Ruminations: The Critical Response to Gracie

 by Michael D. SellersAs we prepare for the release of Eye of the Dolphin, the Carly Schroeder connection to Gracie has turned this into an interesting and unusual experience for me. I have read, at last count 68 reviews of the film and I saw the film on opening day, yesterday, for the first time. This leaves me thinking about critics and their role, and their predictability.First of all, the final count for Gracie on Rotten Tomatoes is 40 favorable, 28 unfavorable reviews — but then it uses for its headline on the critical concensus: “Undone by its predictable arc and lack of nuance”. Then when you click on that link, this statement is enlarged to: “Gracie can be rousing and touching in spots, but is ultimately undone by its predictable story arc and a lack of nuance.”Continue Reading

First Reviews of "Gracie" Praise Carly Schroeder's Performance

by Michael D. Sellersfor MovieBank and Quantum Entertainment Following are the first reviews for Carly Schroeder’s Gracie! From Hollywood Reporter. (click for full review)Whether striding onto the field past a gaggle of cheerleaders or flirting her way past a bouncer, Schroeder (“Lizzie McGuire”) is a natural as Gracie, whose athleticism and self-respect are inseparable facets of extraordinary inner resources.From LA Citybeat (click for full review)The great revelation here, however, is Schroeder, who comes on like a fireball and never lets up.From Compuserve Reviews. (click for full review)Where did Carly Schroeder come from? ….. The sixteen-year-old Indiana-born beauty who could pass for a young Blythe Danner or Elizabeth Shue does her own stunts in David Guggenheim’s family-friendly inspirational movie “Gracie.” She can do a lot more chins and push-ups than I could (even when I was sixteen), can take more beatings and bloody noses than a lot of men would be willing to accommodate, can kick the ball farther, run faster, and do all of that without even flicking her long blonde hair from in front of her eyes. ..the vivacious Ms. Schroeder, pouting, smiling, laughing, seductive, frightened, insecure, combative, displaying the range of emotions typical of women her age, makes watching the film quite worthwhile whatever your age.From CHUD.com. (click for full review)Carly Schroeder is Gracie, and she makes the film. She’s unusually beautiful – her hair is so blonde as to be almost white, and her skin seems translucent. She has a stronger jaw and a wider nose than you might expect from a teen starlet, but it works for her. Her face is distinctive, not like the cookie cutter girls who roll off of sitcoms and tween films, and I hope that she never goes under the knife to tweak that nose into a tiny button. It’s her eyes that sell the character, though, especially since Gracie is so often sullen. Schroeder’s a terrific young actress…..From Reelviews. (click for full review)Carly Schroeder, hitherto known primarily for a recurring role on TV’s Lizzie McGuire (she was also in Mean Creek, where she first caught my attention), shows that, given the spotlight, she possesses the intensity to hold it. She invests Gracie with heart, beauty, and determination. Schroeder took this role seriously, training to make the experience real for the character, and it works. No one threatens to steal scenes from Schroeder.From Grouchoreviews. (click for full review)Carly Schroeder gives a fierce performance as Gracie, whose family suffers a communal depression after a tragic accident. The emotional beats of Gracie’s acting out and her father’s inability to embrace and capitalize on the present are believable and surprisingly nuanced.From Clarion Ledger (click for full review)Schroeder (cable’s Lizzie McGuire) is absolutely terrific as a young teen spinning out of control. You don’t know whether to hug her or give her a swift kick.

Keeping it Real:The Truth About Box Office Gross

by Michael D. Sellers Every independent producer who is trying to garner investment for his project inevitably cites “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Blair Witch” as examples of what can happen to a small film that strikes the right chord with audiences.  And this is understandable — after all, that’s the pot of gold that we’re all trying to win.  But clearly you can’t build a business model based on the exceptions to the rule – -you must be able to have a model that makes sense at something lower than the “breakout hit” level.So I want to provide some reference points for you to keep in mind as we work our way toward the release of Eye of the Dolphin and our future projects.Let’s start with some numbers for the year 2006.620 — Number of Films Released Theatrically in the US$15M — Average Theatrical GrossNot bad so far, right?  If we could just hit the “average”……read on.210 — Number of films with $1M or more theatrical gross420 — Number of films with less than $1M theatrical gross?Yes, that’s right.  2 out of 3 films released made less than $1M at the box office. Some other stats — though:Of the 620 films released, 440 were in “limited release” of 300 of these never played more than 10 theaters.  Thus when we parse it down to this level, we see that a lot of those 420 that made less than $1m only played on a handful of theaters.  So it’s not as bad as it seems.I will add more to this post later…..

Eye of the Dolphin Honored with Special Presentation at Tribeca

(From the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation)Four films have been selected for presentation as part of the Sloan Science and Technology Series at Tribeca, which spotlights festival films that tackle scientific subject matter in a compelling and accurate fashion. Sloan will  co-present four world premieres during the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival – Michael Sellers’ Eye of the Dolphin, the Dara Bratt directed student short In Vivid Detail, Randall Millers’ Nobel Son and Fredi M. Murer’s Vitus and a discussion as part of the Tribeca Talks panel series.  Sloan’s partnership with Tribeca forms part of a broader national program by the SloanFoundation to stimulate leading artists in film, television and theater to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination.Eye of the Dolphin is a touching family story about a 14 year-old girl named Alyssa who moves to the Bahamas with the father she never knew. Although it is a rocky start for the two, Alyssa soon embraces her father’s profession as a dolphin researcher and discovers she shares some of his talents. The film premieres Thursday, April 26, 7:00 pm, at the AMC Village VII Theater.In Vivid Detail follows the life of Justin, an architect who suffers from prosopagnosia, a neurological disorder that makes him incapable of recognizing faces. An unusual love story ensues. The film stars John Ventimiglia and Piper Perabo and was funded in part by a production grant from the Sloan Foundation’s program with NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The film will premiere as part of Express Stops Only, a shorts program, on Sunday April 29th at 2pm at Borough of Manhattan Community College.About the Alfred P. Sloan FoundationThe New York based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology and the quality of Americn life. Sloan’s program in public understanding of science and technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and the Internet to reach a wide, non-specialized audience.Sloan’s partnership with Tribeca forms part of a broader national program by the Sloan Foundation to stimulate leading artists in film, television and theater to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past ten years, Sloan has partnered with six of the top film schools in the country—AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA and USC—and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production. In addition Sloan makes annual awards in film animation and a first feature after graduation. In addition to the Tribeca/Sloan Screenplay Development Program, the Foundation has initiated screenwriting workshops at Sundance and the Hamptons and also honored new feature films such as the forthcoming Dark Matter and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain

Carly Schroeder Moving Up on IMDB's Starmeter

Most of you are familiar with the Internet Movie Data Base, for those who are not — it’s the largest data base of movie information on the web. Each movie, each actor, and each film professional has a page. Here are some pages:
Eye of the Dolphin
Gracie
Carly Schroeder

One of the features on IMDB Pro (you have to pay for this — the regular site is free) is a function called “Starmeter” which ranks stars based on their popularity. Each star (including directors, producers — anybody with professional credits) gets a new ranking each week.

We’ve been tracking Carly Schroeder carefully since the Gracie promotion started.

Keep in mind that on this scale — 1 is the highest you can go – i.e. it means you’re the number 1 star in terms of measurable populariy (internet hits, etc).

Here is Carly’s trajectory over the past several weeks:

29 April — 1,979
06 May — 1,583
13 May — 987
20 May — 444

This has landed Carly on the “Actresses Moving Up” page at number 23. Here’s a snapshot of the page.
Snapshot_20070524_221947

It’s also landed her at number 40 on Most Popular Under 25 — with a “moving up quickly” arrow:

Under25

In terms of Carly’s “neighborhood” among actresses with rankings right in the same zone, here are some notables in the “zone” that Carly is occupying:

410 Britney Spears
414 Mary Kate Olsen
415 Renee Zellwegger
416 Meg Ryan
427 Mena Suvari
434 Ellen Barkin
437 Norah Jones
437 Minnie Driver
439 Terry Hatcher
441 Sally Field
444 CARLY SCHROEDER
453 Raven
454 Carrie Ann Moss
468 Ashley Olsen
460 Thandie Newton
473 Marissa Tomei
479 Anne Heche
481 Robin Wright Penn

MovieBank and Monterey Issue Cease and Desist to Illegal Download Site

Eye of the Dolphin appeared on Bit Torrent download sites for the first times today, and MovieBank and Monterey Media have immediately issued Cease and Desist orders in accordance with Digital Rights Management guidelines. Under the law, such notification must be issued and the download site has a brief period to remedy without penalty. Will report more on this as it evolves. It’s not a surprise but we need to act quickly, as we have, to protect our interest.

Memory Lane at Tribeca

by Michael D. Sellers Of all the festifvals we’ve had films in, Tribeca is probably the best and it was a real experience to go there for the Eye of the Dolphin screenings, especially for me. That’s because it was the first trip back to New York in twenty-odd years (won’t say exactly how many) since I was at NYU. As it worked out, the first screening of EOD was at a theater that turned out to be just a couple of blocks from the NYU Graduate film school. Very surreal.Peer Oppenheimer, Exec Producer, was there and had the good grace to hire a limo (I would have taken the LRT to 4th street and walked over)….so we arrived early and after I checked in with the film-maker coordinator, I had half an hour to walk the neighborhood.Truly it was a little strange — to finally come back to New York after all these years and have the film screen right around the corner from NYU. I hiked down to East 7th Street….there was new construction on the corner…but then as I walked down East 7th there was McSorley’s bar (it’s been there since 1850), still smelling of stale ale and sawdust…..lots of preppy looking lawyer types sucking down suds….the old neighborhood still looked pretty much the same — if anything, a little cleaer and brighter. It was one of those iconic New York City days … grey, cold enough to make walking seem like a good idea…makes you think of Joan Baez’ “Diamonds and Rust” (“I can see staring out that window of that crummy hotel over Washington Square/Our breath comes out white clouds mingles and hangs in the air/Speaking strictly for me we both could have died then and there)….And then it was back to the theater fr the screening. Here’s a pic of me and Peer Oppenheimer in the lobby of the theater…

What Does A Producer Do?

by Michael D. Sellers If there is one question that I get asked more often than anything else during my work at MovieBank and Quantum Entertainment — it’s “What, exactly, does a producer do?” Imagine working as hard as we all do…..if you’re a doctor, an attorney, an architect, a deep sea diver — people know what you do. And they know what a director, a screenwriter, or a composer does. But a producer?Okay, as will frequently be the case in these technical discussion, I have to start with a disclaimer. What I’m about to describe is what an Independent Producer does. A studio producer, or a TV producer, or a supervising producer, or a line producer — these are somewhat different. But let’s look at what an independent producer does.First, the word “independent” refers, specifically, to “independent financing”. That is, the independent producer assembles “independent financing”, or financing that is not coming from a studio.So … point number one. Producing movies is a whole lot about producing money. I have often complained that I feel like I spend 80% of my energy producing money and 20% producing movies — something that feels like a waste when you feel, as most producers do, that we have a lot to offer creatively but we just can’t clear enough time to do it.But having said that … here is what we do.First, we develop properties. This can mean we spot a novel and get the rights (although in our indie world it won’t be a brand new hot novel–their rights go to the studios before they’re even published)….we might read a magazine article in the New York Times and think ‘that would make an interesting movie’….or we may have a raw idea of our own and hire a writer to create a screenplay under our direction, or we might really get lucky and just be given a fullblown spec screenplay (one written without compensation) that really works. Anyway, one way or another, we find something we think would make a good movie and we invest time, energy, and money in getting it “developed” into a full blown, well written screenplay.Next, we “attach elements”. Elements in this context include a director, actors, financing, distribution — each of them an “element” that adds value to that thing we are developing. Eventually, as we add elements, a certain type of “critical mass” is achieved in which the film gets enough elements attached that it gets a “green light” and then we’re off into actually making the film.Making the film really involves three phases – Pre-production, when we do the casting, hire all the crew, design the sets and wardrobe, refine the screenplay — make countless decisions that are critical to the ultimate success or failure of the film. During this phase, the producer and director are usually pretty much equal partners and if it comes down to a clash … well, the producer hired the director, so guess who wins?But that changes when we go into production. Produciton — meaning the actual shooting of the film — means that the director controls the creative decisions. He designs the work plan for each day; he directs the actors (producer’s don’t interfere much with that). Now … if the director is falling behind and is in danger of not “making his day” (finishing all the scenes scheduled for that day), then the producer becomes something like the police. Not pleasant, but necessary.Finally, there is post production. The director gets first crack at editing the film. Then the producer does revisions, often in consultation and partnership with the director. But finally the producer makes “final cut” decisions. Similarly, the producer makes final decisions on music, the sound mix — often done in full consultation with the director, but usually wth the producer having final say.When the film is done, the producer shops it for distribution, finds a distributor (we don’t have this problem since we are a distributor), and assists in developing the campaign.And one final thought. The producer usually doesn’t have the luxury of doing one film at a time. We usually have 5-10 films in development, and 1-2 in the various other stages, so i’s a juggling act.And that’s what a producer does.

FilmBiz101: The Box Office Dollar

by Michael D. Sellers

So … how does a box office dollar get broken down?Well – there are different splits so there is no single formula. For example, when studios release blockbusters like Spiderman or Shrek, they negotiate a split that is very favorable to the distributor (the studio) in the first weeks, then swings to favor the exhibitor (theater chain or owner) later on. So with that disclaimer, here’s how it works for us indies…..For example…..$100,000 — Box Office Gross($50,000) — Exhibitor’s Share$50,000 — Distributor (Studio) Gross($12,500) — Distributor Share$37,500 — Producer’s Gross RevenueNow — in our situation it’s as simple as that. So when the film is released, if we do $10M Box Office Gross it means that $3,750,000 will be getting distributed to investors. So you can track this very easily and you don’t even have to wait for reports in the first weeks of the release.Now…..here’s the “but”…..if the release expands dramatically that means we have to finance the additional marketing “P and A” for the expanded release. So then the equation gets a bit more complicated. And as we get closer to that situation, I will be happy to explain in more detail how that works.But as for the basics — you have them above.