What was happening in April of 2009 was exciting and heady. Richard J. Dubin and Tomas Krejci had not only produced their budgets, crew and possible casting suggestions, now we had production schedules for THE DANGER CLUB and GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!. We had two possible assistants in Wyatt Mancillas and Ian Rappaport. Wyatt was the ex-boyfriend of Jasmine Schwindeman, whom we had at one time hoped to be one of our costume assistants. When Jasmine left our lives in a flurry of tantrums Wyatt remained, and so did his best friend Ian. Now we were hoping they would be our first Production Assistants.
That was the beginning of the end for us with Rob Simpson, and from that day on everything deteriorated quickly. We would later learn that having ‘a’ list actors attached to a project was pretty much an industry in-joke that ignorant investors and brokers had picked up on and were running away with. Richard and Tom Krejci both explained this to me, but to Rob, he knew everything and more of it than anyone else.
Frank attempted to take over, and for about a month he tried to make gold out of shit. It began on the 17th.
I spoke to Rob this morning. He's had a little trouble this week -- he was rushed to the emergency room Wednesday only to discover his blood pressure shot up to over 200. Needless to say he is now on medication, but until now he didn't have a problem. Then yesterday he lost all the emails out of his Outlook Express -- he has a program called IncrediMail, which I had several years ago and it really messed me up. I had to re-send all our vital documents to him, which I did this morning.
Ian C. is going to have the contracts ready for John and Richard early next week; we can't go forward with DC until we have those signed. I will need to talk to Tom Krejci to see about having him sign one for Go West -- he told me he was going to be in Prague for awhile and would contact me when he returns. At this point I am going to have to reluctantly say that adhering to Richard's schedule is looking shaky, but the schedule for Go West is further into the year so it can stand as it is. At this point Rob is doing his best; the projects are still with the original pension fund, but their bank basically stalled somewhere in the contract process and has never gone further. Rob doesn't know why, and doesn't seem to be able to find out why, either. So now the BP's equity fund has the projects as well; this is a different deal -- rather than a loan, the BP would own 30% of the film. 25% of the budget is released immediately upon signing of the contract in order to get the pre-production started, and the remainder is released 30 -45 days later.
I cannot apologize enough for this further delay; you all know how hard you and everyone else has been working on these projects; to Richard Dubin and Tom Krejci in particular, we owe a big apology. They stepped up to the plate and batted one out of the ballpark on short notice, to no avail. But we're still in pitching (ok, enough with the baseball analogies already) and so is Rob. He asked me today if it was possible to start director and Casting Director talks; John's take on that yesterday was that it can't really be done until the funding is in place, but I had to ask. Didn't want to, though...
After the producer contracts are signed, there will be conference calls with the equity group rep. I am hoping for real progress on Monday; Rob has postponed his move to Santa Monica until all the films that are in the funding process are actually funded, so he is now thinking it will be the end of May before he gets there.
Sorry to have sad news...
Sincerely, Debora Hill.
The real blow came on the 24th, when we realized everything Rob had told us was built on a foundation of sand. In this way he could have been related to Anthony Whelan. Ian Christensen asked him for an update and was pretty specific about pinning him down. This was the result.
I just got off the phone with Rob Simpson to ask for an update and to see if we could set up a conference call with the funders. Apparently we do not have a guarantor set in place for us to get the loan. He said that he put it in front of a few people, one declined and the other Rob is unable to get ahold of. So, we need a person to put 30$ of the money into an account that will be untouched for 40 weeks to secure the funding. We can’t get in front of the funders without a guarantor in place. I wish I had better news for you all at this point.
So once again I had to write to all the people who had been
involved in the lengthy proposals Rob Simpson convinced us to compile, and tell them the sand castle had dissolved.
I am very sorry to have to bring you such bad news after all the hard work that has been done on THE DANGER CLUB and GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!, but I spoke to Rob Simpson this afternoon. The guarantor he had for THE DANGER CLUB was apparently under the impression that we had attachments and a distributor already, and backed out when they discovered this was not the case. Many of the other guarantors have backed out due to the economic climate or gone to other projects, and there are none available for us at this time. He asked me today if we could find our own guarantor -- it means that 30% of the film budget must be placed in an interest-bearing account for 10 months, and there is a good return on the investment. The equity group does not require anything else, as if this wasn't a big enough hurdle...no attachments yet, no distributor in place or director, as long as it is all in train.
However, I must be brutally honest here -- anyone I ever knew with that kind of money to invest was in the rock music industry and is long gone from my life. At this time we have no plan, no way to accomplish this. Again, I apologize as much as I am able, and thank all of you for being there for us. If any of you has any idea of anything that might save the situation for either production, please let me know.
Sincerely, Debora Hill
We separated from Rob Simpson that same day, and he went
ballistic on the telephone when I told him, pretty much the same way Anthony Whelan had. I had started to wonder what it was about these people who refused to let go when the situation was clearly hopeless.
I apologize that your work with us has been wasted. Looking back, I suppose we should nevre have tried to do this; our background is not in the film industry. But it seemed promising when we first met you, and a lot of other people wanted to work with us on these projects, so we went ahead. You were so positive, so enthusiastic, particularly after you got the 100% financier in December. That was a very exciting time for us, and it was an adventure to work on the proposals and plan the productions.
I know all the wasted time has probably made you angry, but
fortunately we are only one of many for you -- for us, it has been everything we pinned our hopes on for over a year. We must now find another pathway for our careers and lives, and hope that it will be as fulfilling as this promised to be.
Please know I wish you the very best life in Santa Monica; I would have liked to meet you there.
Sincerely, Debora Hill
Frank Cmero wasn’t ready to let go, however, so we decided he
would work directly with Rob, and I would step aside for the present. I was more than willing to do that; I had already decided Rob was another dead end for us, but I couldn’t be certain of that. On the 28th he spoke to Rob on the telephone and attempted to get a straight answer about what could be done to salvage our situation, and then he went to talk to some investors in Germany. This was when I started to learn the uselessness of ‘film funders’; the German investors Frank spoke to offered pretty much the same deal as Rob, and there didn’t seem to be any that would put up money without that 30% down. I wrote to him on the 29th.
This is where some of the confusion comes in with Rob. He has lied to me in the past, hands down, but this time he said very clearly, in writing, that if the guarantor money is left in an interest bearing account for 40 weeks during the production of the films that is all that is required. Is he now saying this is not the case? We have done a lot of work on both these productions and brought in other people who have also done a lot of work on Rob's word and it is extremely discouraging.
This is the part that I found the most annoying: He said the funds won’t finance without attachments and banks need 30% in cash. This is not anything like what he said on Friday -- you got his letter and he flat out said that if we have the guarantor for 30% we don't need attachments. Richard Dubin and John Waterman are the ones who have access to get attachments, but they haven't signed contracts for The Danger Club and probably won't until the funding comes through. I would like to know why he keeps changing his story, and the requirements. It sounds to me as if he's as bad a con man as Anthony Whelan was, although I can't imagine what good it has been to him.
What he said is he's got a bank & equity fund. The bank will finance if we find a guarantor with 30% and the money is deposited in interest bearing account. The equity fund will finance only if we have a distribution agreement and actors. I am not really sure if he's able to push it even if we have the attachments. We heard too many stories from him in the past. I just sent an email to Germany, should have a response later today so will know what we can do next. I’ll try to put together the German bank and Rob's bank to eliminate problems in communication and find some solution to this mess.
At least with you handling it you can call him on any bullshit; I was having a terrible time with him. We've discussed what his motivation could possibly be; he got angry with me when I said I couldn't handle the situation anymore and would have to put the word out to see if anyone else could -- he said he's been working for us for over a year for nothing. But so have a lot of other people, including us, and I can't tell when he was honest with us and when he wasn't. I'm willing to make certain allowances for the economy and all, but this just seems ridiculous.
Best of luck today, hon...our thoughts are with you.
Of course, nothing came of it, and Frank was finally forced to concede defeat. For about a month we flailed around and talked to people we had been hoping to work with, and Art Director Christopher Staser came up with one possibility in yet another broker named Gene Ely. He was short-lived, but for the summer of 2009 we once more attempted to fit ourselves into his box. On the 20th of May the proposals for the two films went to Ely through Chris, who had his own agenda in all this besides working for us – he wanted to produce his own low-budget, rather banal coming-of-age story about two overage adolescents and their search for meaning in their lives.
But he was a personable, likeable man. Those were few and far between in the film industry; we had been lucky to meet Richard J. Dubin, a lovely man in every way. Gene Fowler, Chris’ broker, was another matter. Brash, rude, seemingly uneducated and ignorant, we pretty much disliked him immediately. He was arrogant and had none of the charisma of Rob Simpson or the eagerness to please of Larry Withowski. He was the worst of the brokers.
He asked to meet Richard J. Dubin and Tom Krejci. I’d come to
trust Richard; he was a straightforward man who clearly loved THE DANGER CLUB and wanted to produce it. He’d even started discussing possible sequels. We’d had our problems with Krejci in the past, but he had hung in with us for nearly four years at that point, and was unwavering in his desire to make GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!. On May 28th Richard and Tomas decided to meet in person and discuss their projects, how they might be able to help one another.
The glitch in the system was that Frank Cmero’s German broker Kurt Jung had some good investment programs we could utilize, but Gene moved slowly and time was running out for them. This would become a recurring theme in our lives over the next year.
On the last day of May, 2009, Ian Christensen left us. We agreed that when the two films he had worked on were produced, he would be paid for the considerable assistance he gave us. I knew I would miss him, but he had a different direction in mind for his life.
Everything seemed to be progressing well as we entered June, and we had our first conference call with Gene Fowler.
I just spoke to Chris Staser on the phone. Gene will be able to have a conference call with as many people as can be available on the 10th. I know he is hoping to meet with Richard and Tom in person that day as well if they can both be available; he has been very busy arranging an ongoing film fund.
According to Chris (I say this because at this point it is
only hear-say and I couldn't prove it) Gene knows the investment required is very low risk, has a good return, and if it is still available next week he's planning to come into the projects with the 5% required.
He needs top sheet summaries for the two films, to have in front of him for the phone conferences and possible in-person meetings. We are going to start working on them tonight; Chris is sending me a model to work from. If I need help, I'd like to call on you...?
Naturally, things started to fall apart long before anyone ever spoke to Gene. Frank sent Chris a note on the 2nd, as he was becoming nervous about his German financing program which was about to close.
Did you have a chance to find out if Gene can issue a letter confirming his investment? We really need it for the Germans, otherwise it will be difficult to proceed further.
Until Gene makes the discoveries on the story/package we are offering, I believe he is not able to issue a letter. If interested, he will certainly proceed quickly, this month from what I can tell. We plan on a call next Wednesday so that we will know how to proceed further.
On the 6th Richard met Tom.
Richard Dubin and Tom Krejci met yesterday to discuss their strategies for the two films. Richard asked me to call him today right about now, but I requested a short summary of the meeting from him and from Tom. We are attempting to move towards a written record of what happens, rather than relying on telephone conversations. Far too much of our interaction with Rob was by telephone, which made it easy for him to allege that I 'misunderstood' him numerous times. Even thought we now realize that was simply his method of obfuscation, now that we have progressed this far it seems best to have at least the basics in writing.
Gene has received the short summaries for both films. What we need to know now is if his meeting with Richard and Tom on the 10th will still be viable for the offer from the Euro banks. Any news in that direction?
I informed the Germans about the meetings this and next week.
They are waiting for us to provide the Proof of Funds and then they start organizing the necessary steps with the bank. It looks like the meeting between Tom & Richard went well, can Richard's investor confirm his part of the investment? We can then proceed with the bank immediately.
There was the usual confusion about Gene Fowler’s role in the
whole scenario. We were given to believe Gene was an investor himself – that, of course, turned out to not be the case. And of course nothing was established for the meeting on the 10th until the day before, when nobody knew what was happening and everyone was scrambling to figure out the time for the meeting. Richard J. And Tom Krejci had originally thought Gene was going to meet them in person, as they were all in Los Angeles. But the opportunity for that came and went with Gene nowhere in the picture. But Richard, who had an uncanny knack for cutting through bullshit, called it best.
As I mentioned on the phone earlier, Debora, there is no point in a phone meeting. I've got to sit down with this guy and be able to look him in the eye. For me, a phone call accomplishes nothing. We're talking about millions of dollars and if he only wants to have a phone conversation he's not a serious guy.
Tom wrote to Chris Staser on the 10th; clearly that meeting was in the wind.
what do you think about Frank's suggestion? it sounds reasonable to me. Richard Dubin wants a face-to-face meeting with Gene, and I think that would be fine AFTER he talks to Frank's German rep and they get the whole financing ball rolling. But right now I just don't see the point; the financing has to be the main focus.
If Gene is able to issue a letter confirming his commitment to invest then we can move with the Germans and you can resolve the other issues later. To my knowledge Gene doesn't want to be involved in the production so you can meet later when we are sure the finance is secured.
What I understand is the following:
1. Gene is studying the merits of the stories/plans for marketability and access to the talent necessary to accomplish the task.
2. He's familiar with Frank's style of financing and, if interested in the productions, would likely be comfortable with this structure and sees it as low risk.
3. If all his questions have been answered via Richard and Tom's conversations (in phone or in person) regarding the film itself, I believe he'll be able to quickly begin the conversation with the German financing group.
4. In summary, it's selling the project, then the low-risk financing plan that we are focused on.
Any feedback happily requested on my understanding of this. You might know that Gene's quite busy and I am working on his quoted timelines for arranging meetings today, I'm doing my best to keep the communication flow happening. He's been notified again at the urgency of his next communication.
I'm as anxious as all of us.
So of course there was no meeting on the 10th. That night I got word that Gene wanted a telephone conference on the 11th, for 30 minutes beginning at 4:30 pm. I was getting that nauseous feeling again, only now it was coming so much sooner. This was another one who would be controlling and offer nothing, and want much in return. Gene managed to derail my fears at this point by telling Chris Staser that he loved THE DANGER CLUB, believed it could be as big as THE ITALIAN JOB, and he saw the potential for sequels.
Neither Sandra nor I was invited to participate in the telephone conference, but Frank was because he was trying to coordinate financing for us from Germany. Richard J. Dubin and Tomas Krejci were included, as was Christopher Staser. Looking back that probably wasn’t a promising start, but Chris Staser was pleased with the meeting.
Dear Gene, Frank, Richard and Tom,
Thanks for the fantastic call. Speaking for everyone here, we are excited about the momentum and next steps. Action items include getting a letter signed and sent to the German banks expressing initial interest. Frank will provide a sample.
Confirming the next call for Monday, June 15 at 4:30 Pacific.
Frank’s news from the telephone conference wasn’t as positive; Gene turned out to not be an investor himself, just another broker. But Frank got all the documents from his German investors, and we sent all our documents for the two productions. Once again we were not invited to be part of the telephone conference scheduled for the 14th, and I was beginning to think this man was a little too Hollywood.
I don't know if this matters to Gene, but he does realize that we hired Richard and Tom K, and our company will own the films unless we sell them to Mike Dunn at United Artists or some other studio? We don't want to be in on these initial meetings, but does Gene realize our company will be the production entity, by Richard Dubin's advice?
The call actually occurred on the 15th (Gene Fowler’s pattern of maintaining a position of power apparently involved planning on one day for a meeting, having it the following day). Chris Staser sent me these notes on the 14th.
Ok, here's a couple of notes:
1. We are talking about terms on the call today. Gene said that his investors would likely want some participation in the film beyond the 10%.
2. From that point of view, if could make sense to have you on as this is your company with Richard as your rep. What do you think?
3. Of course today isn't necessarily a negotiation day, it is a day to see what their terms might be.
4. Finally, it might come as a surprise that we are leaving on vacation Tuesday morning to Taiwan for 3 weeks. I will have limited availability generally, but the good news is that I am facilitating the handshake, which has started.
5. I will still have Skype and my Broadband phone too and access to email of course for anything urgent.
I look forward to today's call!
On the 19th of June, while Christopher Staser was in Taiwan, the situation with Gene started to deteriorate. Which, looking back, was a good thing – our length of time with each of these useless people was becoming less. Perhaps by the time we died, we’d find someone real in this ridiculous business.
Frank never received the proof-of-funds documents from Gene Fowler this week. We have no way to contact Mr. Fowler apart from his email address, which is clearly not the best way to do business.
Frank has the sample documents required by the German bank consortium. They told Mr. Fowler they could offer us several funding programs for both films depending on how much they wanted to invest -- Mr. Fowler told Frank his group wanted to invest more than the minimum required.
If Frank sends you the sample proof of funds documents, do you think either of your investors would be interested?
Sincerely, Debora Hill
Richard responded that he was now hearing that Gene wasn’t ‘real’, asked me to get his phone number from Chris and send it to him. By the 21st we’d heard from Chris, still in Taiwan, trying to contact Gene himself. Also in June I connected with a producer at Universal Studios named Mike Dunn, who evinced interest in becoming our film investor. We started to exchange emails and documents.
By the 23rd I got this from Richard:
When Gene Fowler came into the picture a few weeks ago I made some inquiries. I was told that he was someone to avoid, that he would make promises and commit to a certain point and then not produce. Due to everyone's hopes of finding financing I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. My sources seem to be correct. It's time to move on. If he for some reason re-emerges then we can deal with it then. There are too many like him in this business, and sadly sometimes we have to deal with them.
That was disturbing. On the 24th I heard from Chris Staser.
So, Gene is alive. Chris Staser just telephoned me, and Gene is contacting Frank tonight. He flew to Germany to make sure Frank's deal was geniune, because apparently there are a lot out there that aren't. Understandable, but frustrating that he never communicated with anyone, but there you are -- he has the proof of funds for 26 million.
On another note, Mike Dunn at Universal got back to me and he was able to open all the documents except he didn't get the extended budget for Go West, and for some reason I only have it as a text document. I sent it to him, but Tom...if you have a word.doc would you please send it to him and a copy to me?
Thank you all for your patience.
? It sounds a bit strange. Who was he talking to? Gene has no contact to our people in Germany and the banks don't give this kind of information to people from the street. Maybe he's got some contacts in the banks, I don't know. If he does he doesn't need us and can make money in those investment programs on his own.