Two movies you have executive produced are going to see a release in
the next few weeks, Caesar
and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre and 7
Nights of Darkness.
Let's start with
and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre - how did you get involved with
My recollection is that I
was sent a screener by the Producer. I believe that properly getting
distribution for a film is a very similar job to getting funding so I
approach it as an Executive Producer. I package the film and do a lot of
research as to the best outlet for the project to make it into the
marketplace and stand out. My company sent packages out to about 25
distributors before we settled and negotiated the deal that we did.
What convinced you that there was an
interest in a genre spoof like Caesar
and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre?
of what I do is based upon my instincts and experience as a creative
producer. I look for the commercial potential in projects. Wether at the
development and script stage or as finished projects. If a project is in
development, I might sign on to enhance the commercial aspects of a script
without affecting the artistic integrity of it as much as possible. Then
we will package it and secure funding. In a finished film, I look for the
potential to be able to package it as a ‘high concept’ title. My
market is not the public, it is the wholesalers
and retailers. They are the ones that I believed I could convince
to handle Caesar
and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre.
and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre was of course the brainchild of
Dave Campfield [Dave Campfield
interview - click here] - so in what way did you relate to the
film's special brand of humour?
frankly I related to my vision of the film's commerciality. I envision the
potential of a film. The ultimate potential.
Can it change the world, create buzz, make a profit, enhance a
filmmaker’s career, etc. I
don’t have to relate to a film as much as to understand it and its
audience. I spend time on both the creative and business sides of the
entertainment business. It gives me a unique perspective and understanding
of not only the creative process but the marketing of that process to
retailers and gate keepers who ultimately bring the product to the public.
Nights of Darkness - again, how did you get involved?
believe the filmmaker and I met at a horror festival and it went from
there. But I confess my memory is sketchy.
2010, when 7
Nights of Darkness was made, the whole found footage-thing
was already on the decline. What made you believe this would work
“Work” is subjective.
You can make a film for a price and return investment to the investors and
even a profit in many different sub genres. The trick is to understand the
price point in relation to profit potential and be able to assess how to
position that film to create enough following to justify a DVD box on a
In general, as an executive producer, how
big is your influence on the creative side of filmmaking?
speaking, not much. However,
if as an EP I have creative respect from a writer/director, then we can
collaborate effectively. It all comes down to relationships and making the
time to deepen them and establish a trusting environment.
Since my background and education is both creative and business,
filmmakers tend to give me the benefit of the doubt as long as I deliver
what I say I will.
suspect the concepts of the films you produce are hardly ever your own -
so how do you choose the projects you produce? And does marketability play
a big role in your decision making process?
I can write, I choose not to most of the time. I prefer to develop
existing material. To that end I have to have a script that I believe can
be developed into an excellent one with a writer or writer/director that
has the ability to take notes and rewrite. I believe that the art of
screenwriting is not about writing. You only do that to get the idea out
of your head and onto paper. The art is in the rewriting process. Now
can we rewrite a script eight, ten, twenty times and get it to where we
can attach bankable talent and financing to make a commercial enough film
that will return investment and provide money to make the next film? Many
times at the micro level you will need to look at scripts that will fill a
niche in the market place in order to create that kind of a perfect storm.
For example: horror, urban, faith or family based, Latino, children’s,
Most of the
movies you produce are low to micro budget films. How would you describe
the market for such movies, the means of distribution, as well as your own
business model for indie distribution?
First of all you have to have, at
the very least, a well-developed very, very
good script. It should be, most of the time, a classic three act
structure and not be longer than about 100 minutes.
Does the film speak to a specific audience that is underserved by
traditional Hollywood? Does the film have a built in genre audience? Can
you attach some bankable name talent? Do you have a director that
understands cinematic storytelling and film conventions? Can
the crew and the budget sustain good production values? Can it be made for
a price that we can envision as being recoupable? Does the pitch have
interest for a distributor?
With all that said, the market is
changing month to month. Films I got involved with a couple of years ago I
wouldn’t make or distribute today. Ironically, the democratization of
indie filmmaking brought on by filming on HD and access to the internet
is creating a glut of marginal
product. That combined with the imminent demise of the DVD and BluRay
platforms is making it much harder to distribute micro projects and return
investment. I wouldn’t make a film today without some name cast that
distributors want. However, that is not to say that if you have a burning
desire to make a movie, to say something or prove something that you
shouldn’t. Just do it with the reasonable expectation of not making all
of your money back.
(unfortunately) people out there who don't understand the appeal of indie,
low-to-no budget films at all. So how would you describe your fascination
I am not fascinated by them. I
like good stories. I love well-made documentaries. I have the privilege
of seeing many small films without star cast.
love a subgenre of films known as Mumblecore. When they are well made they
are a testament to the extreme
micro-budget filmmaking art. I have two coming out this year. Alphonso
Bow is one and Commit is another. My goal is create a win-win situation for
the filmmaker, the distribution network and the public. We should all make
some money and the public should get an opportunity to see diverse
That can take many forms. I have a
morally uplifting film, Works in Progress, coming out later this year.
This is an indie film by a first time filmmaker that speaks to an
underserved niche and does it well. A psychological horror film, Tiburon,
just signed with me and a sexy urban comedy, Office Games, did too. So you
see the trick with this is similar to the cable TV model. You need to have
films that can zero in on a target audience.
Having mostly worked on the business side of
things, have you never had the itch to one day direct a movie yourself?
The longer I produce and distribute, the more I want to control the entire
process. However, filmmaking is a derivative and collaborative art form,
at its best. Just like it
takes a village to raise a child, it takes a very cohesive film crew to
make an excellent movie. When
I have something I really want to say I will direct.
got you into the filmworld in the first place, and the indie filmworld in
particular? And what can you tell us about your early experiences within
the movie industry?
I started out in
theatre in New York City and left it for finance and marketing. When
circumstance finally brought me out to Los Angeles, I decided to take some
time off and return to school with the expectation of getting degrees in
English and Business Administration. As a lark I took a course on the
history of documentary film taught by Professor Joseph Daccurso
and it knocked me feet over head. When the dust cleared I graduated from
USC with degrees in Film Production & Entertainment Business, and
History. Being a little bit
older and less patient than my fellow graduates, I wasn’t interested in
going the assistant route so I stepped off the road and cut my own path. I
did five internships in various facets of the Hollywood entertainment
business to get a lay of the land and then focused on the niche that I
thought would best work for my personality, skill sets and ambition. That
took me to producing and distributing. Along the way I have been screwed a
couple of times, met and befriended some great people, gained the respect
of my peers and landed on my feet.
projects you'd like to talk about?
are raising funding for a very well developed horror film to be shot for
under $3MM.The short list for casting includes Bill Mosley, Danny Trejo,
Michael Berryman, Linnea Quigley, Tony Todd, Alara Ceri and Shirley Jones.
While by no means exclusively working in
horror, you do return to the genre time and again. Are you personally fond
of horror, or is this merely for business reasons?
I have a passion for horror films.
I feel they safely channel societal fears and anxieties in an increasingly
antisocial world. I did a paper once comparing George Romero’s classic
Night of the Living Dead to 28 Days Later and came up with some surprising
conclusions. I studied Alfred Hitchcock and his films with Professor Drew
Casper at USC and still use many of Hitchcock’s theories when I evaluate
screeners or screenplays. Horror
can also be a profitable niche market, among others. However, it is
glutted with a lot of marginal films.
it is done well, horror forces you to face yourself. It doesn’t matter
if the blood and gore is on screen or not. Both work well if worked well.
If you leave the theater or your living room and you are talking to
yourself, the filmmaker did his job. Film making is all about the water
cooler or the coffee shop. Does it engender a conversation?
films you wish you had produced, but haven't for whatever reason?
I don’t indulge in that kind of
thinking. There are people I have wished I had worked with but didn’t.
First on that list is Marlon Brando. However, you look to create
opportunities to work with people you respect and admire: and if they
happen to be excellent at what they do, so much the better.
On the other hand, there was a
wonderful little Mumblecore horror-comedy film that I really wanted to be
part of called Die-ner (get it?). I know it was made but since then it has
fallen out of view.
who fascinate you?
Fascinate? I don’t
know about that. There are many producers I have met at the Producers
Guild who I admire for their abilities to connect the dots and make films
for tens of millions of dollars. It isn’t that difficult anymore to get
to make a movie. However it is still hard to make a great movie, get it
proper distribution that makes a profit and then get paid. That applies at
any budget level. Part of what I do is get a film proper hybrid
distribution, make sure it has some marketing behind it and then make sure
the filmmaker shares in the profits. I admire producers who do that with
budgets in the tens of millions of dollars.
Your favourite movies (you weren't
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
As indie films go, I’d have to
say Citizen Kane by Orson Wells.
I tend to like a lot of films by
certain directors, Hitchcock, Herzog, Tarentino, Von Trier, Burton,
Eastwood, Renoir, Winterbottom, Spike Lee, the documentarians Ken Burns
and Ondi Timoner and others who don’t come to mind right now.
While I don’t believe in Auteur Theory, there are certain
filmmakers who revisit themes with a style and passion that speaks to me.
Conversely there are some who consistently make films that don’t appeal
to me at all.
... and of course, films you really
Elephant by Gus Van Sant
Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith
Both technically brilliant films.
Your/your company's website, Facebook, whatever
I know this is terrible, but I
haven’t gotten around to having a website built. Just been too busy. I
was at Shriekfest last year and it surprised me how many filmmakers were
suspicious of doing business with me because I didn’t have one so I have
to get on it. I thought being able to refer filmmakers to flesh and blood
filmmakers who would honestly assess my abilities would suffice. Very
retro of me, I know.
But I pride myself on being
accessible. I will accept DVD screeners with full contact information from
any producers, phone calls during normal business
hours and e-mail as well.
Anyway, here is the rest of it.
Ventura Blvd, #222
City, CA 91604
Thanks for the interview!