Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And... That's The Biz, Sweetheart.

(Side-note: did you know that yesterday was the most depressing day of the year? Really! It's a scientifically proven fact!)

So... you remember this post from last month, wherein I spoke about some of the realities of this business we call show? Where I hearkened back to professional assassin Remo Williams' favorite little phrase, "That's the biz, sweetheart?"

Here's another phrase that's been rattling around my head this morning, from a pop culture icon not quite as niche-oriented as Murphy and Sapir's Destroyer book series. You might have heard this one a little more often - spoken by a young Al Pacino in a little movie from the '70's...

"It's not personal. It's business."

So... (may as well just rip the band-aid off instead of picking at it any more)... I had a meeting with the producers and directors of Wake Before I Die last night, and I've been released from my role in the film.

It was a business decision, pure and simple - look, WBID isn't some little movie a bunch of friends got together to make in their spare time that will hopefully play at a film festival or two and might get picked up by some distributor so everyone involved might get paid... some day. It's a major, full-length feature with real money behind it and a solid distribution plan. Since we started working on this
this project last year, Todd, Jason and I agreed that we were going to make this film the right way... and as Robert Blanche came on board as producer and Todd Robinson joined us as Assistant Director, they've held to that principal. SAG paperwork is in place, insurance has been paid in full, the OPIF application is on file, a payroll company has been contracted... everything to make a truly professional movie is in place.

There's another side to that coin, though... this film is a business venture. No matter what business you're in, hard decisions have to be made on the way to providing your customers (or, in this case, your audience) with the best possible product. You've got to do everything you can to make your product saleable; that's the only way you and your investors can recoup the money that's been put into the project, turn a profit, and then reinvest that profit in the creation of a new product (or, in this case film).

When I started working with Todd and Jason on WBID, there was no script. They'd written some scenes based on their father Dale's book My Soul To Take. We shot them on spec, and they took those scenes to the people who eventually became the film's Executive Producers. Once funding was in place, then they wrote the script. As that process went on, the lead character changed. He wasn't the same guy they'd written for the investor scenes... he'd grown into someone new - someone who, apparently, wasn't me. This wasn't an easy decision for them to make (believe me, we talked about it a lot at the Morrison Hotel last night - over many a drink). Over the past couple days of shooting, however, they saw that they needed someone else in the role. It was nothing personal... it was just business. They need someone else to anchor the film, to make it the best possible product to put before the distributors and the audience.

Here's another phrase, much older than either The Godfather or The Destroyer: "The play's the thing." That's what it comes down to, in the final analysis. When all is said and done, it's got to be about making the best movie possible... even if that means I'm not the guy playing the lead in it.

I'm not going to lie to you - I'm pretty devastated (in fact, I initially thought about putting this image at the top of this post... or, maybe this one). I have to acknowledge the position that Todd, Jason, and the producers are in, though... There's a lot riding on this film - not just for them, but for all of us here in the Portland film industry. As I said above, they're making this movie the right way - they're doing everything they can to show the world and we in the local industry that a film can be made with all the necessary provisions in place - here in Portland - and that it can be a huge success. Part of doing that, though, is making the hard choices... and people are going to get stung along the way.

So... that's the deal. Don't worry about me - I've got other projects in the works for this year (in fact, I may even still have a different part in WBID... Todd, Jason, and the gang talked about a fun little way for me to appear in the film in a completely different way. I'll keep you posted on that). It's not the first time someone's been released from a project, and it certainly won't be the last. The point of this post isn't to throw a pity-party for myself and trawl for sympathy... it's to point out yet another reality of "The Biz -" one that we we don't often think about here in our little Portland, Oregon market.
That's the thing, though... we want our market to grow. We want the film business here in Stumptown to thrive and prosper for our local producers and directors... and part of that growth has to include treating our productions like business. Some times business decisions hurt, but they're not personal.

They're just business.

Hope you're all doing well...