A filmmaker, Joel (not his real name) approached me this week about this project. This happens often and I’m always willing to hear people out. If you’ve been following my posts, this is the guy who shot a film about 5 years ago that still isn’t finished…seems they’ve been working on audio forever. It took Wagner 26 years to complete his The Ring cycle of operas, so maybe 5 years to finish post on a film isn’t so bad.
Joel has three projects he’s pushing. The main one is a comedy set to be shot in Canada. One the surface, it looks pretty good, aside from being a comedy… With a $2.5m budget, taking advantage of Canadian tax credits and incentives, only $900k is actually needed to make the film. Not bad. The script is by Harland Williams. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know the name, but you’d recognize him as a comedian and character actor. I recognize him from my days as a blackjack dealer at the Hard Rock where the cheap bastard played at my table for 2 hours, won over $800 and tipped me $1.50. That’s right – $1.50. What a piece of shit. Like all areas of life, we remember the great and the shitty, the big tippers (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Keifer Sutherland) as well as the cheap bastards and assholes (Louis Gossett Jr, Jennifer Lopez, Tiger Woods, Harland Williams). But I digress…
Anyway, my distaste for Harland is not so deep-seeded that I wouldn’t work with the man on the right project. Seems he has a comedy script that he wrote and can get his “buddies” in the business to help him out. One of the big names mentioned was David Spade. Okay, now we’re talking, $2.5m film I can fully finance for $900k with David Spade starring…might make sense. Next question – “Is Spade committed?” Response, “Well, once we have the money in place, we can make a formal offer.” Fail! Nope, not working. If he’s Harland’s “buddy”, he should have no problem with a letter of committment or even a letter of intent. Maybe I live in a different world, but my friend talk with and try to help me even when I’m not standing in front of them with a checkbook…of course, the ladies in my life are a different story….
Tax breakdowns and benefits are a big plus in putting a project together, especially at the seven figure level. A great, marketable script is another plus. Granted, I haven’t read this one, and it may be great, but I’ve said it before, comedy is a tough one. Tough to pull off, tough to sell. Tougher to sell internationally. The other red flag, or maybe just a personal pet peeve, is the business plan for films that contain a “comperables” chart showing the absolute most successful films in that budget and/or genre. Don’t tell me your film is going to be the next “Anchorman”! It doesn’t have Will Farrell. That was a $26m film and a studio was behind it. The ONLY thing they have in common is they’re both comedies. I’ve got a vampire script I might be shooting soon…I’m not telling people it might be the next “Twilight” (not sure if that’s good or bad). Don’t suggest your film is going to be the next “Napoleon Dynamite” any more than you allude your horror film is going to be the next Blair Witch Project. That angle may work with people outside the business who are dumb enough to think their $10,000 investment in their nephew’s film is going to set them up to retire in the Bahamas. The fact is, if you take that approach with me, I assume you’re completely delusional. Make realistic comparisons and show that you don’t have your head completely up your ass. A prospective filmmaker who tells me he’s hoping for a 50% return to the investors is far more impressive than one who says he expects his partners to see 1000% return.
So, looks like I’m out on that one. Of course, it doesn’t help that the guy trying to get me to help him make a movie has spent more than 5 years trying to finish his first. Finish that film, Joel! Sell it! Turn a small profit and you suddenly have credibility in a business that’s 99% bullshit. That should be where everyone in this business aspires to be.