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Confessions of a Working Director - 1/12/2010

Already this month, Wicked Pixel Cinema has experienced a nice flurry of Ratline post-production activity, with many of my team jumping in to help.  This is refreshing, as Ratline editing has been so start-and-stop throughout 2009. 

The production of this movie was very fast.  An insanity-eroding super-short pre-production period was followed by a quick two and a half month shoot.  After that, the project slowed to a crawl as financial issues shut post-production down again and again. 

Basically, editing was halted repeatedly so that we could focus effort on bringing in some money - and so that we could explore new business relationships that will, hopefully, generate income in the future. 

We did not raise the entire budget for Ratline.  That is why we eventually hit a wall when our money ran out.  It is why this project has been exceedingly frustrating.  It is also why I hope I never have to raise another budget one buck at a time via a throng of private investors - while trying to, simultaneously, make the movie.

Going out and raising cash to keep our lights on, and to keep post-production of Ratline inching forward, has been an exhausting and not-so-successful undertaking.  However, venturing out into the industry to form new business relationships has been more fruitful.  For example:

Last week, Jeremy Wallace and I traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a meeting intended to explore that possibility of forging just such a relationship.  In a nutshell: a company that has produced feature films in the past, but that now primarily functions as a very successful distribution company, is interested in distributing Ratline, and in hiring us to make new feature films for them. 

I don't want to give more details, or even the company's name yet, as the meeting Jeremy and I attended was just our first "getting to know each other" conference.  It went extremely well, but positive results of this trip may still not emerge for another year.  Maybe longer.  And there are numerous opportunities for everything to fall apart completely in that span of time.  Still, Jeremy and I would not have traveled all the way to Tulsa for a long shot. 

We went to Tulsa, met with the president and vice-president of this company, and we didn't just have a successful meeting with these gentlemen - we actually enjoyed our time there, and felt like we were talking to businessmen who shared the same attitudes, concerns, aspirations, and passions as we do.

It was a much better discussion than I anticipated it would be.  I thought I would have an hour of their time, suffer their disinterested or annoyed expressions, and then be shown the door.  Instead, after the first forty minutes of our meeting, they took us to lunch and our meeting extended to a total of three and a half hours of enthusiastic conversation.  At the conclusion of all this, we parted ways happy, and Jeremy and I (now well fed) began our trek home.

With all the enthusiasm and optimism also came hesitation - from both sides of the table.  We are all engaged in an industry full of scammers and cutthroats - people who are professional liars, eager to take what they have not earned.  This is also a creative industry.  The passions, inflated egos, and sometimes the frailty of the over-emotional creative types in this biz can be just as destructive to a business relationship as lying and stealing.  And let's not forget good ol' fashioned competence and work ethic.  Getting into a business relationship with someone who turns out to be incompetent is a huge waste of money and time. 

I'm sure the president and the vice-president of this company, throughout their 35 years in this industry, have partnered with many associates who turned out to be bad news.  They are smart to approach us with caution.  Likewise, Jeremy and I have had to spend much time, money, and effort counteracting the incompetence and dishonesty of many of our associates in this industry.  We too now approach with caution.

When our meeting finally adjourned, everyone seemed pleased and optimistic - yet everyone was also searching for red flags, unable to entirely abandon their wariness.  This did not disappoint me.  This is just how these things go.  We've got plenty of time to build trust.  Nobody needs to completely let their guard down and blindly commit to anything at this time.

Immediately upon our return to Wicked Pixel Cinema HQ, we charged full-steam-ahead back into Ratline post-production.  Jeremy, Jason Christ, Jim Wayer, and I were all at the studio, working long hours on the movie, and making great progress, which made me very happy.  I also spent time working with Gus Stevenson on the Ratline music score, and in that area we made more incredible progress.  The new year is off to a great start.

Thanks for reading.

- Eric Stanze