I’m on a train catching up on some Birdland casting business (we’re approaching some big names this week) and struggling to type with the insane nails I decided to inflict upon my hands for Fantasia (flashier nails = more confidence, right?) and texting my Rite of the Witch Goddess teammates and generally getting excited about Frontières.
By this time tomorrow, our pitch will probably be over. I keep having to remind myself that the me who is nervous about public speaking is the me of ten years ago and not the me of today. The me of today is at ease with a microphone in any situation except karaoke. And that’s not about confidence, it’s about the particular weird skill-set and personality required to enjoy doing karaoke, which I lack. I like watching other people do it! I can’t wait to see my cute friends sing their hearts out at the Frontières closing party. I hope Nicole raps.
Today is going to be a pretty full day. I arrive in Montreal at 2:30, get to the hotel by 3ish and head straight out to the presentation venue for a tech check with James.
After we test our trailer on the big screen to make sure it looks and sounds amazing tomorrow, I’ll be heading back for a workout at the hotel gym. It will clear my mind for a night of pitch rehearsals. Around 6ish, Tim will arrive in Montreal. We’ll probably get some kind of takeout dinner and hunker down for a couple of hours of going over our presentation until we feel extremely confident.
Then, an early night in. The last thing I want is to feel under-slept or hung over for the presentation. Everyone at Fantasia descends on a bar called the Irish Embassy at the end of each night, where jovial film nerds drink beer on a huge back patio until the wee hours. I will be skipping it tonight in favour of a really solid night’s sleep. But tomorrow? Look out Embassy!
I stole this photo from the excellent Jay Clarke’s excellent blog The Horror Section. This pic is from 2008, but coincidentally, the young lady in the black top pictured here (Serena Whitney) is going to be at Fantasia with me this year, because she’s the co-writer of one of the Off-Frontières projects, Mark of Kane. Check out their poster over on Fangoria.
Ok! Almost in Montreal. Time to get ready to get off this train.
Oh, projects. Why are there so many of you?
On this week’s agenda:
- Locking the August (and, to a large extent, September – because, y’know, TIFF) programming for the Royal and emailing all the distributors to request various titles for various dates. Colin is doing most of the emailing, thankfully, but I helped map it out. We have some cool stuff in store!
- Help Colin lock his TIFF films. I’m not a TIFF employee and I have no official role in this process, but I know how much of Colin’s time it will take over the next few days, so I’m trying hard to figure out ways to help, so that he can be TIFF-distraction-free when we get to Montreal, because I will really need some moral support.
- Finalizing my Fantasia pitch presentation (notes, slideshow of images, trailer, etc). Now that I’ve booked my manicure appointment and requested all the meetings, I can move on to the less crucial stuff like, y’know, making sure we have a poster to put up.
- Scrambling to figure out interim / gap financing for a project that is in the “waiting to hear from funders” stage. One of the funders called me today to tell me our package is very strong (yay) but that we’re disadvantaged by the fact that we only have about 30% of our financing secured, whereas many other applicants are in the 60-100% range (boo). I’m not sure what I can do to beef up those numbers in the next two weeks, but that is my timeline. Good luck, me.
- Updating the U8P slate brochure for Fantasia so that I have something to leave with the people I meet with. This involves sending updates to a graphic designer, because my layout skills pretty much topped out at MS Paint, and also checking in with various filmmakers to see if it’s ok to continue hawking the projects we’re working on. Some are on hold as other things move forward, and others are being pushed to the front, because I want to prioritize them. I should have done this weeks ago.
- Moving (most of) the U8P office from our fifth floor space to our new, brighter, more awesome second floor space (thankfully, within the same building). I’m hopeful that this can happen within the next few
- Having a birthday! It’s tomorrow. I’m not a party type, so I’m not having a party, but I am also going to try hard to not spend all day tomorrow working. I work all the friggin’ time.
I’ve also been averaging like five trips to the gym per week, which I’d sure love to keep up in this final seven-ish days before I zip off to Fantasia, because I want to be in peak physical condition when I hit the stage for that pitch. If I can squeeze it into my days, that is. Last year, the presentations were held in a classroom with a pull-down screen and a little projector. This year, they’re taking place hereThe new venue makes it feel way more nerve-wracking. I don’t usually get stage fright (five years of self-inflicted torture in the form of high school drama classes, many years of playing in bands, a toastmasters course once upon a time, and years spent making presentations to large groups of teachers for REEL CANADA) but this is my first time ever pitching a film, and especially one that I had a hand in writing. That freaks me out a little. I know I’ll be prepared, but I don’t want to involuntarily let anyone see me sweat. Y’know, like when you’re freaked out and your voice gets shaky? That. I don’t want that to happen. Maybe a shot of whisky 15 minutes before I go on stage? Or some breathing exercises.
I am really looking forward to Fantasia this year, for lots of reasons. Seeing a few movies, of course, including my lovely friend Joe O’Brien’s Devil’s Mile. I’d also love to see Faults and Mr. Go, which are playing during our trip there. And of course there’s Goat Witch, the new short James Sizemore joint, which is screening before the midnight film (Dead Snow: Red vs Dead!!) on Saturday.
Realistically, I shouldn’t even spend too much time looking at the screening schedule because I’ll get all excited about seeing stuff and then I’ll end up seeing nothing, because my Frontières schedule will be really packed.
For anyone who is reading this and will be in Montreal on Wednesday June 23, I highly, highly recommend Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter, an absolute fave of mine from Berlin. Really beautiful movie.
I’m also excited about seeing pals from all over the world (and Montreal) and doing fun things with them, like going to eat at La Prunelle, because that restaurant was my favourite discovery of last year’s Fantasia trip. The food is top notch, and it’s a bring-your-own-wine place, so it ends up being extremely reasonably priced. Colin (and our dining companion, John) both ordered the bison rib, which was the tenderest piece of meat I ever tasted, and also bigger than his head. I can’t even remember what I ate, because it wasn’t novelty-sized.
And, most of all, I’m equal parts terrified and excited about the actual Frontières co-production market, where we will pitch Rite of the Witch Goddess to the world for the first time.
My to do list for that still includes:
- Finalizing the pitch script with James and Tim
- Waiting with bated breath for our proof of concept trailer to be completed
- Compiling (with the team’s help) a slideshow of images to play during our presentation
- Sending the Fantasia team our list of people who we want to request meetings with
- Designing and printing a Rite of the Witch Goddess postcard
- Updating and printing the Ultra 8 Pictures “slate” flyer, which has info about the other films we’re working on
- Finalizing the Rite of the Witch Goddess LookBook, where we’ll be hosting all the documents & videos that are going to be part of our presentation, so that the people we meet can access all that info even after the market is over.
- Oh yeah, and I should get my nails done.
Now that Cannes is over (and I am over my three week Cannes Cold, or whatever that nightmare bug was), it’s time to get back to work.
Two major projects are my current top priority. First up, Rite of the Witch Goddess, the film I’m co-writing with James “The Demon’s Rook” Sizemore and producing with Tim “Also The Demon’s Rook” Reis. The film was accepted into Fantasia’s Frontières co-production market on the basis of a pretty slick package (and, in my humble cowriterly opinion) a pretty great script that James and I cobbled together over the past few months. I learned a lot of lessons from last year’s Frontières experience and I’m anxious to apply them this summer. I learned what makes a successful pitch, and a successful presentation package, so we’re hard at work on all that.
I also learned to never waste a second of my time working with people who aren’t 100% interested in working with me and who aren’t as respectful of my time and contributions as I am of theirs. James and Tim are awesome, supremely collaborative, open and generous partners to be working with and I’m really happy to be developing this project with them. We’re getting our agreements and paperwork in order (I can’t advise this enough, Junior Producers!), but we’re also communicating really well about what we all want (in the script, in the way we put the project together, and so on) so it’s been very rewarding. I’m looking forward to hopefully blowing some people away with a few of the things we’ve cooked up for our presentation, too.
My ambitious goal with this project is to line up enough partners at Fantasia and the next few festivals and markets to follow (TIFF, perhaps AFM, definitely Berlin) to be able to shoot the film next summer. At least half the film takes place outside and requires a lot of idyllic, lushly green locations, so summer would sure work well for us.
The second project is the noirish murder-mystery I’m working on with Peter Lynch, Birdland. The script has been polished up and over the past few months we’ve done a huge amount of work to secure a solid Exec. Producer and submit funding applications to all the usual suspects (Telefilm, OMDC, Harold Greenberg Fund and so on). Now, we keep pushing the project forward in other ways as we wait for some decisions to come in. The funding decisions we get won’t dictate whether the film gets made or not (we’re committed to doing it no matter what) but they will affect our timeline. If everyone hands over buckets of dough, then we might be ready to shoot as early as this fall.
More realistically, we’ll get less than we asked for from everyone (that seems to be a common scenario, based on stories I’ve heard from other producer pals) and will have to go into serious fundraising mode this fall in the hopes of raising the rest quickly and shooting in early 2015. I think the latter plan is more plausible but you never know. Better to be ambitious than not. We’ve already got a lot of good will and support on the project, so nothing is out of the question.
Beyond these two films, which are taking up 90% of my summer focus, I’ve also got two others percolating in the back of my mind. One’s an original story idea that I hope to find time to write into a script this August. The other is an idea I’ve been bandying about with a filmmaker friend, which I very much want to make happen.
And of course there’s the rest of the Ultra 8 Pictures development slate, but in all honesty, I have to let the writer/directors of some of those projects carry the torch themselves for a little while, because there aren’t enough hours in the day, and I don’t get a suitcase full of money from Telefilm for my development slate, so I can’t pay myself, let alone anyone else, to get some scripts polished up so that I can take them into the world and try to make something of them.
I got some good advice this Cannes from a friend (a successful and wise talent agent) about working only on the projects I’m most passionate about with the people I really want to spend a lot of time with. It might seem obvious, but it was kind of a revelation. I realized that I do actually spend a lot of my time trying to push forward way too many things, which means I can’t dedicate the right level of energy to any of them. So, the lesson of summer is: choose priorities wisely, line things up and get them done piece by piece, instead of trying to do everything at once.
Easier said than done, probably. I also have programming The Royal and helping REEL CANADA put together the 2014-15 catalogue (10th anniversary, yo) and helping Colin meet his TIFF deadlines and y’know, trying to spend at least 30 minutes a week actually enjoying the summer.
BIG NEWS, FRIENDS! A film I’m co-writing with James Sizemore and producing with Tim Reis (the dynamic duo behind The Demon’s Rook) has been selected as one of the official projects for the next edition of Fantasia’s Frontières co-production market.
Without further ado, let me say to the world, for the first time ever, that I am involved in this awesome thing, and it is called Rite of the Witch Goddess.
This is the news I’ve been dying to share since … well, since Monday when I found out, while in the Frankfurt airport, that we were selected.
Here’s the Screen Daily article about it. All of the other projects seem very intriguing as well. Can’t wait!