Category Archives: Producing

Where I’ll Be: Escape Velocity 2019

Wow, has it really been over a month since I’ve posted anything?

Okay, well, I can’t go into everywhere that I’ve been, but I can tell you where I will be this weekend: Escape Velocity!

Escape Velocity 2019 Promo from Museum of Science Fiction on Vimeo.

I’ll be part of two panels and one performance….

Friday @ 8:20pm: Alien: 40 Years of Fright

I get to chat with Charles de Lauzirika all about Alien and such.

Saturday @ 3:30pm: Nostromo 2: Electric Alien Boogaloo

If you don’t know about Jabberwocky Audio Theater‘s live performance lovingly sending up Alien and Buck Rogers, you clearly haven’t been to our website.

But even if you didn’t know until now, join us as we give you more sci-fi references than a Cyberman can shake a Dalek plunger at.

Sunday @ 12:15pm: So You Want to Make a Film? A legally-sound producer’s guide

For those of you who aren’t adverse to making lists and know that producing a film means you need to know what Inland Marine insurance is, this is the nitty-gritty (albeit lightning-paced) panel for you as we go through the unglamorous aspects of filmmaking.

Arguing for the Golden Goose, Comics Edition

One trend I continue to follow is the decline of “mid-tier” creative works, whether they be “mid-budget” movies or “middle tier” novels.

I touched on this just over two years ago when I was looking at the film Warcraft in particular and film budgets in general. At the time, I also noted how the erosion of the mid-budget movie and how a similar trend seemed to occur with “mid-list” authors.

Now, superhero movies in general are not likely to be modestly budgeted these days: they’re too tempting to be used as tentpoles by the studios. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought in over $7 billion. Disney’s not about to abandon using them as tentpoles.

But what about the the medium where these superhero stories first appeared: comics?

Now, going into the whole state of the comics industry, what the direct market is, and so on, is more than I can cover briefly or authoritatively. Suffice to say, fears regarding a dire fate of the comic industry have been around for a couple years, the direct market business model seems to be poised to change, and, well, stats back up the thought that the market is struggling (even with bright spots).

So all that made the article I read about Marvel comics editors advocating for different tactics recently at SXSW all the more interesting.

Parts of their argument is that comics –even if they aren’t as all-fired profitable as their big screen offspring– serve an important function as idea incubators. In a sense, they’re narrative R&D projects. Certainly, good periodic comic books and graphic novels aren’t the cheapest things to produce — many an indie creator colleague has made me aware of that. But they are a darn sight cheaper than bankrolling a $120 million tentpole movie. And in fact, just about all the tentpole movies owe some of their “genetic material” from the comic form.

Another way they could be thought of is as the “narrative farm teams” for some of the bigger budgeted stories. And, of course, I’m thinking of that mainly for the business folks to better reconcile the numbers. The creativity and storytelling on display in so many comics is not “minor league,” but bean counters usually don’t care if a comic book was emotionally impactful, just how many units it sold. So whatever keeps the presses rolling.

Where Have All the Film Rights Gone?

Continuing on the topic of producing films from Monday’s post on film budgets, what do you do when you –miracle of miracles– finish the film?

Well, you want to get it distributed, of course!

And, just as I want more than theoretical notions and generalizations for distribution, I want to know who likes to acquire what — and as much of their terms and conditions can be shared.

So over at the site Dear Producer, Liz Manashil and Rebecca Green surveyed a host of distributors and compiled their responses.

The resulting list breaks down not only the types of films dozens of distribution companies acquire, but what festivals they typically attend, what their standard term lengths are, and so on.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard the sage advice of knowing your distribution plan before you make your film dozens of time. Well, it’s great to be reminded of that, but then there’s the whole problem of knowing –even within a given market– who the best buyers might be.

Yes, I’ll absolutely research the heck out of the individual companies before approach them, but I find this list is a great way to get some companies to keep in mind (or exclude) from the get-go. I hope that’s the case for many of you as well.

By the way, if you’re already in the mode of learning more about distribution for your indie project, Avril Speaks has a great article about lessons she learned about what to look out for when making your distribution deal.

Reminder: If you’re a fellow filmmaker that wants to chat about this or other fun, wonky producer stuff, I’ll be at the VIP Film and TV Summit in April. I’d love to compare notes.

Film Budgets… Through a Film Lifecycle

One wonky thing I’m endlessly fascinated by is film budgets. When you realize that an hour of modern “prestige” TV can top $10 million, yet the average Hollywood blockbuster is over $100 million, you know certain choices are being made and risks accepted.

And yes, I know traditional theatrical distribution and traditional network and cable distribution have business models that can inform and support these widely disparate budgets. However, I lap up little tidbits from behind-the-scenes features and other clues dropped in media interviews for how crafty producers and production staff save money here and there.

Here’s yet another instance where I have to thank my dad for taking us to see no end of foreign and classic movies growing up (TCM before TCM existed, as I like to say). Among all the other lessons I absorbed was the implicit reinforcement that you can have a damn fine movie for less than a blockbuster budget. Don’t get me wrong, things cost money… and there’s always something that costs more than you’d like. But great locations, sumptuous costumes, and even some visual effects work are absolutely within reach of modest or even “low” budgets.

It still might not be enough money.

But I’m not satisfied with the theoretical. I want to know specific tricks to save time and money. I want to know the ratios to use when estimating this versus that. I want to know the types of risks associated with all the different departments making a film.

And while it doesn’t nail down all of that, Stephen Follows’ article about feature film budgets is a veritable treasure trove of exactly that kind of historical data.

Seriously, if you’ve kept reading up until this point, odds are much higher that you have been obsessing about these things too and Follow’s article goes straight to the kind of planning-based-on-historical-data producers (aka project managers) in any industry live for.

Read deep into the article and you will be able to plan risks and contingency budgets based by department. How cool is that?

This is energizing me for attending the VIP Film and TV summit next month.

Where I’ll Be: Escape Velocity 2019

Last week, I got confirmation that Jabberwocky Audio Theater has a thumbs up to do a live performance at the Museum of Science Fiction‘s annual science-expo-meets-pop-culture-convention, Escape Velocity!

Escape Velocity 2019 Promo from Museum of Science Fiction on Vimeo.

We had a chance to do a live performance of War of the Worlds last year which was well received (and a lot of fun to do as well).

We don’t know the exact date and time of our performance –it’ll be sometime that Memorial Day Weekend– but the whole convention is a lot of fun.

In addition to the live performance, I’ll be joining one of the Museum’s production counsels in going over the legal and practical aspects of making a movie.

If you’re going to be in the Washington, DC area that weekend, please come by National Harbor. We know that tickets are now on sale.

More details as we get closer to the event!

In Case You Want to Misbehave

A lot of my efforts these past few months have been working on building the audience for Jabberwocky Audio Theater. Frankly, a great way to do that is with a giveaway.

As recipients of the JAT Mailing List know, JAT is running a second giveaway during this “pledge drive period” between our seasons.

This time, we’re focusing on Firefly, which more than a few listeners have compared my space opera, Rogue Tyger to. What can I say? Tarnished knight characters make great spaceship captains.

The giveaway runs until tomorrow, February 19th, so there’s still time to enter if that is your aim.

Choose Your Own Theater Adventure

I’ve enjoyed more interactive theater for a long time, whether it’s traditional audience response (applause/boos/hisses) or more modern breaking of the fourth wall or simply the immediacy of staging a show “in the round.”

I’ve often thought about staging a play for our local Fringe festival whose outcome is decided by the audience… perhaps after they’ve weighed in on several decision points.

I thought about those ideas again when I read a piece by Alysia Judge from the Guardian about Felix Barrett and his company Punchdrunk. Their form of theater is often site-specific, non-linear, and immersive. In fact, it sounds kind of like a limited LARP or other character-driven game (board or video) that isn’t completely open-ended.

Resisting the urge to have this be another new project (I have one that’s taking more than enough time, thank you) and remembering that not every interest needs to be another side hustle, I hope to attend a show one of these days. It feels like something that will only grow in popularity.

We’re All Mad Marketers Here

Alice in Wonderland Giveaway
Mondays make perfect unbirthdays!

While this is really more of a Team Jabberwocky thing, specifically Jabberwocky Audio Theater, it’s time to put on my marketing hat which is, by its very nature, mad!

Regular readers may recall that we did a Doctor Who giveaway last year and we’ll do a few more this year: all to help build an audience for Jabberwocky Audio Theater. You may also remember that I’ve occasionally mentioned the work of Russell Nohelty on behalf of indie authors and creators.

Well, one of the best way that I keep finding recommended by Russell and others is for indie creators is to build up one’s own mailing list. It’s an essential part of one’s marketing ecosystem.

Prize Package

What’s a good way to build up one’s mailing list? A giveaway! So to that end, I, thereby Jabberwocky Audio Theater, have teamed up with a bunch of other indie creators to give one lucky person an Alice in Wonderland prize package.

I have to say that picking out the goodies that went with this was tremendous fun… and I’m kind of eyeing that chess set now (see below). So just like Alice trying a few potions, I hope a bunch of you will try for your chance at a few of these impossible things before breakfast. Worse case scenario: you’ll learn about a whole bunch of wacky fantastical creative works. Just don’t be late! The giveaway ends February 8th.

More Alice in Wonderland goodies.

You Can’t Do it All – Enterprise Edition

We haven’t had a wonky Wednesday in a while, have we?

All right, so let’s tackle something that affects businesses big and small. In fact, it affects families, too. How many times have there been “too many things” to do or deal with in a week?

As it happens, I deal with project selection at work — and it makes me long for the family-based stuff. Why? The number of players involved in “what to do?” for a business is, more often than not, exponentially larger for a start. And if you think trying to get a five-year-old to accept you’re not buying everything in the toy store, just wait ’til you have to let an executive know they can’t get all of their 27 initiatives funded.

As probably comes as no surprise, the folks over at Harvard Business Review have thought about this a lot — and have come up with a list of seven ways in which your organization might be holding onto too many projects.

By definition, this really should be more useful to those of you dealing with project selection (and, frankly, killing off zombie projects) at work. But if you apply bits and pieces of this to the fam, I won’t tell.

Where I’ll Be: Swimming with the Sharks this Saturday

I will leave it to you to determine whether I am one of the sharks or am merely swimming with sharks, but I will be at a “Shark Tank for Filmmakers” event this Saturday out in the wilds of Northern Virginia, where the passenger jets roam.

The event is organized by fellow filmmaker Ron Newcomb, who has been tirelessly working on building the narrative film community in the DC region pretty much since I’ve known him. While I have my own personal goals for the weekend, I’m hoping some projects get launched out of the event that benefit the local film community in general.

If I’m not mistaken, there’s still spots left for people who want to attend (and here are the panelists).

If you’re pitching, here’s some tips Ron provided. He also does an example of comps.

If you see me on Saturday, please say hello.