Sunday, November 23, 2008

Conquering McAllen

Well, maybe "conquering" is a little dramatic, but the screening went very well. 95% of those in attendance rated the film "great" or "good." The other 5% called it "average." Now I wish I could say we had an audience of 500, but unfortunately we only had 60. I guess it's better than 20.

I think a lot was learned by our trip to McAllen. Most importantly is my increased faith in how well the film plays. Rich and I have always felt that "Ranchero" would be an audience favorite. As more people view the movie, that opinion is validated. The positive feedback has inspired me to create more opportunities for people to see the film.

It's always difficult to attract an audience for independent film. This is especially true in South Texas. Dave Silva did a tremendous job arranging the theater and bringing in the people we had. For future screenings I'll want to hit the ground earlier. Dave, Roger (lead actor Roger Gutierrez) and I got to town the day before. Next time I'd like at least three days to pass out fliers, do interviews, etc. We received excellent coverage by NBC affiliate KVEO out of Brownsville. Unfortunately, the story didn't air until 5:00pm the night of the screening; hardly enough time to put butts in the seats.

In addition to attendance, screening format was a challenge. In my limited research of screening venues, I've found it difficult to find locations that are HD compatible. For those who are non-technical (like myself) it's hard to find places that have professional broadcast equipment capable of showing high-definition video. We were relegated to showing a standard DVD of the movie. Does this effect the viewers enjoyment of the film? Who knows. However, it does lower the perceived "production value" and takes away from the vision the director Rich and cinematographer Mike Bratowski had intended. For me, a lot of work and cost was put in to attaining the high visual elements the film has. We shot on 35mm film and had state-of-the-art color correction. It's disappointing to see the image degraded because of techinical limitations. Our choice is to either rent high-end equipment, or just live with it.

After returning from the trip and getting past the stress of the screening, I realized how enjoyable it was to be out on the road with the movie. Sharing your work with an audience is what it is truly all about. To impact people mentally and emotionally is why filmmakers do what they do. I wish Rich had been there to hear the comments, see the smiles, and experienc the full result of his work. I can't wait to do it again.

More soon,


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Texas here we come!

     Well, we didn't make the Gotham festival in New York, but we're on our way to McAllen, Texas. On Thursday, November 20th, "Ranchero" will be screening at the historic Cine El Rey. Put together by my good friend and talented actor Dave Silva, this type of screening will be a first for the film. What I mean is, this will be the first time the movie will play for a general, non festival audience. And believe me, it's scary. Not that I don't have complete faith in the film, but this is really the first time that the baby walks on it's own. In festival, I'd like to believe there is a sense of comradarie amongst the filmmakers and an atmosphere of encourgement from the attendees. This will be, more or less, a regular group of filmgoers who are plunking down their ten bucks to see a movie. They're not rooting for their friends or supporting up and coming filmmakers. They are there to be entertained, bottomline. 

     In the interest of full disclosure, let me be completely forthcoming about the make up of our expected audience. It will be predominantly hispanic. When I wrote "Ranchero" and director Rich and I sat down to discuss it, we never felt we were making a hispanic film. Though the lead is Mexican-American and his journey is definitely colored by his heritage, we always felt that the purely human aspect of his struggle trumped anything having to do with race. To me the film is about finding self-worth and that's a battle fought by people of all ethnicities. It will be interesting to see if the audience responds to the universal themes or simply identifies with the characters that they view as similar to themselves. Or perhaps we've missed the mark entirely and will be chased from the theater by an angry mob. I can't wait for the 20th.

     Needless to say, I'll let you know how it goes. The trip will be a nice break from staring at the phone as I await feedback from two distribution companies. I know there is an audience for "Ranchero." I'm just having to work to find it.

     Until next time.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Slow and Steady

When we began shooting "Ranchero" I was concerned about the many difficulties of production. There were many (an entry for another time) but all things considered we got through virtually unscathed. Due to our lack of resources, I knew that post would be a long and arduous process. It was and is. We are still doing sound tweeks. But the one aspect that ignorantly worried me least was distribution. Make a good movie and the rest will take care of itself. I don't think that could be further from the truth.

From getting into festivals to gaining the interest of producer's reps, I liken the marketing of a film to doing a Rubix cube blindfolded. Not that guidance doesn't exist. There is a great book out there by Laura Kim, once of Warner Independent, titled "Waking Up Screening." It is chalk full of strategies on what to do with your film once you've completed it. But regardless of how accurate or inciteful the information, your project will always be at the mercy of business concerns, timing, and personal taste. Conventional wisdom dictates that you must have two bankable names to sell an independent movie. But I could go on for days listing successful films that don't. I have been told several times by people of note in the independent world that "Ranchero" would have sold great five years ago. Huh? Anyone with a time machine? And finally there is the subjective element. "Ranchero" has been received positively by nearly all that have viewed it. However, we have failed to make any of the top notch festivals. Who knows? I certainly don't.

Since my last post we were rejected by the festival in North Carolina, but still awaiting word from those in Texas and New York. Also, a fine article about me and the movie appears in the October issue of 944 magazine. You can view it online, page 70 of the Orange County edition.

That's it for now. I'll be back.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wow. It's been awhile.

Having just attended the excellent Film Independent Filmmaker's Forum this weekend it is time to turn over a new leaf. That leaf is... the internet. Heard of it? Yeah, us technologically challenged folk have long fought the idea of sitting in front of the computer and developing carpal tunnel. (But I'm a writer, so the logic doesn't follow) In any case, it is time to "consistently" add my two cents, (is it worth that anymore?) to the global discussion. It's going to take me a minute to get the hang of this, but I'm going to give it a try. I guess I'll start where I left off many months ago... updates on "Ranchero."

If you don't know about "Ranchero," please check out the official website at The logline: a Mexican-American rancher moves to Los Angeles where he finds love, danger, and ultimately himself. It is a film about identity and finding our self worth. 

Back in March we premiered at the Sacramento International Film Festival. There we were nominated for the top prize of "Best Norcal Film." In August we found ourselves screening at Indie Fest USA in Downtown Disney. Though flustered with the inability to screen HD, seeing the movie at the AMC 12 was amazing. Turn out was low and industry representation non-existent, but we had a good time. Our efforts garnered nominations for director Richard Kaponas, cinematographer Michael Bratowski, and editor Don Burton. The film itself won the top prize "Best of Festival."

Right now, we are awaiting response from festivals in North Carolina, Texas, and New York. I'll be back with updates on these as info rolls in. 

Well, that's it. Not great, but it's a start. I'll be back very soon. I promise.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Thank You

I want to give a quick shout out to everyone who made "Ranchero" possible. As with all independent films, there were many challenges we had to overcome. As a team, we withstood those assaults and went on to make a film that I am very proud of. My family and friends who contributed in so many ways, thank you. It would not have been possible without your support.
The "Ranchero" screening at the 2008 Sacramento Film Festival has brought this project full circle. Not only did we begin production in Sacramento, but it is also my home. I am proud of both of those facts.

In the weeks leading up to the festival I'll be adding more information about the production and am open to any thoughts or questions people may have. You can find out more about "Ranchero" by going to our official site at

Thank you again to everyone. I hope to see you all on March 29th.