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Episode 23: Producer Woes

by | Mar 29, 2022

We’ve got a new name for the film! And a new website! And other news too!

But first, some links:

You can listen to the episode here:

And here’s the script of this episode!

Hi, this is Joe Dzikiewicz, and welcome to the Storylanes Podcast, the podcast where I tell the story of how I’m making an independent feature film while I’m making it.  Yup, that’s right: I’m hard at work producing DOMICIDAL, an independent horror film.  It’s the story of a cantankerous feminist tech podcaster who is making a podcast about living in a smart-tech home.  But there’s a problem: the house is haunted.  Or so it seems, because all that smart home technology is controlled by a hacker.  It’s as if your worst enemy in the world controlled your Alexa.

We’ve got a lot to cover today.  Things are moving fast in DOMICIDAL land, and I’ve got a lot to share.

And the first thing is something you may have noticed.  “Joe,” you say.  “What’s this about DOMICIDAL?  I thought you were making a movie called SMART HOUSE!”

I sure was.  And now I’m making a movie called DOMICIDAL.  But that’s okay, because it’s the same movie.  Only the name has changed.

Why did I change the name?  There’s a couple of reasons.

First off, did you know that there was a Disney live-action movie in the 90’s called SMART HOUSE?  Back when I started this project, I didn’t.  But then I started talking about the film to people and I found that I was getting a similar response from a significant number of the millennials that I spoke to.  “Hey, wasn’t that a Disney movie once?  I remember that movie from when I was a kid!”

So that was one strike against the name.  Then I did a little research.  Apparently James Wan, the guy behind the SAW franchise, had a movie called SMART HOUSE in development.  His SMART HOUSE doesn’t have much in common with mine.  To quote the news story about it: “SMART HOUSE is a thriller about a family in the witness protection program placed in the custody of a state of the art, autonomous ‘smart house.’ When a group of assassins locates the family, the house goes into a lethal defense mode.”  Yup, not my SMART HOUSE at all.

Moreover, the news stories about Wan’s SMART HOUSE are all from 2017.  Apparently it’s caught in what they call development hell, and who knows if it will ever emerge?  I mean, they haven’t even grabbed up the domain name “smart-house-movie.com” – I’ve got that.  (And James, if you’re listening, if you want to buy the domain, give me a call.  I’ll be reasonable!)

But add it all up and I was starting to have serious doubts about the title SMART HOUSE.  Which, let’s face it, isn’t that scary a name anyway.  So I decided to see if I could come up with something better.

I had some brainstorming sessions with friends and family.  And I put together a list.  I came up with all kinds of names.  There was THE WATCHER IN THE WALLS.  There was INTERNET OF THINGS.  NEVER ALONE, and TECHNO, and BAND SUPPORT.  And I liked some of them, but I didn’t love any of them.

So I did some more research.  It turns out that there’s a word for smart home automation, and that word is DOMOTICS.  Which is probably a portmanteau of Domicile and Robotics.  And which actually sounds pretty good.  Make it singular and I like it even more: DOMOTIC.  It’s got a horror feel to it, sounding a little like Demonic.  I kind of liked it.

Then I was in the car one day with my wife Julie and my son Andy.  He had previously suggested a title: ALEXA KILL!  I liked the name, but I figured it could lead to legal problems.  I mean, Amazon’s got to have the name ALEXA trademarked, right?  And I really don’t want to get in a fight with Amazon.  I tried that once, it didn’t work out.  Long story, and one for another day.

Anyway, we were talking about some of our ideas.  I was running through some of them, but I didn’t have the list in front of me and I kept forgetting them.  I was trying to remember the name TECHNOCILE, and mumbling my way through it, when Julie said, “Wasn’t one of them DOMICIDE?”

Well, it wasn’t.  But we immediately knew we had something.  I liked it even more when I made it DOMICIDAL.  And so did Andy and Julie.

I ran it past some friends and family, and while there wasn’t universal agreement, it was the most popular name on the list.  Even better, IMDB had no record of a DOMICIDAL, and the domain domicidal-movie.com was available.

So DOMICIDAL it is.  I love how it rolls off the tongue.  I love how it combines homicidal with domicile.  It has a real horror-movie/thriller feel to it.  It works great.

Of course, if you gave it a little thought, you might think that DOMICIDAL means wanting to kill a house.  So it may not be entirely perfect.  But hey, I figure it’s always good to give the more nit-picking fans something to complain about.  Consider this my gift to them!

All of which is to say, the movie I’m working on is no longer SMART HOUSE.  It’s now DOMICIDAL.

Oh, the name SMART HOUSE lives on in the name of the corporation that I set up to make the movie.  That’s SMART HOUSE MOVIE, LLC.  That’s even the name on the bank account.  There doesn’t seem to be much reason to change that, though.  It’s not like anyone really cares what the name of the corporation is that makes a movie.  (And it’s standard to start up a new corporation for each movie.  There’s good legal reasons to have it be a separate entity.  But the company names don’t matter.  Seriously, I tried to find the names of some companies set up to produce known movies to share them here and I couldn’t even find any.)

So that’s the first big piece of news: we’ve got a new name!

And to go with it, we now have a website.  It isn’t much so far, just a front page and an email signup form.  But check it out – it’s at https://domicidal-movie.com.  I’ve included a link in the show notes.

Now that took more work to set up than you might expect.  That was mostly working through the design.  I’m lucky that I have a sometime web-designer as a wife.  And she has a technically savvy husband who can handle all the tech details in setting up a website.

But still, it took her several hours to do the initial design, then to work with a rather difficult client – me – to fine-tune the site to make it look how I wanted.  Then we had to make it look good on both desktop and mobile and do all the magic to launch the site on the web.  And of course set up an email service to allow signups and then create an initial welcome email on that email service and do a design for that and and and…

And oh my God, I just realized.  I haven’t put analytics on the page!  Analytics will let me know how many visitors I get, and where from, and get a bunch of interesting data about them like what kind of device they’re using.  And I haven’t added it yet, and now I know what I have to work on next.

Woof.  There really is a lot to do to make a movie.  Especially when you don’t have a huge budget and an army of people to handle these details.  I’m tech support and social media manager and about a thousand other things, all of which is part of being a producer.  The big boys have people to do all that stuff.  But for the most part, I’m the people that I’ve got.

I mean, I’m not just making a movie here.  I’m also starting a company, a small startup that exists for the sole purpose of making and marketing DOMICIDAL, the movie.  And setting up a startup is a huge amount of work.  It’s budgets and lawyers and recruiting people and raising money and setting up websites and social media and a whole lot else.  And while I’m not doing all of that – I’ve got some good people helping me with many of these aspects – Hi Tracey, Hi John, Hi Julie!  But I’m doing a lot of it.  And I’m closely involved with all of it.

And of course, none of this is directly related to the reasons why I’m doing this.  This isn’t screenwriting.  It isn’t directing.  It’s producing – the stuff I have to do so I can do the stuff I want to do.

Over the last month the only writing I’ve done was tweaks to the script to make it more appealing for product placement.  That and email and promotional copy and editing the occasional grant proposal.  (Though I’ve got Tracey Palmer Wood to do most of the proposal writing.  And I’m grateful to have her – she’s doing a terrific job!)

And the only director work I’m doing is the occasional bit of storyboarding.  Which I really should be doing more of, but there’s only so many hours in the day.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining.  Well, not much, anyway.  I really want to do this.  And I’m actually enjoying producer work, more than I expected to, to be honest.  And it’s really exciting to start to see this coming together.  I mean, we’re on the web now.  It’s starting to feel real.  So that’s all good.

But I’ve thought sometimes about my father.  When he was my age, he was starting to slow down, getting ready for retirement.  And there was nothing he liked more than to sit by his backyard pool with a beer in one hand enjoying a lazy summer afternoon.

I’ve occasionally wondered why I couldn’t be more like that.  Be content eating the lotus leaves.

But that’s not my way, I suppose.  Like it or not, I’ve got an obsession.  I’m going to make a movie, by God.  And if that means a whole lot of work, then a whole lot of work it will be.

Oh, one last big piece of news.  I’ve been selected for the Washington DC Women in Film and Video inaugural Narrative Script Development Fellowship.  That means I’m going to be part of the first group of five filmmakers going through an intense program run by DC’s Women in Film and Video.

Now that probably raises a few questions.  Starting with, Women in Film and Video?  Since when did you become a woman?

Happily, Women in Film and Video accepts men as well.  Which is lucky for me because they are an amazing organization.  They are a film and television industry organization based out of DC.  They run some amazing programs and have some amazing members, people at all points in their film career from seasoned professionals to amateurs working hard to break in, and their email listserv is one of the great film networking resources in the DC area.  And another great resource is their executive director, Melissa Houghton, and there’s not enough words to praise Melissa.  She’s already been a big help to me: she knows everyone in film in the area, and she’s great at connecting people.

I’ve been a member of WIFV for several years now, and I’ve met some great people, attended several great programs, and learned a lot.  I can’t recommend them enough.  If you’re interested in filmmaking, and you live anywhere near Washington DC, or even if you don’t, do yourself a favor and join Women in Film and Video.  You don’t even have to be a woman.

Now, one of their primary goals is to increase the representation of women in the filmmaking fields.  But I’m a big believer in that goal, happy to support it.  I’ve had women in key positions on all my films, and my first two recruits on this project are women, executive producer Tracey Palmer Wood and art director Julie Dzikiewicz.

But WIFV and Melissa also want to turn the DC area into a major filmmaking hub.  Which is part of the reason for this fellowship.

And I’m one of the fellows.  I’m really quite excited about this.  They’ve got nine months of activities planned for us.  Each month will be focused on a key part of filmmaking, bringing in professional mentors with specialties like assistant director, casting director, film financing professionals, and straight-out director directors.  The fellows will be meeting as a group with these mentors, who will review our scripts and give us specific suggestions.  Plus there will be chances to work closely with the group, to support each others’ projects.  I’m really looking forward to it.

So that’s been my March.  It’s been a month that included a lot of producing and not much writing or directing.  But a month that included some real progress.  And I didn’t even get into the progress we’ve been making on the fundraising front.  No money in yet, but we’ve got a plan and we’re starting to execute on it.  So all is good.

Check us out at Storylanes.com.  There you’ll find links to the things I’ve mentioned here, including to the Domicidal website.  And by all means, stop by the website.  And if you are interested, subscribe to our email list.  We won’t swamp you with email, and for a while we’ll hardly send you anything.  But it will be another source of information about DOMICIDAL.

Just as this is.  I’ll be back, probably in a month, maybe earlier if I find the time.  Until then, this is Joe Dzikiewicz for the Storylanes Podcast.  Talk at you later!

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The Storylanes Podcast gives a screenwriter’s point of view of the structure of the screenplay of movies and TV shows.  Each episode does a deep-dive analysis of one movie or show, examining how the story is structured and how al the elements come together to create the story.

Each episode also includes a chart of the scenes and other key elements of the script.  You’ll find those charts here, along with the scripts of the episodes themselves.