Sunday, February 29, 2004


I called Stephen Purvis on Wednesday morning to let him know I was almost in Santa Monica - it took me an hour and a half because of the rain and its effect on the typical LA driver. He told me they lost their visitor's pass for the day, but that's okay, they would sneak me in.

"Come around the back of the hotel and you can just climb over the fence." I was feeling like a real VIP with all this red carpet treatment.

In the end I didn't have to climb any fences, but I did have to sneak in through the emergency exit door, under the cold but apparently indifferent gaze of a security camera.

The AFM is held in the Lowes hotel in downtown Santa Monica, and all the vendors rent out hotel rooms for the week that are converted into "offices". They still look pretty much like a hotel room, but without the bed. Our office had laminated posters of all the films, including "Buttleman", on the walls, and three different TV's playing trailers of the films. And a cheese plate.

To walk around the market you need a pass, and there are security stations at each floor in several spots. After some discussion I was given the badge of the Brazos employee who most resembled me - a guy with short black hair. I have rather scruffy light brown hair. The picture on the badge looked nothing like me, but I was told just to wear it turned around and no one would bother me.

The first thing we did was go up to visit my friend (and co-producer) Maile Baird (or Hicks, or Baird-Hicks, I'm not sure). She called me Wednesday morning to tell me the first thing she saw when she got to the market was our poster in the elevator. Apparently this was money well spent - I also got a call from my friend Evan, who produced "Cabin Fever", saying "You got good placement, Frank."

So, Maile works for Syndicate Films. They were on the front page of Variety that morning because they were taken over by indie mogul Bob Yari. Going up to visit her, I began to feel like a third-class passenger on the Titanic. Our office is located down in the bowels of the hotel, in one of the lower catacombs, and her company is up on the top floor in some area called the "Escondido", looking down into the main atrium. The carpet in the room was covered or replaced with a thick rug that has "Syndicate Films" woven into it. Pictures of Bruce Willis, Ralph Feinnes, Orlando Bloom and Robin Williams adorn the walls - the stars of the films they're selling. We chatted with Maile for as long as we could keep her from her job, she showed us a couple trailers and then I left to go wandering around.

I visited the Troma booth, picked up a flyer for a film called "Ghost Cat" ("It would have been the prrrrfect crime,") and ate some Macadamia nuts being given out by the "Film in scenic Hawaii" people. I passed a vending machine filled with DVD's. "Hang on, just gotta pick up a 'Freaky Friday', got any change?"

Stephen gave me a bunch of flyers to hand out to any buyers who had that "I need an arthouse comedy with no stars" look in their eyes. After a while of trying to approach buyers, I began to feel like a guy at a singles bar. A lesbian singles bar.

I ran into our B-girl Tonie in the lobby. By the way, I finally learned the definition of "B-girl": shills paid by bar management to come on to the customers, pretending they are just a lonely girl who'd like a drink; they encourage the customer to buy them expensive drinks (which are really just water or coke) and the management kicks back a small portion of their profit to them. (Thanks, Mom.)

(No, my mom was not a B-girl.)

Tonie, with an 'e' because "it's supposed to be good numerology", and I chatted with two other girls stumping for a company making mega-budget historical pics. One of the girls was named Misty ("Like the weather outside...") and the other was named Elody.


"Without the M."

"Oh. Elody."

Yes, a lot of actresses have weird names. They showed me flyers for "Gilgamesh" and "Mata Hari", and I felt vaguely stupid for not really remembering who or what either of those names are. They were all saying how Mata Hari is the dream role for an actress, and I nodded sagely.

Later, I was stopped by a security officer. "Would you turn your badge around, sir?"

"Oh, sure." I immediately complied, deftly flipping the badge as I had rehearsed in our office: with my thumb firmly planted over the photo. Then I strode past with an important and confident air.

"Wait... Could you show me that one more time, please?"

"Um... Sure." Busted. My brain flashed through all the possibilities (fake a seizure?) and I quickly realized there was no way out. I held the badge up, right in front of my face, clear as day. She stared at the badge, then at my face, then squinted at the badge again.

"Okay. Thank you."

Go figure.

As I walked back to our office, I passed a room with a poster for a movie called "Star Party", spelled out over a night shot of the sky with a canopy of stars. The film's executive producer, Romarino, told me that it was a pre-sale on a horror film about a group of astronomers who go on a star party and are killed off one at a time by a shapeshifting alien.

"Oh, that's cool..." I said, looking for a recongnizable constellation on their poster. "Kind of like 'Predator'."

"Yeah... No! It's not like 'Predator' AT ALL. It's like NOTHING YOU'VE EVER SEEN."

I nodded quickly, meaning no offense. He showed me the trailer, which consisted of several shots sweeping across a forest floor at night, a few shots of a girl running away in slow motion, and a close-up of a girl screaming "WHAT IS IT???!!!!" Cut to: Title card.

I assured him that it seemed wholly original. I read some of his promo material, which referred to the antagonist as a "terror of horrors." He said he was confident it would sell because his kids said they like horror movies.

I guess the gonzo journalist thing to do, seeing as the buyers weren't so warm to being approached with flyers waving, would be to go around to guys like this acting like I was some buyer extremely interested in their movie. Adopt a fake accent, and claim I was from some made-up Scandinavian country, and ask them all sorts of weird questions like "Your women in the movie... Do they pierce the nipples? We like very much the pierced nipples."

But I couldn't do it. A: Because I'm a very bad liar, and B: Because I'm not an asshole. After all, there was nothing really different between this guy and me. We're all just trying to find an audience and make some money making movies. So, good luck Romarino. I hope you sell the hell outta that terror of horrors.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Just three days til the American Film Market.

For the record, it's unlikely that we'll actually sell any rights to the film at the market, but it's where you make the initial contacts and get buyers interested. There will be "B-girls" walking around with portable DVD players showing our trailer. Yes, it's pretty cheesy. But that's the whole environment. My friend (and editor) Jessica attended last year and she was overwhelmed by the meat market aspect of it. It's crawling with people trying to make a quick deal, con-men, desperate Hollywood types all peddling something. "I mean, these guys are gangsters," she remarked.

I'm looking forward to it.

I was trying to figure out the origin of "B-girls" the other day. Is it like B-movie girls? Or boob girls? I hate it, because it's one of those phrases I hear people use constantly but I've never been clued in to. One of those things you can't figure out how you missed.

One of the B-girls dropped off a bunch of dubs at my house yesterday. I offered her something to drink and she asked me my sign. I told her I'm a Taurus and she kept saying, "Oh, you're a total Taurus," after everything I said. From her appearance she could have qualified either as a B-movie actress or a boob girl, so my confusion remains unresolved.

I tried Googling "B-girls", and the definitions are all over the map: hiphop, B-movie, basketball, buffalo. Oh, well.

I got a call from the Sedona Fest with some more good news yesterday. They want to give John Hawkes an award for "Best Breakthrough Performance". They're really big fans of the movie, and they've been hustling trying to get us a ton of publicity. They want to put John on a local show called "Good Morning Arizona" which is more popular in the state than "The Today Show". Could be interesting. Too bad they don't want me on it. Maybe I'll get on "Good Morning Mesa". Or "Hello, Old Tuscon".

We're in another film festival: the Sonoma Valley Film Festival up north in wine country. My friend Paul (Hough, who directed "The Backyard") said it's one of the best festivals he went to. "Everywhere you turn they're giving you more wine." Sounds good to me.

Monday, February 16, 2004

So, I am about to ink a deal to sign with a sales rep going to the American Film Market in two weeks.

The AFM is one of the biggest film markets in the world. It’s best known for anything that would be considered "genre" films: kids movies, horror movies, family movies, Christian movies, educational, cable docs... Those movies you see on late night Cinemax with Eric Roberts or Rutger Hauer and lots of boobies and cars exploding get bought and sold here. But so do all sorts of movies, including festival fare like us, and more well-known movies: “House of Sand and Fog” and “The Cooler” are screening there, to sell foreign rights. Buyers from all over the globe attend to pick up content - this is where you sell your movie to Thailand TV.

In our case, we haven't sold any territories yet. No distributors have even seen our film. That's the end goal of all these festival screenings and stuff, of course: to get it in a theatre or on the shelf in a video store. To do the DVD commentary. And, hopefully, to make my investors' money back.

The guys I'm signing with are a company called Brazos Productions. They're just starting out, which is one of the reasons I'm doing it: they're very passionate. To be honest, I don't know any filmmakers personally who have a good story to tell about a sales rep. It's always, "I never ended up seeing a cent" or "they basically put their name on it and didn't do anything..." I've heard this about the top companies, who are very respected. It's a tough business. If you have a movie that's something of a hard sell (i.e., doesn't have Drew Barrymore or Vince Vaughn in it), then it's easier for them to rep your film with forty others and see what hits, instead of doing a lot of work on your behalf.

These guys have a very different approach - they've attended the market for years as filmmakers and learned the ropes. They've got a slate of five films, and they're working hard for all of them.

This all came about because one of the guys, Stephen Purvis, is close friends with one of the judges at the Deep Ellum Film Festival who was a big champion of our movie. And they know someone at our premiere who spoke highly of it. And, since we just uploaded the trailer two weeks ago, they were able to go online and watch it, and that sealed the deal. It was a mad rush to come to an agreement, since my film was getting in so last-minute. When we met last Monday and hashed out the specifics of the contract, they didn't even have a copy of the movie yet. We talked for two hours, I said I thought it was going to work, and one of them shook my hand and said, "We're very excited. We really love your trailer."

(Fortunately, they have since watched the movie and loved it as well.) So, that’s it: a week-long blur of contracts and promotional meetings, and we’re going to the AFM.

BTW, I saw “Bubba Hotep” last night – outstanding. They took a totally absurd premise and committed to it with utter seriousness. Terrific fun. It reminded me a lot of “Donnie Darko”, in the way it utilized horror movie conventions and put an original, quirky spin on them that heightened the eeriness as well as the humor.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Just got word from another festival where "Buttleman" has been accepted: the Syracuse International Film and Video Festival on April 29-May 2, in Athens, Georgia.

Just kidding. It's in Syracuse. So, at long last, "Buttleman" is heading east. Just a stone's throw from Manhattan, NYUers! Actually, it's probably more than a stone's throw. Unless Superman threw it.

And, according to the website, Peter Weller is one of the judges. Which means that Robocop will see my movie. And Buckaroo Banzai.

So if we win an award, I will title my journal entry "Buckaroo Banzai Boffo for Buttleman".

That's a promise.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

An Open Letter To My Upstairs Neighbor

Re: Drums at 5 AM aren't cool

Dear Neighbor,

I realize this is an indirect way to get a message to you. Since you don't know me by name, and probably haven't heard of my film, and are a ten-year-old kid, you probably don't read my blog.

I am not pursuing my normal mode of communication with you (banging on the ceiling), mainly because my ceiling is one of those pointy stucco jobs and the plaster crumbles off and showers all over me.

In general it's hard to avoid making an intrusive amount of noise when you have a family of four and criminally thin hardwood floors. Every time you move around the thuds reverberate throughout my apartment. And much of the added emphasis comes from the natural energy of three young boys. But one way to not make noise: don't play drums at 5 AM.

Worse than waking up to the sound of drums playing was the disgruntled and paranoid state I was left in when you quit. Trying as hard as I could to go back to sleep, I became keenly aware of every bump and shuffle your family makes in the early morning hours, expecting it to start up again. At 6:45 I was still wide awake, discerning and cataloguing every sound (Was that a snare?)... I swear you were walking around past the drum set and occasionally hitting it at random intervals. I have no idea why you would do this.

You may be one of the only non-crazy people in this building. It's Crackhead Irene, the old lady who cuts the grass with scissors, Slingblade, the woman who yells "Fuck!" to herself, the guy who sits in his boxers all day and plays blackjack with teddy bears, and us. Your mom is even a little nuts, so you may have some emotional difficulties as a result, for which I sympathize. But you're not crazy. You're just an annoying kid. Don't make me kick your ass.



Friday, February 06, 2004

Hello - Just a quick note to say the TRAILER IS UP! Check it out, replay it a few times, show everyone else in the office, spread the word and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Groundhog Day.

Depending on whether you believe Staten Island Chuck or Punxsutawney Phil, we may or may not have six more weeks of winter. I’m gonna go with Phil, because he’s the movie star. Not that six more weeks of winter means anything in Los Angeles anyway.

All was quiet here at the Official Website For The Exciting New Motion Picture “Buttleman” as we rang in 2004. Waiting to hear from the next festival. Waiting for my computer to be fixed. Making out my New Years resolutions. It did give me a chance to contemplate things (more on that later).

Anyway, I’m long overdue on an update, so, here’s the scoop:

We’re in the Sedona Film Festival in Sedona, AZ from March 4th-7th. If you’re wiling away your early March among the red rocks of Sedona at some new age healing retreat or rehab center, come on out and join us. Hey, kids! Perfect for Spring Break!

I’m trying to find a new host or server or whatever for this site, temporarily. I will be without host or server or whatever for about a month, and this fine site that has been maintained thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Andrew Kohl and Kyle Bowerman will be cut off from its fiercely loyal fan base, and in some major cities riots may ensue. If anybody can host or serve or whatever this website for free, let me know!

The trailer will be up very, very, soon. I think. Okay: it’s out of my hands. I’ve done my share. It’s all up to the aforementioned Andrew now. Blame him if it takes a long time: www.kohlville.net. (BTW – he just updated his home page and it’s very cool.)

So, that’s it. 2004 is shaping up.

I know what you’re thinking: What about the contemplating, damn it! Okay, son…

As I was saying, I spent the post-holiday lull thinking about how far we’ve come along. Almost exactly one year ago, I was sitting in my living room with Tom “Punchy” Hargis*, my cinematographer, and Nick Shaffer, whose wild nights in Long Beach are splattered throughout the pages of this gossip rag, and explaining the fact that I did not believe there was any way to move forward with “Buttleman”. Explaining that, unfortunately, I was afraid we would just have to shelve it for a while. We were completely out of money, and we didn’t even have a final cut yet. Imagine working on something for five years, devoting all your energy night and day, and then having to just give it up before anybody can even see it. I had done all this work and had nothing to show for it. It was very disheartening.

It was that night, thanks to the encouragement of Punchy and Nick, that I came up with a game plan for moving forward on an extremely low budget, and all that happened in 2003 – the website, the final cut, the adventures in sound mixing, the festivals, the reviews, the award – is the result. This sounds more like a Thanksgiving blog than New Years, but courtesy of the flu I spent my Thanksgiving holiday violently regifting the contents of my stomach, so I wasn’t really in a reflective mood.

But here we are: 2004, baby.

BTW, I just came up with a great soccer-themed movie pitch: “Bend It Like Beckham” Meets “Alive”.

C’mon! Can’t you picture Keira Knightley and that cute Indian girl gnawing the severed limbs of their teammates? It’s gold.

* Tom’s nickname isn’t really Punchy.**

** It’s Spunkmeyer.

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