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OMG We’re gonna make movies!

And so it begins…

I’m sick and tired of the damn TV 

I’m gonna make my own movie 

I wanna star in a late night show 

And all I need is my video

— Def Leppard, “Action! Not Words”

(Yeah, I know – I’ve used that quote once already 🙂  Well, the check for my last gig arived today.  Total profit from the job is over $5k.  That’s a lot of little bills paid off, and… my equipment budget now exists.  I have to wait 10 days for it all to get cleared by the bank and all that jazz, but it’s there.  

I’m now in the business of making movies.  God help us all.

Granted, the first time out is going to be very cheap budget wise.  OMG cheap.  But we learned some interesting lessions from the World of Gamer Zone TV show (by the end we actually knew what we were doing.  Scary.)  KTQW did everything on the cheap – I’m not going to be quite as bad as them about it, but, I’m not going to spend that much.  They had the tendancy to spend $5 on an item, add 12 hours of labor, and consider it a savings over a new piece that was $50 and no labor.  

The usual rules of business apply – you can trade money for labor and time at any given point in a project.   Time and labor are at a premium for me, but money isn’t pleantyful either.  So each and every item I pick up is going to have to be very carefully measured against all three: Time, Labor, and Money.

But I’ve been in the process of doing that for a couple of months now.  The camera?  A Canon HV10.  The HV20 is better, but costs almost 1/3rd more.  These are NOT cameras made for film – these are made for a prosumer to low-end independant film maker sort of area.  Basically, something you’d see on TV or on a direct to DVD release.

Though I do keep eyeballing that HV20 for one thing:  24 Frames per second recording 1080p.  Those are some magic numbers.  From TV style video (60 frames per second, interlaced) to film (24 frames per second – now you know why you “sense” some bluring in high action scenes!).  You can’t go from, say, 30 FPS to 24 FPS – it doesn’t work.  But you can go from 24 up to 60, or from 60 down to 24.  Which means, well, you can make the jump to film, sort of.  1080p looks better than 1080i, but, 1080i is cheaper.

The complexity level of the decisions on equipment is amazing.  I was only using that one aspect as an example – I haven’t even gotten into the complexities of which microphones to use (‘specially since there are no lappel mics in movies, like we had gotten used to 🙂

But we’re almost there now.  OMG.

The Goals…

Welcome to the big time,

You’re bound to be a star.

And even if you don’t go all the way,

I know that you’ll go far.

— Richard Marx, “Don’t Mean Nothing”

(You know how I know you’re gay?  You just quoted Richard Marx in a blog entry.  I’ll just get that outta the way before Meredith or someone pops off with it!)

Now, I’m an egotistical bastard – the idea of my name in lights, my face on screen, etc., doesn’t bug me at all.  Just the opposite, I love it!  But it’s not completely the goal – I’ll never be a movie star.  I’ll lead in two of these independant productions as a combination of ego gratification and, well, the belief that I can pull it off (the first script has parts of my personality in my character.  The second script has a lot of my… soul I guess you say in the character.  It’s a large chunk o’ me.)

After that, well, I move to Executive Producer only for a while, then I move out of it completely.  I’ll have made my investment in time and money, and away I go to other things, but draw residuals from the projects I put myself into, and from the company I invested in.

It’s also an investment in my friends, who stood by me when it all fell apart.  This particular venture invests in Harmon and Cindy – Cindy is getting her MBA (good, so eventually I don’t have to worry about the business side if she proves out), and of course the artist type handles directing and such.

I’d like to do the same thing with Meredith and Lance some day.  I know what I’d ideally like to do with Midnight Ryder Technologies someday, but I still haven’t gotten to the point where I have a plan that gets me from Point A to Point Z with that yet.  Plus they invested in me in Gamer Zone – and got burned on it.  So until I’ve got everything in place and a track record of success again, I’ll never approach Lance with a plan and an offer.  But some day I will.

Now, I will say this – if I do a couple o’ movies, and someone approaches me with a bucket of money and wants me to show up in another movie, well hell of course I would.  But I’m not holding my breath – while I’ve got to be good enough to pull off two or so for my own company, somehow I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about being the next Hugh Jackman or similar.  Tis just not in the cards for me.

This is just a series of investments, some ego feeding, and well… yet another T-Shirt for my drawer of “been there, done that’s”.

Hm.  Wonder if there’s a good equivalent for doing films like I have for building R & S’es?  The engraved hammer thing is kinda cool for a trophy.  Somehow I don’t think an egraved camera for each project works out as a feasable option though 😉

The Other Changes…

I’ve mentioned before that the Kenosha, WI trip marks a turning point in my life – where I start having the resources to start kicking the shit outta my bills and moving forward with other plans.  

Next month I have another trip to Kenosha, along with all the Spirit Aero work going on.  I mean… I’m pretty much extatic.  It just seems to be going my way at the moment.  Though, after next month, there won’t be any more Kenosha trips until thier next fiscal year rolls over (which is quite a while away.)  

For every project I do, a little gets saved away, a bunch goes into bills, and a bit gets invested back into projects.  As long as construction jobs continue, then I’ve got my stable base of income to work from, then bursts of payoffs on each of these larger projects.

A part of me has been looking at the “What if…?” scenarios.  See, I spend my time trying to work only with the knowns – the stuff that I’m fairly certain represent knowable income levels.

But I also own a portion of R & S.  What if it takes off?  Dividends from that could easily speed things up.

For the first movie, I’m not expecting income – I’m litterally working with “worst case scenario” since it’s our first time out.  But that’s not how it always works.  10 minute or 30 minute indepenent flicks only show up online or in art houses.  But full length stuff actually gets purchased.  There’s hundreds of TV channels, litterally billions of viewers worldwide, upteen thousand distribution companies, etc.  And they all have one thing in common:

They need content, and they want profit.

I took the “true indie” game developer approach to this first movie – finance it out of pocket.  It makes getting a distributor a more attractive proposal, since they aren’t fronting money for a studio to produce a movie – the risky part is already done.  They have the final product in hand, they only have to decide if it fits in thier line up.  

Which means, yes, the first movie could pull in money, anything from $5 to $500,000.  And with a distributor, the production company draws residuals over time too (if I had to give advice to anyone starting a business, it would be this:  Do something that throws of royalties or residuals every year.)

Which boils down to this:  I know I can reach my minimum goals for the year.  But I’m dying to see April 30, 2008 to see what happened above and beyond those minimums.  This could be a very interesting year.  I already have my Year 2 goals set, and I may just dip into them early if I meet the Year 1 goals ahead of schedule.  That or I may take a vacation 😉


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