After some deep thought, I’ve decided to give up on the idea of three independent movies for my Dominatrix trilogy.  The Dominatrix Wore Red, The Dominatrix Was Blue and The Dominatrix Went Dark.  Sequels always depend on the success of the first, and, given my total lack of interest (via the screenplay contests and inability to get any actresses to read it) in the first, I have to assume the chances of the second and third being made are zero.

The feedback on RedDom indicated to me that the best overall audience was women, probably 30 and older.  I’ve half joked several times that it’s probably better suited for the LifeTime channel. Well I stopped thinking of it as a joke.  What if I turned the trilogy into a 6-7 hour miniseries?  Granted, it might be at least an equal up-hill battle to get it made that way, but at least it’d be all or nothing.

The main caveat?  It seems the likelihood I’d be given directorial control over the project is very slim.  I’m still thinking about how I could try to package the product in such a way that there is a reasonable chance I could get to direct.  Part of that may boil down to filming a few scenes, which, of course, costs money.  Which, of course, has risk associated with it.

But, given my horror concept is dead in the water, I don’t really have a second project (besides my bike racing flick) to think about.  So I’m leaning toward at writing the third part, then reworking the three into a coherent whole that could be split out in one or two hour chunks.

Domestique Looked Good

When I first looked at the Domo footage from the DP, it was in ‘log’ mode and was very washed out.  Having never worked with any such footage before, it was hard (really, impossible) for me to visualize what it would look like when properly treated.  But Tony, my editor, sent me a version of the indoor (e.g., without greenscreen) scenes he cut together with the imagery adjusted and it looked really good.  Amazing, in fact, given how little ambient light there was when we were filming.  I was worried all the stuff was going to come out muddy and dark, but trusted my DP.  That trust has been rewarded.

Now for the greenscreen.  I hope to have a peek at that this coming week.  Tony only has time to work on Domo a few hours per week, so I try not to irritate him by constant requests for updates.

Horror DoA

Whelps, ‘shockingly,’ it turns out my horror concept, Lily’s Party, simply isn’t that novel (whodathought a guy who never watches horror would have a novel horror concept?).  Two of the three horror aficionados I asked for input (the third hasn’t really got back to me) essentially said there wasn’t much ‘there’ there and their suggestions for lengthening the story were going against such intent I had when I started writing.

Since shorts never make money, and I’m in this for that purpose, then, for me, it’s no longer a project worth pursuing.  If the concept was more novel, perhaps I’d enter some sort of contest where I could hope to get money to film the short, thus not risking any investor dollars.

And Then There Were None… Wait, What?

So I start to read the final announcement and assume it’s just like all the others:

Dear Keith,

First – we want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts for submitting your film to The Clifton Film Celebration. This is our first year – a completely unknown festival [I think they recycled last year’s email here] – and we were humbled by the number of excellent submissions we received from all over the world. Thanks for taking a chance on us!

Sadly, we didn’t secure enough time in our venue to accommodate all the films we wanted to include this year. Some difficult choices had to be made, but we’re THRILLED to tell you that your film made the cut!

Attached you’ll find Official Selection laurels to use on your promotional materials.

Be on the lookout for an information packet which will include instructions on formatting your final cut for our festival, travel & lodging info for Clifton, VA, Screening Schedule, info on how to get your free pass, and discount admission codes for any of your cast & crew who would like to attend.

Please feel free to reach out via email at [email] with any questions. Be sure to like & share us on Facebook (Clifton Film Celebration) and follow us on Twitter (@filmdpoe).

The goal now is to make sure as many people see your film as possible – so do what you can to help us get the word out!

The Judge’s Panel – Clifton Film Celebration

This is the location per FilmFreeway:

As I get more details I’ll post here…


Some ‘cross posting’ here…  I’ve been ‘holding boom’ for my friend John, who was so gracious to do so for Treasure Hunt, not to mention being so supportive and encouraging as I started down the movie making path (something that continues to this day).  He calls his current project ‘Sledgehammer’ and this is its IMDB page.  He’s been filming significant portions at our place in Virginia.  He loves the ‘production value,’ but I also think he loves that we’re fine with him filming for free.

He claims I’m doing a good job with the sound.  I appreciate the chance to return the favor (he did Treasure Hunt for free, so I’m also working for free), though I’m doing little more than starting and stopping the recorder, writing down which shot lines up with which file name and trying to keep the microphone and boom arm out of frame.  It’s all his equipment and I’ve only learned just enough to plug everything in and be ready when he calls ‘action.’

Sledgehammer is a very violent script.  Everyone is a bad guy, there’s just the degree in badness (sort of like the movie Payback; its tagline: “Get ready to root for the bad guy”).  The main character has these extensive, and often single-sentence, monologues and it needed just the right actress to pull it off.  John found a young lady (only recently turned 17, so has her parents with her when we film) who seems to be channeling the character so well I’m starting to get nervous when she plays with a knife (knives factor strongly in the story).

So far, there’s only been a little blood, except for one scene.  It was actually a re-shoot, as John realized he didn’t have enough blood when he began to edit (we’re only filming on Saturdays, and will continue into November as a consequence; I don’t envy him his continuity challenges).  As the actress mimed stabbing someone, I squirted fake blood on her.  Here’s a still John posted to IMDB:

Interestingly, while the fake blood seemed to clean up everywhere else without any problems, it was a pain to get off skin.  Her mom had to scrub hard to get that stuff off her face, and she had a modeling gig the very next day.

Last Saturday we filmed a lesbian sex scene.  Without any sex, of course – it’s all implied in the edit.  But the room was full of bored people and it was getting late in the day and everyone was tired.  I think the actresses did an amazing job, at least from where I was standing.  Originally it was a hetero scene, but the actor John had lined up for the part bailed and, in a fit of creative disaster recovery, John went with the lesbian angle (since the actresses were up for it).  This was actually a reshoot, as one of the original actresses decided she had something better to do than be on John’s project.  While I’m sure it frustrates the hell out of him, I believe John when he says he likes to deal with the challenges, to rise above them, and to wind up with gold.

As an example, the character Joe was originally a suit-wearing hit man.  Until the actor rolled up on his Harley motorcycle wearing a white T-shirt and leathers.  John immediately fell in love and Joe immediately did away with his suit.  “Production value!”

So far, at least once the main production started (John initially filmed some portions as shorts, to test out the look and feel, though has since had to reshoot most because of changed actors), all the main actors have shown up each day.  If he can keep that streak going, I have some high hopes that he’ll capture enough that he can completely rewrite the story in post and come up with something completely different.  Just John being John.

Horror First Draft Done

Lily’s Party script came fairly painlessly, but, as seems to be an inescapable reality for me, is short.  Thirty pages.  Granted, I’m sure it will edit much longer than one minute per page, but I don’t think it’ll reach 3 minutes, not without making it feel bloated, Costneresque.  I envision lots of slow pans, people cautiously walking up stairs and lots of creepy music putting viewers on edge.  But I feel I need more raw material to have a realistic chance to wind up with something that can plausibly run 90 minutes or more.

I’ve sent the script to a couple of ‘subject matter experts’ (horror aficionados) and hope to have their feedback soon.  Ideally, they’ll have suggestions for ways to lengthen the story without bloating.  But I’m really starting to worry that I can’t write long things any more.

My next step is to build a budget.  My feelings toward the budget are split: either a very low one (say $25-30K) that runs the risk of not having the production values to interest distributors, but likely makes it vastly easier to find backers, or push the budget to at least $250K, as that’s the lower bound cutoff where Virginia Film Office will offer tax incentives, subsidies, etc.  I feel better about the potential for excellent production values at that budget, but, I’m sure, getting it funded becomes significantly harder.  And I still have no good idea of where to even look for potential investors.

Then there is estimating the revenue potential of the project, which has been frustrating me for over a year.  I have no feeling for the world of horror, being a total outsider. (Why write one then? First: horror is the rare genre that actually has potential to get profitable distribution with low budgets and no ‘name’ actors. Second: the project was inspired by an actress I auditioned and her ability to appear angelic or demonic with small changes in makeup and body language.)  I’ve read many creditable reports that there are distributors willing to take on such projects, but, it seems, they’ll only consider finished works and won’t even look at a script.  Thus, it becomes a total gamble that the project can even be considered for distribution, let alone at a high enough value to make it profitable.

It seems one of the usual ways to market horrors is to put them in festivals.  Which I would totally do, except, again, it’s a make-it-and-see-what-happens sort of thing, in other words, a major risk.

Something I’ve begun to consider, after reading another movie making book I’ve collected, is the notion of offering the project as a tax write off, coupled with the glamor of being involved in a movie.  In other words, selling the concept as a money losing proposition that has the potential to make money, rather than a money making proposition that has unusual risk of losing.  It’s an attitude thing, but one that makes a big difference to investors.  Plenty of people will donate just for tax deductions, including making movies, but that’s typically done for things like documentaries, not feature films.  But you have to have your movie project organized to be not-for-profit, which is antithetical with my goals.  But it’s something to think about.  Though that still leaves me with the challenge of finding these people to begin with.

Oh, I have a poster proof-of-concept made.  The same artist that did the concept art for my two dominatrix scripts.  I’m awaiting the woman who does such a good job titling it to post it here.  She’s been really busy lately.  Hopefully she’ll have time soon.  I’m also asking her to take a greenscreen screengrab from my Domestique short and turn that into a poster as well.

Two Down, One To Go

Austin Film Festival screenplay contest finally announced those who made it into the next round.  Twern’t me – my Dominatrix script didn’t make the cut. Sad, but not shocking.  I’m still awaiting the Virginia Film Office’s decision; I think they do so in October.

I have, however, started thinking down another path for my dominatrix trilogy.  Rather than trying to make the first, then hope and pray it’ll sell enough tickets to justify the second (and that sells enough to justify a third), I’m considering reworking it as a miniseries that’ll be 6-7 hours long.  I really view the trilogy as a single story, though I put in what I felt were natural cut places where the story slowed down.  I feel strongly I can adapt the story to work as hour-long episodes.

And writers, it seems, can successfully sell a miniseries to a network (since my story appears to appeal more to women, I’d target networks like Lifetime or We).  The next question, for me, anyway, is can I direct it, since that’s where my interests lie.  Someone I trust suggested I might be able to direct a later episode, but could easily (well, nothing in this business is actually easy) get in as writer and producer.  It’s something I need to think about, as I may wind up giving up so much control that it robs me of any joy in the process.

A Beautiful Dream

A new concept that, literally, came from a dream.  I woke up remembering a dream where I felt I was watching a movie happen in front of me.  I was dumbfounded at the twist and couldn’t stop thinking about it as I got ready for work.  Then, like so many dreams, 90% had vanished before I finished brushing my teeth.

I worked to recapture what I felt was the essence of my experience in a synopsis, then, all excited, sent it around to some movie making friends.  I was bubbling over with the imagery and visuals still swimming in my head and was absolutely convinced it would get Oscars.

By the end of the week, though, I became convinced it was never going to be made, never seen.  Talk about an emotional roller coaster!  Because the concept wouldn’t let me rest, I turned my synopsis into a short story.  Short stories often make excellent starting points for scripts, since novels are usually way too complex to adequately capture in 90-120 minutes on screen.  But my short story was very short indeed, not even 5K words (a typical screenplay is 20-25K words).  I had said all I wanted to say, exactly the way I wanted to say it, and the best I estimated was around 20 pages for the script.  With scripts (more or less) running at 1 minute of finished product per page of script, that was way less than what’s necessary for a feature.  Discussing the concept with my peers, I became convinced there was no way to extend it to feature-length without compromising my original vision.  And there is no money in shorts.  At all.  No matter what the production values or who the cast and crew is.

There it most likely would have lay. Until early last week when I found out about an organization that would fund shorts.  Up to $40K, which I felt would be more than enough to get my vision captured the way I wanted.  So I quickly sat down and converted my short story into a script (made easy because I wrote it to be easy) and wound up with 21.5 pages, very close to my original estimate.  I contacted some cast and crew to find out if they were up for being part of the project (the application wants to know who else is involved) and began to work on a budget.  The deadline is the end of this month, so this week.  I’m pretty happy with what I have. The question is: do the contest organizers agree.

Now, though, even if this organization isn’t impressed, I may be motivated to seek out others and see if they’ll be.  Making quality movies is expensive and I’ve exhausted my wife’s willingness to spend our own money, so this might be what it takes to get enough experience to convince people to back me for the features I’ve been working on.

Or not, but at least it has me excited for a while.  Their decision doesn’t come until the end of the year, though, so time enough to forget about it and move on to other projects.