“Fate of the Furious” and how the the “Fast and Furious” Franchise Raced to Cinema Glory.

Hey, Everybody!  In honor of “The Fast and the Furious,” franchise,  today we’re examining the previous seven films that have raced through the worldwide box office since 2001. These films have earned a worldwide box office total of $3.9 billion, from budgets totaling $759 million. That’s an average of about  $557,142,857 per film, on average budgets of about $108,428,000. Obviously, such earnings have made the series one of the highest grossing motion picture franchises in history.

Before we go look into the “Fast and the Furious” rear view mirror, lets look at the trailer to the upcoming April 17 release of “Fate of the Furious.”

Whew, that was good, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to disappoint!. So, without further ado, let’s look at The Fast and Furious series of films.

Furious 7 (Released April 3, 2015)

This $190 million dollar budget earned a massive $1,516,045,911 worldwide. This includes $353,007,020 domestically, and $1,163,038,891 internationally Thus, the domestic box office only represented 23% of its total gross.

Fast and Furious 6  (Released May 29, 2013)

This film cost $160 million to make, and earned $97,375,245 on 3,658 screens on its opening weekend, which won the box office for the fifth time in the six releases. The picture also enjoyed a $26,620 per screen average, which was the highest in the series. Furthermore, it earned $238,679,850 domestically and $550,000,000 internationally (both of which were the highest in the series) giving it a worldwide total of $788,679,850. Clearly, this picture’s performance insures the future of the franchise.

Fast Five (Released April 29, 2011)

The fifth film in this series cost $125 million to make. The hike in budget was clearly rewarded, because the film won the box office on its opening weekend by making $86,198,765 on 3,644 screens, which is a phenomenal $23,655 per screen average. The picture went on to earn $209,837,765 domestically and $416,300,000 internationally, giving it a worldwide box office total of $626,137,675. By this point in the series, it became apparent that the Fast and Furious series was earning far more money internationally than domestically, as Fast Five was the third consecutive film in the series to do so.

Fast and Furious (Released April 3, 2009)

The fourth edition of the Fast and Furious series smartly moved its release date up by 2 1/2 months, in order to capture more box office dollars when there isn’t nearly the competition that there is in June. The move worked, because the $85 million dollar budgeted film won its opening weekend by making $70,950,500 on 3,401 screens, giving it an astounding $20,500 per screen average. The film went on to make $155,064,265 domestically and $201,100,000 internationally, giving it a worldwide total of $363,164,265. For the second time in a row, the foreign box office surpassed the domestic take, which said quite a bit at the time, because this film had the largest domestic box office total in the series to date.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Released June 16, 2006)

With an $85 million dollar budget, the third installment of the series signaled the first financial dip in the series. This picture earned only earned $23,973,840 on 3,027 screens, which is a meager $7,920 per screen average. Furthermore, the film only mustered $62,514,415 domestically. However, it did earn $95,953,877 internationally, making it the first picture in the series to have its foreign box office surpass its domestic take. In total, Tokyo Drift earned $158,468,292 worldwide.

2 Fast 2 Furious – (Released – June 6, 2003)

The second edition of the Fast and Furious series had a $76 million dollar budget, which is double than the first. This picture also won its opening weekend by making $50,472,480 on 3,408 screens, which is a $14,810 per screen average. The film made $127,154,901 domestically, and another $109,195,760 domestically, totaling $236,350,661 worldwide.

 When comparing the first two films, the second made about $29 million more than the first, which was largely due to it’s opening weekend, which made $10 million, or 25% more. However, 2 Fast 2 Furious did cost $38 million more than The Fast and the Furious, and the per screen average for 2 Fast 2 Furious was slightly less than the first film. Of course, the big picture earnings for the first two films warranted a triplet.

 The Fast and The Furious – (Released June 22, 2001)

With a budget of $38 million, the first installment of the series won its opening weekend by making $40,089,015 on 2,628 screens, which is a $15,254 per screen average. The film went on to make $144,533,925 domestically and another $62,750,000 internationally, totaling $207,283,925. Clearly, such a start would guarantee a sequel.

Okay friends, that’s what I have for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes. Please check out my podcast, “Limping on Cloud 9.”

Get a “Filling” of Confidence From a Bad Dentist!



Family Films, International Buyers, And You!

Hey, friends. Here’s a tidbit that you may not be aware of: Family Films involving kids and pets continue to sell well overseas. Did your stomach just turn? Do you feel the early stages of a violent hurl brewing in the back of your throat? While many filmmakers may be allergic to developing anything blatantly commercial, especially a forgettable, cookie-cutter children’s film with a monkey, dog or horse, I’m here to tell you that developing such a film is your shortest path to a) getting financed b) getting distributed and c) turning a profit. So, today we’re discussing three reasons why having a family film in your arsenal will benefit your career more than you can imagine.

The Family Film Genre Doesn’t Rely on Star-Power
Motion pictures featuring children with animals don’t need stars to drive sales. Of course, a notable TV name or former TV/film name as one of the kid’s parents may help, but those actors will cost you a lot less than you think – especially if you can cluster their shooting scenes together so you can limit the time you need to hire them. These films need little more than solid production value, a likable kid, a loveable pet and a (somewhat) believable conflict. While such an easy formula may seem to be too good to be true, it is true these days. Furthermore, we’re in the early stages of these films cycling into the wish lists of buyers, so there’s at least two to three years of cash-rich green pastures ahead.

The Budgets Are Reasonable
Most of these films can be made between $250,000-$750,000, with the “sweet spot” being in the $250,000-$400,000 range. For purposes of clarification, by “sweet spot” I mean the range in which your investors are more than likely to recoup their investment and turn a profit over time.
In an effort to break down the budget range even more, my rule of thumb is as follows:

A well-made children’s film with a budget of $250,000 or under will likely recoup its investment and turn a profit from cable, satellite and TV sales to multiple territories. These deals will likely catapult the picture into profitability in 12-18 months after completion.

A film budgeted between $250,000-$500,000 will be harder to recoup, but it will afford a few name actors, which will increase the value of the film.

Any indie film spending north of $750,000 should have a broadcast partner. Simply put, you need to know who is buying the film before you actually make it. Making this happen will require you to meet with several distributors and have them approve your film as one they will buy once it’s finished. That way, you know you’ll know how much of your budget is covered up front.

Most Child and Pets Films Are Natural Franchises
The only thing better than doubling or tripling your investor’s money on a crazy-ass children’s film, is creating a franchise that you and your investor group can milk for at least two to three more films. While sequels traditionally earn 66% of what the original film earned, and third and fourth installments of a franchise make successively less than the sequel, they still make enough of a profit for it to make sense to do it.

Reality Check!
I’m sure you’re aware that making a children’s film will almost never get you into Sundance or Cannes, the films that would get you into to those two amazing film festivals are almost never money makers. While critical acclaim and appreciation from your peers is always good, so is the opportunity to make money. Don’t cringe; becoming a profitable filmmaker in the eyes of investors and distributors is not a bad thing!

I’m not asking you to dump your development slate and make a bunch of family films. The world needs awesome psychological thrillers, comedies, coming-of-age dramas and forward-thinking documentaries, and I’m sure you have more than one cinematic bullet up your sleeve. I’m just asking you to consider developing a family film, because that’s what film buyers are opening their check books up for in 2017.

Okay filmmakers! That’s what I have for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again. Until then, please check out my “Limping on Cloud 9” podcast linked below.

Life Experience, a Concert, a Cop, and a 1979 Oldsmobile Delta 88


The Hollywood Winds of Change are at it Again!

Today we’re highlighting two key changes that affect every filmmaker, big or small. I’ll keep sharing game-changing events as they happen, but for today here are two climate changes you should be aware of.

Development Money Has Gone The Way Of The Dinosaur
In the old days, (i.e. a handful of years ago), major studios followed their own time-tested tradition of throwing seemingly countless amounts of money into developing projects they believed in. Writers wrote, rewrote and polished tent pole bound, or Oscar-worthy scripts, year after year, while A-list actors and directors played musical chairs as they attached, then detached themselves to and from high profile projects. In the end, many of these “marathon development” films boasted about their treacherous journey while they accepted their Academy Award on stage. However, those were the old days.

These days, major studios almost never spend money on development, unless a) the project is a part of a high-budgeted, established franchise with a history success, or b) is based on a novel with an established, best-selling audience. However, the good news is if you have your own development funds in place, everyone will take your call, and almost everyone will take a meeting. Of course, they have to initially like your project. But, if they do, your barrier to entry into Hollywood could be as cost-effective as hiring an established writer to pen a script.

Side note: it’s probably safe to say that hiring a writer in this climate cost seven to 10 times less than it used to, so don’t let the trend of needing your own development money deter you.

Audiences Revere Reality Stars More Than A-List Film Stars
As shocking as it may seem, a 2015 Daily Variety survey revealed that Americans actually revere reality stars of TV and the internet more than they do A-list “movie stars.” Whether it’s the unpretentiousness of or accessibility to reality stars through social media, or it’s just a time for a change after having A-list cinema stars serve as America’s royalty for over 80 years, movie stars just aren’t worth what they used to be. While this makes it slightly easier for you to get a solid name attached to your wonderfully written, yet-to-be-discovered indie gem, having that name aboard doesn’t guarantee financial, social or personal success in the same way it used to.

Okay, friends. That’s what I have for you today. But, before I go, check out this video on on Kim Kardashian’s “Robbed in Paris” explanation.

Since we’re taking about the “Winds of Change,” I thought it’s only appropriate  to share the aScorpions “Winds of Change,” video.

And of course, should you wish to check out my “Limping on Cloud 9,” podcast, the link is below. Thanks again for lending me your eyes and ears, and I’d be honored to borrow them again soon!

Life Experience, a Concert, a Cop, and a 1979 Oldsmobile Delta 88


Questions From our Readers

Hey, everyone. Welcome to Going Bionic.Today we’re reaching into my email account, and pulling out a handful of recent questions I’ve received.  So without further ado, let’s dive into to our Going Bionic mailbag.

The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

I Was Recently  Rejected From Sundance, Slamdance and SXSW. Do They Really Watch All Of Their Submissions?
Yes, they do. Religiously. I was a screener at Sundance in 2005, when I personally watched and wrote detailed notes on 78 international feature films. Furthermore, I also served as a panelist on the Slamdance Fireside Chats for several years, and I served as a “filmmaker mentor” at SXSW. Thus, I can tell you those who screen for Sundance, Slamdance and SXSW a) take their viewing responsibilities very seriously and b) rarely get any sleep. Thus, I assure you your film was thoroughly reviewed. Just remember that those festivals get thousands and thousands of submissions annually so getting your film accepted to a top film festival is just as difficult as getting in to the UCLA, USC, or NYU graduate school of film.

Why Are So Many A List Actors Doing Indie Films Lately?
Because (in general) they get paid a lot less then they used to. Many actors bought $10 million dollar houses with $50,000 mortgages before the world financial crisis of 2008, so now many of them are open to doing well-written, smaller productions. Another relevant factor is that well-written smaller films have won several Oscars in recent years, so actors also always looking to find great material than may earn them an Oscar nod.

What Is The Best Way To Get My Script To An A-list Actor?
The best way would be to already have your budget funded and to make a cash-money offer for the actor(s) you want (by actors, I mean both male and female actors). Should you not be funded, and you’re trying the attention of somebody on the A-list, here are a few things you can try:

Contact the Actor’s Production Company
They may be more open to considering your project than the actor’s agents will. Of course, the actor’s production company will ask if you’re fully funded too – and if you’re not, they’ll probably keep their door closed to you. But, if there’s a chance in hell for your unfunded screenplay to be considered by an A list actor, reaching out to their company s your best shot.

Contact the Actor(s) Manager
Should the actor(s) not have a production company, you should reach out to their manager. This is because unlike agents, managers can serve as producers on their clients’ projects. Thus, managers have a vested interest in making your project happen, because they could be paid their management fee, plus an additional producers fee if your film pans out.

Contact the Agent
This will be a futile move if you are not funded. This is because most agents won’t even entertain your project for their client, until you are either a) willing to make a hard money offer b) have a hard shoot date and c) can verify your funds. Thus, unless you have all of the above three elements in place beforeyou contact the actor(s) agent, your phone call to them will last no more than 10 seconds.

How Long Should My Film’s Business Plan Be?
As short as I am, and I’m not the tallest guy on the block. Seriously speaking, most investors (99%) won’t actually read your business plan. In fact, they’ll only glace at four things:
1) Your budget.
2) How much money you want from them.
3) How much profit they will make.
4) When you expect to pay them.

The last thing you want to do is to inundate your investors with useless charts and graphs that they will never read. Remember, most investors will invest because they want to, not because your business plan convinced them to do so. In fact, most investors know they’re waving their investment goodbye when they invest in any indie film. They invest for personal reasons or tax break reasons, but rarely do they plant their money in an indie film expecting to turn a profit. While I don’t have an exact number of how long your business plan should be, I would shoot for the 15-20-page range, instead of the 50-60-page range. Just keep your business plan lean, mean and easy to understand.

Okay, friends. That’s what I have for you today. As always, I thank you for your lending me your eyes, and I truly look forward to borrowing them again. But wait, there’s more! Since we’re answering questions today, here’s a few fun videos of great moments answering questions:

If you want to check out my podcast, “Limping on Cloud 9”, a link is below. Thanks again for lending me your eyes and ears!

From Inspiration to Incarceration



OMG! They Said “Yes!” Now What?

One of the most amazing talents filmmakers are instilled with is the ability (or humility) to deal with constant rejection. However, most filmmakers don’t know how to react when they hear the most beautiful three-letter word in the English language, “yes.” So, today we’re going to discuss five key actions to take once you get a “yes” on your project. Without further ado, welcome to “OMG – They said yes! Now what?”

Make Sure Your “Yes” Comes From A Decision Maker
Throughout the cinematic ages, filmmakers have been toyed with when it comes to selling their creative work. “We love your script and we “want to produce it,” turns into, “We love your script, but the head of the company doesn’t.” Then, in the eleventh hour, when “your check” is filled out and waiting to be signed, the principal of the company decides if he or she is willing to part with their money for your project. Sometimes they do, and sometimes the company owners lay the pen down and walk away from investment opportunity. Thus, the best way to hear those three letters, y-e-s, is from the mouth of a decision maker. Should you be unable to speak to the company’s head honcho directly, ask the “messenger” of your good news for the name and title of the person who said yes. In some cases, you’ll hear, “You have a go project! We just need a few signatures to close the deal.” Beware of such a response, because those “few signatures” may never be obtained. Thus, so it’s best to find out exactly where you stand.

Clarify The Amount of Your Sale
How much are they paying you, and when can you expect to get your first payment? Is your full payment contingent on something, or are you guaranteed the full amount of your sale? Will this sale qualify you for membership into the WGA (Writers Guild of America)? These questions are essential to ask when negotiating your financial compensation. Furthermore, you should NEVER be afraid to ask these questions, nor should you fear hearing their answers. The key is to get a clear understanding of where you stand, and knowing what you can expect.

Clarify Your Level of Involvement
Yes, you just sold your baby/passion project/crowning jewel, but that doesn’t mean the new owners will want you to remain onboard. Unless you have a long track record of being a successful filmmaker, there’s a good chance you won’t be intrinsically involved in your film’s future. However, you’ll get a check, a credit, and a forward-progressing career. Of course, you can “just say no” to any offer. Just remember, unless your script starts a frenzied bidding-war between massive studios, your first solid offer could be your last.

Lawyer Up For Your Contract Negotiation
Once you’ve received your “yes,” the second call you should make is to a razor sharp lawyer, who will negotiate and review your contract offer. Your first call should be to your loved ones, of course!


Don’t Brag Until You Bag A Signed Contract and a Stash Of Cash
You had to know this little piece of advice was coming. Many great deals turn out to be great scams, or not so great offers made by not-so-ethical people. Therefore, try to refrain from announcing your riches to the world until you have a signed contract on a project that is actively in production, with guaranteed distribution and a release date. Buying the car you can’t afford, or taking a trip you can’t spare the time for, before the above mentioned criteria is met, is too risky. The bottom line is, you’ve waited so long to hear someone say “yes” to your project, you should allow yourself to enjoy the process.

kay people, that’s what I’ve got for you! Since today’s topic suggests  how to react when you get great news on a project, please  check out these two amazingly touching videos of deaf persons who hear sound for the first time.

Should you enjoy a positivity infused, slightly offbeat podcast, check out “Limping on Cloud 9.” Thank you for lending me your eyes and ears!

From Inspiration to Incarceration

Celebrity Tweets: Building a Brand 140 Characters at a Time!

One of the most interesting social tidbits I’ve heard is Kim Kardashian West once asked for $750,000-$1,000,000 plus expenses, to tweet for an undisclosed brand.However, by recent accounts, she charges $10,000 per tweet, or 100 times less than her reported asking price. Kim does have 50.5 million Twitter followers, so $10,000 per tweet makes since for advertisers.

Subsequently, it’s reported that Selena Gomez commands  north of $550,000 for a cross-platform endorsement, which includes her 46.6 million Twitter followers  and 113 million Instagram followers. Now that’s reach!

Today we’re talking about three key elements in the world of celebrity tweets; Branding, Reach and Influence on the Film and Television Projects they’re attached to. So without further ado, let’s dive into this topic.

Branding is a key element in the world of celebrity tweets for both the celebrity and the company involved. For example, LeBron James, who has 34.5 million Twitter followers, was offered $85,000 by 20th Century Fox to send out a tweet about the film The Heat, (2013), but he refused.

Conversely, Kevin Hart, who has 32.2 million followers on Twitter, was paid $2 million by Sony to tweet about two Sony Pictures releases (he had 14.8 million followers at the time). Of course, LeBron may have tweeted about The Heat for a $2 million dollar payday, but that’s not what 20th Century Fox deemed his brand value to be for their film. In the end, everything worked out; The Heat wound up making $159,582,188 domestically and another $70,348,583 internationally, totaling $229,930,771 worldwide. As for LeBron, although he made $85,000 less than he could have in 2013, his brand value skyrocketed when he returned to the Cleveland Cavilers in the summer of 2014. In fact, it’s estimated that the city of Cleveland will earn an additional $500 million per year, every year LeBron remains in Cleveland.

Tweet values aren’t necessarily tied to the number of followers a celebrity has. At 32.2 million Twitter followers, Kevin Hart has 18.3 million fewer than Kim Kardashian’s 50.5 million, yet Hart has already signed multi-million dollar tweeting contract while Kardashian is still trying to break into the elite and largely elusive seven-figure tweet club. While I make no judgments on the discrepancy of tweet values between Kevin Hart and Kim Kardashian, one factor may be mass audiences pay $12-$15 each to see Kevin Hart on the big screen, while those same audiences can see Kim Kardashian for free on TV. Thus, a celebrity people pay to see will always have more influence over someone they see for free.

Influence on Film and Television Projects
Independent filmmakers have long begged notable actors to work for pennies on the dollar in exchange for Oscar-worthy roles, and recent Oscar winners are no exception. Julianne Moore, who won Best Actress for Still Alice and Matthew McConaughey, who took home the Best Actor award for Dallas Buyers Club, both won for films with $5 million dollar budgets.

While filmmakers will forever dangle the carrot of an Academy Award to enticed actors, these days filmmakers will be also be asking for a commitment to tweet about the film. Mind you, a notable actor tweeting about a small film they appear in will surely help the picture’s visibility, but it may have little bearing on the film’s public or critical perception. Either way, it rarely hurts to have a celebrity tweeting about a project. So, for you filmmakers out there, make sure you get a contractual “tweet commitment” from the actors you sign in your next project.

Okay friends,  that wraps up today’s insight. But, before I go, here’s a link to my podcast art, “Limping on Cloud 9.”  Thank you for lending me your eyes!

From Inspiration to Incarceration

8 Great Irish Themed Films for St. Patrick’s Day!


Hey, everyone. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you a a fun (and safe) day! Being a Pakistani-American growing up in Overland Park, Kansas, it may seem as if I was the furthest person from celebrating anything Irish. However, my best friend, Patrick Edward Martin, (above) was very much Irish, so I was engrossed in St. Patty’s Day festivities throughout my childhood and teenage years.

Years later I started producing films with another Irish friend, Edward Patrick Stencel, who also helped me build and run Lonely Seal Releasing for five years. So, in honor of Patrick Edward and Edward Patrick, as well as everyone with Irish roots, today we’re chronicling some of the most memorable Irish-themed motion pictures. While I’m not ranking them, I am providing their “numbers,” i.e. their budgets and how well they preformed at the box office. I have truly enjoyed each and every one of the pictures. So, whether you’re revisiting these wonderful slices of cinema, or watching them for the first time, here is and octopus full of wonderful Irish-themed motion pictures.

I’ve attached the official trailers for reach film. Just click on the poster.

My Left Foot (1989)
Initially released on two screens by Miramax on November 10, 1989, this 600,000 Euro budgeted picture (about $800,000 USD) made $14,473,391 at the domestic box office. The picture earned two Academy Awards, Daniel Day-Lewis Best Actor, and Brenda Fricker for Best Supporting Actress.

The Commitments (1991)
Directed by Alan Parker, this $12-$15 million budgeted Fox Studios picture was originally released on August 16, 1991. While the film only earned $14,919,570 at the domestic box office, its original motion picture soundtrack profited nicely, as it topped the New Zealand album charts, peaked at number four in the UK and number eight in the USA. The success of the soundtrack spawned a “volume 2” soundtrack, which did not preform nearly as well as the first.

Far And Away (1992)
This Ron Howard directed adventure-drama is what brought Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman together in their personal lives. Budgeted at $60 million, Universal released the film on 1,583 screens on May 22, 1992. The picture went on to earn $58,883,840 at the domestic box office, and $78,900,000 internationally, giving it a worldwide total of $137,783,840.

Rudy (1993)
Tri-Star released this $12 million dollar budgeted Notre Dame football drama on October 15, 1993. It earned $22,750,363 at the domestic box office, and has since been noted as one of the most beloved sports films of all time.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1995)
First Look released this magical family film on February 3, 1995. While it only earned $6,169,269 at the domestic box office on an estimated $3 million budget, this picture is a rare gem that shouldn’t be missed.

The Brothers McMullen (1995)
Budgeted at only $238,000, Fox Searchlight released this debut film for Edward Burns on August 11, 1995. Released on only seven screens to start, the film went on to earn $10,426,506 at the domestic box office.

Waking Ned Devine (1998)
Fox Searchlight released this inspired $3 million budgeted film on nine screens November 20, 1998. The picture caught fire, and went on to earn $24,792,251 domestically and another $30,465,199 internationally, giving it a worldwide box office total of $55,257,540.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2007)
IFC released this 6.5 million Euros ($8.32 million USD at the time of release) Ken Loach directed war gem on July 12, 2007. The film earned $1,836,089 domestically and $21,063,819 internationally, giving it a worldwide box office of $22,899,908. The picture also won the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

Trends and Observations
None of the eight films listed above were released in March, and only three, Far and Away, Waking Ned Devine, and The Wind that Shakes the Barley, were released internationally. The average budgets of the films listed above are $12,794,750, with an average box office of $35,585,048.

However, once we remove the studio releases and focus on the independent films, My Left Foot, The Secret of Roan Inish, The Brothers McMullen, Waking Ned Devine and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, the average budget was $3,071,600, with an average box office return of $21,845,322. Thus, Irish-themed indie films have proven to be quite successful.

Pretty cool stuff, eh?  I hope you enjoyed today’s offering. That’s all I have for you, but before I go, here’s a link of Daniel-Day Lewis’s “Best Actor” acceptance speech for at the 1990 Oscars for “My Left Foot.”

Should you be interested in checking out my Limping on Cloud 9 podcast, a recent episode is linked below. I thank you for lending me your eyes!

Doctor’s Orders and the Amazing Healing Powers of Dr. Pepper!



Hipper, Younger Dramas

Today we’re discussing how the formula to make a successful drama has shifted from needing established stars with healthy budgets, to showcasing rising stars with anemic budgets. While dramas like Lawrence of Arabia, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Schindler’s List have laced the history of cinema with greatness, current dramas are finding success by skewing toward a much younger viewer base. Whether this trend is temporary or permanent, one thing is for sure: dramas aren’t just for grandparents anymore. Before we get into examining the trend-setting successes, let’s highlight a star-studded feature that reminds us of the “old way” of making dramas.

The Judge
This Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall courtroom drama stumbled out of the gates by earning $13,116,226 on 3,003 screens, on its opening weekend. The picture went on to make $47,119,388 domestically and $37,300,000 internationally; giving it a worldwide total of $84,419,388. That, my friends, isn’t much to brag about. While it may seem like making $84 million  plus on a $50 million dollar budget seems like a solid return, it’s actually anything but. You see, on average, a film needs to earn 2.5 to 3 times its budget to break even. Thus is because a) the studio will pay $15 million to $25 million or more on P&A (prints and advertising), and b) the exhibitor (theaters) keep about 53% of the box office total for themselves. Thus, The Judge, a $50 million dollar budgeted film, needed to wrangle $125 million to $150 million to be deemed a success, and its $84,419,388 cumulative total is a far cry from that.

Now let’s take a look at a few “young drama” successes, which were produced with modest budgets and a youthful cast.

The Fault in our Stars
This $12 million dollar budgeted teen drama earned $48,002,523 on 3,173 screens over its opening weekend, which is a powerful $15,128 per screen average. The film has gone on to earn $124,872,350 domestically, plus another $182,294,484 overseas, giving it a worldwide total of $307,166,834. Furthermore, not only did the picture break the record for pre-ordered ticket sales for romantic dramas in the history of Fandango, but it also broke the digital download record. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that over 5.7 million copies of the novel have been sold worldwide including more than four million sold domestically, but the picture certainly blazed the trail for other youth-oriented dramas with modest budgets.

If I Stay
This $11 million dollar budget earned $15,176,190 on 2,907 screens over its opening weekend, giving it a $5,394 per screen average. The picture has gone on to make $50,474,843 domestically, and $28,400,000 internationally, giving it a worldwide total of $78,874,843. Just like The Fault in our Stars, If I Stay is riddled with a young cast and a modest budget. The winning formula has rewarded Warner Brothers by earning nearly seven times more than its production budget.

When examining these younger, hipper dramas, it’s safe to say the powers-that-be are redefining what they consider a successful drama to be, and how much they’re willing to spend on it. Thus, if you’re developing a drama, “think young,” with your cast, and think “small to medium” with your budget.

Okay, that’s what I have for you today. But, before you go, check out “Quest,” by Thomas Stellmach. This ultra-cool short film won the 1 997 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. I have a special place in my heart for this film, because I was  judge for the 1997 Flickerfest Short Film Festival in Sydney, Australia just a few months before it won the Oscar,  and yes, it won Flickerfest too!

And, a link to my Limping on Cloud 9 podcast is below. As always, thank you for lending me your eyes and ears!

Doctor’s Orders and the Amazing Healing Powers of Dr. Pepper!




3 Things You Need to Know About Acquiring Life Rights

Today we’re tackling the overtly treacherous world of acquiring life story rights. I’ve acquired a handful of life story rights since 1993. These have ranged from buying the rights to a virtually homeless 15-year old boy who went from becoming a local hero, to a national hero, to a felon, to landing life rights to an OG (Original Gangster) in South Central Los Angeles,  as well as wrangling rights to an affluent man who was a New York Magazine cover story.

Throughout my experience of dealing with life rights, I’ve learned to steer clear of situations that will torpedo deals. So, for those of you who are currently negotiating or chasing life rights, here are three things to be aware of during your negotiations with the selling party.

The Life Rights Are Far Less Valuable Than You Think They Are
Unless the person whose life rights you’re acquiring is a world leader, pop culture icon, or unquestionably revered household name, the rights are worth considerably less than you think. While most people assume their life rights will sell for at least $500,000 to north of $1 million, most life rights are offered $35,000-$75,000. Thus, many deals get squashed before they get started, because the people who are selling their life story feel slighted by the offer. Sure, there are the occasional seven-figure deals, but those are reserved for stories that wrangle enthusiastic interest from A-list actors, coupled with a major studio that’s willing to spend $50-$75 million or more on the production, plus $25-$35 million more in P&A.

Using A High Purchase Price To Secure A Low Option Amount Will Backfire 
Many producers think making lofty purchase price offers , i.e. $500,000 to $1 million, is a smart way to get a low option price of $500 to $1,000, or even as low as $1. In other words, producers like saying, “let me option your life rights for a nominal fee, and I’ll work my ass off to sell your rights for a large sum of money.” The problem is, if the “purchase price” you promised the life rights holder is obscenely greater than the real value of the rights, you’ll find it impossible to get a studio or investor(s) to fund your project. Simply put, nobody wants to overpay for anything, regardless of his or her ability to do so. Thus, cost of acquiring life rights should stay between 2%-5% of the final approved budget, which is $20,000-$50,000 per $1 million of the budget.

You’ll Need Way More Time On Your Option Than You Think
Six months will feel like six minutes, because every place you pitch your story to will take several weeks to get back to you with an initial response. You’ll also need a great screenplay to entice actors, financing or distribution. Thus, you have to give at least four to five months to a highly talented writer, before your screenplay is good enough to approach key talent. Remember, the last thing you want to do, is to agree to a short-term option that will severely limit, if not completely kill any chance you may have of getting your project made.

As for the length of your option, I’d start by asking for three-years. If your client-to-be balks, ask for two years, and then go down to 18 months or even 12 months if need be. Allowing ample time to develop life rights into a viable, funded motion picture is going to take time.

Subsequently, one of the most important elements of your negotiation is your re-option, meaning your agreement should have terms in place to allow you to exercise an equal length of time as the initial agreement.

Okay friends, that’s what I have for you today. But, before you click off, check out this cool video on Eminem’s life story:

Should be interested in checking out my Limping on Cloud 9 podcast, it’s linked below. Thank you for lending me your eyes and ears!

Inspirational Life Coaching From an Original Gangster!

3 Big Film Finance Killers!

Welcome to Going Bionic. I hope you’re having a fantastic Friday morning. Today we’re exploring three “finance killers” that will likely kill, or at least severely injure the chances of your picture being funded. So, for the sake of your project and the forward progress of your career, please refrain from using these tactics in your pitch to raise investment funds.

Financing Needed to Renew Option/Rights
While I know firsthand how difficult it can be to pay for options, option extensions, and scheduled increases in the option price as months of development slip into years of development hell, the last thing you want to do is to tell your potential investors you need their investment in order to keep the rights to your project. Trust me; few things will close investor checkbooks quicker than having you admit there is a real chance you will lose the rights to the material if they don’t invest ASAP. Remember, investors don’t have, nor do they want, your time-sensitive pressures. All they want is to invest in something they believe will be a good financial or social decision for them. So, if you have to beg, borrow or steal to keep your option/rights intact throughout your fundraising stage, so be it. But, under no circumstances, should you make your project an even higher-risk investment than it already is, and asking investors to help you pay for the option will do just that.

Time Sensitive Shooting Location
Time and time again, filmmakers tell me they’re under the gun to raise the rest of their funds and start shooting, before they lose their location. Hearing such urgent news raises big red flags for me, because the project’s best-case scenario is to be rushed through production, which is never a good thing.

Seasonal Restrictions
The problem with having to shoot your film during a certain time of year is that if you’re not funded in time, you’ll have to wait one calendar year to make your film. While you may be able to wait, your investors may not be able or willing to do the same. Remember, you can’t tie up investor money forever, especially if you want them to invest in you again. Thus, if you have a season-reliant project, make sure you explore multiple options with regards to your shooting location(s), so you don’t find yourself delayed for one or more years.

That’s what I have for you today. But first, check out this cool masterclass on film finance presented by the Dubai  International Film Festival.

And of course, should you wish to hear my Limping on Cloud 9 podcast, here it is below. Thank you for lending me your eyes and ears!

Inspirational Life Coaching From an Original Gangster!

3 Ways Hollywood’s Cost-Cutting Helps Budding Filmmakers

Welcome to Going Bionic, your source for creative insights, inspiration and information, all wrapped up in an easy to swallow pill.

As some of you may have heard, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish just issued a statement saying Paramount intends to make 15 feature films per year, most of which will be based on properties they already own, (i.e. Nickelodeon based TV series, Paramount feature films ripe for a revamp, etc). The thought of a major film studio only producing 15 films per year is alarming, but not unheard of.  In 2014,  Sony Studios (parent of Columbia Pictures) announced a $250 million dollar reduction in motion picture spending,  bringing their number of produced films down from 23 to 18 per year. So, the trend is to produce less.

However, this cost-cutting trend can be quite beneficial to highly talented budding filmmakers. So, without further ado, here are three big reasons why recent cost cuts from the studios could actually benefit you.

Newly Minted Writers and Directors are Getting Hired More
Make no mistake; cost cutting at the studio level will make it far more difficult, not easier, for new talent to break in. However, once you do get invited inside the “invite only” party that is Hollywood, (by winning a major film festival, or selling a hot spec script) your cinematic youth will actually help you. This is because studios should start shying away from paying A list writers and directors several million dollars up front to do a gig that newly minted writers and directors would do for ten times less money. Of course, Hollywood will first ask the A listers to take ten times less up front, before they offer those gigs to less experienced filmmakers, but at least now hiring a new filmmaker may be seen as a smart financial move for many film executives, as opposed to being career suicide for the executive who hired the newbie.

Fewer Films will go into Development Hell, aka Turnaround

With less films made, a fewer number of them will fall into the depths of Development Hell. This is because studios probably won’t buy many things beyond what they intend to make. While this practice will make it harder to sell your film, if it does sell, your chances of getting it  made go up sharply.

Actors will be More Open to Offers From Non-Traditional Sources
Gone are the days when A list actors could snag a $20 million dollar payday upfront, regardless if the film was a success or not. These days, everybody gets paid less, and actors are no exception. Of course, the select few will still get paid north of $20 million, but those payouts are tied to the film hitting certain lofty box office levels. Thus, given the overall reduction of income, coupled with a fewer number of films to be made in the foreseeable future, actors’ representatives may be slightly more open to fielding “outside the box”  opportunities for their clients. Of course, you still have to have money in place to make offers to actors, but I suspect they will be open to hearing what you have to say, more so than they traditionally have been.

Okay, filmmakers; that’s what I have for you today. But, before I go,  here’s a great little short film called “One Minute Time Machine,” by Devon Avery.

If you’re looking for a fun little audio pick-me-up, here is a link to my “Limping on Cloud 9” podcast: As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes and ears!

Inspirational Life Coaching From an Original Gangster!