What I Learned This Year

No matter what obstacles life throws in front of you, it’s important to keep persevering.  This past year has been an incredibly frustrating and stressful year for me.  My auto accident back in February kept me sidelined most of the year and I was unable to make any real progress on the film project.  Then my cat got sick and died.  When I finally got back to the project and decided to hold the NAME THE MOVIE CHARACTERS CONTEST, it took far longer than I anticipated to get the contest started due to circumstances out of my control.  I look back on the year and wonder what the heck I accomplished and it, unfortunately, wasn’t much.  This year has really tested my patience.  But I learned that I can get through those tough times and keep going.  I’m as determined as ever to get our wonderful cast together again and I look forward to actually making progress in the new year!

It’s important to start audience building as early as possible.  This past summer I attended a Jon Reiss workshop, sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society, entitled Think Outside the Box Office.  This workshop was named after Jon’s book of the same name.  While I had always thought that it’s important to build an audience early, Jon’s workshop was the first time I had ever heard anyone else say it.  Jon advocates starting to think about the distributing and marketing of one’s film from as early as inception.  A vital part of this is reaching out and growing the audience. 

It may seem counterintuitive to start at inception, especially when, traditionally, most filmmakers wait until after they finish the film to think about distribution and marketing.  But it really makes a lot of sense if you think about it.  Independent filmmakers don’t have the huge marketing budgets that the studios have to reach their audience, so anything indies can do reach and build an audience as early as possible will only help down the road when it comes time to market and distribute the film. 

Many of you have followed me from The Invisible Man Online website over here to Shoom Zone.  If there is anyone who wants to see our beloved cast together again, I know it will be I-Man fans!  So far, a small group averaging about 1,000 readers a month visit this site; and so many of you have been openly supportive and encouraging.  I can’t thank you enough for hanging in here after all this time.  But I, also, can’t assume that all of the audience of 10 million people around the world who watched I-Man will easily find out about this project or even be interested in it.  I’ve got my work cut out for me to reach all those fans and to even try to extend the audience to the general sci-fi/superhero audience.  I need to prove to investors and distributors that there is a big enough audience to justify the cost of making this movie.  But I can’t do it alone.  I’ll need your help to spread the word about this project.  In the future, I’ll be expounding more about ways you can help, but for now please check out the How Fans Can Help page for some ideas you can do that are absolutely free.  I recently updated it with new ways you can help out. 

Interviewing is a great way to learn about subjects.  I’ve already done one interview for the United Filmmakers Association and will be starting an interview series in the near future on distribution companies for them.  Prepping for the interviews is forcing me to start learning about the distribution process (a good thing) and then getting my questions answered means learning about the distribution companies.  It’s a fantastic education!

I already have my first interview lined up.  I’m just waiting to resolve some computer issues right now which are preventing me from downloading video.  Yes, I said video.  I recently bought myself a little Flip video camera which will allow me to shoot the interview.  So look forward to seeing more video in the future!  Now I need to learn to edit!

Don’t compromise on quality.  I’m a huge admirer of Pixar and was privileged to be able to visit the studio this past summer.  So what is it about this studio that makes them so successful?  I think the answer is in this quote I recently found:

“There is a crucial rule: no compromises. No compromises on quality – regardless of production constraints, cost constraints, or a deadline. If you get a better idea, and this means that you have to start again from scratch, then that’s what you have to do.” — John Lasseter, Pixar

A good thing to keep in mind as I develop this project!

A Stranger From the Outside!

Last month I visited Pixar studios in Emeryville for the first time.  It was a rare opportunity to see both the studio and Geena Davis, who was speaking there on the subject of women in the media.  The event was sponsored by Bay Area Women in Film & Media (BAWIFM). 


I’m a huge admirer of Pixar.  The fact that every film they make hits it out of the ballpark just blows me away, so I jumped at the chance to visit this remarkable studio in person. Security is pretty tight at the studio.  You better have an appointment and/or be on their visitor list to get in.  They don’t offer tours to the public.  Once inside the gate you are directed to the large parking lot.  After parking, I and several others ended up having to wait around outside the building for the doors to unlock.  Once inside we were given our visitor badges.  The funny thing about those badges is that we were not called visitors.  Instead we were designated as strangers from the outside!  Check out the picture below.

Once inside we had to wait for quite a while in the massive lobby, called the atrium, for the theater to open.  But, as usual, BAWIFM took good care of us and offered us drinks while we were waiting.  I ran into a couple of people that I had met before and I met a few new people also, which is always my goal at any kind of networking event.

I am so kicking myself that I didn’t bring a camera with me.  I could have shown you some pretty cool pictures.  The lobby is huge.  There’s a cafeteria on one side and on the other a mail room, a store (that was unfortunately closed), and a game room for employees.  Life-size figures of various characters from the Pixar movies are sprinkled throughout such as the monsters from Monsters, Inc., the cars from Cars, and the family from The Incredibles.  There was a big giant chair in one corner which you could actually climb up on and get your picture taken.  Another photo opportunity was the action figure package that was big enough for a person to get into and pretend to be an action figure. 

Before you hate me too much for not taking pictures, let me point you to The Pixar Blog where you can see photos of the studio for yourself.  The blogger who toured the studio was able to get some great photos of both the inside and outside of the studio.  Check out the rest of the blog too.  It’s a great blog for everything Pixar!  And for even more photos check out Collider.com for even more fantastic photos taken on press day.

Geena Davis

After what seemed like a long wait, we were finally admitted into the theater.  I got a great seat in the second row with a great view.  However, I didn’t even notice Geena sitting in the first row until she was announced.  What struck me about her was how tall she is.  She is about 6 feet tall according to IMDb, but with heels on she easily stood around 6’3″.  She’s stunning.  I would have never known she was 54 if I hadn’t looked it up.  She could easily pass for her late thirties.  Geena immediately put the audience at ease with her graciousness, humor, and intelligence (she is a member of Mensa). 

Geena’s purpose that evening was to talk to us diverse group of film people about the roles of women in the media, specifically, the number of females in children’s programs and how they are portrayed.  Geena’s quest started about six years ago when she noticed an imbalance in the ratio of male to female  characters while watching TV programs and videos with her young daughter.  This caused her to undertake a research project about gender in children’s programs and to later start the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.  Her goal is to make the entertainment industry more aware of not only the number of females in children’s entertainment but, also, how females are portrayed.  This means showing female characters that have aspirations beyond romance and are valued for their inner qualities as opposed to just being valued for their looks.

I wish I had videotaped her speech that night, but here is a recent interview of Geena by Sir David Frost that you can watch that gives a shortened version of what she talked about that night.