Monday, December 19, 2011

Conventions 'n Such

I met Spider-man creator Stan Lee for the first time at a comic book convention in 1992 here in Baltimore.  I told him I was working on a live action Spider-man video which I hoped would impress him and get me some kind of job on the Hollywood version.

He was impressed with just the effort, which was pretty cool.  He liked the video, too.  In fact, a lot of people did.  After a few years I learned it was being sold at conventions all over the place by all kinds of people who had nothing to do with making it.

And so I originally attended the San Diego ComicCon in 2000 for the sole purpose of finding and shutting down anyone selling my Spider-man video.  And yes, I did remove a few copies from vendors, but there were so many other highlights and networking opportunities I decided I had to return every year.

While San Diego is by far the biggest, its success has spawned an interest and growth in comic book and pop culture conventions all over the country.  When “Otakon” rolled into Baltimore in 2004, I worked the three day event as the booth announcer for a company called VIZ Media.

From 2005-2010, my California trips were subsidized by VIZ Media, hiring me to work ComiCon every year.  Actually, the first two years with them I worked the Animae Expo in Anaheim before heading down to San Diego.

These conventions are incredible and I have had too many great times at them over the past decade to even start to list.  The areas they encompass are huge.  There are booths, tables and displays of all things pop culture related.  Costumed people waltz around in the coolest costumes (some great, some sad).  There are panel discussions and screenings and celebrity appearances.  There is something for nearly everyone to enjoy.

I have been a fan, an audience member, a guest filmmaker, a panelist, and an emcee, but now I have to opportunity to be a legitimate EXHIBITOR.  In 2012, Alpha Dog Productions, LLC intends to rent booth space and devote a 10’ x 10’ area to selling DVDs of The Photon Effect at every major convention possible.

The first one this year is WonderCon.  It's in Anaheim, March 16 - 18.  HOWEVER, we need to sell a few copies online before we can pay for our booth space!  (and by "few" I mean "a few hundred"!!!)

Please spread the word and help us meet out goal.  Get your copy now!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Marketing & Distribution

Check this out:

That's a Press Release and it's one of the first steps in self-distribution.  Yes, SELF-distribution.  It's really the only way right now.

Every indie filmmaker's ideal scenario is to produce an awesome movie, get it into film festivals around the world, attend red carpet events and have instant media hype and distributors throwing deals at them.  If I'm ordering off of the Dreams and Goals menu I'm saying, "Yes, I'll have some of that, please."

Well, I don't know who it was that ate it all up, but every time I ask my waiter over the past few years he keeps saying, "Sorry.  We're fresh out."  I'd go to the management but I don't want to make a scene.

Actually, I DO want to make a scene.  I want everyone to know about this movie, whether they buy it or not and whether they enjoy it or not (which they obviously will because it's awesome).  But no one that plays Hollywood Moneyball gives a crap about a movie that cost next to nothing (to them) to make and has no recognizable names in it.  Fair enough, really.

Unless you make a scene.

In my opinion, the only reason low-budget, no name films ever get picked up is because they generate tons of publicity on their own.  Everyone starts talking about it and suddenly there's a demand.  That's when distribution companies begin to have any interest in being the supplier.

A colleague and I were talking about my project during pre-production.  He's older and much wiser and very funny.  We were sharing a laugh about something when he simply commented, "Of course, we all know that making a movie is the easy part.  The real work comes afterward."

I stopped laughing but kept my dumb smile as to not admit confusion and then I was all like, " . . . huh?"

It's true.  Thanks, Barry.  I guess he didn't need to elaborate but it wouldn't have mattered.  I was still sitting at my table of dreams checking out what other people were ordering.

The truth is that it doesn't matter how awesome your movie is if no one ever hears about it.  Alpha Dog Productions, LLC is a business that invested money to make a product and that product needs to be sold to as many customers as it can.  See, that's the business side of the movie business.  And the business of marketing and selling a movie in an era where the market is over-saturated with content everywhere you look - well, it's friggin' tough!

It's going to take money I don't have and resources I'm not familiar with yet.  It's going to take a lot of thought, planning, work and perseverance.  In a way, I'm right back where I started from - looking at my limited choices on the menu and saying, "Fine.  I'll have the usual."

But I plan on making a scene, dammit.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The EP Effect

Ladies and gentlemen, our guest blogger for the day is none other than the man responsible for getting this whole machine cranked into life, our Executive Producer, Mr. Doug Adams!  If not for him, I'm certain I'd still be rewriting Business Plans and Investor Prospectus' in search of startup capital.  During production, Doug was the oil that kept the gears running by running all over the state securing whatever we needed and sometimes staying after a shoot to straighten stuff out.

A brother in the trenches as we've been held hostage by many a setback, he has always been obsessed with doing more to get this thing completed.  A blog you say??  No problem!

How did I get involved with The Photon Effect?  I guess it all started several years before the script was even written, when I witnessed first hand what director Dan Poole was willing to do to shoot a movie.  I've seen his stunts in his Spider-Man fan films, but to be truly appreciated you have to see it in person. 

The in person experience was working on a trailer for his prospective film "Natural Forces".  From what I remember about the story, it shared a couple plot elements with TPE, but had a different theme and characters.  Anyhoo, I went over to his house, not knowing he was shooting this trailer, and he asked me "Hey, wanna film me repelling off a fire escape?"  I told him I would, if only to be around to call 911 if he breaks his neck!  

At the time I was completely ignorant to the filmmaking process, so I thought we'd get there, spend lots of time planning the stunt, shooting one take of it, and heading home.  Yeah, not so much.  He must've repelled off that fire escape a dozen times, which included grabbing a mountain bike with his feet part of the way down, and speeding off on it after hitting the ground.  I was amazed at the consistent effort being put into every single take.  Being around that energy is infectious, and after that experience I knew I wanted to be involved in filmmaking, one way or another.

My desire grew in 2004 when I first saw the spectacle that is Comic Con International in San Diego.  Not only were there people in attendance who were making it in Hollywood, but they all knew Dan and were fans of his films.  Dan was talking about making another fan film, this time featuring The Avengers, but everyone was telling him he should instead make another attempt to film something with original characters.  I thought that was a great idea, and if this new project were to happen I wanted to be a part of it.  

What could I do though?  As I mentioned before I didn't know a lot about filmmaking, and my experience as an actor was very limited.  What I did have was a nice bit of equity in my home, an amount that coincidentally matched the initial budget Dan had in mind for shooting a feature length film.  Now this was obviously a risky venture, but since I knew the kind of following Dan had with his fan films, I considered it a calculated risk.  On top of that, I was becoming very jaded with my previous employer, so the idea of being a part of a startup business was even more appealing.  So one day when I was at Dan's house I told him I wanted to finance his movie, and get started on a script.  

If I remember correctly that was the summer of 2005.  Throughout those 6 years there were more times than I can count where I had doubt that TPE would ever get done.  The biggest doubts were during shooting when it felt like we wouldn't make it through the first weekend, and in post production when we had delays that lasted about a year at a time.   Deep down though I always knew Dan wouldn't let his dream of completing a feature film fail.  And that faith was rewarded late last week when The Photon Effect became available for sale through our website. 

I want to thank every single person that made the movie possible, especially to Dan to worked his fingers to the bone in every single phase of the production.  You did it!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Dr. Is In

Brian Razzino is one of the saviors of this movie in various ways. First of all, he delivers an outstanding performance as the sinister Dr. Chase. His scenes were so fun to edit that I wish I'd have written an even bigger part for him. Secondly, the man decides to join the cause and invest a significant amount of capital in the project to ensure it's survival. For the past several years he has done everything he can to support this movie and keep me motivated. (YOU ROCK, DOC! THANK YOU!!!)

His latest contribution is this generous offering to our blog:

To say that I am a fan of Dan Poole is a little like saying “The Godfather is kind of a good movie”. It is woefully inadequate. Dan and I first met, five years ago, over a DVD. He had e-mailed me asking me to audition for his film, “The Photon Effect”. This was one of those out-of-the-blue e-mails from someone I had never met. But, he had sent the script and his enthusiasm, even in writing, was palpable. I couldn’t make the audition in person since I was currently in production for Edward III at the Washington Shakespeare Theatre in DC. So, I video-taped my read and sent it to him overnight mail.

Now, before I get into our actual meeting and work together, let me give some backstory. This was in 2006 and I was just out of theatre school. Two years prior (2004, for you mathematicians ;) I had finally screwed-up enough courage to honor and pursue a long hidden passion (acting and theatre) of mine and make it a reality in my life. This meant placing my other career more in the background (I am also a doctor in clinical psychology, which translates to 9 years in a university, a master’s degree, a doctorate/dissertation, 2 years in post-doctoral training, and several more years doing research, teaching and clinical practice. If you Google me, you’ll find some of my research publications). I had left my faculty position at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Opened my own practice and was doing what I had always wanted to do, acting on stage. It was a joyous time.

Enter Dan Poole. After receiving the DVD audition, he seemed to really like, he offered me the part of Dr. Robert Chase. One of those juicy roles, playing a criminal mastermind that hijacks science, creating an army of soldiers with lightening-generating capabilities, to serve his own greed and need for power. I mean, really… How’s a boy gonna say “no”?! So like any trained actor, I learned my lines, studied aspects of the psychopathic mind and criminals (Did you know Al Capone was actually beloved by the Cicero (Chicago) community he lived in? I mean the man was considered a saint and a hero!). When I joined the crew for shooting, it was the first time Dan and I had met. Here is this tall, good looking, athletic guy, with the energy of a five year old, and the imagination to match. To him nothing was impossible, everyone was welcome to the party, and ideas, like toys on Christmas morning, were things to be celebrated and enjoyed. He was pretty damn cool. Now, don’t misunderstand, shooting and working on set wasn’t without its hang ups, delays, interruptions, and disappointments. Independent film making, as Dan will happily relay, has a slew of hurdles. People don’t keep their commitments (often they are volunteers, or paid little. So when other higher paying jobs come by, the independent project or favor you are doing a friend takes a back seat), equipment fails, scenes take longer than anticipated, and sometimes you wait the day and your scene is not shot. So patience, flexibility, and good spirits are requirements, not virtues. Given all these, Dan maintained his level of energy, humor and optimism. It was infectious. As an actor, it made a world of difference. There are plenty of directors, on much bigger budgets, that can drag down the whole project with pettiness and ego. Dan floated past these pitfalls with a laser-focus and love for his craft.

Now, at this point, you might also be wondering how I became a primary investor on the Photon Effect project. It’s one thing to be an actor. Commit that time and energy to a project. What made me want to separate myself from so much money and give it to some guy in Baltimore, with an early 1990’s Spiderman film on his resume, making a movie about, of all things, superheros!? You might go on to say “a couple years earlier you were steeped in science, dealing with IMPORTANT questions. Questions that require pragmatics, cold, hard reasoning, and above all else, a sober, buttoned-up approach to life and the world. Superheros!? Independent film making? Making pretend you are an evil genius bent on world domination? Uhm, Dr. Razzino? Maybe you need to check in with a shrink of your own?” And so I will smile, laugh a little to myself and whisper to you: “how many times do you get to live your own dream, and help make someone else’s come true?” This was the case with The Photon Effect and Dan.

The actual moment of truth came on a shoot in Frederick Maryland. Dan and his crew were scaling these electrical towers several hundred feet high. Doug Adams had just arrived and I sat down next to him as I waited for my upcoming scene. I think I was eating some chicken salad Dan’s mom had made for “craft services”. Curious, I asked Doug why he thought The Photon Effect would be well received. As we talked, we watched Dan repel down the tower, climb back up for another shot, repel again, climb, repel, climb. The sun and Maryland landscape behind the tower. Shadows danced on the ground next to us. It was magnificent. The physical feat, the courage, the personal risk he threw himself into. For his dream. It was the most concrete example I had ever come across.

Dan forced me to look at myself that day. Did I believe in myself? My choice to get into acting? The character I portray in the film? The story? How much do I stand behind my own dreams?

The other night I sat down to watch the movie with another friend in its final version. The opening scene had been significantly revamped and is wildly improved from the original. I had chills. To see the feeling confirmed in the eyes of my friend was only topped by his outburst, “God. That was awesome!” After viewing the film in its entirety, seeing the story unfold, revealing its secrets amidst the visceral music, stunning effects, and shocking ending I sat quietly, my mind reeling with delight. It reminded me of my honeymoon, sitting with my new wife, Robin, after a glorious meal, savoring gelato in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

There are times when you just have to put your money where your mouth is. I thought I knew this going into Photon. Dan taught me how much more I had to learn. About perseverance, trusting yourself, believing in your dream.

So I put it to YOU: how many times do you get to live your dream AND help make someone else’s come true? What are you willing to do to make it come true?

- Dr. Brian Razzino

Friday, November 18, 2011

DVD Release

So here we go. After four long years of working and waiting and reworking and waiting even more, it is here. The Photon Effect is on DVD and ready to share with the world and no one has been waiting for this day longer than I have.

It would be mildly entertaining for some and excruciating for me to recount all the ways in which this movie has been held up, so let's just leave it at this: It was a lot of work with very little to work with and every single person that helped out in big ways and small made it what it is. As these blogs continue I may highlight certain areas and contributions with gratitude, but today I will just send out a Photon-familywide, "THANK YOU!!!" to everyone involved in the process.

It's obvious that getting anything done is about having the appropriate resources and most resources are acquired using the almighty dollar bill. Making an independent film sometimes makes me feel like I'm at an intersection with a cardboard sign that reads, "Please help. Trying to follow my dreams". Thankfully there have been several people that have rolled their windows down at the red lights with the means to keep it (and me) going.

Well, I'm still at an intersection only now my sign reads, "Have you seen this movie?"

Some filmmakers get their projects completed and let them live a life of their own. Not me. I'm going to smother this baby with attention and shout from the building tops (and you know I'll climb 'em) until everyone has heard about it. I made this movie because I want everyone to watch it! Of course not everyone will, but to those that have an interest, I am confident that you will not regret giving 93 minutes and $14.99 to the experience.

I remain immensely proud of the script and during production I was convinced I had left most of it on the page. As post production continued, however, I found that there was a lot more than what I thought we'd lost. I am now immensely proud of this film. This movie holds up because of the core drama that drives the characters and the solid visual effects that drive the story.

But don't take my word for it. Get a copy and decide for yourself!