Thank you for reading this article! As you probably know, I am producing a comedy titled “Bottom Feeders”, originally written by Steve Miller some 20 years ago and then we tag-teamed the rewrites. It’s a silly comedy about two guys trying to hang onto their college days – living in Mom’s basement, drinking beer, being generally irresponsible. You know these guys, heck, you might have even been one of these guys! People need to laugh and this film will do it. I will admit, it does not carry some ultra-important social message about race or sexism or any topic that is popular in today’s dialogue – well, not entirely. It’s in there but you have to really extract the meaning – because these guys are not role models and it is very clear in this film. But WHY does it NEED to be made? Because it is the first step. This is the film that can show what we can do as filmmakers. We’re trying to make this film for less than $50,000.00 but we want it to look like we spend hundreds of thousands making it.
We get this film done and we get it seen by people. We make them laugh and entertain them for 90 minutes or so. What’s next? Finding funding for a film is not an easy task! If you’re friends with me you have seen firsthand the groveling and begging for money that I’ve done. In a perfect filmmaking world, as a Writer/Director I would work with a Producer who has a group of people who want to invest their money in movies. Those producers don’t work with unknown filmmakers – so that’s why we NEED to make this one first. It is a simple story with simple scenes – which is how we can keep the costs low. But when you see how good it looks and how the unknown actors really kill their parts, then you would think to yourself, “Self, imagine the kind of film these guys could make with a real budget!”.
The real budget (which in my mind is $250K and up) can hire all the crew needed, can afford A-List actors who have a box office draw and international recognition. That’s the magic formula for making movies – or at least one of the magic formulas.
I just wanted to explain this idea to you. because from the outside looking in it must be odd to see me trying so hard to make a movie when we don’t have the money. It’s a chicken and egg conundrum: you need the money to make a good film, but you cannot get the money until you make a good film. Sometimes you need the help of family and friends and some people who believe in you so you can just make it past that first speed bump. By the way, that’s the speed bump that keeps most people out of the filmmaking business.
I want this so bad I am not taking no for an answer. Here’s what we have planned for future projects: (All of these will be produced right here in Rochester and the greater Western NY region)
A Baseball film with real social/historical message.
A spirituality film centered around redemption and antisemitism.
We need $25,000.00 to make this film. Maybe that’s 5 people who chip in/invest $5,000.00 or one angel investor/benefactor who covers it all.
Recently, I have been in a dark cloud of negativity and the cloud only cleared when I listened to the advice of those close to me. I am great at what I do! I am confident in that and I am not afraid to make that statement. Could I improve? Absolutely! I firmly believe that we are ever-learning, ever-evolving beings and once you are certain you’ve reached the top – you’re already on your way back down.
So, since I started the first purpose-built podcast studio in Rochester, NY I had some people ask to pick my brain about everything from the equipment and setup to the business model to marketing. Now, I am an open book and always try to help my fellow human – which is the problem. I forgot that some people are disingenuous and may take advantage of kindness. This happened to me quite recently. That’s why I am writing this post.
If I give someone advice about something that I do for a living, I would consider that consulting. Consulting is (usually) advice that people are paid for. Sometimes, colleagues in related fields will give professional advice as a courtesy, which I would not categorize as consulting. Though professional advice, it is still advice because there is no financial transaction taking place.
You can be nice and helpful, but be cautious.
If I went to a fellow studio owner and asked, “Which microphone do you prefer for voice recording?”, I would probably get an answer in return. Mine is on my website, so obviously I don’t care about telling the world which mic I use. Now, if I went to the same guy and asked him to draw me a schematic of how he wired his studio or his mic techniques, I would expect him to laugh at me and walk away – or at least not tell me. Does a chef give out his recipe? Some chefs do – but you have to pay them for it.
This is a very important consideration for the small business owner. You don’t want to inadvertently give someone a course in how to be your competitor. Now, I try to be as positive as possible and I almost always give people the benefit of the doubt. Helping other people out is kind and thoughtful, but in business, that can be downright dangerous.
I felt like I had to share this information with my audience because I know many of you are entrepreneurs and are also super giving and generous people. Two things you should have in your back pocket at all times are:
NDA – Non-disclosure agreement. This is a legal form stating that your client cannot talk about this to anyone under penalty of lawsuit.
Non-compete agreement. This is a contract that states the person whom you are giving consulting services cannot turn around and use that information to start a business and go after your clients – for a certain amount of time or in a certain geographical region.
I am not a lawyer and am not qualified to give any legal advice, but I cannot stress enough that you must always look out for yourself and NEVER assume people have the best of intentions. Remember, they are usually looking out for their own interests and not everyone has the same moral compass.
What would I do if I had $100,000.00 in my bank account right now? I would make this movie. What am I going to do even if we don’t surpass $18,000.00? I’m still going to make this movie, because failure is when you give up…when you stop trying – and I’m not stopping.
We’ve been running a crowdfunding campaign for almost 60 days and have only gotten to $3,485 – as of this writing. That’s 3% of the goal! It is hard to not be frustrated and discouraged. In the past, this would send me on a downward spiral of negativity and self destruction. I’d probably start hitting the bottle a lot and getting angry while I watch posts from other local filmmakers as they make their dreams come true while mine withered and died. Thankfully, I am not in that place anymore. Since my sobriety, I have been able to walk away from that cycle and spin things to the positive side!
Our budget being around $100,000.00 allows us to hire and pay a small but capable crew to work on this film. The lower the money, the less we can do – obviously. Our smaller budget means we can’t afford an Art Department – that’s makeup, wardrobe and set design/decoration. So, anything that makes it into our film is what we all personally have. Like, furniture, pictures on the walls, fixtures – basically everything you see in a scene.
I was really hoping that we would raise all the money we needed to shoot this film the way we intended. It looks like that is not going to happen, which means Steve and I will have to wear a lot of hats on set. More me than Steve, though. As the Director, he needs to concentrate on the actors’ performances. I’ll concentrate on everything else.
So this is it. 4 Days left in our IndieGoGo campaign and then we’re moving forward with what we have. It’s going to be great! We’re staying positive and we’re going to document the ride for all to see. We know that this community can be a filmmaking community – so we’re going after it. See you on the other side. NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER.
I’ve been a movie-buff ever since I was 3 years old and I was quoting from Mel Brooks’s masterpiece, Young Frankenstein, “What’re you doing in the bathroom day and night? Get out and give someone else a chance!” Of course the epic quote by the late great Marty Feldman. But this goes beyond movie-buffdom, it goes deeper. My Aunt Marian used to quote that all the time and I copied her, without knowing what it was. It wasn’t for many years after that I saw the film – then I was hooked!
When I was 12 I spent a few weeks with my Godmother, Marian. My mother’s younger sister and the hellraiser of the family. She was a maverick, she spoke her mind and didn’t let people take advantage of her. But she was a softy and had a heart of gold. That was when Back to The Future was big. I was fascinated with Marty’s JVC camcorder. I wanted to get one for myself so I could make my own movies. Aunt Marian would have bought me one, but back then they were very expensive. Aunt Marian always told me to go after my dreams.
In 2012 I was making my short film “Step 9”. My mother had flown up from Florida to watch my kids because my wife Kelly was the female lead, so we both had to be on set. Mom was nervous because Aunt Marian took a turn for the worse just days before. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and it quickly spread to her brain. It was a tough weekend…she passed away while we were shooting. My mom had to leave and fly to Long Island. I dedicated “Step 9” to her and I promised her spirit I would make my movies. She knew we were shooting a film while she was in the hospital. I loved her like she was my second mom.
So, Aunt Marian is always in my mind when I am focused on making this movie, because this one is the first one. All of my filmmaking friends who have made multiple feature films tell me that you have to get the first one done, no matter what.
So, that is just a little background into one of the major factors that drives me. I won’t give up on this dream and I appreciate you for reading this and supporting this project.
Life is a marathon for sure. The Facebook Page Big Fit Deal ” is dedicated to helping everybody – and every body – find their fit. While we respect the right of every person to decide what to do with their body, this page will not engage in or promote pro-diet or intentional weight loss discussions.” I love this approach because we see “fat shaming” all the time in our society and often it is not obvious…or it is? Look at any diet or fitness page or advertisement and you will see perfectly sculpted bodies drinking their scientifically designed shakes and doing exercises with ease. They are happy and enjoying life as the beautiful perfect people that they are. HOGWASH. Hey, if you want to be “in shape” with a six pack and chiseled everything, more power to you! Some people don’t have the genetic makeup for that, period. I don’t have it! I tried and I got close but it just didn’t work for me. Personally, I gained all my weight back from drinking alcohol. It was a terrible period of self doubt and a deep feeling of insignificance that lead me to my binge. It lasted for several years and although there were times when I was able to put down the booze and pick up a protein shake, the monkey jumped back on me. I’ve finally beat it and that’s thanks to the support of my family and friends as well as the work of Annie Grace – you can see my interview with her on the podcast/webcast.
Let me get back to Big Fit Deal. They posted a link to a story about a woman who finished last in the Boston Marathon. She’s 46 and almost didn’t make it. It is a story about going after a goal with a laser focus and not giving up. There’s a lot more to her story and I’m not the one to relay the info here – but I wanted to use this posting as an example of why we need to pay attention to our society and what we idolize. My Facebook feed is lousy with ads hocking slimming shirts and other things to make people look like society thinks they should look. I am not going to tell someone that they are wrong if they want to lose weight or if they have a certain physical goal they wish to accomplish. I do want to tell people that they should go after whatever it is they want and not give up – regardless of what the onlookers say.
Is it a big deal that this woman finished the Boston Marathon? Absolutely! Everyone else went home – they were cleaning up the finish line. Her son was waiting there and she finally crossed the line. She did it! She cried tears of painful joy. This story touched me deeply because we all have our own personal Boston Marathon. Yours could be losing weight or quitting drinking or smoking. It could be auditioning for a play or trying to get that big client. Whatever your goal – make it your Boston Marathon – make sure you get to the finish line – and don’t listen to what people are saying about you.
If you’re reading this, the chances are you do know what I am up to. In the off-chance that you’re new to this blog or we’ve just become social media friends, then let me tell you officially: I AM PRODUCING A MOVIE! Doubt me? Watch it happen. See below for my thoughts on this:
I am a Reverse Coddiwomple!
What is that, Fitz? The definition of coddiwomple is “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. So many people do this – and that is totally fine. I have kind of done that a lot as well. But here’s where I am taking a different path. I know EXACTLY where I am going to end up- but perhaps I am not sure about the exact path to get there. That kind of makes me a Reverse Coddiwomple…of sorts…right?
I Am Not Taking No For An Answer
Double negatives aside, this statement is my new mantra. NO is not a word I can relate to right now. As a producer, I am tasked with putting this show together. I have to find the crew and the money to pay the crew. The money. Yeah the money. I know this is art, but it’s one of the few art forms that require a bunch of money to do it right. However, I am in a unique position to gather the best of the best in this town and worth with them towards a very attainable goal. We can make quality movies in Rochester, NY and make it a useful and profitable local industry.
Bottom Feeders – Hows and What-fors
We’re putting our own money into this project. Then we’re starting a crowdfunding campaign via IndieGoGo to ask family and friends to chip in a little to help out. The third aspect, is to find partners. We will need partners in this venture to help us through the muck and the mire of making a movie. It’s not all glitz and glamor, nope. There are legal processes and other things we must do to make sure the film can be seen by as many eyes as possible.
College life is all they know, so John and Steve intend on making it last as long as possible – until Nichole and Cindy show up. Will they grow up and do the right thing or devolve into sophomoric chaos? College angst and sexual tensions prevail while an eccentric sociology professor takes notes.
Check this out: we need 4,000 people to donate $25. Double that to $50 and we only need $2000 people. This is totally doable.
What’s In It For You? What’s In It for Us?
For us: Steve and I both have families and jobs and other responsibilities that most first time filmmakers don’t have. Most of them are young people struggling to live in an apartment while eating ramen. They don’t have kids, school meetings, doctor’s appointments, trombone practice, drama club…you get the idea. Most move to LA to make movies there. We can’t drop everything and move to LA to chase our dream of making a movie. That ship has sailed. BUT – we’re in Rochester, NY – the birthplace of film. Even if we’re not using film for this movie, we’re still utilizing the old tried and true practices of telling a story via movie pictures – this time digitally. We have a great group of people here that can make that happen – but they too have families and responsibilities – so they also cannot just work for free to help us fulfill our dream. We want to make this a better filmmaking place for those who come after us.
For you: Seeing this process happen in your community. Helping put people to work on an artistic project that could generate more projects and more work for those involved. You get to feel good about helping. Hopefully that is something that entices you.
Speaking of work – I have to get back to it. I wrote this blog post on my break, now I have to record some commercials and edit things. Consider helping us – I cannot tell you how it will affect the rest of our lives.
I’ve been very vocal about my former job at Carnival Cruise Lines. I have not come so far as naming my direct supervisors, but I have definitely openly called them out about how they treated me and others in their personal pursuit for corporate domination. At one point, I was sitting on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1 or 2 days out from Nassau, Bahamas and I was in tears because I was forced to create a “crew video” from tons of footage given to me by crew members and stuff I shot. This was technically not my responsibility. Our department was onboard this brand new ship to shoot and incorporate video into the production show as well as produce some corporate training videos. That’s it. My boss had this grand plan to make our little video department a big corporate department with big budgets. He played to my mid-twenty year old dreams of having a six-figure per year job at such a young age. (At this time I was in considerable debt for my age, so I was really interested in the career track he dangled before me). He promised that if we dug in and did this kind of stuff – showed “them” what “we” could do, we would be sitting pretty, making lots of money and delegating this lowly work to others. I’ll admit, I was onboard! But I soon came to realize that I was the main guy who was to do the majority of the work to get there.
I actually left school for the job, with only 5 classes short of my degree. I was a supposed to go into radio, but I had a good knack for shooting and editing video. Plus, I was a radio guy and therefore, free Voice-Over talent! (For many years, my voice was on over 20 ships’ TV systems). I often wondered about the qualifications of my boss. He seemed so much older than me and really talked the talk. I soon realized he couldn’t do anything I could do and he was mainly self-taught. I found his resume one day when I was searching for some paperwork. It was wedged in the back of the file cabinet so I was intrigued. I will sum his resume and qualifications up with this: he spelled College “Collage”. ‘Nuff Said.
Generally, he was a nice guy when we were having beers and smoking way too many cigarettes. We’d have some fun here and there – just enough to keep me in line with the dream. But, then it would kick back in – the stress and the impossible deadlines. I would be working late, until 10 or 11pm. I would oversleep the next day because he expected me to be back at work by 9am. I was tired, burning out and he would just keep hounding me.
If I was late he’d make me work the weekend. If I needed a day off for a doctor’s appointment or if I was sick – I was expected to make up the time on the weekend. I was so green and naive, I had no idea that he was breaking corporate rules. Add to this, the fact that he would often call me a “fat bastard” and make fun of the fact that I was often single. He would poke fun at me because I could never “pull” when I was out on ships. (Basically, that means chatting up girls and sleeping with them while I was onboard). I loved women very much, but I always wanted a girlfriend who was wife material, not a one-nighter. I could have gone to HR to complain – but the VP on HR was one of the people who he was always trying to impress – so we could take our little video department to a higher level.
Keep in mind that this takes place over the course of 4 1/2 years. The company was cranking out a new ship per year and each time, our department had something to do with it. Many times, it was not really something that was in our job descriptions, but we were all seeking that Holy Grail of the big budget corporate video department, so we agreed that we needed to “show them what we could do”. In that time span, I think he chewed up and spit out 5-6 other staff members. I have a very cool management style. I would never make my staff do something I wouldn’t do myself and if they had a skill that I didn’t have, I would never exploit it or worse, pretend I could do it better while “choosing not to”. My supervisor forced me to emulate his management style – which was autocratic and unforgiving. I failed terribly. Meanwhile, he was grooming someone else who would take up that style.
I finally quit. I was done, I was over it all. I had to move on. I was really depressed and started self-medicating with various substances to escape from the constant stress. The 4 1/2 years really changed me. While onboard the ships, it was customary to go to the crew bar where drinks were very cheap. Everyone would buy a round and I was told it was rude to decline. One of the things he stressed to me was the importance of having the crew on your side. You see, we were from the head office in Miami, so we were considered management to the crew. If we had them on our side, we could get things done onboard outside of the typical chain of command-ish.
I left the company and moved to Rochester. I brought all of that emotional baggage to my poor soon-to-be-wife. The escaping from problems with self-medicating, emotionally over sensitivity, general depression and so many self-esteem issues I cannot even begin to enumerate them. Now, I am sure not all of that came from the job, but I am positive any of it I had was exasperated because of it.
You know how some women cannot leave an abusive relationship? It was like that for me too. I had difficulties finding work in Rochester and an opportunity opened at Carnival and the old boss called me back. It was actually a sweet deal so I took it. I figured that this time would be better and it was a marked improvement. But, there was a huge difference this time. So much had changed in the department – and the one guy he was grooming along with me, took over my position in the management chain and he was a clone of the boss. We got into it a few times because I taught him a lot and he would take that condescending tone with me and I would not have any of it. We got called into the boss’s office a few times because of that friction. The guy was once my friend and I could not wrap my head around the idea that he would treat me the way he was. This was a different position and so I was travelling quite a bit and working on my own. I had a 10 month contract with the option to renew..but I didn’t. This time it was because my wife and I were going to have a baby and she wanted to come back to Rochester.
I went back one more time for a stretch of 3 years and that was the last straw. I felt oppressed in that environment. Even with the boss leaving me mostly alone to do my own thing. I had a family with young kids now and I wasn’t going to let him stop me from doing what I needed to do. The depression and the self medicating was still an issue – so I finally got fed up and decided we were moving back to Rochester for good. That was 2007 and I am so grateful that I made that choice. It has not been an easy road, but I have the love of my wife and kids and some great friends. I am getting therapy now because to this day I still have nightmares that I work in the video department of Carnival Cruise Lines. That department is no more. Initially, the boss was fired (forced to resign) for misappropriating funds. He didn’t steal, but he robbed one account to pay someone else more money so the job would get done faster and make him look better. Ironically, all of the senior management has since gone and he is back there in an adjacent department.
There is so much more to write about but I think you have the general idea. I let him control my life – I take ownership of that. I signed up for acting classes one time and he convinced me to quit, I lost my $700 I paid for the class.
If you have a son or daughter and see them going down the corporate path…pay close attention to them and their mental well-being. No job is worth the years of emotional pain I’ve endured and caused my family. Yes, the skills I learned there are a big factor in my life now, but I mostly try to practice sound management. When I direct a film, I am approachable and honest. I actually have trouble delegating jobs because I sometimes feel the task may be “beneath” the person I am asking to complete it. I can work on that.
I never really realized how much therapy could help me get over this and I look forward to not having dreams about working there.
Today it has been 30 days since I ingested the poison. Now, keep reading – I am not going to bash your beloved single malt or craft whatever. This is my understanding of what alcohol is at a chemical level. It is a highly addictive poison which is not good for any human. Historically, it was used to kill germs (antiseptic) and as a pain reliever – but they eventually found (arguably) better chemicals for that. Read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace for the skinny on alcohol.
After 30 days I have logged how many times I really wanted a drink: 0. Absolutely a huge goose egg. I am amazed that I didn’t want a drink because I’ve had some not-so-stellar days here and there. It is the first time in recent years that I have not sought some kind of substance to ease my stress. Nearly everyone does it – but some people use healthy things like jogging or weight lifting to beat stress. Others like a glass or two of wine or a martini. Some like a few beers to unwind. I have now become privy to the fallacy therein.
Here’s what I have experienced:
I have the ability to fix my own problems, rather than ignoring them or masking them with self-medication.
My sleep has improved by leaps and bounds.
I have the clarity of mind to remember things I was forgetting often.
My brain is a wonderfully complex organ that has all of the power I require for everything life can throw at me.
People are beautiful and I need to be more open to learning from each and every person I come in contact with on a daily basis.
One thing at a time. In the past I have always attempted to fix everything all at once and then wondered why I fell flat on my face. It’s perfectly fine to focus on one thing and not move on until it is fixed.
I have every right to be angry at things, but I have no right to affect others negatively because of that anger.
I am so much more productive than I used to be, simply because I am not tired and feeling low.
I am looking forward to how life will be tomorrow and 30 days from now and so on.
I am not going to be an evangelist for temperance. To each his or her own. But I can offer advice…and that advice is to quit drinking for 30 days and do an honest personal inventory.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate you.
Last weekend I was listening to a man talk about his one year of sobriety. He has celebrated other short anniversaries before, but never one year. I've heard this story before, many times from many people. I have lived parts of this story too. I remember being proud of myself for going a few months without drinking. But, my brain tricked me into poisoning myself again. (Alcohol is a poison, by the way). Don't worry, I am not going on any crusades to save you from the evils of alcohol! I'm perfectly happy dealing with my own crap. This man talked about the joy he felt as a child...back before he ever took a drink or drug. He could have fun at events and even non-events. He recalled a time when being sober was what you were because you didn't know any better. He laughed and played and used his imagination. He didn't brood over some darkness that was clouding his sunlight. I really liked this analogy. I recently listened to an audiobook that changed my entire outlook on drinking alcohol. This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Rediscover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace. Wow! I mean, I really connected with her work on this subject. She gets into brain chemistry and psychology. As a society, we've been sold a bill of goods by the Alcohol industry, fellow humans, our parents, everyone who drinks. Again, I'm not on an anti-drinking crusade, but this was such an interesting listen! She compares being a moderate drinker of alcohol to moderately drinking motor oil! Sounds crazy, but both are poisonous to us. Once I understood what happened to my brain chemistry after drinking for many years - even if I started as a social drinker - I knew that there was no way I was going to continue. Annie Grace also talks about being a kid or a young adult and how you were able to enjoy certain things without turning to a drink. I decided that I wanted that again, like nothing I've ever wanted before. I want to let my inner kid out to play again. I have a list of things I want to improve in my life: being mindful, eating better, getting exercise, having greater empathy, thinking things through before I run my mouth - you know, stuff we probably all need to work on. But I really want to laugh and enjoy this life while I still can, without anything controlling me. I'm really excited about it. Want to come out and play? -Fitz Subscribe to Positive Blatherings with Fitz on your favorite podcast platform.