A New Year, a New Plan Alone

    In December of 2008 Rob Simpson came to us with a fabulous new deal for 100% financing.  He telephoned me one morning, excited about what was happening and hoping we would be able to get a proposal together to apply to the fund.  After nearly a year at Tom and Sandra’s house (legally, it belonged to some bank and had for six months, but we were still there) we had finally gotten all the garbage cleared out of the house and the storage room.  The house still needed major work – actually, it needed to be torn down and a better house built, but that would be for others to tackle.  We knew we had to move on eventually, we were hanging on in the hope that Rob would actually come through for us.
    December proved to be a chaotic whirl that I don’t remember too well; there were the holidays, and we had a Birth of Mithras (that’s Christmas to Muggles) party at Tom and Sandra’s house but mostly we gathered around us a group of people to produce a huge Executive Summary/business plan for first THE DANGER CLUB and then, in January, GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!.  It took hundreds of hours and brought to us Richard J. Dubin, a Hollywood veteran producer/director who had lost his mansion in the hills to a vindictive divorce and was looking for a new start.  It brought us back Tomas Krejci, who still wanted to produce GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! And had the studio facilities both in the states and in Prague to manage a production geared to Western tastes but filmed in Eastern Europe.  It brought us a lot of other people who put in long hours of labor to produce a plan for THE DANGER CLUB that ran 135 pages.  It was filed with the film funders in January, and work was finished on the GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! Plan that ran a little longer, two weeks later.
    On the 15th he told me it could be 30-45 days before the proposals were approved by the funders, because Rob had a lot of other clients submitting.  I thanked him for the work he and everyone else had done – Ian Christensen rallied from his self-imposed exile to get his life back together and engineered the design of the proposals with Frank Cmero helping him on the GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! Proposal.
    Thank you, my friend! So hoping we are able to work together this year and get you and everyone else who has gotten this far paid! We will look forward to good news and we are available for phone conferences, if necessary...I know you are busy with the current submissions; please send me a brief note when Go West, You Idiot! is submitted.
    Many thanks, Debora Hill
    Before GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! Was submitted to the funders, we did the third complete overhaul of the script, reducing it to 118 pages.  This time we managed to maintain the story by cutting out all the extraneous scenes and dialogue.  We were sincerely hoping it would be the last time we had to do this, but that was unlikely.
Hello, Ian!
    Hope everything is going well for you and you sister. Rob told me last week we should have final confirmation on the DC funding this week...keep good thoughts!
    I wanted to talk to you about fees for Sandra and Tom and I, Scott Ferguson, Frank Cmero, etc. Everything else is, of course, up to you.  The writers' fee for DC is $350,000 -- one third each to Sandra, Scott and me. This will be payable as soon as funds are released and you have the LLC established (the sooner the better; given that we are all in the same leaky boat here, I won't go into the particulars...).
    Sandra and I will receive $100,000 between us for our Executive Producer fee, Scott Ferguson will receive $50,000 for his story origination fee (also DC). This will need to be paid as with the writers' fee.  You offered us a $50,000 fee to be the script coordinators, which can be paid at your discretion.  Tom will receive a salary of $50,000 as General Manager, also to be paid at your discretion.  Sandra, Scott, and I will receive 2% on the back end -- you might want 1% for yourself as well. Rob receives a percentage when funding is received and 3% on the back end.
    If the LLC is going to own the novel as well, which seems like the best plan, then the writers' fee for that will be $100,000 to be paid out when funding is in place; this will be divided by Sandra, me and Scott. We haven't decided how the novel will be published yet, but I'm working on it. I have asked Kyle Chan, who will doing the costume illustrations, to design the cover and we're planning on publication to coincide with the film release.
    On GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! the writers' fee is $500,000 and will be shared by Sandra, me, Scott and Frank Cmero.  Script Coordinator fee and Tom's General Manager pay the same as for DC.  Frank Cmero will receive a life-rights fee of $100,000 and should have a position on the crew as story and background consultant. You decide on his fee for that, it shouldn't be more than $50,000. The back end percentages are the same for Go West as for DC. The novel is only half-finished for Go West, so if the LLC is going to own it, we can't expect the fee for that (which will also be $100,000) until the rough draft is finished.
    Let me know what you think of this plan...
    Cheers, Debora
    As we moved into February, a woman named Roberta Kenney, a film producer in Los Angeles, wrote to me regarding Rob Simpson.  
Hi, Deborah,
    I'm an independent producer in LA working on my first feature film. Rob Simpson is a broker for a funding source I'm looking at. I am doing my due diligence and wondering how you felt about your relationship with Rob. Did he perform for you? Thanks for your help.
    Sincerely, Robert Kenney
    At the time we still felt Rob was doing his best for us, so I wrote back to her with this:
Hello, Roberta; 
    My business partner Sandra and I are published authors and former investigative journalists. We knew nothing about film when we started working in the industry in 2002, and we went through a wringer that almost killed us before we met Rob. We've been working with him for a little over a year now, and he has taught us a lot about the industry and helped us prepare two lengthy proposals for 100% financing for two films (we do have a Production Coordinator and an entire roster of producers, directors, etc. but still...he helped a LOT). 
    I would definitely recommend him.  Thank you for asking!
    Sincerely, Debora Hill
    Thank you so much for your kind letter of endorsement, and we will get your deal done. I wish more of my clients realized how many fiery hoops I have to jump through to protect them and keep their best interests at heart. That was a very mindful and thoughtful sentiment and believe me, I do not take it for granted for a minute! 
    Cheers, Rob
    At the time I was being honest; we were still on Rob’s team.  Her next letter was a little disconcerting, however.
Dear Debora,
    Wait a sec. I'm in the middle of watching Giant for the first time and probably shouldn't be doing business. You've been working with Rob for a year, but you don't have funding yet through him? Has he been charging you a fee for consult work?  I'm a little confused. Thanks. 
    BTW, your Paradise Lost pitch sounds fabulous. And I'm running into producers interested in interior/spiritual scripts.
    Sincerely, Roberta
Dear Roberta,
    No, Rob never charged us a fee. We had an awful lot of work to do when we went to him -- we had nothing but scripts. Then about a year ago we found Ian Christensen, our Production Coordinator, but we still had to have budgets, Executive Summaries, Business Plans, producers, directors, etc...the whole thing. If you already have all those things, he can do a quick turnaround for you. 
    Let me know if you would like to read Paradise Lost...yep, it's weird!!!
    So I was haunted by that letter from Roberta Kenney.  Surely, after a year, there should have been some results?  Rob was better than Larry Withowski had been at the whole game, but was he really any better at being a broker?  We were progressing in our search for the perfect crews for THE DANGER CLUB and GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!  Tomas Krejci, despite our problems with him in the past, was now proving to be remarkably helpful and onboard.  By the 20th of February, everything seemed to be on-track.
Hello Debora, 
    Attached please find a very initial tentative crew list from Prague. Milk & Honey Films is ready to take on a responsibility as a producer for the project. Since the majority of the story takes place in the Czech Republic we do recommend to "base" this production here in Prague with a unit traveling to Australia utilizing the production services of a local producer. 
    Post-production /sound + picture/ should be organized and executed in Prague. Please let me know your thoughts. 
    Thank you.
    Sincerely, Tomas Krejci 
    We would ultimately decide that everything for pre and post-production should be handled out of Los Angeles.  At the time, however, we hadn’t really decided that it would be better for distribution to make the production geared towards western sensibilities rather than European.  Ian Christensen was ready to set up the LLC for THE DANGER CLUB, and decided it would be in Arizona or Delaware for price and tax reasons.
Dear Ian,
    Then by all means go with Arizona; I think you should write a note to Rob over the weekend and aks him if there are any requirements from the funders as to the kind of account or business set up for each film. I don't think there are, but best to be safe. And I think we need to say this right now -- we chose you over a year ago to do this job for us; we trust you to be a good overseer. 
    That said, we admit we are using you, at least in the case of GO WEST, as the ultimate funds arbiter because there are going to be a lot of Eastern European men and we have come to know their egos and inflated ideas of themselves. Sorry about that...a nasty job but someone has to do it.
    And we don't want you to feel you are bound to us after these two productions if you want to move on. You mentioned to me on the telephone the other day that you have several of your own films you would like financed; if you don't want to be the Production Coordinator for DON'T BREATHE THE AIR, which is the next film we are planning to submit (in December), we will of course understand. We WANT you with us, but you have your own dreams to fulfill and they won't necessarily be ours as well.
    Still, we like you and admire your drive and intelligence, so if you do stay with us, it would be a Goddess Blessing...
    Cheery bye, Debora
Dear Ian,
    As per our conference call with Rob on Monday, the funders will not be part of the LLC. They will receive their investment back plus, as of Monday, 5% -- it could go up a percentage point, but we'll hope not. I don't see why it shouldn't be set up in Arizona; you can talk to Rob about that directly. As the production coordinator, you will be in charge of the funds disbursement; everyone we hire needs to know that upfront, as there will be some accountability to the funders. Does that make sense?
    When we had our telephone conference with Rob on Wednesday he said he's hoping to have DC approved by the 25th or the 27th at the latest. He told me if we haven't heard from him by the 25th to call him -- because he's so very busy right now with everything that's going on. But he's going to try to call me or write me a note on Monday. Then, he's going to talk to the funder rep over the weekend to see if they can stay with Ian's schedule, which would mean starting pre-production in March. 
    So...keep your fingers crossed, your toes, your eyes ...whatever it takes.
February 26, 2009
Dear Rob;
    I know you are very busy, but last week you told me you were going to try to get news for me by Monday about the funding for THE DANGER CLUB and GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!. If I had not heard from you by Monday, you instructed me to telephone you on Wednesday. I did so, and got the answering machines on all numbers, and left messages. I tried again today and when I didn't hear anything, I wrote to Bill, who told me you had been on the phone all day and I should keep trying to get you. I did speak to you briefly around 3:30 and you asked to call me back in fifteen minutes. When you didn't, I assumed you were still busy. I just tried you again; I realize the business day is well over on your end of the country.
    A lot of people were involved in the preparation of the proposals for these two films, and since Ian Christensen planned to begin pre-production on THE DANGER CLUB in March, you were going to see if the funders were able to provide the funding or partial funding to his schedule. If things have fallen apart again, if these funders have also proven to be unsatisfactory or if we are unsatisfactory to them, I owe it to the people who are waiting to let them know. Thank you.
    Sincerely, Debora
    Just bear with me as things are so out of control. I will give you my time tomorrow so I recommend that you call me between12:00 PM-1:00 PM PST as we ae getting close. My apologies but if you only knew how much in demand my time is you would appreciate it. 
    Thanks, Rob 
February 27, 2009
Hey, Ian;
    Rob would like you to telephone him Monday morning anytime after 10 am his time. Here are his numbers; I'm giving you all of them because if you get the answering machine at the office, try his cell. He wants to talk about the setting up of the llc's and also a possible phone conference between you and the funder's rep -- we have tentative approval, and now the risk assessments are being performed. We have a lot of information in the proposals that should help with that, so...you're on now!
    My talk with him went fine; Rob said he's losing his mind and all is chaos, but we are very close -- he's had to shut the door to taking on anyone new at this point, however, since he really has to finish the projects that have already been submitted. Other than that he just said we have tentative approval, the risk assessment is being done, and you're on for Monday...please Goddess!!!
    Call me if you want to talk about this before you call him,