I've met Sam Mendes twice now. He wouldn't remember me, but he doesn't need to. I, however, should not forget him. Or maybe it's fine if I forget him as long as I remember his 25 Tips to Becoming a Happier Director. Vanity Fair relayed his wise words given to budding directors:
“If there are any directors out there in the audience, or anyone who’s interested in directing, I’ve written 25 steps towards becoming a happier director. These are them:
1. Always choose good collaborators. It seems so obvious, but the best collaborators are the ones who disagree with you. It means they’re passionate, they have opinions, and they’ll only ever say yes if they mean it.
2. Try to learn how to make the familiar strange, and the strange familiar. Direct Shakespeare like it’s a new play, and treat every new play as if it’s Shakespeare.
3. If you have the chance, please work with Dame Judi Dench.
4. Learn to say, “I don’t know the answer.” It could be the beginning of a very good day’s rehearsal.
5. Go to the ancient amphitheater at Epidaurus, in Greece. It makes you realize what you are a part of, and it will change the way you look at the world. If you’re an artist, you will feel central, and you will never feel peripheral again.
6. Avoid, please, all metaphors of plays or films as “pinnacles” or “peaks”; treat with absolute scorn the word “definitive”; and if anyone uses the word “masterpiece,” they don’t know what they’re doing. The pursuit of perfection is a mug’s game.
7. If you are doing a play or a film, you have to have a secret way in if you are directing it. Sometimes it’s big things. American Beauty, for me, was about my adolescence. Road to Perdition was about my childhood. Skyfall was about middle-age and mortality. Sometimes it’s small things. Maybe it’s just a simple idea. What if we do the whole thing in the nightclub, for example. But it’s not enough just to admire a script, you have to have a way in that is yours, and yours alone.
8. Confidence is essential, but ego is not.
9. Theater is the writer’s medium and the actor’s medium; the director comes a distant third. If you want a proper ego trip, direct movies.
10. Buy a good set of blinkers. Do not read reviews. It’s enough to know whether they’re good or they’re bad. When I started, artists vastly outnumbered commentators, and now, there are a thousand published public opinions for every work of art. However strong you are, confidence is essential to what you do, and confidence is a fragile thing. Protect it. As T.S. Eliot says, teach us to care, and not to care.
11. Run a theater. A play is temporary, a building is permanent. So try to create something that stays behind and will be used and loved by others.
12. You are never too old to learn something new, as I was reminded when I learned to ski with my 10-year-old son. He, of course, did it in about 10 minutes, and I spent four days slaloming up and down, looking like a complete tit. But, don’t be scared of feeling like a complete tit. It’s an essential part of the learning process.
13. There is no right and wrong, there is only interesting, and less interesting.
14. Paintings, novels, poetry, music are all superior art forms. But theater and film can steal from all of them.
15. There are no such things as “previews” on Broadway.
16. Peter Brook said, “The journey is the destination.” Do not think of product, or, god forbid, audience response. Think only of discovery and process. One of my favorite quotes from Hamlet—Polonius: “By indirections find the directions out.”
17. Learn when to shut up. I’m still working on this one.
18. When you have a cast of 20, this means you have 20 other imaginations in the room with you. Use them.
19. Please remember the Oscars are a TV show.
20. Get on with it. Robert Frost said, “Tell everything a little faster.” He wasn’t wrong.
21. The second production of a musical is always better than the first.
22. Learn to accept the blame for everything. If the script was poor, you didn’t work hard enough with the writer. If the actors failed, you failed them. If the sets, the lighting, the poster, the costumes are wrong, you gave them the thumbs-up. So build up your shoulders, they need to be broad.
23. On screen, your hero can blow away 500 bad guys, but if he smokes one fucking cigarette, you’re in deep shit.
24. Always have an alternative career planned out. Mine is a cricket commentator. You will never do this career, but it might help you get to sleep at night.
25. Never, ever, ever forget how lucky you are to do something that you love.
A couple ofweeks ago, I flew to Atlanta to do a Q and A for some screenings of BLUMENTHAL as part of the very cool Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. The screening slots were great, 7:30pm on Saturday night and 1:00pm on a Sunday. This is prime time for any film at a festival. Because film festivals program movies throughout the day, it is not uncommon to screen your film at 10AM to a less than full cinema. Not the case in ATL.
What a terrific welcome! Both screenings were packed to the brim and the audience's really seemed to connect with the film. I go into every Q and A session ready to dodge flying tomatoes, so it is truly humbling when an audience member has a thoughtful enough comment or question that it causes me to reflect on the film in a new light. The Atlanta audience was passionate, perceptive, and honest with their reactions. The response to the film was awesome. Laughs throughout.
Ironically, it was at this "niche" festival that I had my first major response from a group of people that one might consider outside of the target audience for BLUMENTHAL. After the second screening, I had a lengthy conversation with young African American couple about the film. They absolutely loved it. In the past few months of visiting festivals, I have been forced to view the film through a Jewish prism. The movie, however, was never intended to be a "Jewish" film per se, it just has a certain appeal to that audience. It was refreshing to be reminded that the film deals with (hopefully) universal sentiments that transcend culture. I've spoken with Greek, Asian, and even Utahan people that have all found cultural parallels to which they can relate. For me, this is the most gratifying part of going to these festival screenings. It's a terrific way to discover who your audience really is.
Can't wait to revisit Atlanta!
I'm pleased to announce that BLUMENTHAL will have its theatrical and digital platform release through GoDigital. The structure of the deal is many-fold, but here are the main details (I'll get to the filmmaker relevant stuff in another post). We will have a short theatrical run in New York with a "day-and-date" release. That means that as the film is released into the cinema, it is simultaneously made available across all major VOD platforms such as Cable OnDemand, iTunes, Amazon, etc. After that, the film will move into subscription-based VOD like Netflix, HULU, etc. The theatrical release date will be in late March 28th in NYC. After the initial theatrical run, BLUMENTHAL will have theatrical stints in other select markets. One month prior to the theatrical release (now!), BLUMENTHAL will be available exclusively on Vutopia, an OnDemand service available to Time Warner Cable subscribers. The Vutopia run will cease after the standard VOD release ensues.
The path to finding the right distributor has a been a long one. There are so many ways to get your film out there nowadays, that finding the right partnership for distribution is that much more important. With GoDigital, we've found a true enthusiasm and support for the film. Recently GoDigital merged with Variance Films to form a new company, Amplify. BLUMENTHAL, however will appear under the GD banner.
As I said, more filmmaker relevant stuff on the distribution front to come. For now spread the word that we are coming to a theater or TV near you!
Noah and the Megafauna has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to finish their second studio album. The album will feature a wealth of new awesome material as well as some familiar tunes featured in BLUMENTHAL. The main title of film, Schadenfruede Blues, is featured as a bonus track offered as one of the backer rewards. Another plum award titled "The Blumenthal" offers a direct download to the Blumenthal soundtrack. Everybody wins!
Many of you may have not seen the film yet, but if you've seen the trailer and thought, "that music is awesome!" then you will like Noah and the Megafauna. Click the image above to jump to their Kickstarter page.
I tend to judge a book by it's cover. I believe most people do, too. Especially on the Internet. With that in mind, I've taken another stab at the aesthetic of the blog. Hopefully you noticed.
Up until now, WMMAM was hosted through WordPress.com. Wordpress did the trick fine in terms of functionality, but I always found myself somewhat limited by the customization options of the templates. With more people visiting the blog, I also thought I'd step things up design-wise. We are now using Squarespace.com as our platform. Squarespace has a limited number of templates to choose from, but they are infinitely customizable and exponentially more attractive. It's also easy to In just one day, I was able to completely revamp the whole site and integrate a good deal of new info.
The most distinguishable additions are the links above in the navigation bar. Under SHOOT, readers interested in the nuts and bolts of film production can go directly to the daily production diary of the BLUMENTHAL shoot. There they can see all the videos and read all of the daily drama on-set.
The next key addition is the SCREEN link. Anyone interested in seeing Blumenthal, can make a b-line to a list of upcoming events, speaking engagements, and screenings. This will be continually update, so do check back.
Lastly, there is a link to the official website for BLUMENTHAL. Thought that might make sense.
Other than that, I think the layout is easy on the eyes, clean, and sexy. Hope you agree. As you'd expect, there may be a few hiccups as we transfer all the data from one location to the next, so if you encounter any dead links or issues navigating the new site, let me know and I'll fix it.
In addition to BLUMENTHAL's upcoming theatrical and VOD/SVOD release in the United States, we've recently begun arranging for a theatrical release in the UK as well. The UK Jewish Film Festival, headed by the ever-impressive Judy Ironside and her just-as-impressive support team, has all he mechanisms in place to provide theatrical distribution in London to select films screened at their festival. Additionally, they have a built-in press machine via their subscription base as well as the precedent of festival reviews from BLUMENTHAL's November run throughout the UK. They approached me about the idea of releasing Blumenthal during the festival and it was a no-brainer.
This festival is one of the most impressive that I've been to with this film, and I can't say enough good things about it. Aside from opportunities like the one listed above, they have their own dedicated VOD channel, year-round screenings, film grant programs, and satellite festivals in both Geneva and Tel Aviv. In fact, Blumenthal is unofficially set to screen in Geneva under UKJFF's banner in March 2014. For a niche festival, the UKJFF manages to show up some of the bigger International festivals around. Bravo, guys.
Of course it's easy to like festivals that like you back. Speaking of which, there remain a few more screenings in the coming months leading up to the official release. Be sure to check the snazzy new "Screen" link on the menu above to see when BLUMENTHAL is headed your way. Dallas, New York City, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Detroit, Florida, and more to come.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it's funny that I had never really considered this movie to be a "Jewish" film, and I still believe it has a wider audience appeal, but doing all of these more focused festival programs is proving to be a terrific sort of promotional tour for the film leading up to our release next Spring. With each screening, comes more word-of-mouth, more press, more awareness. I think any indie-filmmaker should consider any possible niche festivals for their films after they play bigger market festivals. In many cases, it is free PR for your movie and, of course, it's oodles of fun.
Blumenthal has officially closed its deal for distribution. We are beyond thrilled... and that is all I'm allowed to tell you for now. An official press release will come out in the new year at which point I can give you all the nitty gritty details of the cutting-edge distribution company that we are partnering with and the nature of the deal itself. So for now, forget I even said (typed) any of that. The important thing is that you will ALL be able to see the film!
Any indie filmmaker probably thinks that the closing of a distribution deal for his or her film is the point at which they can finally sit back, put their feet up, and give a sigh of relief that it wasn't all for nothing. Not the case.
The moment after the terms of a distribution deal are finalized, an indie film producer is sent a document from the distribution company. On the document is a list of DELIVERABLES. Deliverables are all of the materials that must be delivered to the distributor upon execution of the agreement so that they can perform their duties. Deliverables are also the final obstacle in the life of an independent film. The reason that it's an obstacle is that it forces a filmmaker/producer to confront any corners that may have been previously cut just to get the film done and save as much money as possible.
A perfect (and common) example of what I'm talking about is the issue of music rights. Sometimes, a filmmaker will put a popular song in the movie with an idea to pay for the rights to that music once the movie sells. Now, this assumes that the film is being sold with some sort of advance or minimum guarantee that would afford the producers money to pay for it. But, even in such a case, the distribution deal would be contingent upon the film having rights to the music in the first place. Not only is there the issue of coming up with the money, but what if the rights to the music aren't available? Then that awesome song that makes the climax of the film so great is all gone. That's a hypothetical here, but stuff like that happens all the time.
For those of you who are curious what sort of deliverables are required for a distributor, here is some of what's on the list:
1. Video Content: Video assets must be original dimensions and frame rates from production. Accepted tape or digital delivery formats include:
- Tape Delivery: HDCAM, HDCAM SR, Digital Betacam
- Digital Delivery: Container: QuickTime.mov or AVI, Codec: ProRes HQ or Cineform, Standard: NTSC, PAL, or HD
2. Audio: Must deliver 5.1 surround and M&E track if created 5.1 audio should include L, R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs channels.
3. Trailers/Preview Clip: One (1) trailer, or a generated two-minute preview clip delivered. Must be the same aspect ratio as the associated feature.
5. PUBLICITY / PROMOTIONAL / CREATIVE
- POSTER/KEY ART: One (1) layered poster Photoshop (.psd) or Illustrator (.ai) image 150dpi minimum, One (1) flat (single layer) 2143x3000 (jpg, tiff) image 150dpi minimum. Flat image must not contain release date, credit block, DVD logo, film rating, website, and/or promotional tagging (but OK on layered file).
- COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY: Twenty (20) or more different production digital photos depicting key scenes in the Picture and/or behind-the-scenes with members of the cast appearing therein. The photography shall be delivered digitally in the highest resolution format possible (preferably 300dpi). Necessary for service specific promotions.
6. CLOSED CAPTIONS / SUBTITLES:
- SUBTITLES: One (1) subtitle file in .SRT or SAMI/.SMI file formats that conform to Picture time code.
- CLOSED CAPTIONS: One (1) caption file in .SCC (Scenarist) or .ASC (Cheetah ASCII) - must conform to Picture.
7. LEGAL DOCUMENTS:
- PRODUCER’S ERRORS & OMISSIONS (E&O) INSURANCE
- CHAIN OF TITLE DOCUMENTATION
- MUSIC CUE SHEETS
8. INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION:
- M&E Audio Tracks - Used for dubbing content in different languages.
- Written Script
- Textless movie file. Used to add credits in alternate languages
- Subtitles or Dubs required on a territory specific basis.
Like any other small indie film, we have a couple of snags on the delivery list (though nothing like the music scenario above). For our part the only real issue will be dealing with the closed captioning, which we may or may not end up letting the distributor handle and recoup the cost. C'est la vie...
All the exciting details of our distribution deal to come!