A New Year, a New Title, a New Budget and a New Producer

Merry New Year! – Trading Places

So in early 2012 I decided to finally try and make “4 of a Kind” myself. I said fuck it to all the contradictory creative notes and decided I was going to make this movie the way I wanted to and if people didn’t like it so be it.

Came close. The Kickstarter didn’t work, but it set in motion some things I can’t really get into too many specifics at this point, but progress is being made.

New Title

One of the things I can definitely tell you about is I changed the name of the movie from “4 of a Kind” to “Dead Peasants”.  It’s even updated on IMDB.

What’s a “Dead Peasant”. It’s actually a term used for life insurance purchased by your employer, on your behalf, without you knowing about it.

I think it’s a great title and I like it so much more than “4 of a Kind”.  When my buddy MIke and I sat down to write the original draft, we had the hardest time coming up with the title. Finally Mike called me up one day and had the title. It’s a pun. I hate puns as titles but it fit.

Mike hasn’t been a part of the project for years and the script has changed so much since we started writing that I felt a new title was called for. I hope you like it as much as I do.

New Producers

Someone who had followed the Kickstarter and reached out to me after it ended wanted to help produce the film. Ironically he was shocked to find out I had written other screenplays and had actually been optioned. He thought I had just written some dumb script and was hoping to make it before going blind. He’s somewhat right about that, but as I explained a number of times throughout the Kickstarter – this wasn’t a “make a wish” type thing. I didn’t just want to make a movie. I wanted to make a good movie. I wanted to make my movie. So he’s actually offered some suggestions on the script. I wouldn’t even say “notes” – more like thoughts on character development which have been helpful.

Chris Ashworth, who you may know from Terminator Salvation or as Sergei from “The Wire” is also somewhat attached to the project. You’ll see on the IMDB page he’s listed as “rumored” mainly because he hasn’t officially signed on yet. Well, Chris will take on a producer role at this point as well. I can’t go into too many specifics here as of yet, but a seven figure budget is being worked out. Dentists, you gotta love em.

Even with the higher budget, I’m still tempting to go back and raise funds through Kickstarter. Over 800 people believed in me enough to give $1 to $2500, I think I’ll definitely be back in some aspect. Perhaps not for “Dead Peasants” but another project for sure.

Happy 2013.

Let’s get to work.

After the Kickstarter, What’s Next?

What’s Next? – President Bartlet

The West Wing is one of my favorite favorite television series and one of the catchphrases President Bartlet used was “What’s next?” Sorkin crafted it quite well and fit it into many sobering and many thrilling instances.

So….what’s next for me or the 4 of a Kind Film?

In the immediate aftermath of the failed Kickstarter, I just wanted to not think about it for a day or two. This was an all encompassing project that lasted five months prior to launching, then the 40 days we actively ran the campaign and I just wanted to free my mind of it and not think about it. Other than that, I wanted to immediately launch again. My only concern was, do I set the goal at $50k? How bout the exact amount we raised: $64,515? What about if I set the new goal at $100,001. There were several arguments for and against each of these options which I had with many people.

I ultimately decided on launching again and setting the goal at $100,001. That was the bare minimum I wanted to make this movie with and I didn’t want to come back and say….welllllll let’s try $50k.

So $100,001 was the goal. I setup a new Kickstarter campaign and was about a day away from relaunching.

Then I realized I hadn’t done anything new to ensure that I’d reach $100k this time around. Granted I raised my twitter followers by 400% and there are over 800 people who backed the project that I could immediately reach out to – but I still fell short by close to $40k – almost 40%.

I didn’t want to launch again and fail again. Granted I’m not afraid of failing, not at all. I’m afraid of looking like I didn’t learn something from the first attempt and just relaunching again with no new plan or strategy to achieve that extra 40%.  There are too many campaigns I’ve seen, and I’m sure you’ve seen who fail, launch again for slightly less – fail again, then go to Indie  Go Go and raise a fraction of what they raised on Kickstarter. At some point the market is telling you that either your marketing strategy sucks or your product sucks.

I’m not sure what the market told me.

I also never came up with another strategy or approach to get that extra 40% I’m missing.

So again, what’s next?

Well I’m not going to run another Kickstarter until I figure out that final piece which is to say: probably not anytime soon if ever.

What I am doing is putting together ideas to cut together a sizzle reel/trailer to showcase to investors and possibly on the Kickstarter page if I run another one in the future. If you’ve seen the Daredevil sizzle reel or the Looper sizzle reel you’ll see what I’m going for. Pretty incredible stuff.

So this blog posts was about 500 words of me letting you know that nothing is really on the agenda at this point. I’ll be piecing together the sizzle reel and hopefully it comes together. Some of my sources of material will be Goodfellas, The Dark Knight, The Departed, Casino etc.. I’m sure you could gather that from the type of screenplay I wrote but hopefully it comes out well.

Either way, hope you’ve all been well.

Kickstarter Campaign: Day Thirty Seven – Ten things I’m glad I got to see

I’ve visited the same eye doctor every year for the past twenty seven years. You should see the chart. Today one of his fellows read to me the initial diagnosis report taken from an EKG which measured my really poor cone and rod functionality.

That was in 1987.

I was diagnosed with cone rod dystrophy that day, but today I learned I could’ve just as easily been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. My cones were failing worse than my rods at the time, only slightly which is why I’m cone-rod not rod-cone.

Anyway, trip down memory lane.

The results of today’s visit? Same as usual. I haven’t had a fields test in about three years and the results showed about three years of deterioration. Nothing dramatic, just expected. Center vision is still “good” and I still have this weird temporal island on the far reaches of my peripheral vision which is still really strong.

So more of the same basically, although I was instructed to wear my contacts less and sunglasses more.

So back to the point of this article.

Ten things I’m glad to have seen in no particular order whatsoever.

1. The earth flying at me at over 150mph while skydiving from 14,000 feet.

2. Omaha Beach. Pointe Du Hoc. Basically the D-Day landing beaches and the American cemetary in Normany, France.

3. My nieces: Emily and Molly. I don’t plan on having kids so they’re close enough.

4. The look on my girlfriends face when I gave her an engagement ring.

5. October 26, 2005. The Chicago White Sox win the World Series.

6. While the Chicago Bears lost the 2006 Superbowl, it was great to see them be a part of it. I don’t remember the ’85 team and I’m kinda glad. While they were amazingly dominant, they’re pretty freaking annoying these days.

7. London, Paris, New York. Las Vegas. You know the big touristy crap, but it was definitely worth seeing.

8. Dr. Henry Klassen’s talk on stem cells. This guy gives me hope.

9. My name on the Top 100 lists for Project Greenlight season three. I know some people think this isn’t a big deal and the Nicholl is all that counts, but I didn’t know what the Nicholl was when this happened. 99% of people don’t know what the Nicholl is either. This was the first vindication that I should keep writing.

10. The amazing outpouring of support for this project. I’ve written about it before but it’s things like Kickstarter and Film Courage which can show how not-so-shitty the internet can be. Everything doesn’t need to turn into youtube comments.

I’m guessing seeing my movie would probably knock the Bears not winning the Superbowl off this list. Just a guess.

Just over two more days.

Kickstarter Campaign: Day Twenty Five – The kindness of strangers

$15,326 : 334

The meeting with the potential investor was pushed to 2pm tomorrow. Make sure you send some good vibes this way around that time. It’s a short meeting. He’s already shown interest. I think he just wants to meet me and make sure I’m not an asshole 🙂 I’ll do my best.

NFL preseason kicked off tonight and as usual I watched it at my brothers house. When I got home I fired up my PC ready to send out thank you tweets and e-mails to the six backers that joined the crusade tonight.  I had a message on Kickstarter from Pablo Garcia who had this to say:

I am the social media coordinator and lead writer for Ziphi.com and Techiezine.net. We were really moved by your project. I wrote an article for your Kickstarter campaign. Hope it helps!

We wish you al the best.

Pablo Garcia
Ziphi.com and Techiezine.net

Most articles or blog posts or any sort of media which has run during this campaign was sought out. We asked sites if we could write for them. Some found us organically and sent over a questionnaire to fill out which I enjoyed doing as well, but no one that I know just suddenly decided to write about us. It’s not only touching but inspiring. It’s the kindness and generosity of not only people like Pablo Garcia who decided to write about us, but Kelly Hardwick who has threatened de-friending everyone she knows on Facebook if they don’t back us  or people I know with limited means giving me way more than they should because they believe in me and they believe in the movie.

It’s pretty awesome.

So if I haven’t thanked any of you recently or enough, well here’s another big giant THANK YOU for everything you ‘ve done so far.

Let’s keep it up shall we? Two more weeks to go. Two weeks is a lifetime in Kickstarter campaigns. I look forward to completing this journey with all of you.

And on that note, enjoy this video where I talk about Mikey O’Keefe, the second lead.

Kickstarter Campaign: Day Eight – The Business Aspect

$7,021 : 140

Today was a bad day. It was a slow day which is fine, we’re going to have those, but today was a really slow day. We had a new article go up at Movie Vine by Jan Ostegard about the project, and we were still pretty anemic as far a backers and amount raised. Again, over a month to go. We could raise the entire amount in one day, so at no point would I quit this or decide we’ve run our course and just let it wither and die.

What made today a bad day was Kickstarter’s account verification system in regards to Amazon Payments.

Kickstarter uses Amazon Payments to handle their credit card processing. This is good and bad.

Good: Amazon is reputable, almost everyone has an Amazon account and Amazon does fraud prevention much better than Kickstarter could at this point. It’s reall a win/win for both companies.

Bad: You not only need a Kickstarter account but an Amazon account to back a project. Theres no “quick way” of backing a project. You either select the reward or just click the “back the project’ button. You then select your amount by typing it in, if it’s not filled in already and then you scroll all the way down and click Next.  You are then sent to a page, which tells you that you need to transfer to amazon. You click another button. Then you go through the payment processing of Amazon. Another click.

That’s a lot of clicking. Granted it hasn’t stopped the hundreds of successful Kickstarter projects so this is no excuse as to why we’re lacking in backers. Not at all. It’s just letting you know the amount of work that goes into actually backing a project. Hopefully you already know since you backed the project right? Right? 🙂

So in order to setup a Kickstarter you need to create an Amazon Payments profile. Back in February when I first started messing around with the project creation “tool”, I linked my personal account to Kickstarter, had my bank verified and all was done.

Then I realized I needed to form a business to handle the processing correctly. No problem. I went back through the process, which requires you to click on a link from the Account tab. You are redirected to Amazon. Here I signed in with a new e-mail address associated with my business, filled out all the proper forms and presto all done.

Problem? The Kickstarter software never saw this. Apparently once you have a payments account linked, it will never change. Nowhere on their site does it say this. Nowhere on the Account tab does it list which payments account is associated with your Kickstarter project.

So I launched thinking that the business account was setup correctly. Wrong. It’s pointed toward my personal payments account.

The whole point of setting up a new business, changing the fiscal year etc.. is now basically worthless. Kickstarter has said in multiple e-mails from their support that my only remedy is to cancel the project, and start over. Not gonna happen. I can contact Amazon Payments and see if they can update my personal to a business and use my FEIN instead of my SSN. If that’s the case, no harm no foul. If it’s not the case, then I’m going to be really screwed on taxes at the end of the year.

This is both mine and Kickstarter’s fault. Mine for not ensuring 100% they had the correct payment account linked. Theirs for not listing which payment account is linked and more so, their software not updating when a new payment account is “created”.

I really hope Kickstarter either updates their software or at least lists which Amazon Payment account is connected to your account.

The White Sox won 7-4 at least, and are now just one game back of the Detroit Tigers. So today wasn’t a complete waste.

Lucas McNelly also has an article up about the behind the scenes strategy and numbers associated with the campaign. If you’re into that sorta thing.

Kickstarter Campaign: Day Five – Aurora, Colorado

$6,101 : 120

Today was a weird day. After hearing about the events in Aurora, Colorado the last thing I wanted to do was self-promote my project. Granted it’s a Friday and Friday’s are usually big days, but it just felt wrong, or cheap to me. Granted I tweeted a bit about it, and we have gained 8 more backers today bringing us up to 120 as of this writing (many thanks again to all of you) but today is another stark reminder of how random and tragic life can truly be. I wonder how many people in that theatre, or even worse some of the dead held off on pursuing something they really wanted in the hopes that someday they would get to it. “Someday” is guaranteed to know one. If you’ve seen Dead Poets Societyand I’m sure you have – the one truism you need to take away from that movie is Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. Make your lives extraordinary.

It’s definitely something to keep in mind while running one of these campaigns. I think my mind switches from “you have no chance” to “you might make this” to “we’re definitely gonna make it’ about twenty times per day. By simple math, we’re way behind. But when I see the amount of people who tweet about it, like us, talk about it – I’m ever hopeful because the word is getting out there and we’re building an audience. $100,000 is a massive amount to try and raise especially with small donations like we’ve been getting. But with each backer, however small their pledge we add a new ambassador to the project.

Tomorrow starts the first weekend since the campaign launched and I’m assuming a major slow down. We didn’t have many new backers today, I think 9 new ones, but we raised around $700 or so. I’m guessing Saturdays and Sundays will be…well dead:

We created a new reward at the $75 level as I mentioned last night. This reward includes everything at the $50 level (name in credits, DVD, HD download) but we also create a personalized eye chart for you as a poster.  You can check out the personalized posters on our Facebook page to get an idea of what we mean.

Another cool thing today, we were approached by a business interested in our Product Placement reward. This particular business sells T-shirts and inquired about having our characters wear them. This is exactly what we were going for with the Product Placement reward. I know many film makers would ge aghast at this, but we gotta raise the money somehow. I think this might be our next strategy: To reach out to actual businesses in Chicago to see what their level of interest is in placing products. Like I’ve mentioned many times, our backer count is pretty good, but our average pledge amount is on the low side. So getting a few more $1500 pledges in the mix would really help.

So if you know anyone who runs a business and is interested in placing their products in a cool indie movie. Let us know!

Day Six starts in an hour. I’ll be sleeping in and watching Chris Hayes in the A.M.

Make sure to stop for a minute today and think about your family and loved ones and think about the poor souls who just wanted to watch a cool movie on opening night and won’t have the chance to ever do that again. Senseless violence is a damn shame.