2009: Now only a memory (Updated 12/30/09)

 

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Update 12/30/09: Turns out I have to eat a little crow on part of this post: Only hours after writing this, Netflix coughed up a purchase order for TAINTLIGHT at long last, so thanks to everyone who put it in their queue it should be available to rent there shortly after the New Year. Still no word one way or another re: COCKHAMMER, though… 😉

Hard to believe, but in just a couple of days, 2009 will be a distant memory. Seems like only yesterday that I was writing a blog about how much 2008 sucked and how I was looking forward to what 2009 would bring. And bring it did!

2009 kicked off with a bang — and no, I don’t mean the January 21 inauguration of President Barack Obama that everyone was so enamored by. (Speaking of things that seem like a distant memory now, and considering his flaccid track record of actual accomplishments so far…)

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For my wife and I, the year officially started with a bang little more than a week later with the birth of our son, Benjamin Robert Bookwalter, on January 29. I think the morning of January 28 was the worst snowstorm of the season, and here we were, making our way to the hospital for what would eventually be another 18 hours of waiting before the little guy finally showed up at 3:30 am on the 29th.

As I write this, Benji is officially 11 months old now, and it goes without saying that his presence has made for the best year of our lives. He’s already on his feet and walking, terrorizing our dog & cat, clearing my shelves of DVDs and even fighting me for the universal remote control. He even made his first trip overseas back in September with Mommy to visit his extended family in Ukraine, passport and all.

While I fear for his future as any parent does (particularly because of the overall economic and world situation today), I am really looking forward to watching him grow up and hopefully influencing him to be the great dude we hope he will be. I’ve had a lot of experience with babies over the years, but mostly the adult kind — you know, the immature folks who make everything you try to accomplish a pain in the ass. I’m thinking this experience will be a lot more rewarding.

It seems like every year, the movie biz gets a little further away from me. A decade ago, I would have fretted and stressed about this situation, but today I have more than made my peace with it — especially when it was my choice to step away from it in the first place. I haven’t made a new movie since I wrapped the ill-fated DEADLY STINGERS in early 2003, which marks the longest stretch (almost 7 years now!) without directing a movie since 2000, when it took me 4 years to get from POLYMORPH to WITCHOUSE 2: BLOOD COVEN.

I continue to get e-mail or messages on Facebook/MySpace from kind folks who dig the old flicks and inquire when I’ll be making another movie. I have always appreciated the support, but the fact is, that day may never come. I chalk it up to a “perfect storm” of events which include getting burned out producing flicks for Full Moon, growing tired of dealing with the bullshit that goes along with making movies (trust me, it’s really not worth it at this level of the biz), and mostly just the desire to finally settle down with a sane woman and start a family. I’ve made less money from actually directing movies than I have from producing, post work or distribution — take note of that, newcomers!

That’s not to say that I’ll never make another movie — I’ve executive produced a few in recent years to keep the Tempe DVD label going, so I’m not completely out of the game (yet). It’s sort of ironic that all the great technology I always hoped would come finally arrived, just in time for me to lose interest in using it! There’s nothing special about making these little movies anymore, since everyone is doing it. But despite all the great technology, for the most part the heart seems to have gone out of no-budget moviemaking. After cranking out so much stuff in the first couple years of this decade, I just decided to step back and focus on life and leave the rest of the nonsense to others.

It’s also ironic that I worked so hard years ago to set up Tempe DVD as a way to distribute my own product, only to totally lose interest in feeding that engine with new product somewhere along the way. After a miserable 2008, this year Tempe only released 3 of movies on our labels — PLATOON OF THE DEAD on Tempe DVD (which I also financed), THE BRASS RING on Fat Cat DVD (an acquisition) and Chris Seaver’s TAINTLIGHT on Splatter Rampage. The rest of our distribution came from consignment deals with other producers, where Tempe picks up finished goods and sells them to our accounts. It worked out well for me since I didn’t have to foot the bill to manufacture product, and it worked out for most of the producers since they turned idle product into quick cash.

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PLATOON OF THE DEAD was actually supposed to debut in 2008 (it was shot in late 2007!), but post-production problems dragged things on, and I ultimately held off doing anything with it since the year seemed to be going so lousy anyway. It finally debuted in June of this year and went on to be one of the most profitable releases I’ve had in years — so I guess that’s the way things were supposed to work out. Strangely, it also was one of the most reviled: The YouTube and Netflix user comments are almost universally negative! I don’t think I’ve ever released a movie that did so well financially, yet was so hated by viewers. Go figure. (And sure enough, as I write this, another nasty comment from a YouTube viewer just arrived. Good thing I signed up for Google AdSense, so I actually get paid a few sheckles for them having commented on it…)

Largely thanks to PLATOON OF THE DEAD and the consignment deals with other producers, 2009 was a much better year overall for my DVD biz. Tempe didn’t make any kind of crazy record profit, but compared with the last few years, this year was a winner indeed.

Of course, that will likely be changing in 2010, since it appears we’ve lost some support from once-reliable vendors like Netflix, who have thus far passed on our last two releases (TAINTLIGHT and another consignment title, Hack Movies’ COCKHAMMER). Netflix has historically made it worthwhile to release some of these little movies, so you may see even fewer releases (both from Tempe and others) in 2010 as a result of their policy changes.

I wrote another blog on that subject which you can read here, but the short version is, Netflix is going to start cherry-picking which titles they stock, rather than taking a few copies of everything that’s released. If you’re a fan of no-budget cinema, it’s in your best interest to send a nice e-mail to Netflix voicing your displeasure at this disturbing trend — Tempe isn’t the only label that will be affected by this, and soon Netflix will likely resemble Redbox, Blockbuster and other outlets that only stock studio releases. The days of the “endless virtual catalog” may indeed be over.

Speaking of over, I think we’re starting to see the beginning of the end of the DVD biz as we know it anyway. The Hollywood studios can’t even seem to maintain their iron-fisted hold on the business — as they do battle with new rental outlets like Redbox, their old allies like Blockbuster are starting to drop like flies. Piracy is rampant thanks to the ease of downloading over high-speed connections. Blu-ray is not making up for the blood being lost on the DVD side. More viewers are turning to streaming options. The optical disc will likely be around for awhile — but probably as a “burn on demand” collectible item rather than the mass-produced packaged product we see today.

Oh, the horror!

On a more upbeat note, I expanded my so-called journalistic endeavors this year. In addition to freelance writing for DV Magazine the last 2 years, in November I started blogging for MacLife.com. It’s a particularly passionate gig for me — getting paid to report on all things Apple is like a dream come true! The fact that it’s a steadier (and more reliable) gig than the DVD business is a big plus as well, but for now I haven’t given up on Tempe Video, and I’ll continue to face those challenges head-on.

All in all, 2009 wound up being a pretty good year for me personally, especially considering the economic turmoil many have faced. Last year was my own personal economic turmoil, so I can relate and feel your pain! But the old adage holds true: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I’m now cautiously optimistic about 2010… how about you?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 29th, 2009 at 4:10 pm and is filed under Family, Freelance, Movies, Random Thoughts, Seen & Heard, Tempe Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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