Friday, February 27, 2009

Clinically Insane

Here is a post on Actors and Acting. I get asked quite a bit about actors. Usually something like "What's Lou Diamond Phillips like?" For filmmakers, I get asked the most "how do you get a name actor to be in your movie?" And other questions pop up all the time. This is for all indie movies, not just faith-based. Here are some truths:

* Recognizable name actors are leery of first time, low budget, indie directors.
* Sometimes money isn't enough to get them to come on board. Sometimes it is.
* The key is getting a good LA or NYC casting director.
* Most of them are real nice to work with, but a few aren't.
* Most LA and NYC actors are really, really good.
* Acting looks easy, but is incredibly hard, because we watch gifted, experienced people do it on tv and at the movies all the time.
* Some people are born with more ability than others.
* It pays to just have "flight time" -- on other words, just experience with the pressure on and the cameras rolling, so that you can get use to not thinking about the pressure or the cameras.
* By DSM manual used by psychologists, actors are clinically insane. To be able to "become" someone else is to become schizo.
* Playing bad guys may look like fun, but can take a mental toll (see above).
* Many actors forget how to be themselves and play roles when the cameras are not on. (See "The Imposter.")
* Vivacious, extroverted, life-of-the-party people don't always translate to good actors on screen.
* Film acting is different than theater acting. And theater training can mess up film actors.
* Tom Wright, a great actor recommends theater training. So there.
* Great actors can lift mediocre writing.
* Mediocre actors can ruin great writing.
* Most local actors need a lot more experience.
* Most local actors think they are really, really good.
* A few local actors are really good.
* Most local actors I know that are really good, move to LA and are no longer local actors.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spinning Discs

Well, we are officially pushing forward on the soundtrack for "The Imposter." I hope to have the product in hand within six weeks at the latest, maybe earlier. Here's a peek at the songs we're thinking of including:
* Carry On Wayward Son (Kevin Max singing to Kerry Livgren's new arrangement)
* Four songs from Kevin's "The Imposter" (Imposter, Imposter's Song, Sanctuary, Your Beautiful Mind)
* Four downhere songs (my favorite band, songs include The More, A Better Way, Break My Heart, My Last Amen)
* Local star Meredith Mauldin's "Empty" which has been a surprise hit of the movie
* Our movie originals Believe (is an Act) sung by Kevin, and Chance to Choose sung by Jeff Deyo
* Two Kerry Livgren songs (On the Air, No More Time For Love)
* and a couple of choice score cues by Josh Goode.

We will probably put a real huge pre-sale discount up in the next few days. Hope you enjoy!

Kerry Livgren's Testimonial

We've had several people ask to see this video posted. I have been including it in the extras, but here it is. Kerry's story is an amazing one. Here is an individual who was looking for rock n roll success, and trying to find a deeper purpose at the same time. He got the rock n roll success, but that ate away even more.

I don't remember if I included this in the edit here (and I'm too tired to check it right now), but another interesting thing about Kansas-- the band had no problem with Kerry chasing Buddhism, eastern mysticism, even Urantia... but when Kerry became born again, then some problems started. The name of Jesus has incredible power. It makes people flinch to say Jesus. You can say Buddha. You can say Mohammed. But to say Jesus separates and divides people.

Thanks, Kerry, for taking time to talk with me that day on the set.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

When is the DVD going to be out???

The number one question-- I get it several times a day (hey Jeff-- we might want to put something just above the contact form telling them the answer to this). "Hey, sounds like a great movie, where/when can I buy it?"

The answer is this-- later in 2009. Maybe late summer or early fall. Maybe. For now, churches can buy it for public exhibition. Consider this, the theatrical window for the movie.

So if you're dying to see the movie, see if your church will get it. We've also had people buy the movie for their church as an offering or gift. That's cool. BTW, I also had someone ask if we had scholarships-- she's in Kentucky and works with troubled teens. I get requests like this-- if you'd be interested in "sponsoring" or gifting a copy for a ministry in need, please contact me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Interview with Kerry

The local paper for Kerry's hometown of Topeka has a great article. Check it out: CLICK HERE Also, video interview here with clips from the Carry On Wayward Son music video, here: CLICK HERE

I really liked what Kerry had to say. Hope you check it out. Also did get word that they have sold out all 6 screenings for tomorrow in Topeka.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Screenings, screenings everywhere...

Topeka is packing them out this Sunday. Kerry Livgren's home church is buying out a movie theater and doing six screenings on Sunday. Brian at Topeka Bible Church says tickets are all gone for all six. Amazing!!

We're working on a Fort Worth screening to benefit Teen Challenge. Probably late March. More when I get some dates set. It will be interesting to see how much money we can raise for Fort Worth Teen Challenge.

Also, might do something again in Nashville soon, and Jeff Deyo's church there will be screening the movie soon.

We also have other churches around the country setting up screenings. If you want the movie to come to your city-- contact me. Let's see if we can get it going!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Self Greenlighting

One of the most common questions I get is how to get started making a movie. So here's a little primer for all those go-getters who have gumption and initiative. This is not how to get H'Wood to hire you to make your movie. This is for those who want to DIY.

1. Have a good idea, and preferably a great script. Whether you write it or talk a friend into letting you have it (and signing an option agreement for a dollar or something), make sure you have clear title to the property.

1B. Find some seed money to pay for the attorney coming up in 2 and 3. ($10K would be a good start).

2. Create the legal entity. Some create an LLC (limited Liability Corporation). Others create an LP (Limited Partnership, with a corporation as the general partner). If you've never done this before, seek an attorney-- each state has different rules.
2B. You'll need to decide how much to raise, what size are the units (mine are typically $5K each), and how the returns will be divided up.

3. Get your paperwork together. For an LP, this might include: The LP Agreement, the Offering Memorandum, Subscription Booklet and Business Plan. Keep the first three together. Keep the BP seperated from the others. The Offering Memo is "every reason why not to invest." The BP is "every reason to invest." Your attorney will create the first three. You'll need to create the BP or hire someone to do it. On the left is the original cover for The Imposter business plan.

4. Now work the phones etc. Call every wealthy person you know. Get appointments. Prepare a presentation. Pitch them at the meeting. Hopefully, you will get them to agree to come in. After their attorney has time to review the paperwork, have them sign the last page of the LP agreement, fill out the sub booklet, and paper clip the check.

5. When you have raised enough-- go make your movie!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Did Paul's Tents Have a Really Cool Branded Logo?

So you want to be a Christian filmmaker? You want to make money to support yourself. So is this a job? But it's Christian-- therefore its ministry as opposed to being a job? A career? This falls into what I call:

Ministry versus Tent Making.

Paul had an incredible ministry. And I'm sure his non-profit organization paid his salary some of the time. And Paul Evangelical Association probably had a call center in Damascus raising gifts. But I digress. Actually, what we do know is that, at times Paul *worked* so that the people he was ministering to would not have to support him. He did this also to set an example (which I don't think is followed much today).

2 Thess 3
6 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers[c] who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received[d] from us. 7 For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. 8 We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.

Okay, so we know Paul was a tentmaker. I bet his tents were good. He worked night and day. And on top of that, he ministered.

There are some that have a ministry of making films for Jesus (stories). I think of the Kendrick brothers at Sherwood. They have a salary paid by the church. Clearly, making movies is part of their ministry. They work hard. They don't have to go get tentmaking jobs during the day and make movies at night. The body at Sherwood works and then tithes and from this, they can provide for their family.

My situation is different (not better or worse-- no value comparison here). First, my ministry is not telling stories. My ministry is discipleship. My family, the crew, the people around me. I don't believe a story (movie) can effectively disciple. I think it can raise questions. I think it can make a person think. I don't think a movie has the power to save anyone. So my ministry is not the films. Now if God decides to use a movie of mine for His ministry, then fine. In the meantime, I must work hard at whatever He puts in front of me to do.

So yes, at this point in time, my movies are my tentmaking. I'm sure Paul worked hard on his tents and sold them for what they were worth. I do the same here. I'm sure his tents ministered to people as they slept in them out of the rain and cold.

"The Imposter" has a powerful message directed to us in the church. Let's get back to the Author of Truth and pull down the masks we carry in front of our faces. I know I have some pretty serious ones. So do buy The Imposter and benefit from the rain it keeps off you. And maybe at some point, the merge of moviemaking and ministry will blur. Or maybe not. Whatever my Master decides is fine by me. I've got some more tents to sew. See ya.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pink Slip at the Cheese Factory

I went to Nashville last weekend. The National Religious Broadcasters convention. Talked about "The Imposter". Worked on getting buzz going. So what's the most common comment when mentioning a Christian movie?

"Most Christian movies are cheesy."

Well, you're right. Christian movies are where Christian music was 20 years ago. Almost any Christian movie you pick up and watch will be high in the cheese factor. Why?

Let's first start by defining "cheese." In this context, it means hokey, on the nose (OTN), predictable and the most accurate-- doesn't ring true. Wait a minute! Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, the life..." If He's the truth, why are most Christian movies not ringing with that truth? Now that's a good question. I've got some ideas, but I'll save that for another blog entry.

So what is OTN? That's where you actually say what you mean. What's wrong with that? Well, in scriptwriting, it's a rookie mistake. People actually *don't* say what they mean. It's the difference between "text" and "subtext." If I say "sure I'd liek to have lunch with you," I could actually really mean, "I really don't want to have lunch with you, but I'm trapped and will look like a bad guy if I turn you down." Hokey, cheesy writing in this scene would be for the character to actually say "I hate you and don't want to have lunch with you." It's much more interesting for him to say something else and just mean that underneath. But then to do that, you'd actually have to have some actors with chops. And that's something you usually don't find in a Christian movie.

So, the bottom line is STORYTELLING. And as more and more people learn the craft, I think you'll see the quality of Christian movies increase. But it will take courage to write stories that aren't OTN, that don't require brain-checking at the door, and might actually make some people uncomfortable. BTW, Jesus was a Master Storyteller.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Trailer!

Last summer, as Sound Designer Johnny Marshall worked his wonders on the movie, he happened to see the trailer at a local film event where somebody associated with the movie played it. He called me and said the sound was fine for YouTube, but it really needed sound design. So he graciously did a wonderful job.

In addition, I took the graphics by Green Grass and put them in as well. What resulted is the trailer we use on the DVD's. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Warrior

A friend found this quote a couple of years ago. I think about it often:

"Out of every 100 men, 10 should not even be here, 80 are nothing but targets, 9 are real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they the battle make." "Ah, but the ONE, ONE of them is a WARRIOR, and he will bring the others back." Heraclitus 500 BC

I apply this in my walk as a disciple of Jesus. I want to be that one. I want to be a warrior in my faith. A true warrior. Not a fake one. One of the key words for a warrior is "discipline." To be that WARRIOR, I will need to be disciplined and will at times be disciplined. Heb 12 reminds me that discipline from the Father tells me I'm His child. And that though painful now, will have lasting fruit.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What's the deal with "Churches Only?"

The biggest question we get from the website is "when is the home DVD going to be released?" Well, first we are making the movie available to churches for public exhibition. Why? Well, this gives us a chance to have a theatrical "window", a movie industry term for the slot of time for a movie to be in theaters (or in our case, churches).

We are getting more and more orders and lots of screenings coming up. Today in Kansas, the Wheatheads (hardcore fans of the band "Kansas") are having a showing. Then in a few weeks, Kerry Livgren's home church is renting out the local theater and having a big shindig-- several screenings of the movie... talk with Kerry... sermon around it. That will be Topeka.

Churches in Florida, Virginia, Washington State, Utah, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia have purchased the exhibition license. Want to help with our "theatrical" rollout? We need you. Bring the movie to your city. Ask your church to put on a movie night. Or rent the local theater. I appreciate everyone's support so far!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Big Shout Out to Jeff Deyo

Hey dude-- thank you so much for all the work you've put into the movie "The Imposter", especially these last few weeks. You've gone above and beyond.

For those who don't know-- Jeff is a gifted singer/songwriter. He has a solo career and I highly recommend his albums. In our movie, he plays the leader of the band, Grand_design. He also wrote a song we use in the movie. It was a lot of fun shooting the music video for it-- Jeff is amazing.

Jeff's website is He has podcasts and all sorts of goodies. Check it out.

At the screening in Nashville, Jeff's been kind enough to agree to sign some movie posters that we'll be handing out.

Anyway, Jeff-- Thanks man!

So you wanna be a movie director!

In my industry, filmmaking, I would say that 90% of the people I come across want to be a Director. I guess it's not a shocker-- people in banking don't want to be a Teller at the end of their road-- they want to be a president or an officer. In the military, you don't want to be a private or lieutenant when you retire.

The director of a movie, in the secular world, is called the god of the set. What he wants, he gets. And dozens (or in some cases hundreds or even thousands) are running around to make his wishes come true. Yeah and you can see where this is heading-- many directors become "personality challenged" because they can't deal with the Ego. At what point do you turn off the "god" abilities? That can be a gray line that's easily crossed.

So you want to direct movies? Well, first, deal with your Ego. Learn how to kill it daily. Then... well, the road is varied and very narrow. Some people come to the directors chair via an incredibly well-written script they penned. Because it's sooo good, she can hold the script ransom in return for the director's chair. Very rarely does this happen, but it does. (Ben Younger, "Boiler Room" comes to mind).
For some, they are accomplished actors who gain some clout to be able to ask for the chair. Mel, Clint, et al.

A few rise from the rank and file of the BTL (below the line) crew. Maybe an exceptional Assistant Director jumps the large canyon from AD to director. But this is even more rare.

A little less rare is the person who raises or finds money for his film and gets to direct it. This is usually a low budget, very indie film, with investors who are not in the movie business. Or she directs her no budget short. And it's really good so she uses that to get the helm of a full length feature.

These are just a few of the hundred paths to the director's chair. If you really want it, you will most likely have to pay your dues. And even then, you will most likely not get to do it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nashville Premier!

This just in-- we're going to hold a screening of The Imposter this Sunday in Nashville (coinciding with NRB convention). It will be at 730 at the Two Rivers Baptist Church directly across Briley Pkwy from the Opryland Hotel. If you want to come, RSVP to me asap. I'll be there with Jeff Deyo, as well as others.

Also, I'll be at NRB Saturday and Sunday. If anyone wants a meeting, please contact me. Look forward to seeing you!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Line Ettiquette

I'm at WalMart. I've got to return a duplicate gift (yes it's the perfect pushups-- what does that say when I got two of them?). I get there and there are two stations at the returns counter. There is one customer at each, with some family in tow. And there's one lady in front of me.

So what's the etiquette here? Is she required to pick a lane like the bank lanes in drive thru? For this situation, she doesn't have to pick. Next person is her. But she hangs back like twenty feet. So much so that when I walked up, I had to make sure she was in "line." So now the world is between us and the counters. I want her to move up.
Why? Because-- oops- there you go, someone else just walks right up to the counter and stakes a claim. If Hang Back Lady moved up some, there wouldn't be as much question. I clear my throat. Move up a little close into her air space. Finally she moves up a step. Need more like twelve. Another claim staker swoops in. They get a quick answer and fill out a form.
Finally Hang Back Lady's motioned to step on up to the counter. I move way up and the line that has now grown moves up with me. There's no more room to claim jump. All is well in WalMart Return land.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Film Distribution in a nutshell

It's hard enough to get a movie made, what about getting it distributed? This little post will be directed to low budget indie filmmakers, for the secular marketplace. So what can you do to get your film distributed?

Most Important Variable for success in getting distribution: Recognizable name. Nothing comes even close to this variable. The overall goal is to get individuals to buy/watch the movie. You can spend tons of money, but a recognizable name shortcuts that.

Second Variable - Genre. If you've got a drama, good luck. These are extremely hard to sell. The movie industry just had a record year in the face of a depression. Why? Because of escapism. That's why action/suspense/horror etc keep getting made and keep earning revenue. Comedy? Well, just don't count on foreign sales. Just remember, Drama is the hardest genre to get distribution.

Third Variable - Production Value. If I were weighting these, I'd have Name as 70%, Genre as 20% and PV as 10%. This is the quality of the lighting, writing, directing, acting, editing, etc.

The *intangible* variables are generally hooks and gimmicks, timing, special factors. Like selling your body for experiments to earn money to make the movie. Or loading up all the credit cards you can find. But these were stories that could get buzz out on the movie. Now that they've been done, it's not new. I don't recommend it.

Can a movie succeed in getting distribution without names? Sure. But for every one, there are thousands and thousands that don't. So before you mention Napolean Dynamite, understand that it is the exception rather than the rule.

Now if you make your film for a niche market, the rules do change. It still helps to have recognizable names in that niche, but PV doesn't really matter. Story becomes the biggest variable. For example, in the faith-based niche market, Flywheel succeeded without any PV, names and so forth because the story rang a chord with the niche audience.

So if you're wanting to make a movie and get it distributed, find a name actor. It's not impossible. If you've already got a no-name drama in the can, good luck. You'll need it. Hope you get in to Sundance.