A sneak peek at the new short

A New Year, a New Short

2011 is already off to an active start for those of me here at Cassava Films. To begin with, I shot a new short film in December, and over the next month or two I will be editing it. This is a much more serious film than my last few shorts, and if it turns out all right, I will even enter it into festivals - something I haven't really done in over a decade. But I think this film has the potential for better things than the YouTube dumping ground (though I'd like to live in a world where Party Pooper and Ron and Nancy would be welcomed by festivals). I can't tell you too much about it, except that it stars Party Pooper's Dom Zook as a lonely filmmaker who gets wrapped up in the dark side of Hollywood history, and that I shot it mostly outside, guerrilla style - kind of a new thing for me - all around Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. I haven't even nailed down a title for it yet. But I will keep you updated on its status.

At the same time, I continue to slog away on freelance writing, design, and even animation gigs. After my writing work on The Other Guys' end credit sequence earned a surprising amount of press last summer, I've been providing the company who designed those titles with "background text" for no fewer than four major 2011 releases (three theatrical features and one TV movie). I'll reveal their titles once the movies come out and I know my work has survived. As for my own third feature, I continue to play the waiting game. My potential financier had originally suggested a springtime shoot in Florida, but has informed me that this will be postponed, although he says he still intends to have me write and direct this thing. As always, until a contract has been signed and the check clears the bank, I remain skeptical - but hopeful. Happy New Year!

Chick Flick, which I wrote (and cameo’ed in)

Summer Wrap-Up

How was your summer? Mine was productive. Most recently, I participated in the Los Angeles version of The 48 Hour Film Project, where teams of filmmakers conceive, write, cast, shoot, and edit a short over the course of one weekend. You may remember that I did this in 2009 as a director. That film, Double Feature, won the Audience Award. This year I was the screenwriter (the short was directed by my own Party Pooper star Dom Zook). Once again, we won the Audience Award. It's a good team! The film is called Chick Flick. It's a comedy about, well, two women in chicken suits. Erika Godwin, who's appeared in several of my recent shorts, stars along with Brianne René and Dian Bachar, a cult actor whom you may have seen in the live action features made by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I probably won't put this short up on this site, since I just wrote it, but you can find it on YouTube.

In other news, I recently did some writing work on the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy The Other Guys. No, I wasn't a screenwriter on the project, but the film's end credits, which have received a surprising amount of media attention, center around a series of infographics about Wall Street chicanery. I researched and wrote most of those statistics. My first big-screen Hollywood movie! I didn't get a credit, but the fine folks at Picture Mill, who designed and animated those infographics, made sure to mention me in interviews. There's a really good article about the credits (including a video) here. Enjoy! I worked again with Picture Mill on the opening credits of an upcoming studio comedy. I'll talk about that after it's been released. Meanwhile, I'm still doing what I can to get a new feature going, and slowly moving forward with plans for a new short.

A random Mary Lynn Rajskub encounter at LAX

Win Some, Lose Some

I'm pleased to announce that I won the DateCheck $1,000 Dream Date video contest! I have to thank everybody who watched my little one-minute video and voted for it. I only won this contest because of the massive support from friends, and friends of friends. Unfortunately, I did not win the "Balsamic Blowout" video contest, as the sponsors' judges preferred a clever, high-quality rap video instead. So I didn't score that trip to Italy, but it was still fun to make my little cartoon, and the winning video was a worthy competitor. In the end, I'd say that any one of about four videos could have won this contest. None of us was better or worse than the other three, only different; like a director choosing between talented actors during the casting process, the judges simply had to decide which approach to go with, and hip hop beat animation.

Speaking of actors and European holidays, you might wonder by looking at this photo if I went globetrotting with Claustrophobia star Mary Lynn Rajskub, but in fact I randomly bumped into her at the Los Angeles airport when my wife Miki and I were embarking on our vacation to Spain, a day after my birthday. Mary Lynn was on her way to New York to promote the finale of her popular TV show 24. I must say, though she now has considerably more fame and fortune than she had when we worked together way back in 2002 (could it really be eight years now?), she hasn't forgotten her old director, and was very warm and friendly. It's good to know that Hollywood success doesn't change everybody.

Listen, Vinegar… (All graphics made from scratch)

Another Contest, Another Animated Short

Even as I wait to hear the results of that DateCheck video contest, I have entered another contest. This one's sponsored by a gourmet food distributor called Zingerman's. The rules of the contest: Make a short video about balsamic vinegar. The prize: A trip for two to Italy! I had a lot of fun making my DateCheck cartoon, so I returned to Photoshop and After Effects for some more animated shenanigans, starring a couple of bottles of vinegar. [UPDATE: I've since removed the video from YouTube. Sorry.]

On the legitimate film front, I just got some good news: Little Lotto, the short I wrote last November, was just accepted into the International Film Festival Ireland. As I was just the lowly screenwriter, I do not believe I will be asked to go to Ireland to represent. But it's a great honor, and I hope it will lead to even more festivals for this lovely little film.

Miki and I get animated

A New Animated Short

In something of a flashback to the 2006 Getty Images short film competition I entered (and won), I recently found out about a video contest called DateCheck Dream Date. It's sponsored by a dating service, but that's okay - I liked the idea, which was to make a 60-second video describing what I would do if I could spend a thousand dollars on a date. If I win, I get that thousand dollars. The sponsors were encouraging entrants to simply upload webcam videos of themselves talking about their dream date, but I took it a few steps further and actually created an animated film, with my own voiceover and cartoon likeness (as well as the likeness of my wife Miki; fortunately, married contestants aren't blocked from entering). This is the first animated short I've made since college, and I'm proud of it. [UPDATE: I've since removed the video from YouTube, but the sponsors still have a copy of it up, which you can watch here.] I'll update you all in a couple of weeks when the contest is over and I'll tell you how I did. Another video contest is looming on the horizon, and I plan to make an animated short for that as well. More on that later.

Ron and Nancy will broaden your horizons

Ron and Nancy Have Arrived!

Last week I finally finished editing my new short comedy Ron and Nancy, after many, many hours of After Effects and Final Cut work. I'm proud of the results and I hope you will find it entertaining. After several lengthy attempts at uploading the HD video to various sites, I've decided that good old YouTube is the venue with the best video quality. So I will direct you there now. Click here to watch Ron and Nancy! If you enjoy it, I'd appreciate a Thumbs-Up from you on YouTube. And I'd really appreciate it if you could share the link with your friends. I'm trying to get a lot of people to see this film. Why? Well, duh. But I do think it's very funny, and actors Erika Godwin and Tyler Rhoades have put in wonderful work that deserves to be seen.

Meanwhile, Little Lotto, the 35-minute film that I wrote last November, has now been completed. I have yet to see the final version but I'm told that it is good. As I mentioned last month, if the film plays at any festivals, I will report it here. What's most important about the film's completion is that the people who made the film happen are really, really happy with it, and keen to talk about moving forward with a feature-length motion picture. It's way too early to know what my involvement with this feature might be, if anything, but naturally I'll keep you updated.

Yes, I wrote a film about a Catholic priest!

A Surprise Screenwriting Job: Little Lotto

Happy 2010 to you. It already seems like a year of sadness and trouble in the world, but you can rest assured that at least I am still here and still making movies. Though I must apologize for not finishing my new short comedy Ron and Nancy by the end of 2009, as I had promised. In November and December I got a ton of freelance work, which took me away from the project for a while. There were the usual design gigs, but I was also hired to write a screenplay. It is for a "featurette" - for I can't really call a 35-to-40-minute film a "short" - titled Little Lotto. It's a family drama about a blind priest who habitually buys one lottery ticket each week. When he loses a ticket one Saturday afternoon, he shrugs it off - until he later discovers that it's worth $58.5 million. Unbeknownst to him, however, the ticket is found by a young member of his congregation who doesn't know who bought the ticket. It's a story about ethical decisions, and I think it turned out rather well. It was produced and directed by my good friend Brian McLaughlin, who shot it in the Chicago area last month. Brian had originally asked me to direct it, but I didn't want to be in Chicago in the winter, especially when I had so many other projects that I was working on at home. But I'm happy to say that I was actually paid for my script, something I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to say again. The film is now in post production and I have high hopes for it. If it plays in any venue where you can see it, I will let you know.

Now my time has freed up and I am working on some of Ron and Nancy's surprisingly complicated special effects shots before I dive into the actual editing. The shots, goofy as they may be, are turning out well, but with just me and After Effects on my rickety old computer, it's a slow journey. It is certainly my intention, though, that when I check in here again, it will be after the film is finished and ready for your viewing pleasure.

Tyler Rhoades and Erika Godwin are Ron and Nancy

New Comedy Short Just Wrapped

Back in August, I informed you all that I was about to shoot a new short called An Active Fantasy Life in September "if all goes well". Well, not all went well: on the date we were supposed to shoot the film, in my house, somebody decided to throw a big street music festival literally around the corner from my house, featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Korn, and other mellow bands. My (justified) fears of neighborhood noise forced me to postpone the shoot. The actors - Erika Godwin and Tyler Rhoades, who also appeared in my previous two shorts - were not available until this past weekend, so I rescheduled the shoot for Sunday, October 4 (yesterday) and all went very well. And I decided to retitle the film Ron and Nancy, after the two characters that the actors play. The title may change again, but only if I can think of something more clever, which is unlikely. It looks like I'll be editing this film by my lonesome, so after a brief vacation next week I will commence cutting, and I'm sure the finished version of Ron and Nancy will be available for your viewing pleasure before the end of 2009.

With actors Patrick Donahue and Michele Venlee and producer Dom Zook

Double Feature: Double Winner

In the previous development update, I said that if Double Feature, the film I directed in this year's 48 Hour Film Project in Los Angeles, didn't go anywhere, I wouldn't say anything more about it. You may now note that I am saying something more about it, which means in this case that the film won the audience award for our screening group, and went on to screen last night as one of 14 films in the Best of Los Angeles show. (These were the top 14 films out of around 70-75.) We also went on to win Best Special Effects at the show, which is pretty funny if you actually see the film. Oh yes - you can watch the short here. There were some amazing films in the "Best Of" screening. Very inspiring to see what can be accomplished in such a small amount of time.

Now it's on to my next short, which I will be shooting in mid-September if all goes well. The script is ready, cast and crew are ready, and the tentative title is An Active Fantasy Life. It's a comedy with some "kinky" elements. Stay tuned.

An android (Michele Venlee) malfunctions in Double Feature

Making a Double Feature… in 48 Hours

At last, I directed a short film this year. Just last week, in fact. If you've never heard of the 48 Hour Film Project, it's an international competition, taking place in over 80 cities across the world, where aspiring filmmakers in each locale scramble to write, cast, shoot and edit a 4-to-7-minute film in less than - you guessed it - 48 hours. As you might imagine, competition in Los Angeles is fiercer than in most other cities, or at least more plentiful: there were around 70 submissions in LA this time. My film was one of them. The rules of the game are inspired by improv: Last Friday at 7pm, my team (I directed, Party Pooper star Dom Zook produced, Party Pooper costar Tyler Rhoades wrote the script, and his wife and Party Pooper costar Erika Godwin joined him as part of the cast; five other actors and three crew members were recruited) were randomly assigned the genre of science fiction. We were given a line of dialogue, a character name, a vocation and a prop that all had to appear and/or be spoken on screen, just to prove that we did in fact make our movie during the 48 hour period. Ambitious as we were, we wound up making two short films, combining them into a sci fi double feature we imaginatively titled Double Feature. Tyler delivered the finished film(s) right on time on Sunday night and we screened publicly on Tuesday with ten other entries. We were well-received, even by our competitors. I think ours was the best all-around film in our screening group, with the strongest performances and the tightest script, but it's too early to tell whether we will win any awards in the competition - if you hear nothing more about it here, then assume we simply had a good time and aren't up for any further accolades. If you're curious to see the results, in a few weeks I will post the film on this site, after we take a few more hours to clean up the audio. In any event, it was an invigorating experience, and just goes to show you what you can accomplish when you get off your ass and start working. It's a good prelude to my next personal short film, which I still plan on shooting before the summer's over.

Life gave me lemons, and I made lemonade. (Literally.)

Happy Newish Year

I had been holding off on writing any updates until I heard from the two film festivals I entered my latest short Party Pooper into. Alas, both announced their rejection of the film this past week, which only supports my long-held theory that if you have to pay to submit your film to a festival, you won't get in, because most festival organizers fill their programs with work submitted by their established contacts. (Put more bluntly, the majority of festivals only play their friends' films - while taking strangers' money.) I was aware of this semi-scam going in, but figured I'd gamble on Party Pooper because I liked it so much. Oh well, lesson relearned. The film's doing all right on Funny Or Die - it even hit #1 on the "User Picks" list in December - as well as on YouTube. Combined, it's gotten over 3,000 views in less than two months. Not bad for a 7-minute film trying to make it in a 30-second world. You can watch it on FOD here and on YouTube here.

Meanwhile, I've been getting more writing work for studio Blu-rays. Hopefully I will get more of these gigs in 2009. Until then, I have delved back into the world of Web design, admittedly not with a great amount of enthusiasm, but because I need the work.

As for future short films? I have two ideas in my head. Both need fleshing out. But I see no reason why I can't keep churning out shorts this year - even while the endless wait for enough cash to shoot a feature continues. Due to the current economy, I don't predict it will be any easier to find financial backing in 2009 than it had been over the last ten years. Still, to quote Winston Churchill (correctly, for it's often inaccurately quoted): Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in. Of course, Churchill then added, except to convictions of honor and good sense. If I had good sense, I'd probably quit making films. But Winston Churchill wasn't a filmmaker.

Gotta go! (Go watch Party Pooper, that is)

Watch and Vote for Party Pooper!

Although it was more than two months after our one-evening shoot for my new short comedy Party Pooper, I finally found an editor, my talented filmmaker friend Shelli Ryan, and we got a final cut of the film a week ago. I sat on it (chuckle) for a few days in order to submit the film to a couple of film festivals, and while it will take weeks to hear back from them, I decided in the meantime to post the film online at Funny Or Die. Please be so kind as to watch Party Pooper. I think it turned out really well, and I hope you find it funny too. If so, please click the FUNNY button beneath the film, and spread the word to whatever friends, coworkers, classmates or family members who you think might get a kick out of it. Please read my September 19 update below for the cast list. I will put the film on this site in a few months, but for now I want to drive traffic to its page on Funny Or Die in hopes that it will get some word of mouth.

Meanwhile I'm writing some Blu-ray content for Warner Bros.' upcoming dark superhero drama Watchmen, even though the movie itself won't appear in theaters until March and who knows when the Blu-ray will come out? But it's fun work, and I'm learning a lot about the complex graphic novel on which it's based, even though I'd avoided it for two decades. Oh, and for those keeping track, Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life Blu-ray should be released during the first quarter of 2009, and the disc includes a wonderful short film which I wrote the adaptation for. (Comic Dave Foley, who provided the lead voice in A Bug's Life, narrates Pixar's original pitch for the film as a sort of bedtime story. I adapted that original pitch into a script; Dave Foley basically performed my script.) Until then, I wish you all a Cool Yule and a Frantic First.

Dom Zook is a Party Pooper

New Comedy Short “in the Can”

Greetings, gentle reader. You know by now that I am a man of my word, and so I went forth and shot that short comedy film last Sunday. It's called Party Pooper, a title which basically explains the plot. (As usual, I might wind up changing the title, as I have found two extremely unfunny shorts with the same title and same general subject matter on YouTube.) The one-day shoot went well, and I think it will be a very, very funny film once it's done. I just need to set about editing it. My usual editor seems to be busy, so I'm open to any offers. Otherwise, I'll wind up editing it myself. In any event, you can be sure to see the film here once it's finished. The talented cast includes Dom Zook, Ben Dunn, Erika Godwin, Tyler Rhoades, Niki Moore (who was seen very briefly in Claustrophobia as an interviewee on the TV news) and Elaine Elizabeth Reid, who starred in my previous short Portrait of a Pensive Lady.

In other news, I had a surprise development for Dial 9 to Get Out a month ago, when my producer friend got the script into the hands of a production company interested in making it. After a very good meeting with them, and a budget pulled together, my excitement has cooled as it seems the production company now hopes to shoot a bigger-budget picture first. There is still a chance that I might get to work with them, and I'm optimistic as always, but you know show biz... that's why I'm keeping busy by making short films. I have more ideas in my head, so I should be able to crank out a couple more shorts in 2009 as well. Meanwhile, my new career as a creative writer for Blu-ray discs continues. Iron Man and Indy IV will both be released very soon, with my work intact. Buy them! I see no money from those sales, of course, but buy them anyway! Also, I recently wrote a script for an animated special feature to be included on the Blu-ray for Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life, though its release date is yet to be determined.

Cloverfield Special Investigation Mode: I wrote this

Film Festivals, Studio Work, and More

I'd like to wish my fellow Americans a happy Independence Day. (If there's an "independent film" joke in there somewhere, I can't find it.) I have quite a few updates for you today. First of all, my short film Portrait of a Pensive Lady - retitled from "Still Life With Woman" - has been accepted into its first festival, and on August 1-2 it will play at the Ballston Spa Film Festival. Ballston Spa is a beautiful old Victorian resort town in upstate New York. The festival is free to attend, and all the short films - many of them world premieres, like mine - will be screened outdoors under the stars. It sounds wonderful. I wish I could be there. But if you live in the area or plan to visit there around that time, please go.

I've been working for Hollywood again, too. The Cloverfield Blu-ray, which features my creative writing, is now out! The disc turned out great, and the movie's many fans seem to really enjoy my work (I wrote all the entries for the film's "Special Investigation Mode," where you can watch Cloverfield from the government's perspective; this makes more sense if you know the film. I also researched all the locations for the disc's "live" map, and even wrote trivia questions for the tie-in website). The company I was contracting for then asked me back to do some writing for the Iron Man Blu-ray, which should be out in a few months, and very recently I finished up - mostly - writing work for the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray. Big movies. Nice additions to the ol' resume. So I've been keeping busy with all that, as well as with some design work. And on top of everything, I still hope to make another short film before summer's over. I have the story worked out and it can very easily be shot in my house. I've just been lazy about getting it all together, but it will happen. It'll be my first out-and-out comedy, even if I've put a lot of comic elements into my earlier work. Once I shoot it, you can be sure that you, dear readers, will be the first to know.

Me (in foreground) and actress Elaine Reid

A New Short in Post-Production

I'm very happy to report that on Sunday, March 2, I got together with three friends and we shot a little movie about a middle-class housewife posing for her portrait... in 1662 Holland. It's my first period film! The budget is a whopping $250, with $100 of that going into the costume rental, and most of the rest going into food for the crew. Its tentative title is Still Life With Woman. If any of you can think of a more clever title for a slightly comedic, slightly bittersweet short film about the thoughts going through this Dutch sitter's head, please share. I'm not totally over the moon with my rather generic title, but for the life of me, I can't think of anything better right now. [MARCH 18 UPDATE: As of now, I'm calling this film "Portrait of a Pensive Lady."] Nevertheless, now that the footage is shot and the voiceover has been recorded, my editor Marc Wade and I are leaping into post-production tomorrow, as I want to enter it into a film competition that has a March 24 entry deadline. I don't know about my chances of getting in, much less winning any of their valuable cash prizes, but it's something to shoot for. I don't have any other plans for the film right now. I just wanted to be making movies again, and decided to pursue this story idea. I'm sure that soon enough it will appear on this site for your viewing pleasure, as well as on YouTube and the like.

In other news, I recently had a fun freelance gig writing creative content for the Cloverfield DVD. As of this writing, I'm not sure if my work will see the light of day, but a boy can hope. I am also working semi-fulltime as a creative director for a new online game for girls, which is about to shift into high gear. It has little to do with film, but it's paying the bills so that I can hopefully make more $250 shorts later in the year. In any event, the rest of March looks to be a busy time.

With my ‘two wives’ on New Year’s Eve

What’s in Store for 2008

Happy New Year to you! Let's hope 2008 is a good one. It's no secret that 2007 was, for me, mostly a news-free (and somewhat fun-free) year. I got into an arbitration case against my former foreign sales agent, I won, and although he never did pay me everything that he owed me, at least he finally signed the rights to the foreign deals over to me in the fall. What this meant was that I could at last collect my revenues from Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer's sale to Japan, more than a year after the film's DVD release there. So I've achieved a sort of closure, and now it's time that I start truly focusing on new projects. And while I promise you, dear reader, that I would make Dial 9 to Get Out right now if I had the money - with the writer's strike on (and I am not a member of WGA), it's a perfect time to gather up a talented cast and crew and shoot an independent feature - I do not, in fact, have the money. So as I hope for a new producer or for pure luck to bring in some investors, I'll have to put any feature filmmaking dreams on hold right now unless I get a brilliant idea for a feature that I can shoot for under, say, ten thousand bucks. Which is possible, but it ain't easy. Meanwhile, I am promising myself to make a short film in 2008. Hopefully several, if I can think of enough ideas. I do have one solid idea that should be pretty easy to realize. Just a one-day local shoot, in fact. I only need to find somebody who has a nice video camera. It should be a fun, pretty-looking little movie.

The Japanese DVD: yes, they retitled the film DELETE

Another Long-Overdue Update

Nothing major has happened since my last update (hence the non-film-related photo at left), but I figured I owed this site's readers a little news. First of all, despite my IFTA arbitration win against my former sales agent MonteCristo Entertainment last spring, its President and CEO Michael (Michele) Taverna failed to pay me my award. Then, two months after the announcement of my victory in the claim, his lawyer wrote that Taverna had since severed his ties to MonteCristo Entertainment - how convenient for him! - and thus a) couldn't pay me anything, and b) couldn't assign the rights to the foreign sales deals over to me. So my attorney put some pressure on them, and then voila, suddenly Taverna and his lawyer were able to pay me a little (though not everything). Then my new sales agent - also an attorney - put more pressure on, and then finally, a couple of weeks ago, Taverna signed over the rights to me, after nearly a year of insisting that he didn't have the power to do so. Funny how the story changes when the legal screws are applied, no? So anyway, while I still haven't been able to collect on the full award, getting the rights to these deals - which means I can finally collect on the sale of my film Claustrophobia to Japan - could help. No money yet from my Japanese distributors, but they seem honest.

Meanwhile, I recently left this Web producing job that I'd had since January. There was no drama-filled resignation announcement, and no bad blood - I just decided that I needed to work in design and art direction again. Project management is stressful and not particularly creative. So a-job-hunting I will go. Oh, but there is one intriguing bit of Dial 9 to Get Out news that I just heard, and that is that we finally got the script to a well-known actor's agent. Hopefully both agent and actor will like the script and sign on, in which case development can move forward at a more rapid pace. If I write nothing more about this here, then you'll know what happened!

The Dial 9 to Get Out onesheet

A Long-Overdue Update

Many apologies for the long silence. (Though it's not like I vanished off the face of the planet, as I have continued to add Lists of 9 and Movie Reviews to this site, even though it's been four months since I last posted a Development Update.) The fact is, I had been waiting for my IFTA arbitration claim against Claustrophobia's former foreign sales agent MonteCristo Entertainment (run by Michael a.k.a. Michele Taverna) to finish up before updating anybody about it. The good news is that I won the claim! I just found out last week. This means that Taverna is officially required to pay me the money that he owes me and assign the rights to the Thailand, UK, and (most importantly) Japan deals over to me directly, so that I can hopefully start collecting on the royalties from sales to these countries. Of course he hasn't paid me yet. And there's no guarantee that he will. If he doesn't, you can bet I will continue to assert that Michael Taverna and MonteCristo are people that film producers should avoid working with.

In the meantime, I got a full-time job again. My first since quitting Paramount back in 2002. It's a bit strange to be back in the corporate world - I am once again working for a company that specializes in Web design, only I am now a producer instead of a designer, which is a bit closer to what life as a film director is like. In other words, lots of planning, lots of managing, lots of decisions and lots of deadlines to worry about.

I certainly haven't given up my filmmaking dreams, however, and Dial 9 to Get Out continues to sputter ahead, however slowly. (It didn't help that one of my two producers got a job working on the TV show Lost in Hawaii just a couple of weeks after we signed our agreement.) My friend Stephanie, who has considerable casting experience, has joined the team as our casting director and is trying to contact certain name actors that we'd like to talk to, even as Gregory and Meta, the producers, prepare budgets and attempt to raise money. It would be nice to post some solid updates about this film soon, but in the event that it can't get off the ground - it's always a question of money, as you know - at least I'm now pulling in a regular salary again, so if nothing else, in a couple of years I will have saved up enough to shoot another self-funded low budget picture. That might make for a slender Updates page in the interim, but I will make my third feature film eventually. I think that's inevitable. It's just a question of what film, and when.

This is me, looking ahead

Looking Ahead to 2007

I waited a while to post an update because there were "things in the works" that I didn't want to discuss publicly until I had the assurance to do so (i.e. had a contract signed). But now I can share the news that last week I signed an option agreement with two producers to make Dial 9 to Get Out. These brave souls are Meta and Gregory. I've known Meta for several years (we met at a party - mingling can be lucrative!) and Meta has known Gregory for a while too. Both are very excited about making this picture - which is, I think, one of the two important qualities that a producer should have. (The other being the ability to raise money, of course.) With their suggestions, I rewrote the script and improved it greatly. (This is why I haven't been able to start any new scripts, as hoped - it's taken a while to perfect the one for Dial 9.) I'm optimistic about the future of this project in 2007. Naturally I will post updates as they come. Right now the goal is to start raising money and try to attach a "name" actor or two to the film. This is not going to be a multi-million-dollar deal, but it's also not going to be shot on a shoestring like Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer was.

Otherwise, though 2006 was definitely filled with highlights for me - the Getty Images win, first and foremost, but also some fun vacations and a happy home life - I can't wait to move on. Unfortunately my former sales agent Michael (aka Michele) Taverna of MonteCristo International (aka MonteCristo Entertainment) is still refusing to pay me the money he owes me from his Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer sales, so I have officially begun IFTA arbitration against him. I don't know how long this will take, or if there's any guarantee that I'll get my money. But it's better to try than to not try. In any case, I'm eager to put this ugly situation behind me. Once again, I send out a warning to all filmmakers out there to stay away from Michael Taverna and MonteCristo. It's a lousy situation, one I wouldn't wish upon anybody. If nothing else, at least I can use the power of the Internet to spread the word about this guy and his shady business practices.

On a lighter note, I wish you all a very Happy New Year and I hope 2007 treats you well.

With my fellow panelist Vilmos Zsigmond

Back from Bozeman

I just got back yesterday from my three-day appearance at HATCHfest in Bozeman, Montana, which prides itself as being not a film festival but an "audiovisual arts festival" (fair enough, as they had competitions and shows involving fashion, music and design) aimed at having industry professionals mentor and inspire students. But I was there for the film aspect of it, invited as a guest by Getty Images and rather arbitrarily put on the cinematography panel. I guess the festival committee was not sure where else I would fit in, as they knew me primarily as the Getty short film winner and not as a director of two features. So at first I felt very much in over my head, sharing the panel with, among other luminaries, Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, etc.) and Kevin Smith's DP of choice, David Klein. But they were nice guys, and while they deservedly got the lion's share of questions on the panel, I still got to speak from a director's point of view and was apparently appreciated by the young and enthusiastic crowd. In fact, I believe our panel had the largest audience of any in the festival, so I was proud to be a part of that. All in all, HATCH is a great idea and a great time. I hope it continues to grow and thrive. I'd much rather people went to HATCH than to, say, Sundance.

I now plan to start work on the Poisoned Apple script even as Dial 9 to Get Out sits eternally on the edge of moving forward. (Latest update on that: I'm waiting for a specific meeting to be scheduled with a potential producer who has money.) Meanwhile, I am experiencing the dark side of the independent film world right now, as I prepare to take legal action against my former foreign sales agents MonteCristo Entertainment (now called MonteCristo International), who owe me thousands of dollars from their sales of Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer to the UK and to other countries. (And by the way, they are now claiming that they didn't sell the film to Russia or Ukraine, a year after claiming that they did. So my apologies to any readers in the CIS who can't find the film.) I can't predict the outcome of this matter, but I can at least tell other producers who might be Googling the company's name to stay far away from MonteCristo CEO Michael Taverna (aka Michele Taverna) and whatever film enterprise he represents. I'm not the only person who is having problems getting my money from him. And unfortunately this is not uncommon in this business.