Archive for the ‘Running a company’ Category

It’s here! It’s free! It’s NSFW (strong language, gore & nudity)! Full-length video about low budget horror filmmaking! Full of useful information for budding filmmakers about every step of the process, plus rare clips from Jinx movies (including behind-the-scenes stuff). Filmed live at Horror-on-Sea in January 2013.

Weird thing about Jinx Media still being in business after ten years; we’ve got the rights for our first movie back.

We signed a seven year distribution deal for Trashhouse back in February 2006. We signed the UK and the US, but the US elements of the deal went wonky when one of the companies involved folded, and that release never happened. The UK release, however, was pretty damn great and saw us on shelves of stores all over the country, not to mention our first review in Empire. ‘Clever ideas but dodgy tech credits’ if memory serves.

TrashHouse_DVD

And now the film has come back to us. It’s the first time ever that we’ve owned the rights to a movie that has a valid BBFC certificate in this country, meaning of course that if we fancied knocking out a cheapo rerelease it would cost us pretty much nothing to do so, provided the film was in exactly the same form as it was when rated in 2006. And there, of course, lies the rub.

I’ve talked about revisiting movies and recutting them before on this blog. My re-edit of The Devil’s Musicwas signed to Cine du Monde last year and we’re just waiting for a shelf date. My director’s cut of KillerKiller should be along later in the year too.

But TrashHouse… Aah, TrashHouse is a different case.

Whereas doing new versions of KillerKiller and The Devil’s Music was really a matter of recutting some scenes – tightening some bits and adding a handful of elements that hit the cutting room floor and perhaps shouldn’t have done – if I were to revisit TrashHouse it would be a big job. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, the flick is a total product of its production context. Some awful special effects, dodgy grading, iffy pacing. The problem with revisiting TrashHouse is that if I started tinkering I just wouldn’t want to stop.

All the things I hate about it (watching it back now) could be fixed. Things that were waaay out of our reach in 2004 could now be dropped into the mix with relative ease, and considering the number of special effects bits that were put together as cutaways or against green screen, I genuinely think we could make the sucker fly like it never has before. Last week I installed Adobe CS6 on my laptop and I tested how well the software was running by tinkering with a couple of shots from the TrashHouse rushes. Shots that had taken me DAYS to get a pretty poor result with in 2004 looked about a hundred times better after I’d worked on them for 20 minutes with my 2013 software (and skillset). Plus, I’ve still got nearly all of the wardrobe and props, so additional cutaways wouldn’t be out of the question either. Perhaps the film could finally look like I’d always wanted it to; it was, after all, the most ridiculously over-ambitious micro-budget movie to ever actually get completed.

I was talking about this situation with Paul Cousins, who was very much my right-hand man throughout Nazi Zombie Death Tales and was the director and editor of the filmed version of my live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws. What’s that, you say? You’ve never seen it? Why, click the link below…

Anyway, I was discussing what to do with TrashHouse with Paul. Paul suggested that I might be better to remake/reboot the movie rather than trying to tinker with such a flawed flick. He thought I’d be better leaving it as a product of its time and shooting the whole damn thing again at some point. He might well be right, but I can’t help feeling that I’ll never get the chance. That if I leave it to attempt a reboot at some point in the future I’ll never actually do anything with it at all.

Of course, as soon as I start tinkering with the movie it becomes unreleasable on DVD under the old BBFC rating; we’d have to resubmit it and swallow all the costs associated with that. Right now (considering that TrashHouse is still a LONG way in the red overall) we’re really not in a position to do that.

Weirdly enough, I had another idea which is the most radical of the lot; I thought of making the entire rushes available for people to have their own crack at re-editing. Let all the bedroom SFX gurus loose on green-screen footage of poor blood-splattered Lucy and her heavy artillery and see what they could come up with. Let people recut the whole goddamn film as a showreel piece or just for fun. Release dozens of hours of rough footage into the wild and just see what happened.
I liked that idea for about ten minutes and then the control freak in me kicked back in. It’d be a fun experiment, but I suspected that nobody would ever bother to recut the whole film (a couple of people might have a go at the big fight scene with the blood up the walls and the chainsaw, but that would probably be it) and then I’d never be able to get the genie back into the bottle.

But, damn, I really liked those couple of shots I put together with CS6 last week. It gave me a sense of the movie that TrashHouse always wanted to be but never was due to the fact it was shot by a first-time filmmaker in 2004.
Maybe the project’s time will come. Maybe I’ll remake/reboot when I’m about 70, as the last film of my career as a kind of bookend. Or maybe I should learn to let the past stay there, and concentrate on the fact that I’m hurtling into a project-packed future and already can’t keep up with my own schedule.

PS. Incidentally, I’m being interviewed for new documentary about micro-budget horror called Making Monsters this evening. You can check out the teaser trailer below.

Here’s another topic I’ve avoided talking about.

I’ve avoided talking about it largely because both sides of this discussion seem so entrenched in their thinking that nice, civilised discourse often gives way to people chucking insults, hyperbole, misleading figures and great big chunks of horse shit at the other side.

‘The other side’. Even that turn of phrase suggests a divide that can’t be conquered. An issue where you’re either on one side of the fence or the other. No grey area or defections allowed.

Well, sod it. I want to wallow in that grey area a bit. I’ve been trying to find ways to give stuff away for free for years. We’ve put Werewolves, Cheerleaders and Chainsaws up as a freebie, of course, on the basis that if we can get it to meet as many sets of eyes as possible then it might be able to spread the word about our company. At best, it might make a few folks go and buy our movies or attend next year’s live show, and we’ll ultimately get some money that way. So, in order to get it in front of as many sets of eyes as possible, here’s the embedded version again. If you haven’t watched it yet, hope you enjoy it. It’s a live thing about filmmaking. It’s vaguely NSFW in places.

Right, that’s the great big plug out of the way. It actually serves to illustrate a point, though. If your business model relies on the good effects of giving something away, you’re gonna need to keep plugging it. There’s a reason those annoying fuckers trying to give you a free paper as you walk through London are so persistent. It’s a numbers game, and if you’re giving it away for nothing then you need great big numbers of people to watch your product or you won’t see any benefit whatsoever.

We also tried to give The Devil’s Music away for free on initial release, via a third party who placed a couple of high-yield ads at the beginning of the stream. It was a great big risk despite the fact that the company in question threw a load of weight behind the release in terms of conventional advertising. I think it’s fair to say that the experiment wasn’t fully successful, and that the business model still had some kinks. The next release will be going back to conventional DVD, which is a bit more predictable even as the air seems to be leaking out of the balloon.

On the DVD purchase model, I need a lot less people to buy a copy of a feature than I need to watch a freebie in order to make that business model make sense, (provided I’ve struck a decent deal with the distributors). The advantage with this as well, (that nobody seems to talk about much) is that the DVD purchase model is targeted. By its very nature, the people who end up watching the movie have likely done their homework because they have made the decision to drop a tenner on the disc. Odds are they’ve at least Googled the title (even if whilst standing in the shop) and read a bit of background, therefore deciding whether the movie experience they’re about to pay for is one that they are likely to enjoy.

One of the things I found most difficult about having flicks end up on the torrents was that the nature of the distribution model required no investment, research or engagement from the people who ended up watching the flick. The end result was that as soon as any of my tiny little indies hit the torrents all of the average scores on sites like IMDB absolutely plummet, regular as goddamn clockwork. Whereas the guys who’d gone and bought the movie had looked it up and thought “Okay, this is a tiny micro-budget flick with a lot of talking. It’s a slow-burn with a creepy pay-off. That’s my kind of movie, I think I’ll buy it”, the guys pulling it off the torrents were just seeing ‘horror’ and hitting download with no further engagement with the process. Sometimes there might be a lucky match-up, and someone might enjoy it, but far more often the end-user would be expecting a mainstream Hollywood product (or at least a gorefest) and end up clicking the ‘1’ out of 10 on IMDB or wherever. Often accompanied by a comment about how they only watched the first two minutes because it was ‘so fucking cheap’. Something that they’d have inevitably found out before ever deciding to watch it if they’d had to cough up some money, travel some distance or even put in some time and effort. It’s one of the things I find toughest about the flicks getting distributed illegally; well, there’s that, and the fact that other territories get much, much harder to sell once a flick has hit saturation point online, and there’s no way that an indie can organise an international day and date release (as they’re likely to be dealing with different distributors in each territory).

I’ll keep looking for ways to give stuff away online. As I watch the distributors I’ve dealt with over the years go out of business one by one, it becomes apparent that, yes, the old business model is busted and the new ones have yet to settle down. I’m trying to find a pithy way to wrap this up, one that doesn’t come across as a further shot across that divide. I want to build bridges not create bad feeling. There must be a nice, neat one-liner to sum it up.

Can’t think of one, so I’ll just let the article dribble out incoherently.

Fuck it, it’s not like you’re paying for this stuff.

Jinx Media has been going for ten years.

Ten years of horror, rock n roll, killer cheerleaders and death tales. Ten years of celluloid and zeroes & ones. Ten years of staying afloat and staying alive while the entire industry reforms around us.

To celebrate ten years of Jinx Media, we’ve got some really awesome stuff coming up. The first big date of the year to put in your diaries is Friday February 22nd, when we’ll give you something cool to watch and the opportunity to get involved in one of our movies like never before. It’s going to be an insanely busy and exciting year for us, and we really hope that you’ll join us for the journey.

As we get ready for all the forthcoming festivities, we’ve been trying to bring together all our various ways of keeping you guys informed. Obviously, this here website is one of our main portals of information, but it’s by no means the only one.

Our wonderful, soaraway, sunshine-filled Facebook page actually contains a load of exclusive photos from our movies that you can’t see anywhere else. So.. Here’s our first little giveaway. The ‘Death Tales’ mini-comic that was published in Southend’s Level 4 magazine earlier in the year has just hit the Facebook page! We’re going to be putting even more exclusives on it over the next few months, so please head over there by clicking the awesome artwork below…

NZDT_Comic_Teaser

And please don’t forget to hit ‘like’ whilst you’re at the page so we can keep you up-to-date about this sort of stuff. I hesitate to even ask if you’d be kind enough to plug it to your friends… Ah, sod it. We just gave you an awesome mini-comic. Please plug the Facebook site to your friends!

Next up is Twitter. I use my Twitter account to share all sorts of bits of stuff. It’s often the first place that I mention big developments. So, while you’re busy ‘liking’ our Facebook page, why not follow me on Twitter too? Who’d have guessed it? There’s a nice big button below making it as easy as possible. Press the button. Go on.

Twitter

You’re already at the official site, but don’t forget to subscribe to this too.

And what will we give you for this care and attention, dear reader?

Well, we’ll keep you totally up-to-date through what promises to be the most exciting year since Jinx started. We’ll give you freebies ranging form that mini-comic through to the hour-long video going up on the 22nd (what could it be? I’m sure that a few of you will be able to work it out..) plus keeping you informed right the way through pre production, production and post production of our latest feature. We’ll do everything we possibly can to make this year as exciting for you guys as it’s going to be for us.

Let’s go…

I’ve been Googling templates for business plans. There are quite a lot of them out there, with varying levels of complexity and helpfulness. Most of them make me a little uneasy, but the fact is that I want to get some kind of focus as to what my company is going to achieve over the next five years and somewhere in all these various bits of paper I hope that I can start to find the answer.

The business/company side of things is something I still find challenging to manage. Jinx Media has existed for ten years (this July!), but the basic mechanics of keeping a company going is something I doubt I’ll ever find simple. I’m a creative guy rather than a business guy, and I’d have never ended up as a company director were it not the only sensible way legal framework with which to pull my projects together.

Completing the end-of-year accounts that first year was a rude awakening. I attended various seminars about doing your own accounts and ended up panicking that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I signed with an accountancy firm who ended up billing me over three times the amount that they’d verbally estimated, despite the fact that the first year’s accounts literally couldn’t have been simpler (mainly because they consisted of a single page of A4 and were ALL outgoing). That experience left me annoyed and feeling a bit helpless. I didn’t feel capable of doing my own accounts, but couldn’t afford to keep paying stupid amounts of money to other people to do them for me. I eventually ended up signing with a local accountant who was friendly, reliable and charged exactly what he said he would, and we stayed with him for many years, but that first experience still haunts me a bit. It sometimes feels like there are traps all over the place when you’re running a company, and some of them can cost you serious amounts of cash.

In the ten years since we got our articles of association the industry has changed almost beyond belief. The giants who seemed enormous and permanent in 2003 are now largely either laid low or gone altogether. Everything has changed, from the way films are shot through to the way they are delivered to consumers. In terms of our particular niche (horror features shot on micro-budgets in the UK) we’ve gone from being a small fish in a deserted small pond to being a small fish in a small pond that’s so full of other small fish you can barely see any water. The arrival of home computers that can edit video straight out of the box, buddied up with countless devices that can shoot high-quality video, has meant that the filmmaking process has been thoroughly democratised. The disappearance of any ‘gatekeepers’ standing between filmmakers and their potential audience has meant that anyone can get their stuff out there.

In other words, it’s a very, very different jungle out there to the way it was ten years ago. Not necessarily easier or harder, but very different.

The smartest thing we ever did was to get TrashHouse shot before it was easy to edit on home PCs. I can’t help feeling that if we’d have shot that same movie five years later, it would have been forever lost in the deluge of home-grown horror and would probably never have seen the light of day. Luckily, back in 2004 a cheap home-grown horror movie was still something of a novelty; novelty enough that people would watch it, anyway. Nowadays there are a couple of hundred such flicks slated for completion in the UK this year alone, and nobody thinks there’s anything particularly special about shooting a feature all by yourself. I would hate to be in this environment trying to get people to pay attention to my first film. It may be a million times easier to make something nowadays, but getting people to pay attention to it (let alone give you money for it) gets tougher with each passing week.

So, where does this leave the business plan? Well, we announced our feature for 2013 at the Horror-on-Sea festival last week. Our official online launch for the project is still a couple of weeks off, so if you weren’t in that room last Saturday I’m afraid my lips are still sealed, but the fact that I’m still talking about feature shoots will be enough to tell you that we’re not suddenly putting our 7Ds down and entering the flower arranging business any time soon. What happens before and after that shoot, however, is the stuff of business plans and late-night brainstorming sessions. We aren’t in a position to simply think, “hey, we’ve already done this a half-dozen times, let’s just do the same thing again” because that’s the kind of thinking that would land us on that pesky extinct pile pretty damn quickly.

We’ve made mistakes over the last decade, of course we have, but I’ve always prided myself on making all-new mistakes every time rather than making the same ones over and over again. So we need a plan. A plan to ensure that I’m still sitting here typing something about Jinx Media when we’re approaching our 20th anniversary, too.

I’m really proud of the work that’s being done on the new movie, and we’ll be giving you guys the chance to get involved in that production like never before. But that’s a tale for another update.

Me, I’m just looking at these business plans.

Regardless the size of fish, the size of pond or the amount of competition out there.

A five-year plan.

A ten-year plan.

No matter what, we’re going to keep swimming.

PS. Since writing this blog, we’ve released a filmed version of our 2013 live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws, which details many of the experiences of running a small production company. The video can be seen below. Please note that it features strong language, bloody violence and partial nudity.

People often assume that because you’ve got movies on the shelves of mainstream shops, these films will be supplying you (or your company) with a regular supply of money. When they start digging for details of deals that you may have signed in the past, this belief seems to get more deeply ingrained.

Let’s take a hypothetical example.

“Right, so let me get this straight. You signed a worldwide distribution deal on this movie, right? And it has come out in at least ten territories in the world, right? And you’ve got a deal for how much of the profit? 50%? Jesus, that must be bringing you in at least some money” And then you truthfully admit that in the case of that particular movie, your company has seen nothing. Not just no profit, but nothing. Not a single cheque has been written to you in the two years since the movie came out. And then they ask; “But people are buying it, right?”

And you have to tell them that, yes, you get sent a sales report every three months detailing these international unit sales and advances for different territories, and how many hundreds of thousands of dollars your feature has generated for the distributors, all neatly accounted for down to the last cent. But there’s another column of expenses detailing exactly why none of that is going to be heading your way. And every three months, just as the incoming sales figure grows so does the expenses column, so it seems that you actually get further away from being due your cut the more money the film generates.

And then they say “But, hang on, that’s got to be illegal, right?” And you say no. And then they frustrated and start insisting that it must be illegal, surely, because you can’t just make profit disappear with accounting, and how can you just sit there are take it and why don’t you do something? It only crossed my mind this week to point out that, effectively, that international distributor is in the same position as Starbucks (who paid £8.6m in corporation tax in 14 years of trading in the UK, and nothing in the last three years up to 2012, despite UK sales of nearly £400m in 2011) with the small indie producer playing the role of the UK taxman. As long as the expenses on paper tot up faster than the income, they never have to pay that indie producer a single penny of the money generated by their film.

This goes on, frankly, all over the fucking place. Just because it’s morally rotten that doesn’t make it illegal. It’s a tough world out there for those distributors too, and shit rolls downhill. If there’s a legal way to hang on to every penny then quite a few of them will do exactly that. A few, however, don’t. A few write up contracts that they actually honour in spirit as well as in small print; a few have decided that, ultimately, totally screwing over the people who make the product that they sell isn’t always the most cost-effective way to do business, as you’re effectively kicking the geese to death before you even find out whether they can lay golden eggs or not. Which is why when those decent honourable distribs start getting crapped on by the companies larger than them, it breaks my heart all over again.

A colleague of mine who has worked in distribution for decades posted on Facebook this morning bemoaning the nightmare situation that indie distribs sometimes face when the big chains go into administration, namely; “…administrators approaching distributors/labels and offering them pence in the pound for stock sold and also for stock they don’t actually own. Look out for lots of small indie labels going to the wall because of this” Now, hopefully this won’t be the case with any of the current high-profile chains that might be crossing your mind but it’s clearly something that has happened in the past. Once again, shit rolls downhill, and when a giant crashes to the ground it might just use a few smaller folks to cushion the fall a bit.

All this stuff is, obviously, utterly depressing. Another symptom of a dying business model? Perhaps. Either way, it’s something that makes me hate and fear the small print of contracts even more. It’s not just distribution contracts, of course; screenwriters everywhere should beware of the type of contract that promises enormous rewards over countless pages, (percentage points, payments, etc.) and then has a tiny caveat of ‘subject to retaining sole screenwriting credit’ somewhere around page 8. Unless this caveat gets argued tooth and nail, it simply allows the producers to bring someone else onto the project to make some contributions to rewrites and thus void all of the rights that the screenwriter has fought for, leaving them in some cases with absolutely nothing.

Once again, back to the old mantra. Make sure you treat everyone with decency and respect, and hang on to all the ones who do the same to you. It’s a lifelong process of whittling out the assholes and making sure that, when the shit rolls downhill, as it inevitably does, there isn’t someone trying to make you get splattered worse than everyone else.