Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Getting the Girl: Part II

No film ever goes the way you plan.

The best you can hope for is that it resembles something of the original idea. I first learned this as a young filmmaker. I would try and put the camera where I saw it in my head, get the lens just where it needed to be, ask the actor to say the line just like I heard it in my dreams... But it was never perfect. And that's the way life works. To be honest, there's a weird beauty in how things don't work out how you want them to, but if you stay focused and continue to work hard -- they work out how they NEED to.

GET THE GIRL was a battle. Most movies are. From start to finish. You have to come up with an idea, sell people on how that idea could be a good movie and make them money... Then make the movie, finish it, sell it and then pray it gets handled correctly in distribution (which filmmakers have surprisingly little control over) and THEN hope and pray that audiences enjoy the film you just spent years of your life working on... Sounds fun, right? I love it. But it's draining. It's been over 2 years since I shot GET THE GIRL and now that's its been released, we get to appreciate all the hard work when people like you reading this reach out and let us know that you liked the film or we see you telling others to check it out. Those things make the entire process all worth it.

If you didn't read PART I of this saga, please do so before continuing:

When I first told my agent & manager about GET THE GIRL -- they were optimistic. That's why I love them. Most people looked at me like THIS when I told them I wanted to do a dark comedy... crime... thriller...? 

I still don't really know how to categorize GET THE GIRL and that would come to be most of the battle. I was coming off of the success of CONTRACTED and had flirted with many movies to do next. Some were bigger budget horror movies in the millions of dollars. Some were smaller independent stuff. Some were outside the horror genre. All were exciting, but didn't pan out for one reason or the other. Either I didn't get hired or the film wasn't right for me and I stepped away, or the film couldn't get financing. So I decided to go back to the well and create something from scratch. I was talking to a few producers that wanted to make a movie together and Eric Fleischman from Diablo Entertainment was interested in working with me. So I told him about this idea I had for a movie based on an idea a friend (Graham Denman) had told me about. I pitched it to them (Eric and his partner Sean) and we were off to the races. We celebrated signing contracts over cans of Coors Light. Fitting.

From the jump, when Graham told me about the idea, I thought "this sounds ridiculous and amazing!". Like FARGO! One of my favorite films! I saw it in the tone of KISS KISS, BANG BANG, FIGHT CLUB and VERY BAD THINGS with a dash of TRUE ROMANCE... Dark and comedic while also a bit thrilling. On a lower budget/more modern level, I wanted something that felt like it was a red-headed step child of CHEAP THRILLS & YOU'RE NEXT. Something that seemed pretty straight forward on the surface but WENT THERE and did something unexpected. Something that had twists and turns and wit... Something FUN.

That's what I set out to make.

Shooting a movie like that is no easy feat. Especially one like this. You're balancing your directorial vision along with the tone of the film -- all while battling the natural hurdles of a movie production. When are things funny? When are they serious? Are they ever serious? Thankfully I had amazing actors that were very understanding of their role in the film as well as the tone. They asked questions, communicated and most importantly... BROUGHT IDEAS to the table. Each actor really crafted a unique version of their character that makes them all memorable in a film that could've been about faceless/dull idiots staging a fake kidnapping. Instead, I think the film has a lot of humanity in it... Even if that humanity is a bit morally off and morbid. 

The shoot for GET THE GIRL was tough. We had 16 shooting days (CONTRACTED was shot in 15) and not much more money than I had on CONTRACTED. Why? Because it was a risk. I had never made a movie like this before. None of us had. We had guns (real guns that fired blanks), stunts (complete with mats, wires, stunt doubles, etc -- all who are true MVPs of this film as they made it look amazing and most importantly SAFE), Special FX (everything from little cuts to brains splattering all over the place... Oh, and custom made masks that we only had 1 of each), a multi-million dollar mansion we couldn't mess up (which we were locked out of on Day 3 because the owner came home and saw what we were doing to his house)... Multiple actors in each scene with lines, blocking, cameras, etc... And that was just the tip of the iceberg. 

Chaos while shooting GET THE GIRL. A steadicam looking 360 degrees around the house w/ 6 actors in the scene (2 off screen here).
We were a tight knit unit on this film. We were a family. We bonded during shooting. We basically lived in this mansion for 3 weeks, hanging out and making a fun movie while everyone else in the city was asleep. We would shoot funny conversations, a bloody FX scene, have a great laugh and wrap our day. Sounds fun, right? It was. We ate breakfast after night shoots and hung out on off days. It was wonderful. The crew was damn good and I think it all shows. I had some returning family members with me on this movie like Mike Testin (DP of CONTRACTED), Meg Bell (production designer of MADISON COUNTY), Jose Luis Gonzalez (Script Supervisor on ROADSIDE/CONTRACTED), Phil Bladh (Sound Mixer from ALL my films!) and plenty more in post. 

To my amazing cast and crew -- I love you. Thank you so much for your amazing contributions to this film. It's truly better because you were a part of it.

Hanging out after wrapping for the week
Blocking scenes
SWINGERS after a long night of shooting
But love and passion stops at ART. Once the film was finished... The BUSINESS kicked in. Who do we sell it to? Will it get any theaters? How do we get money back to investors? I think even the producers were a bit apprehensive at the first screening of the film because it was... Well, it was different. Not just different from the films I had done before, but just different in general. There aren't a lot of movies like GET THE GIRL. That's why I wanted to make it. It was weird... Like me. It had my crazy colors, jokes like a romantic comedy, violence like a horror movie, action like a crime thriller and weird masks modeled after celebrities (Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, Selena Gomez, Emma Stone & Scarlett Johansson), all kinds of music from unique and eclectic artists... 

It was just DIFFERENT.

We sent it to festivals and got responses like "it doesn't feel like an indie film..." and "it's not genre enough"... Because I had made CONTRACTED, it seemed as if people wanted it to be more of a horror movie. Hell, even if I hadn't made CONTRACTED, I still think people wanted it to be a horror movie... Those things sell!

But GET THE GIRL was not a horror movie. It is not a horror movie. And it hurt us. We got told "No" a lot. Probably more times than any other film I'd made.... Which was a huge blow to my ego and honestly put me in a bit of a dark place coming out of this film.

Especially coming off of CONTRACTED, which had enjoyed so much success. I was sure the next film would be something special... The one that went to a major festival, got released in 2,000 screens and had millions of dollars behind it... I put so much of myself into GET THE GIRL. It was a special film to me... More so than any other because it was a RISK. 

We ditched the festivals. We decided they weren't for us... So we did a buyers screening. I'll never forget my excitement. I was SURE buyers would go crazy for this film...

The Beverly Hills theater we held our buyers screening at. Filmmakers are encouraged not to attend, so I took this before the screening took place.
We waited anxiously for a bidder. It was close to Toronto, so we hoped to be able to announce an acquisition there. Days after the screening, feedback trickled in (these are actual responses from distributors who kindly gave feedback -- most do not):

We reached out for verbal responses. Distributors seemed to really be enjoying the film but they couldn't figure out how to sell it. How to market it. It was TOO different. We pushed back aggressively, asking companies to reconsider... 

Nothing worked. 

They didn't want to take the risk with us.

We got REALLY close (too close, now that I look back on it) to signing a deal with a company that wanted to put literally NO marketing money into the film, no theatrical release, no physical media (DVD, etc), just release it online to stream and hope for the best... That's like throwing a rock in the ocean and hoping to make a splash that everyone feels. No one would have known the movie even existed.

We got really close to burying this film. Killing it. We were almost EXCITED about that release... That's what happens when you're DESPERATE. When you feel less than, you'll take less than what you deserve. Okay, so maybe we wouldn't open in every theater in the country and have millions spent in marketing and billboards, but surely we could garner a release that had a CHANCE...?

We were ready to do what most people do... SETTLE. I hit a depression. I wondered if I had taken a step backwards... Maybe I should have done CONTRACTED 2? Maybe I should've fought harder on some of the other horror movies I was considering? Maybe I should go back to making $50,000 horror movies? Did I peak with CONTRACTED?

Thankfully, even though I was down and didn't think much of myself (I rarely do anyway), I also don't listen to what people tell me to do very well. So I fought. And the producers fought, thankfully. Especially Fadi Saab (executive producer). He believed in the film and had my back. We weren't going to settle. We showed the film to everyone we could to attract interest. Studios, producers, anyone... 

Many favorable responses; no deals... 

But we were keeping the fire alive... There was at least interest... We could sense blood in the water and we just needed one thing to go our way... 

And then, something happened...

XYZ (our sales agent) said Vertical Entertainment came back. They had passed on the film originally during the buyers screening. I was in Toronto scouting for HUNTSVILLE when I got the call that we were going with Vertical and I was optimistic. They couldn't promise anything, but they were excited about the film... That was good enough for me. 

A few months went by... We heard little news. I released this poster at the beginning of 2016 as a way to keep some fire alive in the coals. I needed something... I wanted people to know this film was still around and something they should be excited for.

Amazing artwork by Qetza 
We kept hearing potential release dates. Nothing we could talk about publicly. There was a chance the film might get released near the end of summer, then it became November of 2016, but Vertical had other films lined up... Most notably TRASH FIRE, which they acquired out of Sundance.

They said something about an MGM foreign deal, but we didn't get many details. It felt like we were getting sat on the shelf. Months went by in the blink of an eye...

I shot HUNTSVILLE in the summer (more on that another time) and began to finish it. And then we got sent a trailer... Something was weird about the trailer... It had THIS on the front of it:

I thought maybe that was a place holder? A funny temp title. The trailer editor must've thought we had a fun aesthetic like an old Orion Pictures movie. 

Nope... Vertical Entertainment had partnered with MGM (who owns ORION) and they came aboard the film for foreign markets and made us an official Orion Pictures release!

I was over the moon. I love Orion! I remember seeing the logo on some of my favorite films as a kid like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE TERMINATOR, ROBOCOP and DANCES WITH WOLVES! I remembered how cool it was seeing that logo on the front of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN remake from Blumhouse... They've been quietly re-launching their brand with cool, diverse and eclectic films recently (like with the upcoming BELKO EXPERIMENT)... It was an awesome feeling to know my film would have this iconic logo at the front of it. In a weird, superficial way... It was a bit validating for all the battles we had fought on this film.

Then, we were informed we were getting a theatrical release and we were hearing internally... The film was tracking well! 

Several months had gone by since we finished the film, showed it to almost everyone we could think of and almost took a deal where the film would've essentially been treated like a YouTube video, tossed out to the internet and forgotten about.. And now, we're an official ORION PICTURES RELEASE with the help of VERTICAL ENTERTAINMENT and XYZ FILMS and we're in select theaters across the country as of this writing.  

It wasn't what I had planned, or even envisioned... But it was what we needed.

My movie. My risk. The "weird one" that wasn't a horror movie. That was "too funny" for a genre film. That "didn't feel indie enough". That didn't have a big enough cast, or director... That film got released in theaters and on VOD to you. If you feel so inclined, do us all a favor and support it. Rent it on iTunes or Amazon. On DirectTV. Movies on Demand through your cable provider. See it in a theater near you. Support this fun, creepy, romantic(?), wildly entertaining little movie that doesn't fit in a box like most movies do... 

Support this movie that I wanted to be special... And became special in ways I never planned.

Enjoy the film.

1 comment:

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