Thursday, July 5, 2012

CONTRACTED: Getting Down with the Sickness

June came and went, like a cheap hooker in the pale, moon light.. without even so much as a thank you card left on the bedside table. Before I knew it, it was July 4th and fireworks were popping off right outside my window. What the hell happened?! I'll tell you what.. CONTRACTED.

In my last post, I had just gotten back from Arkansas where I welcomed my first feature film, MADISON COUNTY, into the world in my hometown of Russellville. Just five short days after that, I began shooting my 3rd feature film, CONTRACTED. Contracted is/was/always will be an experience that I'll never forget and one that has change my life for good. But before I get into that, let's go back to the beginning and think of how it all started.

CONTRACTED was an idea I had floating around in my head for about a year. I won't go into too much detail for fear of giving too much away, but essentially, I wanted to do a movie about a girl that has sex with a guy and has to deal with the unfortunate consequences. At first, I thought it would be a dark drama (and in a lot of ways, it still kind of is), but I didn't want to get on a soapbox and preach.. mainly because I don't have anything to preach about.. I just wanted to tell an engaging story about a subject we can all relate to (unless you're a virgin, then you're not in my demographic anyway).

Get it? ;)

Originally, I was going to set the film in a foreign country and add a layer of xenophobia to the film. A girl catching a horrible disease in a foreign country.. sounds shitty to me, right? Well, getting money to make a movie is hard enough -- getting enough money to make a movie overseas is even tougher. So that idea was set on the back burner for a rainy day.

Well, before you know it.. that rainy day had come. It was in January, I believe when JD Lifshitz (my producer) told me that he and his partner (Rafi Margules) were starting a company and wanted to do a movie.. JD wanted to produce a film for me. I had met with JD previously and really admired his drive and passion. Not to mention, he's a talented filmmaker himself -- so I was instantly open to the idea. We kicked a couple of topics back and forth until finally we both agreed that we wanted to do an intimate movie that was gritty, ballsy, but had passion.. that we could shoot in LA with a crew that we trusted, but most of all, WANTED to work with. That was kind of the starting point.

I pitched them the idea of CONTRACTED, we went back and forth over some major story points and before you know it, I was getting ready to write the script. As the script was being written, we started bringing other major pieces of the puzzle together.. one of those being Matt Mercer, who I had previously worked with on Madison County. Matt was interested in producing and I thought he'd be a great asset to the production, so we brought him on to act and produce the film with us.

Matt Mercer in Madison County

Matt was not only my saving grace as a producer on set, tackling a lot of the jobs/problems that can plague an indie film like ours, but he also introduced me to my lead actress, Najarra Townsend.. but we'll get to her and all of that in a minute.

Whenever I jump into making a film, I do what any filmmaker does.. I think about who I want to work with. I have a group of talented filmmakers and actors around me and I really wanted to tap into that. I loved working with Katie (Stegeman) on Madison and ROADSIDE, so naturally, I wanted to put her in the movie. She also ended up kicking some major ass behind the camera in helping with costumes and basically co-cast the film with Matt. Any role that I needed filling, she or Matt, tossed someone out that was perfect. It was a dream come true in a lot of ways with her and Matt just bringing people to the table that were absolutely amazing.

Katie Stegeman
The pre-production process was fast. I think it was something like 6 weeks to prep the movie before filming began. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. A week before filming began, we had still yet to cast the role of Sam's Mom (which would go on to be played by the lovely Caroline Williams), we hadn't found a place for the big climax of the movie (which was not something we could skimp on), and we still had a lot of work to do. But amazing things happen when you make a movie.. things seem to "click" and the cast/crew we had on this movie really clicked in a way that I've never seen before.

The casting process was nuts. I HAD to find the right girl to carry this movie. We had a couple of people in mind and I even reached out to a couple of more "well known" actresses, but I really wanted to find someone that WANTED to do this movie. That got what we did and wasn't on the fence about if it was the right thing for them. This is no walk in the park, in terms of character. This girl was literally going to be in every scene, had to be able to pull off some major performances and also trust me 100% while I was behind the camera doing unspeakable things to her. Luckily, thanks to Matt's recommendation, we found her in Najarra.

Najarra Townsend
 The moment Najarra walked into the room, I knew she was the girl. The way she looked. The way she acted. Everything was amazing. The moment she walked out, I turned to Matt and I said "That's my girl". It was one of those magical moments that only happens when you're making a movie. But I had to be sure. We met with her after her callback blew us away and after spending 5 minutes with her at a coffee shop in the middle of Hollwood, I knew she was right.

After the first week of shooting, I knew that NJT (that was the nickname I bestowed upon her) was nothing short of amazing and was becoming my favorite actress to work with. Through shooting, we developed a short hand of knowing what each other meant without even having to say it (Najarra's bad with words anyway) ;). I would give her small adjustments that would make massive impacts and her instincts as an actress were incredible. Watching her on screen is just so engaging. You want nothing more than to spend every second with her, which is what this character, and this film needed. I consider myself, and the rest of us all lucky, and blessed, that she took on the challenge of being in this film. This movie wouldn't have been the same without her.

Setting up a shot with NJT and Caroline for CONTRACTED

 NJT was also responsible for giving a good recommendation to our DP, Mike Testin. We had to lose our DP a few weeks before shooting because he was a lying piece of shit that had never seen a camera before in his life, and I was on the scramble to find someone to replace him. We needed a DP that was gonna be loose and could adapt to the crazy shoot we were about to put them through. A lot of people wouldn't be up for the job.. Mike was. After the first day of shooting, I knew right away.. Mike was my guy. We spoke the same language, we moved at the same pace and before you know it, we were quoting each other and making out in the corner (okay, that last part was a lie.. but we came close). There was just so much man love in the air that it was sick.

Everyone was walking around set saying things like "Man, Mike's amazing!" and they were right. By the end of the first week, Mike and I were buds. He knew what kinds of shots I was looking at before I ever had to look at them. He dug the way I shot and I dug the way he shot. He brought some interesting choices to the table and made my vision that much better.. everything you could ask for in a DP. Beyond that, the dude is great to grab a beer with. When shit hits the fan, Mike Testin is the guy I want behind the camera, helping me get it on film.

Mike and I after wrapping our last day on CONTRACTED
 The rest of the crew on this film was just amazing.. I literally mean that. You hear directors/producers jerk their crews off with their words all the time, but I truly mean this.. I loved this crew and it was the best shooting experience I've ever had. This shoot was so smooth and amazing, we were finishing days early.. which is insane and has never happened to me (and we didn't have a lot of time to shoot shit movie). This was the first movie that I've ever wrapped and wished it wasn't over. I wish I were still shooting to this day and I instantly began mulling over what I can do to try and get the gang back together. The moment we finished the last shot and our AD, Dave, was about to call the wrap, I went up and hugged Najarra and everyone else and told them how great of a job they did and how sad I was that it was over.. because I was and still am.

Everyone on this crew is now family to me. They all took a bullet for me and I would do the same for them. We made a fucking amazing movie together and I can't wait to bring them all back to do it again for the next one! Below, I just wanna give a shout-out to some of the people from this amazing team and say "Thank You". As for what's next? Roadside is being finished and let me say, on record.. it's been worth the wait. This is the little film that could and probably shouldn't have been.. the production was a nightmare, but we made it through with a great film and I can't wait to share with you all the result. I'll be updating the path that film will take soon. In the meantime, I'll update with what's next and more in the near future!

Til next time,


JD & Rafi - You guys are amazingly supportive and two of the most genuine guys I've ever met. Thanks for turning the wheels of this train and sending us all on the ride of our lives!

Mike - Thanks for being my co-pilot on this adventure. I've never had so much fun shooting a movie and this is by far, the best looking. Hope you're ready for more!

Matt - I couldn't have done it without you, buddy. Thanks for kicking ass in front of and behind the camera. Your talent never ceases to amaze me.

Katie - You're my rock in more ways than you'll ever know. Thanks for keeping me sane and driving me insane just enough to keep me creative ;). You're so talented, it's gross. I can't wait til the next one!

NJT - You made this all so special. I wish it would never stop. Thanks for being amazing.

Dave - I never met an AD that I actually liked until you. Thanks for keeping my crazy train on the tracks. Looking forward to the next time we're running the ship together. 

Phil - Anytime I get ready to make a movie, the first thought that crosses my mind is "I hope Phil's available". Thanks for always lightening the mood and keeping the sound good. Another one in the books and I can't wait til we're at it again!

Ian - We're about 3 or 4 films deep now! Thanks for always making me think twice about what I say before I say it ;)

Mayera - You were a Godsend. Thanks for making this movie as nasty as I needed it to be and always being a delight to be around. My only regret is that I didn't have more time to spend at your station to gossip ;)

Reed - You were a rockstar on the production design, dude! All the sets looks stellar and I can't wait to share your work with the world! Thanks for the free vodka as well :)

Denholm - Dude.. buds for life. You kicked so much ass on this movie. Anything you need, you let me know. I hope you're ready for more in the future because I want you there!

Claire - You were a ray of sunshine and a lifesaver in so many ways. I hope you'll put up with me again on the next ones :)

And to the rest of my cast and crew, THANK YOU! I can't wait to share all of our hard work with you in the near future!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Welcome to Madison County: The Good, The Bad and the Pretty Shots

As I type this blog, I’m 35,000 feet in the air on my way back home to LA. I’ve been in Arkansas for the last few days for a little R&R before getting back to work (more on that in a bit) and to see Madison County come into the World in my hometown.

A lot of crazy stuff has happened in the last 48 hours. The release of Madison County brought upon many emotions, not only from my fellow filmmakers, and myself, but from the people that watched the movie.
Now, I know there are tons of internet trolls out there. Many of them I imagine to be similar in size and stature to the infamous Jack Klassen. (If I had a dollar for every time someone mentioned his name and Madison County to me, I’d probably be flying privately back home).

But I knew having a movie come out would mean opening yourself up as a target. I’m okay with that. I’m a filmmaker and I stand by my work.. but what I didn’t realize was how much I would LEARN about the audiences that watch films.. specifically the horror genre.
Genre fans are some of the most devoted and passionate. How do I know? I’m one of them. Ask me about almost any horror film and I’ve probably seen it.. or heard of it. Or I haven't, I want to. I was raised on horror films. Madison County is an obvious testament to that. A lot of reviewers picked up on it. It’s amazing to see that passion for horror shine through in a fan. It’s magical almost. Horror fans getting behind something is like seeing a sports fan rooting for their favorite team.. but that door swings both ways.
Horror fans can also be the most critical, cynical and asshole-ish people on the face of God’s green Earth.. and they don’t care. How do I know? I’ve witnessed it. Way before Madison County was ever made.
As a horror fan, I’ve learned to accept things I cannot change or do not like. Art is subjective and while I don’t like certain films or filmmakers, I have learned to accept or appreciate them. Never have I gotten online and written a scathing review. That’s not the kind of horror fan I am.. nor the kind that I made Madison County for.
The people I made Madison County for are the people that appreciate films like Madison County. I grew up loving Deliverance, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, etc.. which is what motivated me to make my own “breed” of that particular film. But when Madison County entered into the world yesterday, people began to say how unoriginal, disrespectful, yadda yadda Madison County was.. They weren’t the first.. Internet trolls, ridiculously negative reviews.. how original ;)
(Disclaimer – I’m not referring to negative reviews in general.. I’m specifically talking about the reviews that go beyond OPINION and preach their thoughts as fact)
I even read one critic say I was ripping off THE HILLS RUN RED (which Dave Parker is a friend of mine) and that’s when it hit me.. These fans are not my people. Not my audience. They don’t realize that they’re bitching for bitching sake. They forget that Wrong Turn is a total riff on Deliverance and all the "backwoods" films that came before it. Or that The Hills Run Red got it’s title from The Hills Have Eyes. They were probably bitching about those exact same things when those films were coming out.. but now they’ve found something NEW to bitch about and those previously mentioned films are now “classics”. Which, to be fair.. The Hills Run Red and Wrong Turn are both amazing films, but neither have rocked the foundation of horror. The Wrong Turn "franchise" is just a sequel whore for exploiting straight to DVD horror audiences.

I read threats, hate and just all kinds of garbage about how I should have been aborted.. I’m a talentless hack, I’m unoriginal, I’ll never work again.. all that stuff. All in the first day.
To bring up such hatred was amazing to me. The only consolation I got from any of the negative reviews was “the shots were good”. They liked my directing… well, some did. And they liked my DP.. because the “shots were pretty”.
I’m saying all of this in this blog because I just want to let it be known that I’m absolutely fine with everything negative that was said.. why? Because Madison County was (1), watched.. and (2), evoked emotion. That’s all we ever wanted to do. Do you know how much I HATED Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2? It crushed my soul.. I was so hurt as a horror fan.. yet, I still own the DVD. Why? Because I support filmmakers I like. Because I APPRECIATE art. I enjoyed the aesthetic. Even though I hated the film, I supported the genre. Remakes aside (they’re never going away), I didn’t want to be negative. The film evoked an emotional response from me.. and for that, I was grateful.
I can list thousands of films that I’ve watched and didn’t care to tell anyone about, whether I loved it or hated it. That’s not the kind of film I want to watch or make.. I want something to light inside of me.. good, or bad. To me, everyone that wrote a ridiculously scathing review (hurling insults and refusing to even give it a rating) of Madison County is nothing more than a Jack Klassen to me.. standing on a soapbox looking for an audience, hoping that someone will give them a reason to exist.

I’ve read several reviews from critics I really respect (I’m actually surprised at how the official critics have enjoyed the film) that have GOTTEN what Madison County was about.. the little details. The flavor. We set out to make a meal that was something you had seen before.. but tasted a little differently. Had NO ONE ever brought up anything that was in my mind when I set out to make this movie (the weird tone, the unanswered questions, the tiny details that are peppered throughout the film), I would be singing a different tune. But these are all things that were a conscious effort. The people saying I ran out of time, money, ideas, etc.. or that I didn’t know what I was doing? You’re all full of shit. I knew EXACTLY what I was doing.. you just didn’t like it. That’s called an OPINION and you should learn how to express it more appropriately. Your “matter-of-fact” way of presenting your opinion is greatly hindering your reputation as a person.
(Check out some of the positive reviews for Madison County Below!)
To the rest of you.. that ENJOYED the movie (and so far, from what I’ve seen.. there are more of you than the others ), welcome to the family. Welcome to Madison County. We made this movie for you and I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did making it.
You probably noticed questions left unanswered, and that was intentional I have plans for Damien and the people around him. And if you enjoyed the movie.. hopefully you’re happy about that.
I got such an amazing out-pour of support for the film May 8th.. it was staggering. Messages, e-mails, phone calls, texts, etc.. all from people that loved what we did. A lot of them, people I’ve never met. Most of them, people I may never meet. Just people that saw the movie, tweeted, posted or whatever about the film. For those people, I am grateful. You make it all worth it. You outweigh the negative people. You owe me nothing and you’ve given me the most valuable thing in the world.. happiness. For that, I am forever in your debt.
At the end of the day, I was just a 22 year old kid wanting to get a movie made. Madison County was the beginning of a long journey that has been the most amazing and crazy experience of my life.
When I touch down in LA, I will begin a whirlwind of post-production on my follow-up film to Madison, ROADSIDE, and shooting on my upcoming feature film, CONTRACTED. 

These next couple of movies are so dear to me. Each film is like your child.. and you can’t pick just one favorite. If you didn’t think Madison County had enough thrills or suspense.. check out Roadside. There are plenty. Not enough gore? Check out Contracted.. tons. All I want to do as a filmmaker is grow. Get better. Work on my craft. Madison County was just me testing the waters. Did I play it safe? Yeah.. a little bit. Can you blame me? I had never seen an amount of money as big as our budget before and I was in charge of taking care of that money. There’s a lot of pressure in that director’s chair.

The cast for Contracted was just announced I’m so excited to work with them, it’s ridiculous.We've got some amazing people joining us, some old alumni from my previous films and some new faces that you're going to want to watch for! I'm also very honored to be working with the lovely CAROLINE WILLIAMS, of Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 fame!

Caroline accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award at SITGES!
These people are made up of actors that are my closest personal friends, people I’ve wanted to work with for a while, people I’ve worked with in the past and people I can’t wait to work with in the future. This is one of the most amazing casts I’ve ever seen and I can’t wait to get them on camera. This film is going to be so insane, I can’t wait to share it with you all.
For now, I’m going to try and get some sleep on this long flight home. Tomorrow morning, I begin shooting my 3rd feature film.. and my first movie just came out 4 days ago. So in a lot of ways, Madison County is already a success. It’s already won. Fuck the negative reviews.. Fuck the haters. They’re always going to be there.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Madison County: Strength in Numbers

I was originally planning on publishing this blog a week before the release of Madison County.. but since today it was pirated, I figure what better time to do it? 

A lot of ideas get tossed around in this town.. especially when it comes to the making and distributing of a feature film. In the pre-production process; it's potential actors, possible cameras, budgets, shoot days, locations, etc. In the distribution phase; it's theatrical, number of theaters, DVD, what stores, Blu ray, etc. Beyond all of that, there's the single thing you wanted before you ever got the chance to make your movie.. people to see it. A chance to tell your story. Because, let's face it.. what's the point of telling a story if there's no audience?

Tons of scenarios were tossed around with Madison County before it was bought. There was talk of possible theatrical screenings, DVD covers, Blu ray discs, promotional tours, etc. All of those fun and cool ideas get narrowed when you finally decide on a distributor. We've met some AMAZING people over at Image Entertainment and love them to death.. They're a big part of the reason we felt comfortable signing over our movie to THEM.

But even once the papers are drawn up.. things are still subject to change.

The purpose of this blog entry is to shed light on what is happening with Madison County, what's going to happen from here on out, and how with just a couple of clicks.. you can make a huge difference in the life of our little film.

First of all -- Madison County WILL be released on May 8th through IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT.

A few places to find MADISON COUNTY (Click the link):

Madison County on Amazon

Madison County on iTunes

Madison County at Hastings

Madison County in RedBox

Madison County at Blockbuster

Wondering why you're not seeing it in theaters? Or in stores? Haven't you seen all the ads online and the big marketing push?! Me either..

We don't have a massive marketing campaign.. we don't have a massive advertising budget.. we're less than a month away from the release of the film and the only people that know it's getting released are the HARDCORE Horror fans.. I want to change that.

Up until very recently, I was led to believe that we'd be in retail stores across the country. Places like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, etc. All carrying the movie IN STORES. They have it up on the websites.. right?

Madison County on

Madison County on

Madison County on


While they carry the movie online, the movie will not be seen in stores all across the country. Only a handful, at best. The reason? We still don't know. We can only guess that someone in one of the offices of these outlets isn't as confident in our little film as WE are.

Take a look at that little phrase next to the bright RED "add to cart" button..

We were also led to believe that the movie would be on Blu-ray. I mean, after all.. Blu-Rays ARE outselling DVDs now, right?

Wrong, again. Well, at least about the movie being on Blu-ray..

I think there's a format missing..

Madison County will not be released on Blu-ray until later this year. Why? "Seasonal/Holiday" release is what we're hearing.. which sounds great. But why not RELEASE IT NOW and have a promotional PUSH in the MARKETING around Halloween?! The answer? Demand.. we need the demand.

Many of you have demanded the movie on Blu-ray and asked if it will be shown in theaters near you. I'm here to tell you that my producers and I are doing everything in our power to bring the movie to theaters and Blu-ray as soon as we possibly can.

When we first signed the distribution deal, we were asked to put together a THEATRICAL PLAN.. a promotional tour, of sorts. An old school, grassroots kind of tour that would take us to select cities around the country, show the movie, shake hands, sign posters and just have a kick ass time -- just like they did back in the day with THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and HALLOWEEN..

These people couldn't wait to see Madison County in a theater!
Neither could these folks!
In fact.. at SCREAMFEST, we were given an ENCORE screening (only film to get that last year!) and at the Arkansas screening? Well.. let's just say the people that paid their hard earned money to see our movie SPOKE!

The tour isn't happening.. YET.

The point I'm getting at is that as much as WE, the filmmakers, can push to have a movie released as far and as wide as we possibly can.. the truth of the matter is we're still just a couple of guys in a room with other people that have fancier suits, make a lot more money and have way more important things on their hands (like bigger budget films that they paid a lot more money for).

From a purely marketing standpoint (which is what most distributors care about anyway), Madison County is constantly compared to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, Wrong Turns and The Hills Have Eyes remake.

TCM: The Beginning made $16M in DVD sales:

Texas Chainsaw DVD Numbers

The Wrong Turn SEQUELS (which Madison County ALSO gets compared to a lot) has raked in over $15M in DVD sales:

$8M for Wrong Turn 2

$5M for Wrong Turn 3

$2M for Wrong Turn 4

And The Hills Have Eyes wins all with over $20M on DVD!

$20M for The Hills Have Eyes (Remake) 

The fact of the matter is.. MADISON COUNTY should not be receiving the major distribution that it is. It's a tiny, micro budget movie that no one (except for the people who made it) ever expected to go as far as it has or do as well as its done. But now.. it's being compared to the big boys and being praised and respected.. but that's not enough.. the push has to continue.The people who make the major decisions HAVE TO SEE..

When we set out to make MADISON COUNTY, we wanted to make a movie for US. Not just US the filmmakers.. but YOU, ME and everyone like US that loves these kinds of movies. And not just HORROR fans.. but MOVIE FANS.

Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. But I stand by this film proudly and want to show it to every willing set of eyes that I can. The film, in a lot of ways, is like the little engine that could.

People said "You can't make a movie like that on a budget that small!".. we did.

They said "You can't sell a movie that doesn't have any famous actors in it!".. we did.

We got into the biggest horror film festival IN THE COUNTRY.. with some of the most anticipated genre films at the time and WERE THE ONLY FILM TO SELL OUT THE MANN'S CHINESE THEATER!

This movie DESERVES to be seen by the biggest audience possible. If not just for the pure passion behind the filmmaking.. but because of the AMAZING work put into this film by every single filmmaker and actor on the crew! So this is what I ask of you..

1. REPOST THIS BLOG! Let everyone know that this is where it all starts. Links to everything they need to know. And on May 8th, I ask that you BUY THE MOVIE! Get it from Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, wherever.. just buy the movie! If you already have, buy a copy for a friend! Give one away! Litter the streets with Madison County DVDs.. but of course, don't break the bank!

2. Can't afford to buy one? No problem.. RED BOX IT! For a mere $1.29, you can rent the film for a night of old school horror/mystery fun!

3. Don't wanna leave your house? NETFLIX IT! It'll also be available on iTUNES and XBOX! With just a few clicks of a button, you'll be watching the film within seconds! If you like it.. do me a favor and buy the DVD! But please.. whatever you do, DON'T PIRATE THE MOVIE!

4. And lastly.. here's the MOST IMPORTANT REQUEST..  Over the next several weeks..



We want this movie to SEND A MESSAGE and the best way to do that these days is to show your support.. NOT ONLY WITH YOUR WALLET.. but YOUR VOICE! Go to all of the links above. Amazon, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, Hastings, iTunes, RedBox, NetFlix, Xbox, etc, etc and RATE the film.. Leave COMMENTS! Re-post them on your Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, etc!

Tell your friends to tell 10 friends.. you'd be amazed at how fast that word will travel. We want to send a message that people DO enjoy these types of films and they DESERVE and bigger and BETTER release!

Some of the greatest compliments that I've gotten about the film have been people who have seen it in theater at a festival.. so we're going to CONTINUE to try and get the film shown in THEATERS in major cities all around the country. But in the meantime.. we want to get the film IN STORES and ON BLU-RAY a lot faster than what people anticipated.

Let's send a message.. that people WANT quality films. If you go to Wal-Mart right now, there are probably a bunch of really bad movies that you've never heard of on the shelves.. I'm not saying that our film is better than them.. I'm saying that WE DESERVE TO BE THERE AS WELL!

So do me a favor and let IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT know what you want! Buy the movie, rent the movie, share the movie on your pages.. TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Even if you just talk about it in conversations.. PLANT THE SEEDS and tell people to go watch the movie. You'll be surprised at how far your words can travel.

Let IMAGE know you want MADISON COUNTY on Blu-Ray or in THEATERS by contacting their pages HERE:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sometimes It's BusinessShow

The one thing they never teach you when you're a kid is that money rules the world. And if you don't believe it, you're a fool. The truth is.. it does. Whether we like it or not, the almighty dollar is always the deciding factor.

Now, I'm not a hippie by any means, but as I get older, I start to identify more with our spacey, furry brethren. They live off the land. They don't pay taxes. They sleep where they want.. but most of all.. they're happy.

That's what life is all about for me. Anyone closest to me will vouch for that. Since I was a kid, I've always hated money. It's the root of all evil to me. Always will be. Ask my Mother, even as a kid, I didn't like to go into the gas station to pay for gas. Even to this day, when I grab lunch with someone, if they're paying or I'm paying.. I usually leave when the bill comes. If I'm paying, I'll just throw my card down and ask them "Will you give this to them when they come back by?"

It's not something I make a conscious effort to do. It's just something that happens.. because I hate money. So when I moved to LA, I had a rude awakening. Money runs everything. You have to make it. You have to give it to people. You have to make it FOR other people. One of the biggest catch 22's in Hollywood is you need to make money before someone will give you money to make a movie. The indie route is the way to get around that.. but at some point in your career.. you're gonna have to play by the rules.

That's where the managers, the agents, the lawyers come in. Back before shooting ROADSIDE, I got my first manager at a company called MOSAIC. They're the mad geniuses behind such comedy gold as STEP BROTHERS, BAD TEACHER and ELF.

The other day I was told by someone closest to me, "You're super lucky" -- and not that I landed such a great management company (which I am, lucky in that regard) -- but that I landed such a good manager. That part is also true. My manager, Brent Lilley, was introduced to me on a referral from a client of his (and a good friend of mine). We hit it off immediately and in less than a week, we were in bed together.

At first, I had no idea what to do. I've heard so many horror stories about managers and agents that I was a little cautious. I was scared to talk to him. Scared to tell him anything. I didn't want to bother him.. especially since a lot of his involvement would be monetary in my life. Afterall, he would be getting 10% of whatever I made.

But the great thing about managers is that they're not just money suckers (like agents), they're pals.. or at least, they're supposed to be. I knew a ton of filmmakers that had managers that were pure assholes. They acted like agents. Could barely get 'em on the phone, and when they did.. it was cut and dry. Brent was different. He is different. He cares. Every time we get on the phone, my entire day is better. He goes out of his way to ask me how I'M doing.. how I'm feeling. Where my mental state is.. makes sure I'm okay.. which is the greatest thing about hm. HE CARES.

Brent and I on the carpet at the MADISON COUNTY premiere.

Which is why I was told I was lucky.. I completely agree. But recently, Brent went above and beyond.. he introduced me to my lawyer, Joe. Joe and I jumped into bed rather quickly as well. I needed a lawyer to look over some heavy paperwork. It was a tough job and Brent immediately took on the task of finding the right one. Within days he hit the nail on the head with Joe. Joe started gnawing away at the paperwork.. and Joe's not the kind of guy that has a lot of free time.

By the time I had actually met Joe face-to-face (a lot of our first interactions were through e-mail and phone calls), I felt like I had known the guy my whole life. Family.

That's what makes this town bearable. Brent always says things to me like "I'll take care of it" and "I'm on it". At the end of the day, the guy has always got my back. And the great thing about him? He's got other clients too.. so I know he's giving them as much as he's giving me (or at least I hope he is). He's not spread thin at all.. there's just a lot of genuine integrity ingrained in his DNA. A lot of good.

It's an amazing thing to me.. One of the things I feared most; Money, politics, managers, agents, lawyers, contracts, etc.. I lucked out on (and I haven't exactly always gotten lucky with things my entire life) and fell into the hands of a couple of really great guys. Guys that have my backs (and I've completely got theirs). In fact, I wish I were able to do more for them. But thus is the weird relationship between manager and client. It's like they're there for you.. but I want to be there for them just as much. It's just harder on my end. It's like they're a really hot girl that's sleeping with a lot of guys. But when she's with you.. she makes you feel like you're the only guy in the World. It's great.. but you know you have to be really special to make it last.

That's where the money comes in. But with a project like me (and don't kid yourself, I'm a work in progress), you have to be patient.. because I'm not made of money yet. They're putting their time and effort (and sometimes money) into me in hopes that I'll pay off.. and God, do I hope I do that for them.

I always say things like "I want to make US a lot of money" and I mean it. I hope I make them super rich.. which would have to mean that I'm Oprah rich.. but I don't care about that. I literally just wanna be able to sustain my lifestyle of movies, diet coke and diner food. I'm not Diddy. I just want to make movies. If producers came to me and said "we'll pay all your bills, feed you and put a roof over your head as long as you make movies for us", I'd be a lifetime contract.

Lately, the contracts, money, percentages and all that crap have really been bringing me down. Taking me away from the part of filmmaking that I really love.. the creation. The actual process of making movies. But before movies can be made, contracts have to be drawn up. That's just how it is. It keeps everyone from being ugly (or it tries to). If movies could be made on good faith, we'd be in a completely different place (one I wish I could be in).

But at the end of the day, no matter how much BUSINESS gets in the way of my SHOW.. I know that I'm in good hands. Hands that care. That keep the evil away.. or at least keep it at a safe distance. And for that, I'm thankful.

Til next time,


Monday, March 26, 2012

Nobody Wants to be Scottie Pippen

Back when I was just a wee little boy, my Father and I would constantly watch basketball on TV. For the longest time, I wanted nothing more than to be a pro basketball player. I played all through grade school, middle school, junior high and high school. I was an excellent shooter and had a great knowledge of the game. I wasn't the most athletic, but dammit -- I was talented. When I realized I would barely top 6 feet tall and my Achilles tendon exploded inside my leg (not that I was super fast anyway), I soon accepted my fate and began plotting my way to Hollywood.

First time I ever saw my "new" ankle..
But back when I was living in a "basketball only" world, I learned a lot of valuable lessons that I still keep with me today. Many of them being about working with others. Teamwork. Teammates. Leadership. Sacrifice. All things that are insanely relevant to me today.. and I haven't set foot on an organized basketball court in years.

If anyone has ever noticed, or worked with me, they'll know that I like to have unique title pages on my scripts.. Not because I want to be different, but because I feel like having a unique title on the front of our script, our battle plan makes us feel like a team.. TEAM Madison County.. TEAM Roadisde.. TEAM Contracted. Unity is very important to me. I like to feel like I'm part of something.. with other people that WANT to be a part of what I'm doing.

Keeping with tradition of wanting to be a apart of something.. when my Father passed his number down to me, it became a symbol that I wore proudly. Something I wore with honor and pride.


Still to this day, you can find me usually wearing my basketball number in some form or fashion. I have hats, jackets, T-shirts, etc. I fell in love with the number for many reasons.. first of all, it was my Dad's. What son doesn't want to wear the number of his Father? My Dad's high school team would go on to win the State Championship his senior year of high school.. it was something that he, and many people in the small town in which I grew up, would never let me forget.. or live down. I HAD to match that. My senior year? I was in a wheel chair and crutches.

From as far back as I can remember.. this was in middle school.
A news paper article from "back in the day", with my Mother looking on in the background to my left.
My Father and I on the night of the MADISON COUNTY premiere.. and OUR basketball number.
Dad and I after accepting the Audience Award at the Little Rock Horror Picture Show.. sporting OUR number on my jacket.

But the number remained mine through my entire career. If the number was available, I was wearing it. Aside from my Father wearing it, my favorite player wore it.. Larry Bird. Bird wasn't the most athletic, or best player on the court.. but dammit, he was talented. He played hard and he was a leader. But being a leader means also knowing when to follow.. Bird knew that too. Another reason? Eric England.. EE.. 33. It was just meant to be. But the last and final reason? My Father told me about when he was in school, he once played against Scottie Pippen. Scottie would go on to play for the Bulls and win SIX NBA Championships alongside Michael Jordan, not to mention being included on the roster for the 50 Greatest NBA Players.

This is basketball.. the way I remember it. (I watched a lot of ESPN Classics).
When people thinking about the NBA, The Bulls, or hell.. even BASKETBALL -- Michael Jordan's name is usually one of the first things mentioned.

He was a leader. Born. Bred. The man was amazing.. but many people forget that Michael Jordan didn't win every game by himself.. he had a team.. a team of AMAZING players.. and his right hand man? Scottie Pippen.

When I moved to LA, I wanted to be Michael Jordan. I wanted to be the leader. I learned that really quickly. A lot of my life I wasn't Michael Jordan.. hell, I wasn't even Scottie Pippen. I was more of a Steve Kerr. I would come in and win the game if people needed me to, but I liked to keep to myself. I would stand out and "Wow" the crowd sometimes. I definitely made my presence known (kinda like Dennis Rodman), but in terms of forging a path? Rarely ever was I at the front.

When I started film school, I realized quickly that I was going to take charge. I had ideas. I had (some) knowledge.. but beyond all that, I had drive. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to do things my own way.. for the first time in my life, I WANTED TO LEAD.

So when I got out, that's when I grabbed life by the horns (Bulls, since they're topical at the moment). I started writing scripts, creating ideas, networking, putting together all the pieces of the puzzle to be my team. Along the way I've found several amazing members. I've found my Luc Longleys.. My Dennis Rodmans.. My Ron Harpers.. but never my Scottie Pippen? Why.. because in this town, most people want to be Michael Jordan.

Whenever a movie is getting made.. there's usually one or two people that really get most of the attention. It's either the director or the actor(s). Sometimes, you see a case like The Asylum or Roger Corman and it's about the company behind the film.. the money people.. They're the Jordans. But most of the time, they're not getting the spotlight because they're getting the money.. And that's more than enough.

I assure you, for as much money as Michael Jordan was making.. the people above him and signing his checks, were making MUCH MUCH more money. But the difference? He got the spotlight. That's usually the trade off in this industry. I didn't come out here wanting popularity, or limelight. I didn't seek fame.. I seeked success. Success is defined very differently for many people. For some (myself included)- It's happiness. Most of the world considers it money or fame.. but for those who truly know what success is.. it's happiness. Hell, Michael Jordan left basketball for baseball seeking "success".. to be happy. To be fulfilled.

But along the way, I've found people that I've worked with that I want to work with for the rest of my life. Some of them are working on being their own Jordan and looking for their own Pippen.. they want to build their own support system, but when called upon, they will gladly come join my team and for that, I am forever grateful. I would do the same for them.. which is where the word "TEAMWORK" comes in. You support your team.. no matter what. In everything they do.

In this journey of leading, I've also had to learn to follow.. I like to be in control. That's part of being a leader.. but I also know when to follow. I also know when to step aside and learn something.. Jordan did this numerous times in his career. He would let Pippen take the reins if he was having a bad night. He would assist Pippen.. but when the clock was close to zero and there was only time left for one shot.. JORDAN was getting the ball. Not because that's how it happened.. because HE WANTED IT. Being a leader means hitting the big shots.. and sometimes missing them. When you hit that big shot, people shower you with attention and affection.. but if you miss it.. it's all your fault. That's the best part of being a leader, in my opinion. You get to share the credit with the team for the big win (because no one ever does anything by themselves) and you get to take the blame in the loss.

A lot of people forge that in this town. They're so busy wanting their own spotlight.. their own validation, identity that they forget who they are and what their role on their "team" is. If Pippen wasn't a true friend and team player, he would have said "Fuck it" and went to his own team where he could lead. But he knew a good thing when he saw it. He knew that he would never be Jordan.. He would always be in Jordan's shadow.. but he knew he was part of an amazing system and he was still a winner. And that's what this town needs more of.. people that want to be WINNERS and not just FAMOUS. It's a lonely place at the top (so I'm told), but when you find people that don't want to steal what you have.. but embrace it because they were a part of it.. that journey and that position at the top (which you then SHARE with them) can be a lot happier place.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Reverse Effect

Been meaning to get my blog for March done and here on this St. Patrick's Day of 2012, I finally found some time. Before I get into my usual rants, raves and psycho-babble-bullshit, I wanted to take a moment out of my day (and a spot out of this blog) to recognize a few friends/colleagues of mine that deserve some praise!

First up, congrats to my buddy Steven C. Miller on the SXSW premiere of his new action/thriller THE AGGRESSION SCALE! Steve has been a friend of mine ever since my earliest days out here in LA. We started going to church a while back when I reached out to him with no friends, whatsoever, in LA. I asked if he'd be so kind as to point me in the direction of a church and he did more than that.. he opened me up to a great group of people in LA and for that, I am forever grateful.

But Steve wasn't my only bud that took part in the ass-kicking.. Travis Stevens (a superhero of a producer), Zak Zeman (also a superhero of numerous powers.. among them, producing, writing and taste in music) and Evan Katz (another talented writer friend) all supported Steve and his vision as producers on the project! Zak was also a producer on the mega-popular V/H/S.. so congrats on TWO amazing films coming out to him!

Also, tonight on SyFy, Drew Daywalt's quirky killer leprechaun movie, LEPRECHAUN'S REVENGE had its official premiere! Drew's been dabbling in the dark stuff for a while now as a master of horror in the short form.. but tonight he took his talented and stretched them out for the world to see.. bravo dude! I can't wait for the next one!

Congrats to all of these fine folks and click the links to check out trailers for the films!

Okay, so.. life has been pretty crazy lately. MADISON COUNTY, as most of you know, is coming out May 8th! Recently we recorded the commentary, which hopefully will provide some insight into the making of the film.. and a few laughs. ROADSIDE is in post sound and I can't WAIT to get our composer's music on it. We're bringing back the ultra talented Igor Nemirovsky to do the music (who also did Madison) and let's just say.. he was born to do my movies :)

Can't wait to share all the exciting updates on Roadside as they become more available.. this is one film that I couldn't be more proud of and can't wait to see if get out there!

Currently, I'm knee deep in pre-production on my next feature film.. CONTRACTED. If you haven't seen any of the announcements, check out some of the links below and they should fill you in. This is a film that I've had brewing around in my brain for quite some time and finally the opportunity arose to make it with a really great, talented and passionate group of producers. Nothing excites me more than making movies with people that WANT to make movies!

Bloody-Disgusting makes sure I'll never get laid again with this headline.

This chick thinks I'm related to Freddy.

Now they're just spreading rumors..

Love Joblo. Good people.

I'm happy that we're able to bring back some of my cast and crew from Madison and Roadside on this film. As is the nature of the beast in filmmaking, you don't always work with the same people.. but you try to as often as possible (if you enjoy working with them, of course). Luckily, I've been able to get a lot of my usual suspects on this film. We're shooting in Los Angeles -- which will be an adventure of sorts since I'm used to shooting in more "film-friendly" places -- and on a budget like ours, we're definitely going to get creative to not let LA get the best of us.

Which brings me to the title of this particular blog entry.. because at the the current stage I'm at in the pre-production process.. most of my decisions will highly affect the quality in which CONTRACTED is made. Re-writing the script and locking in some of the cast (which is one of my favorite parts of the process) are high on the list right now.. but also, working on the visuals of the film.. how it will look and feel.

Every movie I do, I have a couple of personal objectives.. I want to tell a great story and make a solid movie. "Solid" is a very broad term, and what I mean by that is a well-made movie. I don't want it to look like an indie film, or as little like an indie film as possible. I want it to be able to compete with the studio pictures and stuff that are going to be in the redbox next to us anyway. Why? The audience isn't going to care. Nor should they. A movie is a movie.

But.. when I first became interested in filmmaking, the world was a different place. See.. "back in the day" as they say, indie films were less popular/mainstream and almost a sign of a bad film. Almost like "B-Movies". People would watch an indie film and say things like "why does it look funny?".. a lot of times they were referring to the digital photography.. or the lack of stars.. or even just the poor filmmaking techniques. They couldn't really put a finger on it.. but they knew it was different.

NOW.. we're at a different place. Movies like Paranormal Activity and numerous others have accented a generation built on independent/low budget films. It's funny.. because when I would show my friends, family, etc a low budget movie.. they would ask the same things. I would have to explain to them how this movie was made and why it was "different" than the movies they were used to watching. But the funny thing is now.. low budget films have almost had a reverse effect on the viewer. Rather than thinking a low budget film looks different, they're used to it.. they're used to the digital cameras, the new techniques and the lack of stars in their films. Audiences have almost come to EXPECT lower quality in the films they watch..

Which is why one of the greatest compliments I get on Madison County is "Wow.. it looks great!" or "It looks like a real movie!". A lot of times I ask myself.. "Is that really a compliment?". I mean.. it IS a movie. I want it to look good. My DP did a good job, I want to think that I did a good job on the shots, so why wouldn't it? Then.. I remember the "reverse effect". Where people EXPECT certain things from low budget films.. now, rather than being startled by the LACK of quality in a film.. they're startled by the QUALITY in a film.. which is something I never took into account.. at least subliminally.

I mean, I've ALWAYS wanted to make "good looking" films. Films that were cinematic and easy to watch. That's part of my job as a director. But never did I think it would become a "stamp" of sorts. See, now.. when I'm in a meeting with a bigger company, or even a smaller producer.. one of the main selling points that is brought up is how I'm able to achieve a "big look" on little money. I always wanted to do that.. not because I thought it would make me stand out, but because I wanted to show audiences/people/viewers that little money didn't HAVE to mean little quality. Isn't that every filmmakers goal? Apparently not. I've begged and pleaded with companies like The Asylum, who make such gems as SNAKES ON A TRAIN and TRANSMORPHERS to let me direct a film for them.. just to see if my theory is correct. I can't even get THESE GUYS to let me do a film for them!

Some of the main films Madison County gets compared to are The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remake), The Hills Have Eyes (remake) and Wrong Turn.. among others. While a lot of people complain about "originality" -- which when you watch the film, you'll see how it's nothing like those -- they fail to see that they're comparing it to multi-million dollar films. Now granted, there are a TON of tiny budget films out there that look like a million bucks. But rarely ever do you see them made in the under $100k range (which Madison County is). And that was one of my goals.. to make a movie for far less money than even the ORIGINAL films of the horror golden era were made and make them look like the high dollar remakes of today. So far, it's worked.

But my main point is that it startled me that people are startled by the quality of low budget films these days. This screams to me that the people cutting the checks need to really evaluate the filmmakers they're putting behind the cameras. I see studio films that look like garbage, have no substance and are just plain dull. Who am I to judge though? They're making more money than me.. as are their films.

But I want to hope and pray that the future of cinema are lurking on the internet, same as me right now.. hoping for that one shot where they get the chance to make a "big film" that can make a difference. In a day and age where this town wants to cash in on fads and recreations of popularity, we need some fresh air. We need some new voices. Someone that will do something in the right direction and the decision makers will trying to follow that example.

My next film, CONTRACTED, is hopefully a step in the right direction. It's a hot topic so to speak.. I mean, sex sells.. but it's a gruesome little movie. Intimate, dark and bleak. But I'm hoping it hits enough high notes to where someone wants to put it out there on a larger stage. Same thing with Roadside.. a very high concept film that could be a very popular film in cinemas.. asking audiences "What would you do?".

As my May start date for Contracted gets closer, I'll update with cast information and hopefully some fun behind the scenes type stuff. Maybe we'll have a big online orgy and catch whatever this nasty thing is together ;)