February DA-Day!

10 years! I moved to LA in ’96. I am so not an overnight success. But I have made it. I have persevered through junk that would have sent most fleeing. I’ve lived through the staff writer years and can remember a time when Screenwriters could fight for the story. I’ve lived through the threat of a strike that created Reality TV. I’ve been hired, fired and rehired to fix what my rewriters screwed up. I’ve been paid to write movies, TV, video games, animation and comic books. I’ve lived through a strike. I’m still here. Still fighting the good fight… which brings us to February of 2010.

But first…

Goosebumps. That is all.

Now. On with the show…

In early February we started getting NRG tracking numbers for Drive Angry which I stopped reading because I don’t speak the language. But I was told the “awareness” was lower than we would like. But then, I didn’t care too much because if you looked at the “awareness” numbers of movies in general and compared those to box office, there was NO PATTERN. High awareness did not mean big box office. And low did not mean failure.

I chatted with Dean who had recently pitched a movie to a junior Suit at one of the big studios. I knew junior Suit from way back when he worked for major Suit. I had developed a pitch for the an old comic for him. Anyway I shot him an email telling him Dean taught me how to write when I first moved out to LA and how much I loved Dean’s pitch. Turns out, junior Suit had also been slipped my and Patrick’s original horror outline. So Dean and I had a laugh as we were suddenly in competition.

I drove up to Frisco to see A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE. One, because my friend, Simon Barrett wrote it. Simon wrote Frankenfish. If you haven’t seen Frankenfish then I guess you just don’t love movies. Two, I went to watch AJ Bowen act. Brian Collins of HMAD had been badgering me about AJ for months. Then I recalled seeing AJ in The Signal, a fantastic Zombie movie that most have never heard of. I recalled AJ because he was amazing in it. So I drove up to the Roxie to check out the new flick. And AJ was outstanding. His character was haunting. Other serial killers play like cartoons compared to his performance. Amy Seimetz’s performance also stood out. It’s not the feel good movie of twenty eleven but AJ and Amy are outstanding in it.

Patrick, Brian Pearson, Max Penner and myself agreed to do a 3D forum at the NAB conference in Vegas in April.

A February highlight was Patrick and me going in and doing the Drive Angry commentary. But NOT because of the commentary, although I’ll come back to that. We had returned to the Cimarron Group. Patrick had nearly no voice from doing interview after interview. He made Harvey Fierstein sound smooth. We had fun with the commentary and gave big shout outs where shout outs were due.

But THEN came the highlight. We were escorted back to Aaron Druckenbrod’s office to watch some of the footage he and his partner Graham Fisher had cut together as part of the DVD/Blu extras package. Holy wow. I don’t even want to give it away because I’m such a spoiler freak. I had goosebumps watching. One, because they’d clearly given us their A game. Two, there was stuff in the Extras I’d never seen done before. And three. there was the revisit with the crew. I was reminded how much fun we had making this movie. I’ve never buddied with cast and crew like I did on this one. We had way less money that you’ve been told but we made OUR movie. The movie WE wanted to make. Love it or hate it, it was ours. No regrets. None. And wow, what a DVD this will be. I came home with a compilation. One of the Extras docs as well as a running Picture in Picture commentary by Patrick, crew and I.

I’ve been saying for years that Patrick and I are putting together our team to make movies like Eastwood has done. I’ve referred to the team as our Beatles. As far as I’m concerned, Druckenbrod and Fisher have an open invite to join the band. My thanks and a big shout to they and everyone at team Cimarron. Thank you so much.

By February 8th Patrick and I were nearly done with our Hellraiser outline (the first step) but we were yet to be paid commencement. So I sent an email to agents and lawyers.

Patrick and I also did a rewrite for Rafella DeLaurenttis which I have, at this point, failed to mention before now. On the 9th we got word that Rafella and her team read it and loved it. A meeting was scheduled.

On the 11th De Luca asks us to lunch later in the week. We had recently sent him our “original horror” outline so we assumed the meeting was to discuss.

Patrick and I were also finding “Unnamed Project” (a script we’d been sent to consider rewriting) to be a struggle. In order to fix it to our level of happy it was feeling more and more like a page one rewrite. I hate doing page one rewrites to someone else’s dream. If I’m gonna put in that much work I’d rather do it for my own dream. Unless there’s stupid money on the table and there is no longer stupid money on the table ever. So we decided we would walk away.

We heard that LGF loved our original horror outline and wanted the weekend to discuss it. But by the end of Monday though, we had not heard anything so we decided to pitch New Line the following day.

As we were walking into New Line we saw posters for HALL PASS. Our competition. During the meeting we all chuckled about it. The interesting thing during the pitch was that the New Line executives clearly didn’t get our original horror idea. We were left with the “Let us discuss it internally.” When you hear that it means “no” by the way. That’s fine, they don’t have to “get it” but I recall walking out sad. Not that it clearly wasn’t gonna happen there but this was the house that Freddy built. This was the house that made my first movie, Jason X. I was sad that of all places, I figured for sure New Line would “get it”.

It was frustrating. Because Lions Gate did “get it”. But due to internal complications, it seemed a good bet they would not be able to do it.

For lunch we met with De Luca. Having previously sent him our original horror we asked if he’d like to be our producer. He said he would love to. He would go with us to pitch Mandate. He also asked us if we’d like to develop a TV show with him. We said we’d love to.

Tom, Tim and myself met to do a commentary for Alien Pig Farm 3000, the comic we did a couple years back. This was for a digital version.

On the 20th Amber sent me the link to an interview she did with Ryan Turek at Shock Till You Drop.

Heard: [laughs] It’s funny, because he was great in the movie. He puts himself literally “out there,” which I loved. He’s my boyfriend in the movie and I get to kick his ass and I hope I did a good job with that. He’s such a good writer. I’m blown away by the characters he wrote. Because I am in this business and I read so many scripts, you would not believe how rare it is to read such a well-rounded – well, I don’t know if I’d call Piper that – such a real character. Piper’s a character with different layers. She’s a swearing, cowboy boot-wearing, chain-smoking, punch-throwing, Charger-driving motherf**ker, but she carries the heart of the film. I’m thankful I found Todd.

It’s tough not to love her alot.

The Thursday before release we met with junior Suit to discuss our original horror. He loved it. He wanted us to come back in and verbally pitch to his new major Suit, but seemed hesitant to actually book the date. We laughed about it later because it felt like he was waiting to see how Drive Angry did.

While I haven’t mentioned it, January and February were FULL of interviews and podcasts. I did them. Patrick did them. Some we did together, some we did solo. Fangoria, Arrow in the Head, Big Fan Boy, on and on. And we had a blast doing them.

Of course, this included the press junket. I wasn’t invited to the press junket. But our junior Suit meeting had left us running behind. I would not be able to get Patrick home in time to meet the car picking him up for the junket. So I offered to take him. I’d hang out in the lobby and write. But when we got there the staff running the junket never thought twice about not including me. So Patrick and I did the interviews together.

And of course we all crashed in Bill’s room. It was like an open door dorm party.

Radio Screening on the 22nd.

Red carpet and all that stuff. After, we had dinner with agents and Fichtner. Kim Coates, one of Bill’s closest friends, joined us.

The 24th was a cast and crew screening. Dean Lorey, Earl Brown and Ben David Grabinski were my dates. Jaime King was sick so she stayed home and Kyle nursed her back to health. Steve Niles no-showed me so I plan on beating him at the Dallas Comic Con in May. It was nice to see the cast and crew again.

I crashed that night on Ben David’s couch. We grabbed and early breakfast then I drove to Santa Barbara where I met Mel and Izzie. From there we got on a train to Anaheim. Rather than deal with the success or failure that would be Drive Angry, Mel and I decided to take Izzie to Disneyland.

Izzie was THRILLED! She loved the train.

Loved the bus to Disney. Loved the restaurant on the Disney Boardwalk, the balloon animals, even the Disney Californian Hotel. We were having a blast.

But by 10:30 that night I had an odd feeling in my belly. I still hadn’t heard anything about Drive Angry’s numbers. No calls from agents or lawyers. No texts. Nothing from Patrick.

So I called him.

I could tell from his voice it wasn’t good. It looked like we’d be under 10 million. How far under? He wasn’t sure. I did not sleep well.

I woke to Izzie crawling into bed with me announcing she was ready for Disney. Little manipulator kept telling me she loved me. Which softened the blow of the following email from Patrick. 1.6 million for Friday. 5 million for the weekend.

It was a tough weekend. Not just on Patrick and myself. I spoke with Bill, texted with Amber and emailed with Billy. In the end, it happens. Win some you lose some but on that weekend, finding the bright side was tough.

Thank God for Mel and Izzie. Mel was incredibly supportive and threw relentless distractions at me.

Izzie’s attitude was, “Screw it, let’s ride rollercoasters!”

I also got tons and tons and tons of emails, FB messages, board posts and tweets of support. Not just from friends, family and fans, but from executives as well. For the most part, those who saw the movie, loved it.

But 5 million at 3D ticket prices was stunning.

Recall, Jason X was considered a box office failure. It opened with 6.8 million at 2001 prices and went on to make 13 million on a 10 million budget. Drive Angry opened at 5 million on roughly a 30 million budget. It’s not that people didn’t go, it’s like they had to make an effort to avoid it. I laugh about it now. I wasn’t actually laughing about it then.

I spoke with Dean Lorey and remarkably, he told me exactly what would happen. Exactly how it would all go down. Because he’d been there. He’d been through it. And as a result, I actually calmed down. As a result, I decided to make the best of it. I tweeted it all day. I did not go into hiding. I posted pics of Izzie and we made the best of it. I was self-deprecating. I was funny. I was amazingly good-looking.

I don’t have a single regret.

Disney was great. Sadly, any stay at Disney that lasts longer than a day will cost ya. Izzie is now up to a full year at community college.

By Monday we were on a train back to Santa Barbara. From there we caravanned home.

The following week was interesting. We got to see who would stick with us, and who would walk away.

Junior Suit decided he did not want to be in business with us.

But Dimension stuck with us. Morgan Creek stuck with us. Valhalla came to us to join forces. Thomas Jane gave support and encouragement. And the list of executives who came out in support was a shocking.

While yes, we lost some gigs. We also gained some fans and future partners. Some embraced us and said “I been there!” Others looked at us as falible, approachable. Recall, we’d made turned a 16 million dollar obscure horror remake into a 100 million cash cow. But now we were flawed just like everyone else. And oddly enough, Dean told me this was how it would go down. And he was right.

The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible. — Arthur C. Clarke

Never, never, never, never give up. — Winston Churchill

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. — Aristotle

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. — Babe Ruth

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. — Albert Einstein

Never give up! Never surrender! By Grabthar’s hammer! — Galaxy Quest

And THAT was February 2011. It’s April 26 at 4:53 am as I write this. Two big pitches tomorrow. Big. So it’ll be Thursday before I post March 2011. Then I’ll post April 2011 at the close of… April 2011. No. Way. I’ll be caught up. My nipples are getting all pointy just at the thought of it.

3 replies on “February DA-Day!”

Glad to hear you staying positive about Drive Angry. It was such a fun flick. I think part of the bad box office had to do with the film being only in 3D. Stading in line, there was a group of college kids trying to pick a film and DA was brought up, but shot down because “the last two movies we saw, the 3D sucked”. Sad for them, the 3D in DA was great.

By “open door dorm party” you mean orgy, yes? That’s how I envision it. And it was HOT! HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT!

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