MUSICIANS ARE FAMOUS, TOO

The film business is one of the most illogical businesses in the world.  Or, rather, the people who operate inside The Industry (executives, let’s say) make some of the most illogical decisions.  If they were working in another business, they’d be fired or out of a job pretty quickly.

And, well, actually, the turnover rate for Industry executives is steadily climbing.  Remember your contact at that company?  Yah, he only worked there for six months, and then he was canned.  Now he works at that other company.  No, wait, that company folded, he’s working as a Producer’s Rep now.

Anyway, when I’m casting a movie, I’ve found that sometimes it makes more sense to cast famous musicians in roles, instead of famous actors.

Famous musicians have global followings and fans who buy whatever they churn out.  I figure tapping into that market place makes sense if my purpose is to have exposure.  To get the movies I make out there, to be seen by an audience.  I don’t make movies so they can sit on the shelves in a dark closet.

Did you know that a musician can have as many, and in some cases, MORE fans than a famous actor?  Famous actors are used to being in movies.  So when I’m putting together a guerrilla style shoot, the chances of attracting someone like Kevin Spacey to that project is pretty slim.  But, famous musicians don’t get approached for movies very often, so for them it’s a fun adventure.

Danny DeVito can attest that Mike Patton has as many fans as he does.  Ask him!  But, most Industry executives don’t know who Mike Patton is.  And, those who do know probably don’t think he has a fan base as big as Danny Devito.  So when you have a film starring Mike Patton, Industry executives won’t be as interested as they would if it starred Danny Devito.

I learned that lesson when peddling my film FIRECRACKER.  I was just stunned by the film Industry’s total disregard for famous musicians.  I was reminded by this while peddling my film THE CASSEROLE CLUB.  It stars Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson in his acting debut.

The Backstreet Boys are the best-selling boy bands of all time.  They sold over 170 million albums.  They have a global following that is larger than that of Mike Patton.  Which means, Kevin Richardson has more fans than Danny Devito.  It’s almost the equivalent of having someone like George Clooney in the movie.  The tens of millions of Backstreet Boy fans spend money to buy a DVD just as easily as they do a CD.

Yet most film businesses can’t wrap their heads around this idea.

But that’s okay.  You don’t particularly need anyone in the film business to help you market directly to a musician’s fan base.  You can do it on your own.

Filmmakers: think about why you’re making a movie.  Do you want people to see it?  Are you only interested in working with famous actors?  Have you thought about casting a famous musician?  Did you know that there are famous musicians you’ve never heard of who have more fans than Brad Pitt?

Maybe one day the film Industry will recognize the music industry exists, and take advantage of cross-market promotion.  But until they figure it out, my advice is to take advantage it, and be thankful they don’t!

MEETING RUTGER HAUER: Part 1 of 2

I accepted an invitation to be a Jury member at the 2013 Victoria (Texas) International Film Festival, not knowing what I was getting myself into.  My friend Jane Wiedlin would also be on the Jury and I was looking forward to spending some quality time with her.  Then I learned Rutger Hauer had a film in the festival and would be there, too.  Doubly excited.

After the festival purchased my airfare, I asked them if there were any movies I needed to watch and judge before hand, or how that would all work.  They replied, “Oh, we don’t need you on the Jury anymore, we have plenty of people already.”  Oh, okay, that’s all right.  But then why am I coming?  Should I do any seminars or workshops or anything?  No.  None of my services were required.  They decided to screen my film CULTURE SHOCK, so I was thankful I could participate somehow.

The first day of the festival it was simply gorgeous weather.  65F with sun that warmed the soul.  I sat riverside all afternoon sipping champagne and working on a screenplay, meeting new filmmaker friends and talking all things show business.  After six-hours of leisure, I decided it was time to visit the VIP room at the festival for free wine and to meet more friends.

The next morning I woke up and was surprised to find that my face was as red as a lobster.  Yes, I’d totally failed to realize the two-hour drive south from Houston was SOUTH of Houston, near Corpus Christi.  Me, fresh out of the Kansas winter, with no sunscreen, in bright southern sunshine for six solid hours.  Oops.

Some people recognized me, and knew who I was, and those who didn’t now knew me as That Sunburned Filmmaker.  I didn’t mind the attention, because it was so comical, but little did I know it was only the beginning.

A few weeks prior to the festival, a fan of mine sent me an email on Facebook asking to meet me.  I looked him up, thought he seemed nice, and agreed.  We exchanged numbers and the texts began, trying to find a time to meet.  I tried calling him, but he didn’t answer, and finally a text came telling me he’d been in a tragic accident the week prior and that his jaw was wired shut.  He could get around fine, and kind-of talk, but not for long periods of time.  His pain medication would fizzle out and he’d need to take more, and then sleep.

I shared this with my new filmmaker friends (most of whom were actually on the Jury and hadn’t been kicked off, like me), and they made some fun jokes at my expense, which I thought were pretty funny.  “I have a fan…” and before I could finish the sentence someone chimed in, “Only one?”  To which I agreed, “Yes, just the one.”  And I explained that he was coming to meet me in public, with all of them present (you never know, some fans can be insane, see), and that his jaw had been wired shut so to not freak out.  Then came their questions, “How do you even know he’s your fan if you can’t understand a thing he’s saying?”

Another filmmaker, Elizabeth Spear (director of ROUNDBALL) had a hilarious idea to make a short film, an SNL-like comedy skit, about me meeting my fan with the wired jaw.  Only the fan would be trying to ask me for Mike Patton’s email address and I keep misunderstanding him, thinking he’s asking for my autograph.  In real life My Fan is also a fan of Mike Patton’s from Mr. Bungle and Faith No More days, and learned about me when my film FIRECRACKER came out, starring Mike.  So it was basically real to life, except that My Fan was also a fan of mine!  Really!  Elizabeth told us it would be shot improv-style and in about an hour.  My Fan showed up, was totally game, and we did it.  It’s called FANS ARE PEOPLE TOO.  Here’s a link to the skit:

FANS R PPL 2 was edited in mere minutes it seemed, and then would screen before the festival’s closing night ceremony.  I thought it was fun to make fun of myself by playing an exaggerated Myself, and My Fan seemed to have fun with it, too.  Mike Patton emailed me, he also thought it was hysterical.

After the skit aired at the closing ceremony, My Fan’s jaw started to hurt (from laughing so hard all afternoon), so he called his mom to come fetch him.  (Side note: My Fan is 30 years old and wouldn’t normally need his mom to come pick him up.  Just clarifying).  So I went outside with him to have a smoke and thank him for being such a good sport.

A while later the door burst open and a woman, crying, screaming, “Where are you!?”  I turn, mortified, and she tells me that the festival director, Anthony Pedone, a longtime friend of mine, just gave a 10-minute speech about me that moved people to tears and that I was winning an honorary Maverick Filmmaker Award of some kind, and that when he finished his moving speech and called me down to accept my award, I wasn’t there!  OMG.

Click here for Part 2.

NEED STARS?

A question a lot of aspiring filmmakers face is whether or not to cast movie stars.  Do movie stars help your film get funding?  Do stars mean you’ll get a solid distribution deal?  Does it mean your film will be successful?  I’m here today to tell you that it’s all a myth, and it doesn’t matter a bit.  Nope.  Not at all.

Certain people in the Industry will tell you that it’s totally necessary to have a movie star in your movie.  If it’s a distributor telling you, chances are their motivation truly stems from laziness.  If there’s a star in your movie, they don’t have to work hard to sell your movie.  In fact, it won’t matter what your movie is about, because they’ll just pitch it to buyers as a “so-and-so” picture.

If it’s an Industry executive looking to produce your movie, they’ll say it’s important because it looks good on their resume if they worked with “so-and-so” instead of someone they’ve never heard of.  Aspiring actors will do the same.  Some actors will even showcase that famous person in their reels in hopes to appear more qualified than they actually are.  Tricking directors into thinking “Wow, she starred with Julia Roberts, she MUST be important.”

Truth is, it doesn’t matter whether there are stars in your film or not.

My first film PEP SQUAD has no stars in it.  Yet, it was acclaimed, and then sold and released in nearly every country on Planet Earth.  In fact, there was a 10-year anniversary re-release on Blu-ray in 2011.

When searching for investors on my second film, one of the actors cast was Dennis Hopper.  Surprisingly, even with Dennis Hopper attached, we couldn’t find funding in order to make it.  I ended up replacing him with the musician Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle), and suddenly we had funding.

My film WATCH OUT had a few people in it that were in recognizable projects (Peter Stickles from Shortbus, for example), but none of them were “stars” per se, and when that film came out, it debuted at number 27 on Amazon.com’s Top 100.

And then there’s Mink Stole, Karen Black, Pleasant Gehman and Jane Wiedlin in a women in prison movie—together!  (My film STUCK!)  I mean, one would think that would be an easy sell, right?  Well, it didn’t sell as well as PEP SQUAD or WATCH OUT.  But it was a B&W film with homage to 1950s style filmmaking, and some people didn’t get it on a commercial level.

So, you see, it doesn’t matter who’s in your movie.  What matters is that your movie is well made with a captivating story and solid performers.  We’ve all seen movies we love with a cast of no one we recognize.

Remember that when casting your next film.  Stars don’t always bring in money.  But they can sometimes cost a lot of it.