The Search For Investors

SAG-AFTRA defines an Ultra Low Budget feature film as one costing less than $300,000. Stay under that marker, and your required pay for professional actors is drastically minimized. Raising $300,000 is a lot easier than raising $1,000,000 (it’s a lot easier than raising $350,000, actually).

So I’m currently developing an Ultra Low Budget horror feature, with the hopes that my production company can attract investors at this price point. Horror is the most reliable genre in feature film; thus, the potential return on investment becomes markedly higher. That can sweeten the investment pitch we make. (If you’d like to read the pitch I asked ChatGPT to author, click here. It’s pretty convincing.)

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Keep Pushing That Rock

Writer-producers stay under the radar unless they’re lucky enough to have a project warranting trade coverage and awards consideration. I’m certainly not in that category at the moment. And plenty of professionals pursue their careers without ever garnering awards or significant trade publication notice. The work, in the end, is what it’s all about.

Through my production banner Vista Bella Films, my production partner and I continue pursuing production fundraising for feature films (including 2-WAY) to be produced in New Mexico. In 2020 and 2021, we were dealing with the pandemic. In 2022, this has been the media landscape, per industry journalist/analyst Matthew Belloni: ““Let’s call 2022 the year of the write-off. Or maybe the year that most entertainment people would like to write off. Or, if we’re really being honest, it was the year that Hollywood itself was written-off.”

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This Can’t Be Real

Professional news bulletins (i.e., blog postings) were easy in the years I served as a full-time professor: I’d be speaking at a conference, on a panel or broadcast radio/podcast segment; producing an extracurricular event (that I was also promoting publicly); or just commencing a new academic year and teaching a new slate of courses (worth a mention, at least).

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From Synapse to Script

Feature film screenplays generally run 80 to 120 pages (it’s a simple metric: one page = one minute of screen time, approximately). Unfortunately, their narratives are not “born” fully formed. There is no single path to developing a screenplay: some build the story via (physical or onscreen) index cards; others build the story via the writing of one or more outlines; some try to bull their way through the script by writing it from “FADE IN” to “FADE OUT” (the latter is not an approach I recommend). Combinations of these approaches are pretty typical.

I’ve developed screenplays solely via index cards, but more recently, I’ve been favoring the writing of treatments (which are more detailed prose outlines that can run 20-40 pages). The treatment provides a trustworthy roadmap for me while I write the screenplay: I can maintain momentum, and avoid getting hopelessly lost, by following the treatment. It requires a lot of the treatment: the more detailed it is, the more I know where I’m going.

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2022 and Optimism

Almost immediately after my wife and I were vaccinated early in 2021, we booked a trip to the Yucatan peninsula for the end of the year: feeling that the pandemic would definitely be waning by then, and travel would no longer be a concern.

The joke was on us, of course. Delta. Omicron. We got our boosters the second we were eligible. And maybe the best way to escape Omicron after all was to head to the jungle in Campeche.


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Vista Bella Films, continued

And now we round into the Fall: the pandemic anything but gone, a woman’s right-to-choose in peril, authoritarianism relentlessly gnawing away at a fragile and imperfect democracy…

MovieMagic Screenwriter Title Page Publisher screenshot

But pontificating via social media is not my thing. I write screen stories. So an update on that tale…

Continue reading “Vista Bella Films, continued”

Vista Bella Films

vbf_prospectusJust a check-in as Spring hastens towards Summer…and as the pandemic seems to be waning (I hope everyone’s gotten vaccinated or has a vaccination appointment on their docket)…

As you may know, my production company — Vista Bella Films — is pursuing independent financing for the production of low-budget feature films set in New Mexico and to be made by New Mexicans. We continue making (slow) progress towards completing the funding for my feature film screenplay 2-WAY (a screenshot of part of one slide in our investor prospectus deck accompanies this post). We hope to be in production prior to the end of the year. The pandemic certainly slowed our progress, but it feels like we’re now picking up momentum with our private equity offering (SEC regulations require that I say no more). Continue reading “Vista Bella Films”

Pandemic Life

The pandemic can literally make each of us invisible, given the near-obliteration of public life and social activites. And writers historically will tend towards invisibility anyway, if they’re in the middle of a project.

So as we move fully into 2021 (President Biden’s inauguration seeming to be the real marker for a new year and new beginning), just a brief update on my professional doings. (The photo is from an earlier time when outdoor dining was still considered “safe”. Mask off, champagne ready.)

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Writer For Hire

My Visiting Professorship in Ringling College of Art+Design’s Film Department has officially ended after a wonderful two-year stint (allowing me a chance to experience a part of the country I’d never been in before). Working with Ringling Film‘s undergraduates was a privilege, and I was never more impressed than seeing their grace and equanimity when confronted by this ugly pandemic in the Spring. Having had to essentially flee the campus over Spring Break, they pursued their studies with rigor for the second half of the semester, as we made a new classroom home in Zoom. And I wish them much success as they earn their degrees and commence pursuing their careers.

For the first time in a decade, I’m not employed full-time as a college professor. Which means I’m hanging out my shingle as a writer-for-hire, script doctor and script consultant — while simultaneously writing and producing my own projects under the banner of Tzib Media and Vista Bella Films.

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2-WAY’s Progress Towards Production

You might be wondering, “How does an independently financed feature film move towards full funding and production during a pandemic?”

Specifically, my feature film 2-WAY (which I’ve written and am executive producing).

Well, I’ve got the answer.

Check out 2-WAY‘s Indiegogo site (NOTE: the campaign itself ended in Fall 2019–how time flies!), and click on the “Updates” tab on the page. You’ll get caught up on the latest news. Or, you can click on the screencap below.

(And while we make continued [albeit slow] progress on 2-WAY, I’m hard at work on a new feature film screenplay that we’ll be looking to independently finance later in the year. This is assuming we can ever get safely back to production in New Mexico.)