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.
I am feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. I have too many things on the go. I think my resolution for 2015 is going to have to do with simplifying my life, but it certainly isn’t going to happen in the next 12-15 months.
I’m managing a few special projects at REEL CANADA (the same part-time basis as before, but a few more hours per week this fall than anticipated), and I’ve got a new gig that I’m excited about which threatens to swallow up a lot of my upcoming time (more on that soon).
Then there’s the fact that I want to move into a bigger apartment, which (considering Colin’s work-related travel schedule – and these days, mine too) has to be very strategically timed, so the search has to happen in hurried bursts of activity. Maybe I should hire a realtor. And, I’m determined (determined, I say!) to complete at least one of the writing projects which have been on the back seat of my life for years and which I told myself I would make time for once I quit my full time job and went freelance.
Plus there’s the producing, which I am grimly resigned to giving most of my time to, even though it’s the thing that doesn’t pay. Here’s where those projects are at.
I love this movie and the adorable sweethearts who made it. That’s why I’m thrilled at how well it’s been doing since its premiere at Fantasia this summer. The film got great responses out of FrightFest (London, UK) and Scream Fest (Los Angeles). It’s playing Sitges (Spain) next. FEARnet, Bloody Disgusting and Fangoria have all posted really positive reviews. We got a great sales company on board (Raven Banner, the same fine folks who helped get Manborg out into the world), and there’s been some interest from US distributors recently, which I can’t talk about yet but am very excited about, obviously. Next up, I’m looking forward to digging into the director’s next script, for a witchcraft-y horror film. He gave it to us way back in the summer, but the pre-and-post-TIFF weeks were too hectic, so I’m going to read it now, while I’m out in the woods at the cottage, in the perfect setting.
The highlight of the Fantasia experience with The Demon’s Rook was not just getting to see the film on the big screen for the first time, but also getting to hang out with the lovely director, James Sizemore, and meet his beautiful wife and adorable parents. Not to mention DoP/editor/producer Tim Reis and HIS beautiful girlfriend and adorable parents. And the dozen or so other folks who came up from Georgia to support them. What an incredibly sweet group of people. I feel really lucky to be working with them.
Bye Bye Blackbird (working title)
This is the noir-ish murder mystery thriller that I’m working on with Peter Lynch. The script is so close to being done that I can almost taste it, and I’m super excited! I mean, it’s been “done” for a long time, but it’ll be at a polished, “ready to be sent out to people” level in a matter of days. We’ve been talking to funders, to other producers who might come on board to help us, and to sales agents. Everything seems to be progressing well enough that we might actually shoot this sucker next year – perhaps not as early in the year as we’d hoped (the original timeline had us in production by February) but soon enough.
If you ever saw a copy of the Ultra 8 Pictures brochure that we printed for Cannes, you might remember this one as the project with the creepy closeup of a witchy looking woman as its central image. It’s a supernatural thriller, and writer/director Terrance Odette passed a rough draft to me the other week for some preliminary feedback. I had lots of notes, but overall, I thought it was great. We even have some interesting funding prospects for this one, but I don’t want to jinx it by saying too much. Suffice it to say, I have very high hopes for this one.
This is a really smart body horror film by a German writer-director who we’ve been trying to hook up with Canadian partners, to do a German-Canadian coproduction. Finally, it looks like everything might be in place. Ultra 8 is not the lead producing entity on this one – but the person who likely will be taking the lead is a really good local producing powerhouse, so I’m quite excited about the opportunity to work with him. I can’t say too much yet, but we’re aggressively pursuing cast at the moment and we’ll be able to officially announce something soon. Woop woop!
After a successful market experience at Fantasia, I stepped back a little bit from this one. It’s a fantastic project, but there’s not much for me to do while the script is being worked on, and I’m damn busy with other stuff! Plus, it’s the only project I’ve been spending time on where there’s no agreement – written or oral – on what Ultra 8 Pictures’ role (by which I mean, mine or Colin’s) actually is, so it seems prudent not to prioritize it until we all have time in our overloaded schedules to sit down and discuss what needs to be done.
This documentary about the psychology of horror films and why we love to feel scared did some great work at Fantasia, Festival of Fear and TIFF. With a little bit of help from team Colin & Kat, they bagged a bunch of interviews with visiting filmmakers and got a lot of great shooting done. I can’t wait to get back to Toronto after Thanksgiving and meet with these guys, so that we can figure out where they’re at and what help they need next. Oh, and Why Horror? just launched a Kickstarter campaign. You can find it (and contribute!) HERE.
And their poster is rad, too:
I think that’s it. I need a nap.
This past week has been scheduling hell. It’s also been super fun and really exciting, don’t get me wrong. But damn.
As I mentioned in a previous post, this past week was the week of multiple filmmaker visits. First, the very awesome director and producer duo of The Demon’s Rook came to town for an intensive four day colour correction blitz.
I’ve never seen colour correction done before. I was fascinated by the extent to which they could not only change the colours in a scene – changing flat-looking grass into a vibrant green, for example – but also how easily they could re-light a scene in order to draw the eye to a particular part of the frame and focus the viewer’s attention. The process was done for us as a favour (a huge and expensive and incredibly generous favour), but it certainly made me realize how crucial the process is. The Demon’s Rook was already a super fun movie, and it already looked good. Colour correction just made it look so much more polished and slick that it’s as if we doubled or tripled the budget in those four days.
Now we just have to sit back and wait for the festival invitations to start rolling in, I guess. Knock on wood. Fingers crossed.
The second pair of filmmakers (our adorable Germans) were in town to talk to potential Canadian partners in order to hopefully make a deal that will allow the film to get financed and move forward. We have assembled several Canadian partners who can bring a lot to the project. Naturally, they will want something in exchange for their contribution – a stake in the project.
This means that the German producer has a tough choice to make – is he willing to give up a chunk of the control over the project in exchange for the possibility of actually getting it made. No matter how great the deal looks, it’s got to be tough. He’s spent two years working very hard on this, and now he has to give a portion of it away and trust that others won’t muck it up.
While all this has been happening, I’ve also been trying to put together an application form for some funding for the project I’m working on with Peter Lynch. I feel like that film is supposed to be my top priority, but I had to neglect it this week because everything else was happening all at the same time. Stressful.
Next week, when life goes “back to normal” (ha ha), I will hopefully catch up on all the work (and laundry) that I’ve neglected this week. As July is around the corner, I also have to start focusing on prep for our end-of-July trip to the Fantasia festival in Montreal, where Colin and I will be attending the Frontieres international co-production market, representing The Void (by team Manborg). Hopefully, all this upcoming work will be interesting and informative to write about, and all my blog posts won’t end up being the same “oooh, I’m sooooooo busyyyyyy” nonsense. Let’s hope.
I’m back in Toronto post-Cannes, and I have to face just how busy my summer is going to be. As a way to procrastinate writing my immediate to do lists, I though it’d be good to list the projects I’m working on this summer, here on the blog, since I hope to write about them over the next few months, and I want you all to know what I’m talkin’ about when I refer to each.
I’m currently juggling three film projects, on top of my consulting work with REEL CANADA (which will itself keep me busy for one or two days per week through the summer). The films are all in different stages of development (or completion), and my role is pretty different in each case. On the first film listed below, I’m not getting paid anything. I’m happy to do it in exchange for a producing credit, because that’s meaningful for me as well. The other two films might pay out eventually, once all the funding has been raised and I can get my allotted fee, but those paydays are a long way away, so for the foreseeable future, I’m just gambling on these projects actually getting made. It’s a big gamble, and I’ll be both busy and a little bit broke for a while, but I gave up my secure full time job last year because I really believed I could make a go of it as an independent producer, so fingers crossed, right?
So, anyway, the films.
First, The Demon’s Rook. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook and/or Twitter may have noticed a few weeks ago that I posted about getting my first IMDB credit on this low-budget horror film from just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The film is almost done, and my involvement is in helping the director and producer polish it up and get it out into the world.
The film may be almost done, but the next few weeks and months will still be pretty busy as we hustle to submit it to various festivals around the world. If (when!) it gets into some of those, we’ll have to start promoting the hell out of it and trying to get a sales agents on board who might be able to help us get the film out into the world on DVD and VOD after its festival run.
The second project I’m working on is a cool film called Replace, which is shaping up to be a German / Canadian co-production. The film has a completed script and a few key elements into place, and we’re now trying to attach the right Canadian partners so that we can access some funding and hopefully shoot the film here sometime in the fall or winter. Thankfully, I’m just a support player on this project, helping to match the German side with some great Canadians who can help make it happen. I’m not responsible for raising the money myself, and thank goodness, because I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.
In a couple of weeks, the director and producer of The Demon’s Rook are coming to town to do some colour correction*, and the director and producer of Replace will also be flying in, from Munich, to meet with some potential partners. It’s coincidentally bad timing (or just hectic-as-f*#% timing), in the sense that I’ll be trying to juggle my REEL CANADA work, my other projects, and hosting two sets of filmmakers in town all at the same time.
The final project, which will actually be occupying the bulk of my time this summer, is one I’m working on with Canadian director Peter Lynch. It’s a cool murder mystery with noir elements and it’s at a similar stage of development as Replace. The script is mostly done, and we’re trying to line up cast and financing with the hope of shooting sometime in early 2014. I’m not sure if that sounds like a long way off to you, but to me it sounds terrifyingly soon. On this film, I’m working together with Peter on the nuts and bolts of putting it together. Rather than being a peripheral player, I’m actually on the front lines of producing this one. This is probably the project I will spend the summer blogging most about (the title is TBD, we’re working on it) as I navigate the various steps, from applying for funding, to putting together the key creative team, to casting, and so on. Since this is the project I’m most hands on with, I am anxious to knock it out of the park.