Budget Conscious – An “Entertaining” Perspective

I told myself I would write about the crazy fun weekend at the premiere of my new movie JUNCTION, written and directed by the crazy fabulous Tony Glazer. And I still hope to get to that, but I’ve fielded some interesting questions in the past 24 hours about the buyers of movies.

 

Now you may by thinking the buyers of movies are you and me, the fans and audiences buying tickets.  But, I am talking about the film distributor.  The company that buys my completed film so that it can get to you.  So that we can see it in the theatre or on Netflix.  Now I’m a student of the financial analysis of the entertainment industry, and I’ve had the privilege of having counsel of amazing entertainment attorneys.  I glean much from them.

 

We here in movie making la la land have different ideas about film budgets.   Perhaps it’s the finance guy in me, or my engineering training that likes to latch onto the controllable variables without considering that they too could use a fresh perspective.  But in business, strategy follows budget, not the other way around.  One is a formula for success, the other is a formula for bankruptcy.

 

So here is the weird market observation of film budgets right now (these are comparatively low budgets mind you).

 

Currently, film budgets from the $3-7 million dollar range are not selling.  This is information according to producers that have been doing this for longer than I.   However, a $10 million dollar budget will sell, under the right conditions, and the under $2 million dollar budget films are selling.  Discuss this phenominon with an entertainment executive and there will be no less than a half-dozen theories for why this is happening.

 

I go for simple explanations: there is an inherint need to be able to justify the uncontrollable.   Trends are trends, and it may just not have an explaination.  So, let’s get back to basics.

 

Let’s take Nike.   A formidable brand–in fact–a company that according to a recent article evaluating Warren Buffett‘s choices in companies, Nike’s intrinsic value may very well exceed it’s book value (investment terminology).  Which means, if you like to invest, it may a stock worth looking at.  Now, back to the example: let’s say they make a shoe and sell it for $100.   If it costs them $30 to make the shoe, and $50 to market it.  Nike earns a $20 profit.  If they were able to make the same shoe for $25 dollars, and it is of the same quality or greater, this is an increase their profits by 5%.  5% is big money on a company that sold more than $6 billion dollars in sports apparel last year.  That’s a lot of shoes.

 

Now as producers, especially those amazing operational geniuses we call line producers, unit production managers and production coordinators, they will find every dollar in your budget, squeeze it, move it, save it, and spend it where needed.  Heck, work with the best and they can even squeeze water out of a turnip if you asked them too.  They are great problem solvers.    Heck, even if we can’t explain it–we can probably solve it.   So how do I solve the problem that a $6 million dollar movie won’t get sold?

 

Easy.

 

Make it for $10 million and cut out $4 million in savings.  Then you can tell your distributor, your investors and your bond company that the project came in on-time and under budget.  At least that is what I would do.  Remember, strategy follows budget.  The buyer wanted a $10 million dollar movie, so that is what I gave them…that is…along with a great story.

 

‘Cause without a great story….do not pass go.
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Annapolis Film Festival features local indie filmmaker Bryan Deehring

ctastelogoExcerpt from article with Chesapeake Taste Magazine:

Most recently, Deehring had his hand in two films that have been making the rounds at various film festivals around the country, both of which were submitted to the Annapolis Film Festival taking place this month. Both films have received considerable recognition from critics, viewers, and colleagues.  

…Careful to ascertain that a potential investor both loves the project and is prepared to lose money, Deehring portrays the process of financing and producing a film as an artistic experience.

Learn more about his philosophy on movie making, and how JUNCTION came to be.  JUNCTION Premieres in Los Angeles on March 23rd.  Click here to read more

The Stubborn Love of Producing – A Perspective from FirstTimeFest 2013

martintonysum

When Martin Scorsese speaks…listen.

Took me a while to get past writing that first line.   Seriously.  What more could I possibly say that is more important, more compelling, or exciting for a first time filmmaker?   What words could form a sentence that drives home what I want to say when Mr. Scorsese steals the show in the first line?   Hell, I’m stumped.  So, let’s just move on.

I can offer you a different story.   It’s not much.  It’s not like that first line.  And it will take more than 5 words.   So, if you don’t want to stick around…I understand.   But I hope you will, because I believe there is something very special in what we do as producers.

The year was 2005.

It was late, very late.  My best friend and I sat up in his living room in Ashburn, VA talking about our lives, our wives, movies, politics, and children.  Two things about that night I will remember forever.  He told me if I ever ran for president of the united states, he would vote for me.   Good to know, right?  Then he asked, “What _is_ the point? What are you going to do when you make these films, and they become successful—because they will, and you’ll do it—‘cause I know you.   So what happens when you get there and finish something so…big?”

I’d love to say I have a good answer for that.   I’d love to steal from those who have inspired me, the coaches and leaders that lift our spirits and say it is the journey, not the destination.  They would be right, of course.   But it’s so much more than that.

It’s not just the journey.  It’s the friends, the family, the setbacks, the miracles, the blessings, the curses, and every little detail of it that give us the choice to move forward, or the choice to give up.   Between all the producers we have probably made a thousand decisions to get to this point.   At every point keeping our eye on the stars.  Keeping to the mission.  And even when there was no clear course, we nudge forward, we chose left, then right, then straight.  Every choice our own.   Every choice getting us one step closer to now.

Choice Films and Theatricals.   That is who we are.   We choose.   And, this time, we chose well.   We choose to make great films, we choose to have a company that becomes our family, not just because we come together for the work, but in how we treat each other.   And it’s only going to get better.   Because this work is a stubborn love.  Is it a love that makes us weep.  It steals our sleep, and it starves body.  And it is as real as day and night.

We made a movie.   We accomplished a tremendous feat.  I sat back in my seat and took it all in, watching it on the big screen, wrapped up in a blanket of surround sound, and I realized that the film continues to grow.  There have been no additional cuts or edits, no tweaks.  But as I watched…I saw the characters growing, the scenes tighten, and all the while I heard the audience begin to respond to what they were experiencing.  First some laughs, then an “Ohhh,” and a “Oh my God!”

The thriller thrilled them.   As a producer, I go to my master checklist and tick the box next to, “Make sure the thriller thrilled them.”  Check.

This is my stubborn love.

Thank you to my new friends and filmmakers who inspire me to do it again, Mandy Ward, Johanna Bennett, Tony Glazer, Summer Crockett Moore, Bob Salerno, Dolly Hall, Amy Nicholson, Max Weisberg, Sophia Coppola, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Martin Scorsese.  Neil Bledsoe earned Best Actor for Junction at FirstTimeFest 2013.    JUNCTION’s Los Angeles Premiere is March 23th.

Losing It

First Time Festival

Losing it in a movie theatre wasn’t the idea that I had in mind when I first imagined what it would be like.   I guess we all have had our day dreams about when the time would be right, who we would be with and how it would feel.    Some of us probably even planned it.  ‘Cause I did.  I remember the planning and plotting, orchestrating every step of it: from what I would wear, where we would go to dinner, what we would talk about, and how I would watch for those silent signals, just waiting for the time to be right.

My fear has always been about being accepted—even when I knew how to shield my insecurities behind the clothes my mom bought me and the sharp language I learned from my father.     But that is all just on the surface.  I mean, I guess it makes my first time even more scary, because….what if it wasn’t right?  What if I chose the wrong.  The wrong…anything.    What if I was left there naked and alone, drenched in the tears of my shame feeling sorry for myself?

It was so hard to be the one who hadn’t done it.

The pressures I put upon myself even stole some of my memories because I was so consumed by this fear of getting it right.  I mean, my friends were always so supportive.  They wanted what I wanted, but they also knew that I had to learn it all on my own, regardless of their experiences.

I’ve had my chances, 6 to be exact.  Each time I’m sure it would have been perfect.  I remember them all and in order:  Long Island International Film Expo, Central Florida Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, and New Filmmakers Los Angeles…I’m sure each time would have been a winner.  Hell, award-winning even!  But I alas always crept back into bed alone fearing the worst, fearing the small talk, the opportunist who would take advantage of me, hurt me, abuse me, and leave me all alone when they were done with me.

I would be crushed.    And after that there would be no going back.   And I didn’t want that.  So I stayed away from Long Island, I pretended Austin wasn’t there.

But, My FirstTime was different.

It was on my own terms.   I chose the day, the time, the location and most important…who I wanted to be with.   I didn’t pretend that it was going to be amazing—because I didn’t know.   I didn’t pretend my life would change, I just wanted to do it.  No hiding behind my fancy clothes or my words.   Just me, facing my fear.

I expected the small talk, I even expected to be taken advantage of…I’ve heard the stories.   But I couldn’t expect what happened at the Lowes VII theatre on March 1st, 2013.

My name is Bryan Deehring.   I am a film producer.  My first time was in a movie theatre.    And I was surrounded by those who have always supported me.   I sat among my friends and collaborators, Tony Glazer, Summer Crockett Moore, Harris Doran; and as I listened to Johanna Bennett, I realized that I came to New York City never being to a film festival before, and my first time was at the FirstTimeFest, the one place where I felt comfortable being myself.   And I saw that I was surrounded by love and support, and all of my fears were nothing but my imagination running wild.

We were all there for the same reason, to celebrate the our FirstTime.

I’ve never thought myself the storyteller.  But that changed yesterday.  When I sat in the audience watching a screening at FirstTimeFest, listening to Johanna Talk about her vision for this festival, and realizing that I just lost it.

My first time was in New York City, on March 1st, 2013.   I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The theme of this story was inspired by my first time festival experience, the name of the festival and Sofia Coppola’s words about Virgin Suicides.  Thank you Mandy, Johanna, Sofia for the inspiration.

JUNCTION has it’s New York Premiere tonight 8:30pm at Lowes VII in New York City.   Follow the Festivities  @junction_film @brdeeh.