Monday, April 25, 2016

Local Filmmakers Screening

I had a short excerpt from "One Hell of an Angel" screen at the Fine Arts Theater along with other local filmmaker's work.  It was a wonderful evening!  The audience was fantastic and they laughed at all the right places.  It was a good piece to tease the movie with.  Right now I'm slowing collecting the last of our digital FX from our awesome FX guru.  Our composer is about to send me the rough score to listen to and our Foley artist is working on getting all the sound FX we need created.  Once all these elements are completed and added to the cut, it will go off to our sound designer and hopefully we'll manage to get some color correction in there. Then we can call the movie finished!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Picture Locked

We are officially picture locked! This is a huge milestone for "One Hell of an Angel."  This means there will be no more cutting of the image part of the film. Now our sound work, music and digital FX can move forward. Cheers everyone!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Bicycle Commuting

I bike to work for my health and the health of the environment. I do it to get one more car off the road, to give someone else a good parking space. I save time because I no longer need to go to the gym and I never have to sit in bad traffic. I also save money on gas and wear and tear on my car. I feel sharper when I arrive to work in the morning and more relaxed when I arrive home at the end of the day. I burn so many calories I can pretty much eat whatever I want. I bike for all these reasons, but the one I look forward to the most is getting to see sights like this on my ride.

It's true I was recently hit by a truck, my hip was fractured in four places and it was a long road to recovery, but I'm so happy to be back on a bike. If you're thinking about commuting on a bike, give it a try.  It's so worth it.

Monday, October 26, 2015


I do a lot of public service announcements (PSAs.)  I love making them.  I usually get to be creative and the organizations are all non-profits that are championing a good cause.  I get to help them and that's just good for the soul.  Recently I've been doing a lot of stop motion animation.  Below is a PSA I made for the Asheville Humane Society for a fundraising event they're having.

I've been doing PSAs for Homeward Bound for years now and soon I'll be releasing their 3rd PSA. I'm very excited to share this one that focuses on veteran homelessness.  I got to work with Greg Hudgins as Cinematographer.  He was so great to work with and the footage looks amazing!  Brian Alexander was invaluable on set, as always.  Our actors were all top notch, but I have to give special thanks to our lead Allen T. Law who not only turned in brilliant performances, but he did them in freezing rain and through some pretty adverse conditions.
We couldn't afford to shoot at the airport.  It was $3000 just to have the insurance we would need for 1 hour! So we used a blue screen in my living room coupled with some stock footage.
Brian and I got to play doctors!  FYI: Stethoscopes are fun to play with and the human body makes a bunch of strange noises.
The war scene shots were the most complex and expensive.  I didn't keep the gas mask shot in the PSA because it didn't work in end.  It was hard to let it go because it took so much to make it happen, but that's the nature of storytelling through film.  If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.
We shot in a torrent of rain from a hurricane.  Yes, a hurricane.  Everyone was soaked to the bone and shaking with cold.  I think it gave us all a new perspective on what people who don't have a home and shelter have to go through.

Monday, June 01, 2015

How to Distribute an Independent Film in 8 Steps

Self-distribution used to be a sad term for people who made movies so bad no one wanted to pay money to see them.  Today it’s not shunned the way it used to be, in fact there’s great potential for the artist making the movie to cut out the middle man and go straight to audience members.  Everyone wins right?  Well sort of.  Most artists make terrible businessmen and vice versa.  There’s a ton of media available on a ton of different platforms, how are people supposed to find your little film among the fray?  If you’re going to self-distribute, you the artist are now responsible for getting your film to audience members.  Most filmmakers study shot composition and acting.  We’re storytellers not story sellers.  So how does it work?  I don’t know yet.  This is my first foray into being a story seller, but here’s a candid break down of what I’m doing with my first feature film, My Toxic Backyard

Click the Links to go more in depth.

Feature films fees average about $50 per entry.  Then if you make it in, you want to be able to attend and network.  The costs can add up quickly.  Did you remember to budget for it?

You have to spend money to make money right? 

Having a theatrical release seems really lofty, but it’s totally doable.

Because I had a documentary film, it made sense to broadcast it over the air for free on TV.  This might not make sense for most projects, but I’ll tell you why I did it.

With multiple ways for people to view your movie, you can make it available only one way at a time and maximize your revenue and announcement process.

This used to be the only way to go, but now with alternative distribution you have choices to make.  Traditional distribution has both advantages and disadvantages.

What do you need to have together to get your movie ready for distribution?  How long will take?  I went with Createspace.  I'll tell you why I did and what I learned through out the process.

I keep talking about this film My Toxic Backyard that I am in the process of selling.  Check out the actual film and see how it looks on Amazon and in my official store set up through Createspace.

Everything you read here is just my opinion and my personal experiences going on this crazy roller coaster ride.  If you're not a filmmaker, I hope you gained a little insight into what it's like as an independent artist trying to make it in the world.  If you are a filmmaker, hopefully you'll have a little more knowledge after following my film's journey and maybe it'll save you a little frustration with your own work.


My Toxic Backyard for Sale

My Toxic Backyard is available for sale on the webpage and at Amazon.  

You can buy DVDs directly on the webpage. Click "purchase" and it will take you to the official store here:  If you'd rather go through Amazon here's a link for DVDs: You can get free shipping with orders over $35.  

If you haven't read about how I messed up my first project with Createspace you can go back and see why there's a separate page and project that I manage for VOD (Video on Demand.)  That link is here:

UPDATE: After about 14 weeks, the VOD option is now live on Amazon.  I was bringing a retired project back out of retirement and was told it should take about 2 weeks.  I think this long wait was a fluke.  The staff was very helpful every time I reminded them that I was still waiting.  My main takeaway is, make sure your project is live and available on Amazon well before you want to announce it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Self-Distribution: How to Navigate CreateSpace

I chose Createspace / Amazon / IMDb / Withoutabox (it’s all owned by the same umbrella company, but you will deal with each individually.)  Create Space is the place I’m selling everything through.  I picked it because Amazon is a large platform, it doesn’t cost anything up front and still has some flexibility in how I want to release.

Let me start by saying Create Space had me pulling my hair out on more than one occasion with timely, yet vague, responses from their staff.  They will not hold your hand through the process of getting all your work into their system and it’s a pain!  They give you all the information you need to do it, but it’s not easy to follow and the information you find online from others is probably outdated.  I’m going to write up a step by step process for 2015, for all those filmmakers out there feeling the frustration I felt.

What I Learned about Createspace:

1. You need an unencrypted disc image file (.iso) you can burn this with toast on a mac, which is what I did.  You might also be able to burn one on a PC with Windows Disc Image Burner.  I can't speak to the PC way of burning this since I didn't go that route.

2. Your iso file must have 2 folders and only 2 folders on it and they must be "VIDEO_TS" and "AUDIO_TS." Nothing more.  If you're like me, you might have a disc that only has the video folder.  If that's the case, you must create an empty audio folder before you burn the iso.  Createspace will reject your file if it isn't done exactly this way.

3. When your submission gets rejected, the Createspace staff won't tell you exactly why.  They'll give you a standard rejection message basically saying something didn't meet their standards.  You just have to try to figure out what specific guideline you failed to follow.  They will reset your submission status fairly quickly so you can try again.  I think I submitted iso files 3 times before they finally approved my last one.

4. I accidentally started a VOD only project and now there are 2 My Toxic Backyard pages on Amazon...forever.  Unfortunately someone bought a copy before I had the file deleted (even though on my dashboard it was listed as still pending approval and I couldn't delete it myself, plus the purchase didn't show up in my royalties so I had no way of knowing that someone purchased it.) After many messages back and forth trying to understand what happened, Createspace informs me now that they can never get rid of this second page on Amazon.  So make sure if you want to give people the option of purchasing a DVD that you are doing a DVD project when you start!  You can add a VOD option all in the same project later on or at the same time.

5. Expect to wait 4 to 6 weeks for your files to be approved.  You want to start this process well in advance of your release!  Once approved, you will still have to enable it for sale, which will take at least an additional 30 days for VOD.  You must order a test DVD (about $7) and check it before they will let you sell it.  You can't skip this step.  When I enabled my DVD for sale, it was available within a day.  Trying to enable the VOD in the same project, has proven to be taking much longer.  At the time of posting this, I'm still waiting.  They won't tell you when your project is up for sale either, you just have to keep checking it. (Be sure to check on Amazon, don't trust your createspace dashboard, mine said "pending" when it was actually "available.")

6. You can set the price for your DVD sales, but you can't set the price for you VOD download and rental.  You only get to suggest VOD pricing.

7. You also have the option to make a Createspace store front that you can have directly on your website and you'll make more royalties from it, but it's separate from Amazon, so anyone buying from your store will have to enter their shipping and credit card information to make the purchase and they don't have an option to get free shipping.  You can offer coupon codes for your store to sweeten the deal for your customers, but the coupon codes don't work on Amazon.

8. The price you set for your DVD will be the same on Amazon and in your Createspace store front.  You can't make one less than the other. So keep that in mind when setting your price.

9. Amazon takes a huge cut.  They do all the order fulfillment so they are taking a lot of the burden off your hands.  Just don't expect to get rich quick unless you sell lots and lots of copies.

10. The money you earn from sales (royalties) gets paid out either once a month or once every 60 days, depending on the type of media.  For example for VOD if someone rented your movie in February, you would not get the royalties for that until the end of April.  You also have to meet a threshold before they will give you any money.  You must earn $10 or more for direct deposit and $100 or more before they will issue you a check.  So if only one person rented your movie in February and you only earned $1, you still don't get paid at all.  You need at least 10 rentals or some other combination of purchases that gets you up to $10, if you have direct deposit.

11.  You will see royalties reported for DVD sales right away.  So if your friend says, I bought a DVD from you! You can look on your Createspace dashboard and there it is.  VOD sales are not reported in real time.  You will see those sales 30 days after the end of the month the purchase was made.  So if someone rented your movie in March, it would appear in the sales report at the end of April. 

12. Closed Captioning.  Remember earlier how I was doing closed captioning for broadcast, well I also needed it on Amazon.  The process for submitting your closed captioning file is a little strange given the rest of the process.  You don't upload it anywhere from your account.  You have to email your .scc file to and you have to make sure you name the file properly so they know which project it goes to.  If you have questions about it, you can also email the same address and ask them.  Again, they won't tell you if captions are required or not.  You have to figure that out.

Hope that helps clear a few things up!  Leave a comment if you have questions or want more info.