Film school was the first time in my life that I was early for school – early to every class, and the first to raise my hand to answer questions. NYFA at the time taught us how to “make do” with what we already have. That’s the strongest impression they left me. The technical stuff was just a prerequisite. But they taught us HOW to get films made. We had to get them made one way or another. So that’s what I did.
I directed a short film called Phish in 2005, where I met some of the people that form the core of my company, One Way or Another Productions. When the film was done, I wrote a comedic script about “the one that got away” called The Butterfly Chasers.
Everywhere I walked or drove in the city would remind me of this girl, so to finally move on, I wrote this character Diana Lee based on her. Writing the character with her in mind, II attached the great Rochelle Aytes (White Chicks, Madea’s Family Reunion, Desperate Housewives), since at the time she was looking for something different than what she was getting in Hollywood. She wanted to be funny, smart, etc, and this girl, and consequently this character Diana, is just that. Afterwards, I created the other 8 or 9 characters purely out of my imagination. I had a bunch of actors I wanted to work with, and simply wrote parts for them. I deliberately wanted to work with a lot of actors on this one. It’s an ensemble cast, multiple storyline film, heavily influenced by Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives as well as some of Ed Burns’ work. I gorging on a diet of Altman’s Short Cuts and The Player during this time.
I was convinced that this would be my first feature film. I was able to raise a little bit of the budget but for the most part investors were not too confident that I could deliver, or even actually finish a feature length film simply because nothing I had done previously indicated it.
So I decided instead to write and direct another feature film, Cookies & Cream, on a shoestring budget. Working with a close-knit team, we made a ton of films. Within a few years, we had a nice collection of titles – character driven indies that were critically well-received, and even found distribution.
Our company was strong, and our successes seemed to reawaken the financing in the first film, The Butterfly Chasers. Some more investors came to the table, and we are now closer than we have ever been.
But here is the deal. As I am now about 10,000 feet in the air, about to cross over from Nevada into the California state line, I am going to just lay it all out here, publicly, what’s going on with The Butterfly Chasers.
Like it or not, this is not a one-man show. It never has been. From the beginning, I partnered with Rochelle as producing partner as well as her director. Which means we are making most decisions together. She has helped me compile a much stronger script and form her character with more precision. She encourages me to give her as much as she gives me, to shape this film into the best production that we can make it.
In doing so, she has requested a very short list of name actors to star as the male lead. It’s an important decision, and I’ll tell you flat out that Rochelle has vetoed many an actor that I wanted to cast. She just says “Hmmm, I don’t know…” and they’re out of the running; I want my lead actor and producing partner to give a resounding “YES.”
I agree 100% with Rochelle’s choice. As someone who rarely works in the indie scene, she understands what market value and talent can do for a film. So I am doing what I try to make a habit of doing. I am standing by my collaborator(s). But her wish list costs money. We have gotten a large portion of that money, but it is not enough. And time is running out, actors’ schedules are booking up, and confusion threatens to push this thing back for months. And contrary to what I thought, and what we thought as a company, it will not be legally or logistically possible to begin shooting this film without that actor in place. There. You heard it here first.
The plan has been to successfully combine equity financing, tax incentives, product placement and crowd-funding (as it stands now, we are clearly no experts on the latter). Only hours away from a campaign deadline way too short, and an overworked campaign team, we are approaching our second crowd funding failure (the first was our Indiegogo campaign for the feature version of Kent Sutton’s Miranda)
Here are 5 sobering realities I’ve discovered in the process of crowd-funding:
1) Don’t assume you’ll get support from your particular gender, racial group, or other community in general. To date, I can attest to the fact that not one African American-themed blogger, website, or publication has given us the time of day – since we began. Is this strange for a majority female-operated, minority-run production company? It is. However I learned during this process not to ever assume they will show you love.
2) One failed commitment from a key position player can KILL you. We had 2 or 3 MAJOR, major leaders in this campaign who, combined, would have singlehandedly raised 75% of the budget . They never showed up. Now it’s back to us losing sleep, wondering where the miracle will come from, or if it will come at all.
3) Twitter & Facebook alone will NOT get your film funded on Kickstarter or IndieGogo (unless your budget is 400 bucks). There is nothing like a personal phone call or email.
4) Just because you support them, don’t assume they will support you. Today’s Retweet or shout-out may NOT lead to a mention of your campaign. It’s heartbreaking – especially when you spent months simply supporting and talking about others’ projects more than your own. However it could just be something we ALL do, myself included– it’s not necessarily intentional. Sometimes you can just forget or ignore it, with all of the crowd-funding traffic out there. Still, this is something I have seen personally, and something you can bet will happen to you.
5) Not every production company is meant to crowd-fund their projects. We discuss this amongst ourselves fairly often. As strange at it is, we find that it’s actually much easier for us to raise equity financing than it is for us to crowd-fund. The reasons why seem to vary – we each have our own theories.
Despite the above realities, there are many special people that stepped up and showed us a lot of love, loyalty, and support in general by pledging to this campaign. I want to personally thank David Bianchi, John Paul Rice, Rosebud Baker, Cliff Moskowitz, Cyrus Melchor, Roxanne Julien, Eleanor Wilson, Alan Majerol, John Greer, Rene Leonard, Stewart Aaron, Corey Hibbert, Markeeta Smith, Glenn H. Mason, Don and Leonie Wilson, Linda Zises, Brittny P. Bacon, Dorene Cink, Debbie Menzel, Eldonie Mason, Joe Fiorillo, and Clint Schneider. Also a big shout out and thank you to this campaign’s MVPs – J. Lynn Menzel, Monica Trombley, Natasha Davis, Jace Nicole, Chris Riquinha, and Lena Connoly, our social media manager/blogger.
Princeton Holt is the CEO of One Way or Another Productions and is an award-winning producer whose first feature length film was 2009’s critically acclaimed Cookies & Cream. As the film was in post-production he began working in the production office of the hit TV Show “Law and Order SVU” Season 10. The company’s 2nd feature was Brian Ackley’s debut feature, the award-winning Uptown. Both films premiered at many film festivals worldwide, generated glowing reviews, and within a year of their premieres landed multi-platform distribution deals. With the help of his production company Princeton building a catalog of over 10 niche-specific, critically acclaimed, ultra low budget feature films. Those films include Kent Sutton’s short film Miranda which won the audience award at a film festival in Texas, and is now being expanded into a feature. The 10 Commandments of Chloe, his second feature as a director is finishing post production.