a creepy, darkened shadowy feel inside the house.

However, when we shot a lot of the scenes, we lit them pretty bright. The reason we did that was to give us a lot of dynamic range regarding brightness (luminance) and color (chrominance). The nature of digital HD is that the dynamic range is pretty limited compared to film. So, we had to be careful that we didn’t go to bright (and blowout the whites) or too dark (and create digital noise).

So, with that mind, this is what our footage looked like right out of the camera:

house_image_before.jpg

Not too creepy. Pretty flat. No real depth.

And, no goosebumps.

So, we take the footage, add some shadowy vignettes, change the color a bit, lower the saturation (color) and crush the blacks, and get this:

house_image.jpg

Now, add some creepy music, some deep textural drone sounds, and viola!
Goosebumps!

August 27th, 2007

Color grading in Final Cut Pro

Today, we start coloring. I’m looking forward to seeing how our colorist, Omar, will take our existing footage and create the movie’s tone and feel. Below are some screen grabs of our first pass at some of the shots.

fissure1.jpg

fissure2.jpg

fissure3.jpg

fissure4.jpg

fissure5.jpg

fissure6.jpg

fissure7.jpg

fissure8.jpg

fissure9.jpg

fissure10.jpg

fissure11.jpg

August 2nd, 2007

Road Trip

What an exciting time for this project! We’re making great progress and achieving very exciting milestones!

Last week, we officially locked the edit. And what a relief! (Now, I can sleep at night.) The burden of finalizing the edit has been pretty intense. After working on the edit for four months straight, I’m very confident that the edit is solid, and the pacing is good. The feedback from the beta viewings has been really encouraging.

I must say, though, it was very hard for me to lock the edit, because I can tweak and polish till the cows come home. And as an artist, that’s difficult. But, it’s time to fling it out there and move on. As they say, an artist’s work is never finished–only abandoned.

Today, we officially head out on our next phase of post production. Literally. We’re packing our bags and making a two-week long road trip…

Route 66 pictureFirst, we’re headed to Austin to meet with our colorist, Omar. I’ll be meeting with him today to outline a strategy for coloring the film. We’ve been talking for quite a few months, but with the edit locked, he can start to work his magic.

After that, we’re driving to LA. Typically, I would have flown, but we’ve decided to go as a family and take a few detours along the way–Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Canyon, Gallup New Mexico (my birth town), Universal Studios, and the beach. I’ll be spending a day or two with my score and sound guy, Bryan Miller. I’m very excited about releasing him and his team to work their magic as well.

All in all, I’m very pleased with how things are progressing. I’m very excited about entering into the distribution phase. I believe there will be lots of great opportunities.

July 22nd, 2007

Locking the edit this week

We are now within a week of locking the edit. So, what does that mean “lock the edit”?

The post production process up to this point has been all about editing. Assembling shots and visuals and cutting them together to tell a story. Some visuals are cut for mystery and intrigue. Others are cut together for action and danger. Yet, others are cut for relationships and connecting. Each feel has it’s own style of editing. Action and danger is cut tight, interupted and fast. Yet mystery is cut methodically, slowly and unrevealing at times.

At one point, however, we must lock the edit. That means no more changes. No more additions, no more cuts, no adding or removing frames. You lock the edit so that we can…

1. Start color correcting the shots. A little blue here, a little orange there, a little darker here, a little lighter there, etc. The first step is balance the footage. Then, once it’s balanced, then we use color to increase the mystery, action or romance.

2. Secondly, we need a locked it to start all of the audio work, which includes scoring the film, adding the sound effects and then mixing it all together. This also includes re-recording any audio that needs cleaner sound. This is called ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement).

3. Add any special effects to the shots–add gun blasts, remove boom mics, fix continuity issues, etc.

Locking the edit has been a bit intimidating for me. It’s like an artist being told that by 5pm tomorrow, your painting, your art must be finished so they can start framing it.

An artist’s work is never finished, just abandoned.

June 28th, 2007

Rough Edit is Done!

This week, I finished the rough edit. And wow, I can sleep better now. I feel like I’m finally on the other side of the mountain, and it’s all downhill from here.

I’ve taken a few days to show the rough edit to some fellow filmmakers, and the feedback has been really encouraging. Most of them have shared some tweaks and polishes to help solidify the story, but nothing major. Structurally, the story is strong. The pacing is good. The editing is tight. And, the run time on the first pass is 88 minutes, which is a great place to be for the first pass.

We still have a ways to go. It’s a long hike down the mountain, but we have a cohesive story, and our baby is taking his first few steps!

Very exciting!

June 17th, 2007

Feature Film Editing in Final Cut Studio

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my blog. Other than editing, not much else is happening. I’m spending my days buried in Final Cut Pro. I’ve got about 70 minutes of the 90 minute film edited. It’s great seeing the story come alive. Just yesterday, I sat down with my mom and watched the fist 70 minutes. What fun!

I must say, Apple has really done well with the new release of Final Cut Studio 2. I did the one thing that most people tell you not to do–upgrade in the middle of a project. But, the new features of FCS2 were needed, so I upgraded. And thankfully, it’s been a relatively smooth transition.

The two new features that I’ll be using extensively are: Color and ProRes 422.

Color: This new feature is so much more than a feature. Just last year, you could by this high-end coloring system (previously known as Final Touch) for just under $6,000. Today, it’s simply included as part of the Final Cut Studio package. With Color, you can now take your regularly footage and begin telling your story with this coloring tool. (See my previous blog on the importance of color in storytelling.)

ProRes 422: This may get a bit technical, but I’ll try to explain. When editing movies on computers, the frist step is to digitize each frame into a digitial image that the computer can recognize. Once your film is digitized (captured onto the computer), then you can begin editing by adjusting those images. How the computer stores those images is of great importance.

Think about the videos you’ve seen on the web. They’re a bit pixelated, fuzzy, sometimes hard to see (and hear). Well, those are highly compressed videos for transferring over the web. With video editing, you can still use your local hard drive, but even then, one single hard drive has its limitations (speed of the drive, how fast data is transferred, etc.). And, when it comes to full frame High Definition (HD) video, hard drive speeds and data interfaces can easily hinder the editing and playback process.

Well, Panasonic introduced a highly compressed format for capture and editing called DVCPro. In fact, we used this format when shooting. We captured our movie on a Panasonic Varicam camera using the DVCPro 720p codec at 24 frames a second. And, I am editing in Final Cut Pro using this format as my baseline format.

However, I don’t really want to finish in this format, because I want to use the new Color application at it’s maximum quality. Introduce ProRes 422.

There are higher qualities than ProRes. For example, I can convert my project to uncompressed HD, but this format is very large and requires a very fast system of drives and interfaces. Huge disk arrays can be costly and quickly become outdated. Plus, you need a high-end fibre optic or Serial Data interface to transfer the high-speed data. Sure, I could upgrade my drives and my interface for uncompressed, but now with ProRes, I don’t need to. ProRes uses the standard interface and can work on a single SATA drive. Amazing! Now, I can use ProRes as my Digital Intermediate (DI).

So, here’s my workflow:
1. Capture the film using DVCProHD 720p.
2. Edit the film in FCP using DVCProHD (no generatlional loss).
3. After it’s locked, we’ll use Color to color the film.
4. Directly out of Color, we’ll create a ProRes version of the film.
5. We’ll then sync the audio with the final, colored edit.
6. Using a Kona3X card, we’ll output the high quality edit to D-5 HD.
7. Then, we’ll buy some popcorn and enjoy the show!

I warned you–it was a bit technical. But, these new Apple announcements have really changed how we’ll “finish” the film. I’m excited about living in this age of technology. It’s truly amazing that we can produce entire feature films at such a lower cost than just a few years ago.

It reminds me of a quote from concerned filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola: “Some little girl in Ohio is going to make a beautiful movie with her father’s camcorder…”

…and Final Cut Studio in HD and ProRes and Color…

May 6th, 2007

Finishing out the rough edit

After two busy weeks of dedicated editing, I’ve got a good, solid 20 minutes laid down. And, I’m really pleased with everything about it. The performances are strong. The footage is great. The pacing is exactly what I had anticipated. When I play the rough edit for my wife, I think she starts biting her nails. That’s a good sign!

Using the moviemaking standard of one page per minute, I’m a bit ahead of the game, which I like. I’ve got 20 minutes roughed out, and I’m only on page 18. So, being “ahead of the game” is nice, because it gives me room to tighten up the edit and remove those things I don’t want.

Below are some photos from the edit. I’ve pulled them from the raw footage, which means they don’t have any color correction. Also, they are placed below in sequential order of the story. Can you tell what’s happening?

Nikki's counsel

Grunning on the phone

Scarlett

Junius House

Looking up the stairs

Matty flashback

Emma

Kitchen scene

April 18th, 2007

The Inconspicuous Art of Editing

When you think of art, your mind typically wanders to a painting, a sculpture, a poem, or a song. Sometimes, you’ll even consider a building, a dress, a hairstyle or a movie as art. And when you think of this “art”, you realize that it is created to be expressed. A painting is painted to be seen. A song is composed to be heard. A movie is produced to be experienced.

But when it comes to editing, the more inconspicuous you are, the more excellent the edit.

I think about my favorite movies, and the editing is the last thing you think about. You may think about the acting, the score, the coloring, the sound design, the story—you think about all of those things, and say to yourself, “Wow, what a great movie.” Rarely, do you say, “Wow, that was some incredible editing!” But, watch a poorly edited film and immediately you are pulled out of the “suspension of disbelief” and experience what is referred to as a “mental hiccup”.

Editing is a transparent art form.

I remember seeing a movie last year called The Sentinel with Michael Douglas and Keifer Sutherland. The story was okay, but the editing was pretty bad. More than a handful of times, I saw either the boom mic dip down into frame or the camera flag at the top of the screen. Immediately, I was pulled out of the story. I experienced a mental hiccup that was hard to recover from.

Just recently, I experienced this again while watching The Departed. Personally, I didn’t like the show. The performances were good, but the story just wasn’t that great for me. And, the editing was really off. The continuity was pretty bad. In one scene where Leonardo DiCaprio was sitting in a café talking to this lady, and the edit would cut from her Over-the-Shoulder (OTS) angle to his OTS angle. As it would cut, it was very discontinuous. For example, he would be leaning forward in one shot and then immediately cut to the OTS and his leaning back with his arms crossed, and then back again. My mind kept hiccupping.

As I start editing, it’s amazing to me this balancing act with editing. Editing is very mechanical and technical, but at the same time, it’s very artistic and emotional.

Take a look at this out this picture:

Left Brain Right Brain
This is my brain. Literally. Do you see that green dot smack dab in the middle? When I take these mental tests to determine how you think, I always fall right in the middle. It seems to balance in the middle of creative/artistic (right-brained) and logical/analytical (left-brained). And, so I was thinking to myself, “This will be great for editing! Because it’s both creative and mechanical.”I was wrong.

What I’m learning is that I need to be extremely “out there” creative. Not balanced creative. Not analytically creative. But wildly, stare-at-a-flower, emotionally creative. That requires a green dot outside the brain to the right.

And, there are times I need to be mechanically process oriented, extremely left-brained. If not, I won’t have redundant back-ups or technically accurate deliverables needed for distribution.

So when I edit, I have both a creative hat and a mechanical hat. My goal is to never wear them at the same time. When I need to be technical, I am technical and not artistic. When I’m ready to tell a story, then I get all emotional and a bit touchy-feely.

I experienced this while cutting a scene this week. I noticed how some cuts just felt right and others did not, even though they were technically correct. There were times I would catch a glance or nod or an expression, and it was just right, and I would get giddy with emotion. “That’s the cut! That’s it!” Other times, I would tweak and work and still couldn’t get the emotion I wanted.

Most of the technical stuff is behind me now. The editing foundation has been laid, and the back ups are being made. Now, I get to be creative–wildly, out there, watch-the-clouds, creative. And what I have experienced so far has been a blast!

Wow, I never knew purple could be so pretty.

And now, I press on. My creative hat leaning slightly to the right.

April 9th, 2007

Trailer or Teaser – Marketing your movie

If you haven’t had a chance yet, check out the Teaser/Trailer:

View the Teaser Trailer

So, is it a Teaser or Trailer?

Well, I’m calling it a Teaser for a couple of reasons:

1. It doesn’t quite meet the minimum time requirements of 1 minute 45 seconds.
2. It doesn’t really hook you like a trailer would. Needs more story to be a trailer.

It’s common for production companies or studios to put out teasers, something to just tease the viewing audience. I feel this is what this does. It doesn’t go into the story very much, but it does tease you with some strong visuals and impactful music.

So, enjoy the Teaser. And, feel free to post some comments. I’d love to hear some feedback.

March 17th, 2007

Premonition

Last night, my wife and I went to see Premonition, the new Sandra Bullock movie. The description reads, “A housewife is shocked when her husband dies in a car crash and reappears the next day. She realizes it was a premonition and tries to avoid the tragedy.”

When I think about movies that closely resemble ours, my list includes movies like Butterfly Effect, Memento, and now Premonition. Interestingly, there are many parallels to this movie and our movie.

But, after reading how the critics slammed the movie, I was a bit concerned for our project, because of the similarities. But, after seeing the movie last night, I saw considerable differences; ones that I believe will distinguish the two movies.

*** WARNING ***
*** The following contains spoilers for Premonition and our  movie. ***
First, the ending of Premonition was a major downer. My wife hated it. As did I. And, after reading the user reviews from IMDB, it seems that most everyone hated the ending as well. (I wonder if they are positioning the DVD sales for an “alternate ending”.)

When I first read the script for our project, the ending was very similar, a bit of a downer. It was the kind of ending where you hope he can make a difference, but doesn’t. Same with Premonition. She has the chance to change something but can’t. It was very down. Very fatalistic.

Our writer and I spent a few months finding the ending that I wanted, and we did. Kudos to Nick, the writer! He landed the perfect ending, one where our hero saves the day, and you leave the story/movie feeling good. One crew member read it and told me, “I had goose bumps at the end.”

Yeah! Goose Bumps!

Another story flaw I found in Premonition was that the audience was never challenged to figure anything out. They were spoon fed the entire movie, starting with the trailer. Once you watch it, you know the whole story. There’s nothing to figure out.

Our Project is considerably different. From the start, you don’t realize what’s going on. It’s not till page 50 that you realize what’s happening, and even then, you’re not sure you know what’s happening. You’re still challenged as the viewer to figure it out.

Finally, the other flaw I saw in Premonition was that they relied on all the horror tricks: jump moments, fright music, bugs, etc. It was too predictable, too obvious. As I start working on our edit, I need to make sure we don’t rely on the those cliché moments.

I thought Sandra Bullock’s performance was strong. I think she’s a good actress. To swing from comedy to drama and do it well takes talent.

If you get a chance, go see Premonition, and post your comments. I would enjoy hearing from you.

March 13th, 2007

Nesting

I can only describe what I’m experiencing now as “nesting”. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Let me explain. As we finished our shoot about a week ago, I took the first couple of days to just exhale and relax. Coming down from the adrenaline and caffeine was a bit of a challenge, but I started feeling normal again after a couple of days.

But even after coming down, I still couldn’t start editing. I would sit there in front of my computer and just stare at all the clutter around me, and it was not conducive for creative flow. I thought back to some of the post production houses I’ve worked in. They were so cool looking, very creative, clean and just fun to be in. Then I looked around my computer office, and realized, This isn’t much fun..

So, I told me wife, “We’re having a garage sale this weekend, and we’re going to get rid of a lot of junk.” And we did. We started cleaning and selling and cleaning and selling. By the end of the garage sale, I sold every piece of furniture in my office, along with a bunch of other junk. My office was barren.

With $700 cash in hand, we moved to our next step: Ikea. For my office, I wanted something cool, something creative, something different. I wanted a place to escape to, a place to create, a place to be different.

I started by researching colors. What colors create the right mood? What mood do I want to be in when I create? What do I want to surround myself with?

Two of my favorite colors are blue and orange. These two colors are foundational when it comes to mood. For example, take a look at this picture:

Sunset

What two primary colors do you see? Blue and orange. They happen in nature.

They are also at the opposite ends of the color wheel:

Color wheel

Interestingly, orange and blue are used extensively in filmmaking to set a mood or tone for a certain scene. Let me give you an example. Here’s a shot from me and my son’s movie, Growing Up. And, I have removed all color:

BW Thinking

What is he thinking about? Don’t really know. Could be thinking about school, about dogs or about stealing some candy. Not really sure. But, add some color…

Warm Thinking

Now, what is he thinking about? The color is “warmer”. Warmer colors are like those of a fireplace or a lamp in the front room. It often represents warmth, peace, home and family. Maybe Caleb is thinking about how much he loves his parents. 🙂

But, change the color to blue:

Thinking new blue

Now, he’s thinking about dangerous things, or about doing something at night. Blue is often used to set the tone for nighttime or darker scenes.

Next time you watch a film, take notice of the color of a scene. Watch how the color changes with the tone of the scene. What is the feeling of the scene, and what color does the filmmaker use to set the tone.

Check out this webpage on the science behind these two color “temperatures”.

So, with all that said, I decided on these two colors for my new office. But, I didn’t really want a sunset office nor a cold, uninviting office. So, I landed on orange. But again, I didn’t want a neon orange neither. So, I settled on a deeper, darker burnt orange for my new office. And since I’m a graduate of University of Texas at Austin, this was a great choice!

And so yesterday, my son and I painted all day long to change my boring white office into an exciting burnt orange editing suite.

Some may call it procrastination. I call it nesting.

March 4th, 2007

It’s a wrap! (Kind of)

We have wrapped our production! Kind of. We still have half a day shooting left for the Police Chief Hudson scenes, but most of the key photography has been completed.

The wrap party on Saturday night was great! We had a wonderful time sharing and reminiscing about the previous 3 weeks. I really enjoyed hearing people’s thoughts about everything. Our cast and crew were truly amazing. It was such a joy to work with everyone.

Russ, Jennifer and Bobby
Bobby Bastarache (First AD), Jennifer Beasley (UPM), Russ Pond

Jim Macdonald and Scarlett McAlister
Scarlett McAlister (Sara Grunning), Jim Macdonald (Paul Grunning)

What’s Next

I must say, it’s been an incredible journey these past three weeks. I was feeling really good up until the last few days of the shoot. Tiredness really set in. But, we pressed on and captured some amazing footage.

All in all, we captured about 56 tapes of HD footage. With each tape being 30 minutes long, we have about 28 hours of HD footage to work through. And, what’s amazing is that every take of every shot is on one hard drive in my computer. And, embedded within that 28 hours of amazing footage is a movie, a story to be told.

My first task is to create a trailer for the project. It serves two purposes:
• To provide a marketing piece that we can start getting out to potential distributors.
• To provide a foundation for editing. Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Desperado) said that he always cuts a trailer first so that when he’s editing, he has that one thing to go back to over and over to help him keep his energy and focus on the story to be told.

After I finish the trailer, I’ll start editing of the show. I’m really excited about the days and weeks ahead. Editing is one my favorite parts of this process. It’s where the story comes alive. It’s where you get to shape and build and mold your story into what you want it to be. And, I’m really excited about it.

It’s also nice to have my house back.

My house

It was used the final week of shooting for the Grunning Home. My wife is a really trooper! It’s not easy inviting a bunch of strangers into your home for 14 hours a day, especially when they are moving all your furniture and changing everything around.

The funny part is that we had a squib scene, and we did two takes. On both of the takes, blood went flying everywhere, and splattered against our living room wall. I’m sure that will be a huge selling point when we get ready to sell.

February 25th, 2007

Week 2 is done!

We’re on the backside of the  mountain, working our way down. It sure feels good to have 2 weeks of our 3-week production behind us. Plus, we’re ahead of schedule and on budget.

I was hoping to have more updates for you throughout the week, but week 2 was a bit of a blur. I remember doing the Week 1 update, but then all of sudden, it was Saturday night and we had just finished week 2.

Our days are still averaging about 12 hours, but it’s not bad. We’ve hit a good rhythm and things are coming together nicely. I’ve been reviewing the footage everyday, and it’s great. The acting is great. The photography is beautiful. The set design is excellent. I’m really excited about how well this is all coming together.

We’re still continuing to get some good press. On Tuesday this week, I’ll have a phone interview with a gentleman from the Dallas Morning News. He wants to feature our movie in his column “Shot in Texas”. I’m looking forward to speaking with him.

Many of you have asked about what comes next, so let me take a few minutes to share with you the next steps once we finish principal photography on Saturday.

After wrap, I’ll be taking a week or so to just relax and catch up on some sleep. Afterwards, I’ll jump right into editing. I’ll be doing all of my own editing on my own computer. For you techies out there, I’ll be using Apple’s Final Cut Pro to edit the film. I expect editing to take about 6 weeks, but since this is the most exciting part of this process for me, I’ll probably get it done in about half that time. After the edit is down, I will lock the edit. No more changes.

Once the edit is locked, I will then release it to our colorist to polish the look, color and tone of the film. Concurrently, our composer will start scoring the film. Also, our sound effects artist will begin the task of “sound design”. This is all of the sound effects that you don’t realize you hear in a film: footsteps, door closes, creaks, wind, button presses, gunshots, clicks, etc.. It’s what the industry calls foley. Once the color is done, the music is scored and the sound mixed, then the film will be ready to market. I expect this to happen in May or June. I hope to have a premiere here in the Dallas area once the film is finished.

There are a variety of ways to market the film. We will be targeting some of the key film festivals, like Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, Tribecca, and South by Southwest. If the film is accepted in one of these festivals, distribution will be much easier to get. If it’s not accepted, then we’ll begin pursuing traditional routes for distribution through a producer’s rep.

That’s it for now. I’m off to bed so I can wake up earlier Monday morning and make a movie!

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Gil Bailie

February 18th, 2007

Week 1 is done!

For those of you who’ve been waiting for the next update, I’m sorry. I had good intentions of sending out daily updates. But honestly, after day 2, I was getting home too late, and the thought of staying up late to blog was nauseating. 🙂

So now, I bring you the “Week 1 Update”. We have completed six days of shooting. The first couple of days were pretty good. We worked hard for about 11 hours. It was a good pace, but days 3, 4 and 5 were much more difficult, averaging about 13 hours per day.

To stay on schedule, we need to shoot about 5 pages a day. On Wednesday, our third day, we shot about 8 pages, and it was a very productive day. But, I was wiped out that night. Thursday and Friday was also pretty busy. We managed to shoot about 6 pages for each of those days. And Saturday was a bit slower.

All in all, it has been very productive. We’ve captured some great footage. I hope to have some stills up on the website soon.

But I must also say, today (Sunday) has truly been a day of rest for me. I spent the day doing nothing, and it feels good. As my first AD said, “These 3 weeks will be a marathon.” And boy they have!

I got home Friday night after shooting and got kind of sick for some reason. Chills and fever hit me all of sudden. Not sure what it was–maybe stress, or maybe a bug, but I feel much better and much stronger. I’m ready to start shooting tomorrow.

I spent about an hour today laying down a rough edit of our first week. The footage is looking really good. I’m excited about that. I did find a couple of things I’d like to reshoot, but I’ll have to speak to my DP and First AD on Monday.