Let’s get this out of the way first…. My new cats name is “VLADIMIR JACK BAUER”. We basically just call him “V” and that’s our preference here. I picked “VLADIMIR” because of a line of dialogue from the 1981 movie ARTHUR starring Dudley Moore when he says, “Can we name our first child ‘Vladimir’? Boy or a girl?” I didn’t think anyone would get that in a million years and no one did… thankfully, these books cost me money. I love the little guy. He’s a handful. V is sleeping on my shoulder as I type this, purring like a little motor boat. V has been a ray of special sunshine in our world here in Rossdonia. Brandy smiles more and loves him too. So far, the only non-fan is Cousette who seems more annoyed than anything. She’s the senior cat in the house and at 10 years old, doesn’t take to his aerial attacks with any form of glee. Cousette misses her brother Spaz, as do we all, but she’s not as sad as she was. We managed to replace sorrow with annoyance and curiosity. The house is less empty, but the energy feels different. I find a great deal of solace in being with V and Cousette now. I appreciate my life a little more.

I’ve started several new trends. I’m working out a bit. So far, I’m getting push ups and sit ups done everyday and I expect to see results sometime in 2007. I’ve become a fat bastard, but that will change. My work ethic has changed. I’ve shed some dead weight in a metaphorical sense and mystically several things in my world cleared up.

The writer’s block dissipated. George Caleodis came in from California and worked with me for one whole day & everything that was wrong seemed righted in a few short hours. We ate lunch at the Lucky House, my favorite Chinese food place, and worked right on through it. Ideas flowed better. George gets it. He’s experienced enough with group working and “gun for hire” jobs to understand that I will shoot down 99 out of a 100 ideas because they don’t “fit”, but when you hit the ones that do, you just know it. There it is. Collaborating doesn’t come easy, but it’s great when it does. George’s comprehension of pop culture and styles of humor make it easy for me to relay what I mean.

I also confirmed that my production plans being pushed to the spring of 2007 are okay. Having seen some examples of late, I’m convinced HD is the way to go for this project. A lot can be done with this medium and celluloid won’t be the only option from here on out. High Definition when used right looks fantastic. I look forward to the challenge.

I’m thinking through the work flow for an HD post production pipeline. I think getting the HD tapes copied to DV with matching time code to do an “offline” edit will be great. It saves on hard drive space and also makes it easier to bounce between editing systems.

In the meantime, I want to test this workflow out by doing another short film, only this time on HD this winter. I won’t direct, but I will write & produce a 2 minute short film for my longtime collaborator John Fromes, who’s been with me since 2001. Not the friendliest guy, but loyal and that means something. It’s time he had his shot as a director and there is one short film I still had on my slate of films I wanted to do before I ‘retired’ from making shorts. This is a short called SNOW MAN that I wanted to do and never got around to it 2 years ago so maybe this year I can make it happen. My ulterior motive is to test all the technicals for post production on the feature later in 2007, but I also have many outlets still for short films I have not used yet. There are plenty of offers for paid shorts only I don’t make those anymore, so this is not a bad thing to produce.

I’m also looking into doing some other mini-projects with varying goals. Much like the indie film tech tips I made for Horrors of War, I’m considering making several more like those, only not related to the film. I have different outlets I intend, and only the first ones will appear on Sonnyboo.com and online for free. I have other plans for the rest…

There is nothing more to do with Horrors of War. I fulfilled all my promises. I delivered the movie and now I have been burnt to a crisp like a french fry in the boiling oil at the end of a shift at McDonalds when the lard starts to smell like sewer. If that’s not graphic enough, I have several other metaphors that are much more gross. I want nothing to do with the movie anymore. I’ve made some realizations in the last few weeks that show me that I have wasted the last year of my life. All the work I did on the WebDocs, the promotions, the screenings, the film festivals… all of it. It’s worthless. None of what I did seems to mean anything and I have countless hours of work and dedication poured down a drain of ineptitude and incompetence.

Based on this realization, I got depressed. I was not in depression, but it is not a happy time. Many things happen for a reason. I’m sure of it. My cat dying, this realization, all lead me to other, happier things. I’m not down; in fact, I’m finding new doors opening before me everyday. Opportunities seem to be making themselves known and finding me, as they always do.

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STORYTIME!

I was called a month ago by a producer out of state who asked me if I was interested in directing her feature. I said I didn’t know, please send me a script. We talked about it and, as is usual in these cases, I was told it was the greatest screenplay and already everyone who reads it loves it. (FYI – every single person who ever shows someone a script says it’s the best, so this is hardly an indicator in any way of how it might be). Of course, she says that several studios are interested in the film already (even though it hasn’t been shot). We talk for a half an hour and she said she saw my director’s reel online and thought I’d be perfect to direct her movie. I tell her I’ll read it and let her know what I think of it.

She emails me the script and I skim it. I won’t lie, it’s too early in the relationship for me to put forth the 2 hours to read her script all the way through. I don’t know her. I don’t know anything about the situation, so I take the time to write out several questions in an email to feel this particular scenario out. Here are the questions and subsequent answers:

#1. What is the budget for the film?
$25,000

#2. What format is it being shot on?
HD

#3. How much is the salary for director?
$200 a day

#4. What are the shooting dates & what is the work week like?
End of October and 6 day work weeks, 12 hour days

#5. Who is editing the film and what involvement would I have in post production?
We have a Mac with Final Draft and as much as you want!

#6. What size crew is it?
Still working on this

#7. Who is the first A.D.?
ME!

#8. Is the cast set already?
Most of it.

#9. Is the money already in your bank account or a production bank account, or is it still pending from an investor still? (I need to actual, factual truth on this as I have been decieved in the past and seen whole productions shut down mid-shoot from the best laid plans & broken promises)

Money is in the bank!

Of course it is. These are just words to me until I see some $$$. I don’t mean to be mercenary, but please. If someone wants me to put my name on a feature and be involved creatively in the making of a movie, I need to know if it’s really happening and what all it entails. As I wrote in my book, the single most common mistake made in independent film is miscommunication. I wanted to be as clear as vodka on this from the start.

Since I’ve been right here in this very position many times in the last 6 years, I asked the questions right out of the gate. Based on her answers, it was time to see if they were true. I made an offer. I said I am absolutely on board, but I have one stipulation. I need HALF my salary up front, 3 weeks prior to the first day of shooting. For taking this monetary risk, I’d go out of state and do 1 week of pre production absolutely free, no charge to the production and buy my own food and everything (not lodging though). She said that was completely cool.

From there I got several emails of the script revisions every few days, requests to help find a cameraperson for the shoot, and other knick knacks, but no money. Again, I don’t like to be solely about the money, but until I know there really is money in the budget, I will NOT waste my time prepping and working on a movie that probably won’t happen.

I’m doing my freelance work and commercials, waiting for the 3 week deadline. I made some recommendations for camera. On the deadline, I called her and left a message and also emailed her. I was getting (all true) several offers for paid work during the time she wanted me for pre-production. I needed to make a choice so if we were going to do this project of hers, then I needed to know if a check was coming.

Her response was that her investor usually likes to see more work from someone before he cuts a check and that it wouldn’t be easy at that time for him to write any checks. Basically, she lied. Either she lied before or she was lying now because she initially told me that the money was already in HER bank account.

See? THIS is why I don’t get vested in a project until I know it’s more than the overly ambitious first timers that will ALWAYS speak optimistically when in fact they do NOT have it together. The wise Scott Spears often says he’ll believe it when the check has cleared and he’s on set the first day shooting. Not a bad way of viewing life in the low budget filmmaking world.

Lesson learned & put to good use. I lost nothing but a few minutes of time and avoided getting excited about what amounted to nothing by asking a lot of questions and being skeptical. If I were naïve, I would have wasted time, energy, passion, effort, and possibly spent money on someone else’s pipe dream and delusions of grandeur.

Kids, no matter what – always be honest with people about where things are at. Sure, you want people to take you seriously, but until your money is in the bank, there’s no reason for them to take you seriously, nor SHOULD you burn your own name and reputation by making promises that can’t be kept.

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Well, acolytes of Boo, V is having trouble balancing himself on my head. When he sleeps, he tends to fall off my shoulder, then claws are used to catch himself…. Deeply entrenched in my skin. I have a long day tomorrow working for many masters and several projects.

Peace and Love and Good Happiness Stuff,
PJR

Categories: blog

Peter John Ross

A filmmaker, a dreamer, and the world’s only Dan Akroyd Cosplayer

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