Horror Revived – Lily’s Party

I mentioned the idea of a horror as my next project a while ago.  I came up with a tentative budget of around $100K for the project and was in the beginning stages of development when I came to the conclusion it would be easier less difficult to raise my projected $1-2 million budget for my bicycle racing movie than it would be for a horror.  Largely because lots of people make horror flicks with low budgets while few (none for the last decade or so) make bike racing movies.  And bike racing is a world-wide market segment that probably doesn’t require a ‘name’ actor (much like horror, maybe because they’re used to everyone dying).  Thus I’ve been focusing all my attention to the racing project.

That is, until recently.  I opted to hire a SAG actress for my bike racing short (what I intend to use as a proof-of-concept when approaching potential investors) and SAG has an obsession with deferred compensation.  Thinking about that aspect for a while, I felt if I could get cast and crew to defer most of their compensation, I could potentially drop the initial budget down to $20-30K cash.  Which I feel is eminently more feasible to raise than $100K.

Now I’m planning to work the horror in parallel with the bike racing concept.  Perhaps, if there’s no movement on the bike racing project, I can film the horror next summer.  Naturally, there are lots of moving parts that have to come together (not the least of which is getting the smaller cash budget lined up), but now I’m motivated to take my outline and expand it to a full script.

Dominatrix Poster Concept Art

I found a talented (and inexpensive, though I’m sure that will change over time) artist to work up some concept poster art for my Dominatrix scripts (RedDom and BlueDom – yes, there is a color theme), click for larger version:

Hopefully they’re intriguing enough people will want to learn more, though these are primarily to interest potential investors, cast and crew.

Something Slightly Different

Not proud to report the same old / same old with respect to the Treasure Hunt disks, but there it is.  My wife has had the same issue with the authoring software as I was having (though with essentially no cursing, yelling or destruction – imagine that), to wit finding it (so far) impossible to get the software to do what it’s purported to be designed to do.  She has suggested buying a copy thinking, magically, to my mind, that the paid version will somehow work properly, but I’m quite skeptical and have resisted her suggestion.  It seems so simple, yet has proven so difficult.  At least I understand why others are charging $500+ to do this – I’d sure as hell do so after going through such a painful learning curve.

And then there’s this idea that’s captured my mind: re-edit the movie to improve the deficiencies that are clogging up my mental pathways when it comes time to consider selling disks or promoting VOD, etc.  E.g., monetizing it.  I finally found an editor who would consider taking all or part of his compensation on speculation, meaning if the re-edited version sold then he’d get paid.  We negotiated for a $100 sample for a couple of select scenes and I made available the around 8 GB of raw video files, dialog and sound files.  A week later he gave me his version.

Yeah, about that…  I like to write chatty scripts that, shockingly, produce chatty raw video.  He didn’t like my chattiness and cut what I originally had as a bit more than 4 minutes into a smidge more than 2.  Were he to continue that trend for the whole flick (I have to think yes), my already short 60 minute feature would be trimmed to a no-longer feature-length 30 minutes.  My wife liked his use of the music, though, and we all agreed his day-for-night was less bad than mine.  However, after some consideration and discussion with another movie making friend, I decided to pass.

Coincidentally (or not), a day or two later I found a guy on Reddit who was interested in doing some color correction for free.  I made my original version available for him to play with and a day or two ago got his version of the same scene.  Since he wasn’t re-editing, the focus was entirely on the look of the day-for-night.  After queuing up my version and his for a side-by-side comparison, frankly, I don’t see any difference.  We haven’t really communicated since then, so I don’t know if he’s decided I’m not worth the effort or if he’s going to try something else.  My movie-making friend had some suggestions and I thought to make a couple (and experimented myself as well), but it seems, unless I hear back, this approach may be dead in the water.

I’ll be encouraging my wife to try some other authoring software, hoping that, possibly, going through the learning curve with something else will jog loose the required elements to finally get this ‘simple’ task done. Then I can finally get my owesies to those that helped fund the flick through their donations.  I thank them for their patience.

TMI and Checkov’s Gun

Too Much Information. A written form of verbal diarrhea. Unnecessary detail can distract the reader from your plot and story.

While there are successful authors that have what objectively could be called excessive prose, they’re rare. And, generally, if you look at their earliest work it’s much more tight and condensed.

The general rule of thumb is the importance of everything is proportional to the words used to describe. So when you mention, for instance, a 21 inch Dell monitor or an iPhone XS (note that doing so dates you), that detail is presumed to be important and a reader will tuck that away for future reference. When you fail to pay off that investment, you break that trust and they start to skim, not feeling there’s value in your detail. It’s exactly like Chekhov’s gun:

  • “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

  • “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”

  • “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”

You can, of course, go too far in the opposite direction and not provide enough detail for the reader. This is always a balancing act and akin to the tradeoffs on showing vs telling.  I tend to lean on the side of less is more and trust to my reader’s imagination.  I believe that’s one reason why I felt drawn to screenplays, they deliberately want only enough description to evoke a sense of place.  But novels readers want more than a sketch of place, they want rich details.

How much is too much?  I believe it’s when you provide something that stands out from the writing with it’s detail, like the above mentioned Dell 21 inch monitor (why Dell?  Why 21 inch?  Even ‘monitor’ is potentially a detail that would stick out).  Is that detail going to be referenced later?  If not, then it’s important to consider whether you’re going to distract your reader.  Sometimes the detail helps set the scene, so this is not a blanket condemnation to remove it all.  But always weigh what you’re seeking to achieve with your story with the irrelevant detail you provide.

Poster Looks Great

The Shopping Queen (wife) got me a frame for the Treasure Hunt poster earlier this week and I put it in the other day.  It looks great!  I’d show you a picture of the poster, but after failing to capture something that didn’t look like crap, we gave up.  Now I have to decide where to hang it.

When it comes to shopping, she’s awesome.  But she’s proved to be about as diligent at working on the disk authoring as I have been.  She promises she’ll work on it this weekend, though, and, so far as I know, we have little scheduled for this weekend, so hopefully she’ll be able to make some progress.  That being said, the artist who has been working with me on the disk labels and cover art has been going through a rough time (divorce, she said) and hasn’t got the finished art to me yet.  I told her we weren’t, yet, waiting on her and to take extra time if she needed it.

Got Posters

So, finally some measurable incremental progress on Treasure Hunt: the posters have arrived.  I’d take a picture of the poster, but that seems rather absurd, since you can see exactly what was printed at the link above.

That being said, it seems my wife is about as focused as I have been on authoring the disks, which is to say, not.  I’ll be nagging her about it again today (she promised to work on it over the weekend, though we were busy with a couple of minor disasters).  If she can’t make time, I may ask a niece or nephew if they can try their hand at it.  Perhaps, since their brains are less ossified, they can figure it out easily.

One Down, Two to Go

Just got an email from the Nicholl Fellowship regarding my Dominatrix Wore Red script.  Basically, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  Sad, but such is life.  They said they had 7,302 entries, but only 365 advance.  No idea if I was close or not, they don’t release that information.

Austin is left of the major ones, but there’s still the Virginia Film Office contest.  Maybe I’ll get lucky with one of them…

A Little Bit of Progress…

So my artist has worked up disk labels as well as a cover for the DVD case.  Which is good.  But I’m still baffled by this authoring software.  I’ve roped my wife in, who has extraordinary common sense and at least 100x more patience than I have, so am cautiously optimistic that we’ll have something soon.

I did decide that Windows was the way to go. Since my wife had been complaining that her old Windows laptop wasn’t getting the job done any more, we went and got a new one.  On the one hand you could view that as an expense related to Treasure Hunt, since that’s what prompted the purchase, but on the other hand, she’s been wanting to get a new laptop for a while now (I think the old one is close to 4-5 years old).  I’m going to go with ‘not,’ in relation to the Treasure Hunt budget, because it makes me feel better.  Hollywood accounting.

Windows is as aggravating as I remember and it’s taken a while to adjust enough to use it for longer than a few minutes at a time without yelling curses.  I tried a couple of different software packages, but am either an incompetent moron (likely the case, at least when it comes to Windows; I stopped caring about it after XP) or the packages are defective in some way or another, as I couldn’t get a couple to install and another was so obscure I couldn’t figure out how to do even the most simple tasks.

‘Interestingly,’ as I researched authoring software, the rule seems to be really expensive, as I found one package that sold for $10,000 and another for $3,000.  It would seem that there is room for something simple to operate, but I have too many other things to do to take on that task, even if it might be profitable.  But that’s how low I sunk – before I thought to ask my wife to get involved – figuring it was going to be easier for me to learn all the protocols and do it myself.

I. Hate. Computers.

First Rejection – Skyline Indie Film Fest

So, meaningless palaver or reason for optimism?  In any case, one down, three to go.

Dear Keith,

Thank you for your submission to Skyline Indie Film Fest 2019. I regret to inform you that your submission, Shenandoah Treasure Hunt, was not selected for this year’s competition.

Our screeners and readers are consistently impressed by the high standard of filmmaking and writing we’ve had the privilege to view this season. Please know that a rejection from festival programming this year is not necessarily a reflection on quality. We are a small festival with small venues and therefore can only screen a limited number of film blocks. Please be advised that we may contact you in the event that other programming falls through or more screening time becomes available.

We greatly respect the effort that went into creating your film or writing your script and thank you for your participation in our festival.

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us. We wish you all the best.


It Never Ends

OK, the artist is back from vacation, I’m back from vacation, I’ve recovered from the vacation (still suffering from some weird health issue that is apparently not cardiac related, at least according to my ‘nuclear stress test’) and last night actually stopped dilly dallying.  I figured, hey, I can create the DVD/Blu-ray disk images without any disks, burners, cases or labels, so stop procrastinating.

Except then I either couldn’t install the software I’d earlier selected or it was so unuser friendly to be useless to me, so a couple of hours of frustration later I finally gave up on my cherished Linux.  It would appear that the Linux community attaches no value to disks, so won’t collectively lift a finger to make decent software.  I even got so desperate to search again for authoring services and was briefly encouraged when I found one that would do it for $99.  Except when I read the fine print I realized to get the final product I needed I was back to $350-400.

I’m going to try one last thing.  My wife has a Windows laptop and I’m going to try the authoring software there and see what happens.  I sure hope that works, I’m running out of options and have no idea what to do next.

On a totally unrelated note: several relatives have recently watched Treasure Hunt.  At first I was quite encouraged by their interest, until I started to hear them talk amongst themselves.  It seems they spent the majority of the movie eagerly trying to guess which house each scene was filmed in rather than the actual story or plot, so the little confidence that I got when I heard they enjoyed it was dashed.

That being said, a very critical friend of mine has been pushing me to consider the effort to sell the movie.  He’s convinced it has a relatively easy audience, since it is about college students, treasure hunts and Civil War.  While I’ve pretty much decided to base that final decision on the results of the festivals I applied to, I did give the idea some thought.  The first biggest issue is I’ve been lazy and not got releases from all the actors, musicians and locations. In principle, those are easy things to fix, are ‘free’ in that it just takes effort on my part, and are highly likely to be granted without any issue.  The second biggest issue is I lack confidence in my editing ability and would really like to have the flick re-edited by a professional.  That, though, takes money.  Money I’m reluctant to put in myself, let alone my decision-making boss.  I have toyed with the idea of trying to find an editor that would take the work on with compensation through any sales that result, but am not convinced I could find a suitably qualified person to do the work on that gamble.

Indecision, it’s a terrible thing…