Independent Film Production Journal

November 5, 2001 - I get my eyes pecked out by Bob Hawk

I wasn't gonna do it.

I wasn't going to send Bob Hawk five hundred dollars. My friends made me, I swear. You ask: "Eric, why did you send 500 big ones to a guy called Bob Hawk? And for what reason? And don't you know that your almost broke at this moment? What the hell were you thinking?" Here's the whole torrid story:

As you know (if you've read this journal up to this point), Bob Hawk also calls his 'company' "Independent Consultation for Independents." Bob is very well known within the indie community. He got Kevin Smith started. (Refer to the Kevin Smith folklore for the details.) He's a 60-something-year-old guy who's been around since day one. He used to be on the selection committee for Sundance. He's on all sorts of filmmaker workshop panels. People apparently respect his opinion.

At the moment, I'm desperately trying to get into Sundance or any other major festival. As I've learned, there seems to be a whole political process going on behind the scenes of the selection process. Send a tape to Sundance, and it will get looked at, but by WHOM is the tricky part. For this particular festival, there is something like 5 'important' screeners (Geoff Gilmore is one of them) and the OTHER screeners (who are probably production assistants and other flunkies.) They've got something like 800 tapes to get through just for the features portion of this festival, they obviously can't scrutinize ALL the tapes the same way. The trick I learned was to get your tape 'flagged' by the selection committee, and they'll check out your entry much more carefully. You need as much help as you can get to assure that your film will be taken seriously. Bob Hawk is one of those people.

My friend David Schendel (in San Francisco) gave me Bob Hawks number a few days ago and a quick run down of what he offers. (Dave is a client of his.) Bob Hawk wants $500 to look at ANY film that is sent to him. (Check must be signed and included.) Depending where you are in the editing process, he'll want more if the sound and picture isn't locked. ('Locked' means you have cut the negative and have combined the soundtrack to the image.) That way you still have time to alter your film to his personal, professional view.

His job is to evaluate your project, give you his feedback and suggest any changes that he feels would help/improve your movie in the eyes of any festival committees. But also, he will FLAG ANY FILM THAT HE DEEMS SUITABLE to Sundance. Not bad. (He also pointed out that paying him does not automatically guarantee a flagging at any festival, he's gotta like the film.) Fair enough.

On top of that, he will suggest other film festivals through out the year and help you in the search for a market or a place for it to be shown. So for $500, Bob Hawk will be your mentor and consultant for the life of your project. From what Dave told him, he can put you in touch with a lot of people in the industry. Cool.

I attempted to call the guy and we played phone tag for a few days. At one point he calls me from a pay phone and his message ends up all garbled. I'm naively thinking, "Wow, he wants to see my film so much, he must've lost his cell phone and called me from a pay phone. Oh boy!" I finally get through to him. We joke that he FINALLY got a Macintosh ibook, and that his original computer was ancient. (Hmmmm.) I mention to him that he was difficult to find on the Internet, since he apparently doesn't have a webpage or even e-mail. He says that he's working on these now. (Uh-oh) He also spoke incredibly slowly on the phone. (Was he just carefully choosing his words?) If you know how I normally operate, you would've known how much pressure my jaw was applying to my teeth, waiting for him to finish his sentences. His first piece of advice to me was that I should talk more slowly and carefully on the phone, and that I should pronounce clearly my name and my project when leaving a message. (Gee, I thought Dave Schendel already gave him all that information, maybe he had lost it.)

I convey my conversation to Dan Bridges and my girlfriend Therese Chase. I told them both that I had second thoughts about using this guy. He doesn't seem computer or Internet savvy in the slightest bit. Apparently he doesn't own a cell phone, and my brain was having a hard time maintaining his tempo of thought. I thought maybe we should go for it anyways, seeing that you don't want to ignore *ANY* avenues at this point. They BOTH want to know why I want to piss away five hundred dollars, seeing that we barely have money for copies and postage. Sundance is looming and we've got to give our baby everything it needs to succeed.

Dan calls Bob Hawk and starts to ask more pointed questions on WHAT he can offer for the five hundred dollars we would send him. Bob gives him the spiel. They hang up. Dan agrees that this doesn't feel right. Bob was practically tormenting Dan with his tempo. (Dan sometimes operates at an even faster pace than I do.) Dan feels that the $500 can be better spent on other things. We agree not to send Bob Hawk for $500. (I'm thinking, "Damn...we COULD'VE had all those contacts, even though I had only $300 to my name.)

A few days later Dave Schendel calls me up. "Why aren't you going with Bob Hawk?! He was wondering why he hasn't seen a tape. He thought you sounded like an interesting guy! You're nuts for not going for it! He's helped me big time." I told him how I felt about the whole deal, it didn't feel right. You could hear his head shaking on the other end.

That weekend, I mention this whole thing to Dave Chubet. (The guy whose house I filmed the party sequences at.) He says, "Listen, if you HAD the $500, would you have done it?" I said, "Yea, *IF* I had a pile of extra cash to toss around." Dave then offers me five hundred dollars, not a loan...for free. He goes, "Look...you don't want to miss any opportunities, *I'LL* get you the cash. I believe in the project and want to see you succeed." I'm stunned. Now I gotta do it.

I have a problem asking or even taking money from friends. Ultimately it can fuck things up and I value my friendship with Dave Chubet a lot higher than a lousy $500. I mention what's been happening to my good ol' mum. She realizes that this COULD be an opportunity to allow me to advance my career. (Hell, she paid for college, or at least the part that I had showed up for.) She's willing to give me the 500 clams.

I send the tape and the check off to Bob. We schedule a day so Dan can be part of the 'consultation' over the phone. Dan was annoyed that I didn't listen to him and consider spending the money elsewhere. Hell...this is BOB HAWK who we got here! I wasn't expecting him to love it, but as long as he found it descent (for it's budget) and at all mildly amusing, we can probably mine some additional contacts and referrals. I call Bob after his scheduled call back time passes. Here we go.

The first thing Bob Hawk says: "Why did you use an actor who appears to be transgendered for the lead part?"

Oh fuck. Bang. Right there was when I realized that I just fucked up. I've known John since Freshman year in highschool (way back in 1976), NO ONE has ever thought that John was ever formally a girl. (They might've implied to me that they thought he was gay, but he's been fondling women long before I was able to.) Now it's seems funny that Terry the Transgender person made that joke *IN* the film, yet Bob seems to think it was true. Weird.

Bob summed up his feelings: "I thought the majority of the acting is the weakest part, over-the-top, not good at all with cheap old jokes with lame attempts at grossing out, and the story was something a first time 20 year old filmmaker would do. But let me tell you what I *DO* like about this film. I liked the packaging." (The fishnet packaging I had sent it in.)

"...and I liked the woman at the end (Cara O'Shea), the blonde woman at the nightclub (Beth Lahr), Geoff (Briggs) and the person who played Mongo. (Brian White)"

Oh shit. He liked the fucking packaging. Everything *BUT* the movie...and anyone who only had a dozen lines or less. OK, I guess it's time to take my lumps. I paid for them, here we go. This guy knows what indie film is all about. I guess I've been deluding myself (and all the people who have seen it up till now who enthusiastically liked it.) This 'consultation' was supposed to go on for about an hour 'cause it was Bobs job to take detailed notes on EVERYTHING.

He also says, "You guys should definitely get yourselves a lawyer." (To help with all the legal stuff and paper work.)

I wasn't sure if I should mention that I had to borrow the 500 bucks from my mother just to pay him. Maybe I could luck out and find a lawyer hiding in the woods.

Bob goes on: "OK, let's start with the opening scene. WHY did you refer to yourself as 'a nobody' in the opening titles? (In the opening titles, instead of plastering my name all over the place, I used 'alt.directed.by.a.nobody.' A joke at my obscure expense.)

I explain it to him, "Nobody knows who I am at this point, nobody CARES who I am at this point. This is the one time in my career that I CAN make that joke. I wanted to show that the filmmaker has a different point of view than all the others. But to make up for it, I do an OVERBOARD title sequence at THE END of the film. EVERYONE gets credits with PICTURES, a lot of them."

"But why would you do that to yourself? Calling yourself a nobody?"

A synapse misfires in my cerebellum, shooting an electrical charge down my arm and causing my forearm and palm to flail wildly towards my forehead. I just explained it to the guy. And I paid $500 for this.

"OK, let's go on to the computer screen intro. (The part where the unknown user assigns different computer voices to the assorted avatars within the 3D chat environment.) I didn't understand why there were voices coming out of the computer."

He doesn't get it. A pair of 12-year-old girls had recently watched the intro and they completely understood what was happening and totally enjoyed what they saw. Yet I paid a 60-year-old guy without e-mail and a website $500 me to tell me he's baffled. Oh fucking great.

Bob was very thorough. "What was the significance of the phrase 'All your base are belong to us?' (I didn't even bother.) Scene two...not amusing. The next scene...lame. Scene four...idiot level IQ. Scene five...cheap jokes. Scene six...I don't believe any of it. Scene seven...lame AND bad acting."

He now continues like this for at least 10 minutes. You could tell that he heard himself repeating the same negative things over and over, so he threw in a couple of sheepish laughs to somehow lighten up what he was saying. As if I would just burst into laughter along with him and go, "You're right Bob! This film SUCKS! I just wasted over 30 grand and 3 year of my life! HA HA HA! Do continue....please!"

And I paid $500 for this.

But I sat there and thought to myself, "Hmmm...maybe I should stop this hammering. This 'consultation' certainly isn't helping me in any way. (What was I supposed to do at this point, reshoot the first half of the movie?) It won't do me any good arguing with the guy or trying to defend myself...I PAID for his opinion. I was my job to listen and be open to criticism. I let Bob continue.

"The man hanging out of the window with a gun to that little dogs head...not funny. The scene where Mr. Disgusting comes in with the computer and puts in on Amandas desk........dead scene, pacing ponders, bad over-acting"

I had to speak up. "Bob, EVERYONE that I've shown that scene to LOVES it. Unanimously. Big laughs. I've seen it myself. Strangers on the Internet have downloaded that clip and loved it. When I've asked specifically about the tempo, everyone has told me that they LIKE how Sparky has a different tempo all his own."

"I didn't like it, it wasn't funny. Why would someone try to sell a computer with all those things on it?" (the obscene stickers)

And I paid $500 for this.

Bob continues: "The scene where Johnny gets a kiss from Beth in the club scene...I don't believe it in a minute."

I tell him that that scene ACTUALLY happened. Verbatim. I had met a girl in a bar for the first time who knew who I was and I got her phone number and a kiss, then ultimately hung up on me. He thought that a scene was missing and goes, "Drama is not real life, it just seems like reality." I'm thinking, Hmmm...that's the way it happened to me in reality, yet it wouldn't happen in a (Bob Hawk) movie. Got it.

Bob now continues for another 20 minutes. At no time did he ever utter anything like "This little bit was OK, even though I hated the rest of the scene." Never. Not once. Packaging. He liked the packaging. We get to somewhere around the half way point of the movie. I look over and see that Dans has been writing all this down. (Scene 21...lame. Scene 22...bad.) Christ.

At this point I cut Bob off. I paid for his attention, I'm the client here, I hoped I could tell him to stop. I told him I have a pretty darn good idea what he thought about the REST of the movie.

He interjects: "OOOH! WAIT! Let me tell you these last two things! I HAVE to tell you these this. You MUST remove the (Rob's) bomb sequence. Reality TV and the events of Sept 11th have changed us, you HAVE to remove it."

And this was AFTER I told him to stop. He got so disappointed that I cut him off, he had a couple of more pages of notes to go through!

And I paid $500 for this.

Bob then tells us that he doesn't think this film will get into major festivals. Certainly don't hope for any theatrical distribution and hope that an underground film festival somewhere will take us. Distributors? Maybe Troma will take it. We mention we've been trying to contact a bunch of agents and lawyers. "They won't touch it."

He then goes on to say that making a film on such a low budget is no longer noteworthy. (I'm apt to agree with him there.) He starts ranting how KEVIN SMITH rehearsed his actors for SIX WEEKS. (Hmmm, I did 30 shooting days and rehearsed a day before each shoot for...30 days. I guess I was 2 weeks short.) He went on to say that he actually LIKES films like 'Something About Mary' and how the Farrelly brothers create such delightful farces, nothing like my film. (Dan mentioned that he saw steaming rising out of of my scalp at this point.)

I finally got to say something, "Bob...we must've shown this film to over 200 people at this point. Lot's of DIFFERENT people. People we don't even know have seen it. They've all liked it to some degree, while others have gotten excited and thought is was hilarious. YOUNG people. People who are familiar with THE INTERNET. More importantly, everyone tends to agree what the better sequences are. (the Sparky computer sequence, etc.) Everyone. *YOU* didn't even think that the 'better' parts were even mildly amusing. HOW COULD THOSE 200 PEOPLE BE SO WRONG?

He laughs and quips, "well everyone liked it at the FIRST 5 showings! (laughs)"

I finally tell the guy, "Look, it's totally unfortunate that I had to pay FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS to learn that your atoms spin in completely opposite directions than mine. You have such an oblique take on what I've attempted to do that nothing you've said helps me in any way." (Was I supposed to have redone the movie from scratch, just appease him and what others would think?)

He basically goes, "well I've produced such and such films and yada yada yada amount of plays so I think I KNOW what I'm doing."

Great. What started to bug me the most, after we hung up, was the WAY he seemed to get off on hammering me and my film. At no point did he appear apologetic that he didn't like my film, even though he took a pile of my money. I didn't expect him to love it. But I thought he would be descent enough if he DIDN'T like it to say, "Look...I didn't like your movie. It's not my sort of thing. You could've improved many things such as....etc. Let's see what we can do with it and hopefully we can improve the next one."

He KNEW that I wasn't going to hang up on him because I paid for the privilege of listening to him. But how did his 'consultation' HELP me by telling me that everything about the project sucks and I'm on the same level of a juvenile filmmaker? (OK, I did a good job on the packaging.) Did he think it was his job to discourage me from making any other movies for the sake of decency and the American way? Should I have studied more Frank Capra films to get it right?

It was weird. It felt like I got held up at knife point, I give the guy all the money that I had, then got stabbed anyway, just for the hell of it. Now I can see why condemned people in the gallows pay the executioner. You want him to do a clean job and not hack away at it for 40 minutes.

I look over to Dan. We both go, "Well! We didn't expect THAT!" I see that Dan has PAGES of notes on what Bob said. I asked him, "Why did you even bother to write this shit down?" Dan said that he wanted to make sure that he got everything that we needed to know from Bob, since we now have paid for his services...AND that he wanted to call him back sometime and listen to what Bob had to say about the rest of the movie.

Christ, and I paid $500 for this.


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