A Good Year: The Sum of 2023
The Short Read (for the lazy bastard)
I’m merrily, joyously broke and in debt. But the investment in ME is about to pay off.
I’ll have TWO films in the can before the end of 2023.
My leadership and project executional skills are proven solid – TWICE
Vet and weed out people that waste your time early.
The Actual Read (for the person who wants wisdom)
This was a good year.
Looking back, I have to compress both 2022 and 2023 together because everything started over a year ago to setup the stage I’m standing on today: Predawn finished (with a little bit of editing to do) and the absurd decision to do a second film, The Social Challenge, about to shoot another weekend. I say it’s absurd and a touch crazy because, quite frankly, I didn’t even pay off the last one yet, I totally disrupted my and my family’s life getting Predawn finished and here we are doing another one with a little bit more disruption. And the number one reason it’s crazy to do another film so soon is because I don’t even know how the first one is going to do in film festivals. I could be setting myself up for not just one, but TWO disappointments.
Festival Entries as of November 11th 2023
I don’t truly believe that last part: I strongly believe Predawn is going to have it’s place somewhere. I’m speaking as unbiased as possible. If you know anything about me, my self-confidence has never been on the top charts and I’m extremely critical of my own work. However, when I take a step back and review Predawn at every generation closer to the finished product, It feels like something I did not work on, if that makes any sense. Like someone else produced this and I’m looking at it and saying, “Nice job. For your first film, pretty cool.”
It’s that unspoken inner confidence, to just be sure I know what I’m doing, and then just plan to do it, that led me to wake up one day and say, “You know what? I have to do another film. Like, ‘now!'” Well, a few things triggered it: other people’s botched projects, the taste of successfully executional blood and my day job.
Other People’s Projects
I’m not even close to Hollywood yet, and the moment Predawn was finished, I was asked, invited, presented and conferenced in on multiple film projects by other people. Now I see how people just end up working constantly bouncing from one project to the next. Depending on your success rate, you become this ‘gravity well’ and people and projects suddenly shift into your orbit like a huge planet just appearing. Then you start saying ‘yes’ because, well, you need the money and you feel if you pulled one rabbit out the hat, you most definitely can pull another one.
But it’s really the money part. I would just love to pay down the debt on Predawn right about now.
So, you get involved with other people’s projects to help them get off the ground or create some sort of organizational structure that was successful for yourself and you end up dealing with straight fucking idiots.
Let me repeat, and I’m not ever walking this line back, or editing it: Straight. Fucking. Idiots.
Look people, I’ve said in the first blog post here: my biggest problem in the past was execution issues. I would start a project all day long, but the process of getting it done to finish was always my problem. I have a history of dead unfinished projects. I get it. I understand it. I lived it. So, you’re saying right now: “Well, Corey Aaron Burkes. If you understand that, you should show mercy on the other fools that can’t get their shit off the ground.”
I did! I provide advice, multi-step reports and fixes. Develop a plan to get them straight and, essentially, I get ‘Fuck you, Corey. I’m doing it my way.’
Have I ever told anyone in my past, and not in these exact words, ‘fuck you, I’m doing it my way.’? Of course! I was the quintessential asshole in my time. My way or the highway.
The difference now is: ‘The RIGHT way that WON’T WASTE OUR TIME or the highway.”
Repeat that to yourself again and realize there’s a supreme difference between ‘MY WAY’ and ‘RIGHT WAY THAT WON’T WASTE TIME’. Notice I didn’t even just say ‘RIGHT WAY’. There are a billion ‘right ways’ based on perspective, timing and a host of other realities. However, I’ve come to understand, when it comes to managing groups of people, there is only a ‘right way to do things that won’t waste time’ to get a job done and finished.
I’ve discovered this is my martial art. My Kung Fu is exact and, like any new master coming across his new martial art, I had to step away from the other schools I’m defeating and open another dojo (The Social Challenge) to prove my technique is like water (lol). We shoot next Saturday and Sunday.
Successful Executional Blood
With one film in the can, there was this overwhelming feeling that there was more filmmaking skills I had to sharpen. Not so much ‘more I had to say’, because as a storyteller since birth, there are a lot of cheaper ways to tell a story then trying to get a bunch of folks together to shoot a film. Remember, Orson Wells ‘Terribly expensive paint box’ quote.
I suppose this goes back to my ‘martial arts’ analogy. I needed to perfect a bunch of things. I wanted tighter shots. Be able to create various senses of feelings. I wanted to do a few things I don’t think I captured in Predawn and sitting around saying to myself ‘I wish I did this and did that’ wasn’t cutting it. It’s like masturbation. It was fun to get the initial edge off, but you really need to get into some pussy to perfect the skills otherwise you’re just jerking off.
Right? Wasn’t that deep?
With the first film finished, I recently turned 55 years old, tomorrow isn’t promised. I know what the fuck I’m doing to get a project off the ground.
Why the fuck not? And here we are.
My Day Job
I’ve been at a lot of jobs in my lifetime. This one has to be the best of them all.
Pays great. Great benefits and flexibility. As any human being, I can always use more money like the greedy ungrateful bastard I can be, but honestly, almost everyday I say I am eternally appreciative that I’m here and able to cover life’s expenses and work with really good people. You can tell I recently turned ‘adult’. My usual ‘fuck the day job’ routine is long gone. I think it had to do with finding the right day-survival job.
If I were to silent any film aspirations, I could see myself at this job with the bulk of the folks pulling 30-40 year stints. Some guys are still working here well into their 80’s. I know! Crazy!
So, right after Predawn, I was trying to find ways to get more money to pay shit off and I looked to my job for different positions and such. Long story short, I had to fill out new applications and prepare a new resume and on and on and on and on … while I am sitting on a film I just finished and was editing and that old itch of ‘The fuck you’re doing? Going back down that rabbit hole of needing a day job to be happy? You fucking idiot! You just finished your first film and it’s actually good! Get back in that ring and win!‘
Obviously I didn’t quit, and I’ll be the first to tell you that your day job should be looked at as your prime financier to your projects. But, for the time being, I felt doing more than I am currently doing at the day job would interfere with focusing a little more on the potential of having a growing film career. I was even considering looking into a second job, but if I did that, I would not be able to shoot The Social Challenge. I’d be too tired to do anything else (remember, I’m ’55’). Not getting any younger, I felt ‘fuck it’, let me get this out of my system now before I’m too old to do another one. I can be a supervisor at the day job and do all the time consuming non-film projects they need next year.
As a matter of fact, I did look into working on film projects for the day job as well. But the problem is I started feeling like I was back in high school and just part of the A/V Squad. Roll in a monitor and press play on the VCR. Still got to do your regular job, though.
No. I want my own. Under conditions I control.
This year. 2023. Proved I can make it happen.
How to Succeed – an ultra brief summary
For me, this has been a banner year: my family is in great health. No major issues. No major drama. I’m employed. Two films done by December 1st PLUS, surprise surprise, a finished novel! I’m considering this the best year of my life, even though I’m like the government and had to raise my debt ceiling to just about lunar level. Fuck it. It was worth it.
That’s my definition of success, for me. Something I can say looking backwards. During the middle of it, I was a worrying wreck. I wasn’t 100% confident things were going to pull off until they did. I just spent a lot of time through the year trusting that voice in my head that kept saying ‘keep moving forward’, a whole lot of prayer asking for guidance and blessings and hindsight allows me to see everything worked out. So, me being a man of patterns, I just plan to repeat all the steps for the rest of my life!
The thing to consider is: life is prescribed just for you. Like medicine, you cannot take my prescription and hope to get the same results. Tylenol that works for me could have no affect on you … maybe even kill you. This is the most important thing you MUST understand before you put value in anything I say, or that ‘How to make millions selling teddy bears’ book and follow ‘easy steps’ by some guy pictured on a yacht trying to sell you his ‘how to succeed in life’ process.
From the moment you are born to the day you die, the life you have is yours and it’s weaved specifically to you. My interactions with people and yours are two different galaxies, so I need to do things and say things that works in harmony with how my universe operates. For instance, I am NOT a social person. I can portray and fake a gregarious person within a small gathering — but I’ll tell you right now, I’d rather always be at home playing video games with my children, writing a story and getting laid often and well. Drinking, partying, going from club to club was never my thing.
Networking and meeting people is and never will be my thing. In your head, you’re saying ‘You’ll never have children, therefore never gotten laid, if you don’t go out and meet people.’ But here I am married with children. I worked my way of life over the years where I still got what I wanted without compromising who I was. There is no “You have to be this way” or “That way” … there is just the question: ‘What is YOUR way and how do you get similar results of others.’
So, the first step to any success is answering that question: What is YOUR way of doing things?
Don’t like meeting people? That’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t go to fucking seminars and therapy to be something your whole body tells you that you aren’t. You can hire people who know how to do that and sell whatever you’re trying to do. It’s when you try jamming what isn’t YOU into someone else’s square hole of ‘this is how it should be done’ is where you get depressed when the results don’t come out.
I found, for me, I am at my best getting a project off the ground when I govern ‘flexo-Autocratically’.
Right. So what does that mean?
It means I lead autocratically, centralized-decision making starting and ending with me, but flexible autonomy to those I’ve vetted and trusted.
How many times have I said, ‘I am not a TEAM player’. All my life. I stand by it. I hate teams. I don’t like sports. I tried to cram my life into teams and results vary with mostly failure and hurt feelings. This was me trying to fit into a square peg all my life and people mad at me because I was getting with a fucked up program.
Maybe it’s the 55 in me, but I don’t give a fuck now.
I don’t do teams. Fuck you if you’re not hearing me and I’ll gladly say it louder.
What I do is either lead … or follow. Those two things I’m good at.
I’m an excellent soldier.
Give me my marching orders, I’ll get it done. But don’t ask me for advice because YOU are supposed to be the leader. Do your fucking job. I don’t believe in debating over a decision. If you make the decision, and it doesn’t get me killed, I’ll follow it. If I make the decision, shut the fuck up. One or the other. Especially if I don’t know or trust you.
I am an excellent leader.
I’ll make sure the job gets done and make sure YOU, who is supposed to be part of this ‘team’ gets the job done. But I’m not sharing points of view and asking for your fucking advice. I’m in control. Do what you are assigned or hired to do and do your best at it. I’ll leave you alone to do your great work and I’ll organize a healthy schedule to get it done.
But ‘lets put our heads together’ will receive a kiss my ass reflex reaction as we sit in a room together trying to ‘share’ ideas. Fuckouttahere.
No matter how you blanched at what I just said, I’ve still done the team thing, but in my way of doing it.
Maybe teamwork works for you — have at it. Wake me when the projects over.
That was the first step to success, if you were paying attention: know who the fuck you are and act accordingly. You’ll find, when you work with YOU, the universe acts serendipitously and instead of climbing uphill to be something/someone/perform in ways you are not, things work out. They do.
I can’t emphasize that enough.
It’s not hard to do to figure YOU out. Just make a list of the things that you are comfortable and easily gravitate to doing and stay with those things as you mix it into the life you want to achieve. Like I said, ‘don’t like meeting people?’, there’s someone else out there that does and you’ll just have to pay them to network and talk for you. But guess what, it’s worth it and you will genuinely be doing the things that work instead of looking/feeling fake doing it.
Oh, look at that. Figuring out YOU is the first step toward weeding and vetting people that waste your time. You will find, doing the stupid things that you can’t/don’t feel comfortable doing in order to harmonize with society creates yourself as the biggest waste of time ever. Once you kill that ugly fake beast and become YOU…. suddenly, quite miraculously, you will look around you and say … ‘Holy shit! Look at all these good for nothing bastards!’
Classic example: This is my journal. I write whatever the fuck I want. I’m not interested in your sensitivity to harsh language. Having said that, I am writing freely and with resolute honesty and feel great every word I type. If I had to run through and erase every curse word it would upset the flow of the message I’m conveying and it would come out sanitized. Fake. Edited.
Do you want to go around life sanitized? Fake? Edited?
I’m not saying ‘don’t read the room’. Don’t walk into a church and tell everyone to kiss your Black/White/Asian/Latino/LGBTQ ass because ‘you’re just being real’. That’s stupid. You’re just being an asshole and you know it. This journal is my room. I can be free. Anywhere else, I am either not there in the first place… or just keeping my mouth shut.
Sure as hell, if I’m quiet in a room of people, you can place good money I’m thinking someone needs to kiss my ass. That’s a solid winning bet. The odds are in your favor.
Vetting and Clearing
Working in film, you will come across assholes. It’s guaranteed. You won’t avoid it.
It’s a ‘group efforted’ art form meaning you need more than one person to get it done in the majority of cases.
It’s a ‘privileged’ art form meaning no matter how you spin it, this is a disposable cash flow art.
You can’t wake up one day, needing to feed your family, put gas in the car, pay your rent/mortgage and say ‘You know what, I’m going to get a job making movies’ and expect to have a regular paycheck. Yeah, smart ass, even in porn. Check how your body looks before you die on that hill.
Since 2022, I’ve come across ripe, sloppy assholes that could have scuttled everything I was trying to do to finish Predawn and, to this very day, I’m still witnessing assholes saying they can do one thing and don’t act accordingly to their word. Even with deposits and agreements made.
Fuck! This is the kicker: I’m offering to pay people and they still come up as Asshole Supremes. Doesn’t make any sense.
What is true about this industry is you end up fostering relationships of trust and you stick with those people because, once again, people are assholes.
I’m working with the same set of people from Predawn because I trust them. I would work with the whole 20+ set of the cast and crew members, if I could afford them, and this project was larger.
Liam, Sharon, Monroe, Donna, Tiffany, Diron, Madison, Theresa, Jarid … these are people I trust with my eyes closed because they came through back in May and I can’t give them enough. In fact, these are the people I listen to and trust to be given advice. I hear them, they can tell me I’m fucking up and I adjust accordingly.
So, when I look to hire someone on for the crew, and I don’t get responses to emails, agreements that should have been signed are ignored, questions aren’t asked to make sure we have a battle plan BEFORE the actual shoot, and people just up and disappear — when they are damn well around to get a deposit almost every day in my emails up to that point — well, I start putting on my ‘go fuck yourself’ hat and start cutting losses before the day of a shoot because I won’t trust those people to show up on time.
Happened before Predawn shot. Happened after. Happening now before The Social Challenge is shot. I now factor in the ‘Asshole Equation’ to prevent future screwups. The equation is simple: P=I’m paying you + X=(you can’t do simple communication) * Y=(you always have an excuse) = getthefuckouttahere2
If you can’t fucking sign an agreement to do a job, or answer an email in a timely manner, or meet with me to go over necessary things to plan, how the fuck can I trust you to show up on a call time ON the day of a shoot?
If you’re spending any amount of money, do not be afraid to call a spade an asshole before you lose any or more money and cut your losses early. Remember, it’s about YOUR comfort and the moment you feel you can’t trust someone to do the small things, damn well be sure they can’t do the big things no matter how much they big talk what they can do. Fuck ’em. Start early … give them little things they have to do on time and if its a consistent amount of vanishing or excuses, then get rid of them.
Oh? What’s that? You’re getting the ‘Oh, I had a family crisis. I had this problem and that problem and I couldn’t get back to you but I’ll be ready on that day. I promise.”
Fuck ’em. No. The whining bitch will likely have a family problem or their mama’dem dying on the day of your shoot.
Not your fucking problem.
Always have a plan b in place for everything and everyone, but cut loose all people that have excuses.
No sympathy. It’s too expensive.
Not saying do not be empathetic. Extend your sorry for their troubles … but you still have to cut them loose.
You might not want to be like me, though. Once I cut you loose, you’re dead to me.
No matter how much I’m going to bold face lie to you and say we’ll work again in the future. That person can kiss my ass for future reference.
I may sound cruel. I know that. But do yourself a favor and take out $10 and put it on the table in front of you.
Look at it. Now, think about giving $8.00 of that to a person that doesn’t respond to you, already shows they come late to things, and you have that eerie feeling you’re not going to get your $8.00 back. That’s the ONLY $10 in front of you. Still feel like being gentle about who gets your money?
In place of money on the table, your TIME is equally expensive.
These same assholes in the industry like to waste it with plenty of ‘I know this person’ and ‘I know that person’ and I’m a big deal this and that’.
Oh my god it’s maddening how many people out there are hustling shit talkers.
I’m hearing of people (and it seems like all these MOFO’s out here suddenly know Tyler Perry) who allegedly know and work with the man, and when I see the scripts they are working on, you know it’s bullshit if you know the history of Tyler Perry productions. It’s like oil and water. Will Tyler Perry really fund and produce your shit script about gangs with gold teeth, thugs and prison life? Is that his consistent flow of storytelling? It’s like me saying, “I got this great porn idea that Martin Scorsese is going to produce. I know him! We go way back!”
Let me say this: I know no one but the cast and crew of Predawn and the Social Challenge. Those are the only celebrities that matter to me. They influence my soul and I am very VERY guarded about who I connect them with.
Each of them are extremely talented people and I constantly thank God for meeting them. But if your project is shit, I will tell them immediately ‘fuck this guys project. Don’t waste your time’. Yeah, they can make the assessment themselves but I love these guys. I’m very protective of all of them, especially the kids: Wynter, Izzy and Madison.
Don’t make me come find your shitty production and stab you because you fucked with my people.
I wish I was kidding.
Those two things are important and crucial to your success and getting anything off the ground. There is a lot more: mostly organizational methods that work. Steps that would seem more ‘day job’ managerial, but they work. I remember reading on Facebook one day; a posting by a director/producer looking for crew members. She said “I run a fast and loose production so if you’re uptight, don’t come over here.”
Haven’t heard of her loose production since, but I bet it was a shit Tubi video that crashed and burned every step of the way like a lot of people out here trying to get a film done. These people talk a lot of shit, nothing organized and they start sooner without planning anything except believing ‘God will see them through’.
My relationship with God, remember I said how life is prescribed to us individually, is I am under strict orders to plan my ass to the finest DNA level, pray on it and plan some more. It works for me.
I have proven results.
What I am noticing is a lot of people don’t even see that their project isn’t working and it’s an enormous shit show. That ‘blindness’ to keep pushing forward when your just running on fumes is part of that era of thinking: ‘No matter what, keep pushing!’.
I agree: keep pushing, but here’s the rest of the line they all forget: ‘Keep pushing a solid and practical plan’.
If the plan is failing, ran out of money sooner than expected, people didn’t show up, on and on…. stop and reassess.
You got people out here still trying to get a film off the ground with hopes and dreams of funding that isn’t even guaranteed, working on scripts that, on paper, look like the budget should be more than they have out of pocket. Promises of deferred payments left and right. People quitting because they too see the disorganization, emails constantly being sent about whatever the fuck without any definite schedule …. or if there is a schedule, they’ve missed it six months in a row. Kid actors promised to be in a film are getting older and aging out. Nobody knows whats going on. Producers holding onto their cast with promises and lies of ‘one day my ship will come in’, shit talking people who keep bringing up ‘who they know’ because they aren’t shit without their passing association with a named star.
Folks … I am out. None of that is for me.
After a year of accomplishing goals I set for myself, and keeping a distance from the shit shows out in the horizon, the more I am quite positive my ‘thing’ with existing in the film industry is going to be 100% Hayao Miyazaki-style of production: You and your TFOT (That Film Over There) stay over there. WAY over there.
Let me put it this way: I happen to know of a total of six people that started their projects either before I did, or roughly around the same time back in May 2023.
I am the ONLY one that finished our short film and, with my cocky-ass, working on a second one. No, you can’t tell me nothing. lololol.
Joking. Truthfully, I like what works for me so I can afford to shut out the bullshit around me that doesn’t work.
Simple math. Simple living. I’m taking what life prescribed to me and following those instructions. It would have to be a lot of money upfront and in the end for me to work on anyone’s project and follow their ways of doing things. You have to pay my ass lovely to submit to that cluster fuck.
I’ve got my own thing that I comfortably, privately growing over here — with a forthcoming studio on a farm somewhere with a small group of hand selected talented people and we come out with A24-level winners when we feel like it and at ease. There it is. That’s who I am and plan to be. That I am manifesting. It’s always been in mind, but now it’s officially in the universe. Private, personal storytelling carefully hand crafted with a good, small reliable team and we split the profits, sit back and chill to do another one.
So — who are you?