Friday, April 19, 2024

Live Music to Set the Mood on Tuesday's Theatrical Screening!

(Day T-4 Count Down to Worldwide Theatrical Premiere on April 23!)

Vengeance Trail is excited to announce that all attendees on Tuesday will be treated to the symphonic vibes of cellist Joseph Miller

Joseph Miller is a cellist and native of Memphis, TN. A recent graduate of the University of

Memphis, he is a classically trained performer and music educator who works to bring the arts to

all communities of the greater Memphis area regardless of socioeconomic status. Miller is a

member of several performing organizations such as the Jackson Symphony in Jackson,

Tennessee, the Prizm Ensemble, and Sinfonietta Memphis. His quartet Ensemble X is unique for

being the first black string quartet in the Mid-South region that specializes in highlighting and

performing music of the African American tradition.

Please some support Joseph. Purchase tickets now at!

Ian Max

Thursday, April 18, 2024

When Doubts Set In - Self Distribution is Sales.

(Day T-5 Count Down to Worldwide Theatrical Premiere on April 23!)

More people have told me they plan to come to the screening than have purchased tickets. We still have over 100 tickets to sell. I'm a creator, not a sales person, and this movie needs some favor.

Judi and I have plastered the town, within our budget. We've displayed the movie in about 60 establishments, some broad appeal, some more targeted to the movie. If each leads to 3 sales, we're golden, but they haven't yet. 

The mainstream news hasn't caught the buzz yet. Where else can I promote? I stopped at an art show and talked to the PBS news station that had a tent, so I'll pitch them tomorrow. There's so much to do, with an army of two, and gum on my shoe. Can I boost my confidence with Dr Seuss rhymes? Where's my copy of "Oh the Places You'll go?"

So, what do you all do when doubts set in? When you've poured hundreds of hours into a speculation and you have no idea if it will pay off, but you stubbornly believe in it. And it's next Tuesday!

People are starting to believe in it.

Yesterday, I got our first official Rotten Tomatoes review. Martin Carr believes in Vengeance Trail.

Tonight, I was interviewed by Karla Lewis for half an hour on her "Couch Convo with Coach Karla" on SPV TV Show. I've never done that. Thirty minutes is a long time to not scratch my nose, not clear my dry throat rudely, not get too tangled up in um's and uh's. Karla believes in Vengeance Trail.

It's easy to let a herculean effort like this become my source of significance. Don't let anything become an idol. I believe I'm doing the right thing, even if it's only to try make the investors some more return. I believe I am called to make movies, and movies are expensive to make, so this artist must learn how to feed himself and many others.

And I'm not doing this alone. But it is a walk of faith.

Ian Max

Monday, April 15, 2024

What I Learned From a Movie Premiere Last Night.

(Day T-8 Count Down to Worldwide Theatrical Premiere on April 23!)

Last night I attended a Memphis born and raised (by On Location: Memphis) short film "5th Step." The 5th Step refers to the Confession Step in the 12 Step Alcoholics Anonymous Program. Without giving it away, Angela Green created a lot of mystery and twists with the theme of confession. And it had solid acting and production value. For a micro-budget with strategic plans of growing Memphis as a film production hub, and a sold out attendance, I continue to enjoy transplanting to Memphis and seek to help the city succeed!

Angela graciously sold me promo space before the movie, which you can see here. I was especially excited for the audience enthusiasm for Vengeance Trail.


The premiere for "5th Step" had two tiers of tickets, General Admission was $20 but included a popcorn and fountain drink and the Q&A after the screening. For $45, VIPs got photographs on the red carpet, wine and cheese with a violinist, and a private mingle with the stars and filmmakers in the theater before the doors opened for General Admission. There was certainly enthusiasm from locals to sell out this VIP experience.

However, another premiere screening I went to, for the movie CRAPS, everyone got to mingle together inside the theater. I think there was a VIP experience, but I don't know the particulars. 

For Vengeance Trail's worldwide theatrical premiere next week, I'm treating everyone the same, but they have to purchase their own food and drink from concessions. We will have the red carpet experience, a cellist creating mood music, t-shirts for sale, Q&A with two actors and two producers. And prizes for best Wild West costume!

The primary goal for the screening in 8 days is to create a full house, enthusiastic environment to capture the energy of the crowd and their responses to the movie for marketing. So much to do, and so many tickets to sell.


At last night's premier, I also got to interact with Linn Sitler and Sharon Fox O-Guin of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission. I asked them for advice about getting the press to come to my screening. They asked me a very important question; "Was it shot in Memphis?" Ahh, I get it! Memphis is fiercely loyal and they support their own. What makes my movie premiere interesting, outside the friends I've made here and Westerns fans? Well, I live here now, so that makes me a Memphian. It's also the reason I'm hosting the first theatrical exhibition here. 

Wait a minute! I've neglected the most interesting detail for local Memphians: the premiere is a first, and I chose Memphis, so let's celebrate! Next Tuesday, April 23 will be the...


I'm adjusting all the materials, writing a press release with this important detail, and resubmitting the new story to all the press that ignored it first round. Excited and energized, and a little frazzled!

Ian Max

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Loyal Friends Are Essential!

(Day T-10 Count Down to Worldwide Theatrical Premiere on April 23!)

Recently, I've enjoyed getting to know an actress, writer, and singer, Judi Stiner Gray, and she has offered to help me with the Vengeance Trail theatrical premiere -- twice. The second time, she made herself clear; "I'm volunteering. How can I help?" Wow, it's great to not be alone in marketing this screening. Thank you, Judi, for reaching out. The screening theater is near her house, so today she started displaying Vengeance Trail posters in her area:

  • 2 Starbucks.
  • 2 Paneras.
  • Wings 901.
  • Cordova Farmer's Market International.

Meanwhile, I got permission to post at the Agricenter Farmer's Market, then I went to the Bill Pickett Rodeo. Well, I stood outside the walkway with my posters, greeted everyone with a warm "Howdy," and asked who likes Western movies. I was surprised: only about a third of the carloads expressed interest, about 1 in 10. individuals Some people even expressed dislike for Westerns, so I wished them a happy rodeo. Two people said they used to watch them with their grandpa. But quite a few would stop and chat and take a picture of the poster. One guy, in fact, has always wanted to be an actor but was taking care of his father, and he was so excited and encouraged to meet someone in the movie business. I've connected him to the local acting school and all the Memphis networking groups on Facebook.

I've been in Memphis almost two years and made huge efforts to network in the film industry here and be a good citizen by giving back and creating opportunities. In fact, last night and tonight, a local student film shot in my house. I love this town and the creative hustlers all around. It's great to be making loyal friends here.

Ian Max

Friday, April 12, 2024

Excitement Brews as Memphis Gets Plastered with Vengeance Trail Posters!

(Day 11 Counting Down to Memphis Premiere on April 23!)

The last few days, I have been busy asking establishments if they have a classifieds section for displaying local events. I've had a mostly positive reception and some very enthusiastic; "I love Westerns" and "I'm absolutely coming to this [screening]." Very encouraging!

I've been plastering the poster at various venues. Some have obvious cork boards for local events. Others surprised me by taping a double sided poster to their front glass.  You can't assume, you just have to ask.

No one mentioned the guns on the poster, but I learned that if the guns aren't pointing at anyone it's more okay. And this is Memphis where everyone seems to have a gun. I was told today that the difference in gun laws between Tennessee and California are "night and day." In Los Angeles, we worried that other parents or teachers wouldn't approve of our kids playing with Nerf guns, and Getty Images wouldn't approve footage from my "Nerf for Noobs" short film, when my DP tried to sell the footage.

Yesterday's successes:

  • 1 out of 4 mom-and-pop coffee shops. The chains don't have a classified section.
  • 2 out of 2 public libraries. Admin had to approve.
  • 2 out of 3 bars or breweries. One owner doesn't like fliers and posters.
  • 2 out of 2 pizza joints.
  • 1 running shoe company.
  • 1 video rental store with 30K movie archive. They didn't have the DVD so I gave them one.
  • 1 out of 2 guns and ammo stores displayed the poster, but much interest from employees.
  • 1 playhouse and 1 ballet company.

Today, I spread out south, including just across the border into Mississippi.

  • 4 Western clothing stores.
  • 1 film gear rental company.
  • 1 Army surplus store.
  • 2 Gun stores.
The last store I found by accident, actually a gun repair shop. We got to chatting for a long time because these guys were Navy vets and SASS (single action shooting society) shooters, and they knew all about chain guns, gatling guns and howitzers. My experience was from working as a special effects assistant on The Last Samurai and We Were Soldiers. Then I learned that one of the men worked as an extra on Andersonville. I earned my SAG card on that movie in 1993 after 51 days as an extra. Man, did we have memories to share. Set life!

And, I learned about the Bill Pickett Rodeo tomorrow at the Memphis Agricenter, 10 miles from me!

Ian Max

How to Officially Get on Rotten Tomatoes! 

(Day 12 Counting Down to Memphis Premiere on April 23!)

It's a scary thing, going public. One thing I've learned about self-distribution is to make sure your movie is discoverable online. It's been on IMDb for a minute, lol. Where else do you expect to see movies?

Outside of cast and crew, family and a few neighbors, no one that I know has seen the movie. People have been impressed by the trailer, but that's putting the best foot forward. Now that I'm going all-in on a public screening, I don't want to disappoint. That day is fast approaching, on April 23.

Maybe that's why it's so important to do table reads with a screenplay, to start interacting with an audience. 

So, I went through the movie one last time, to fix some audio and color issues I've noticed. And I've just paid two critics to review Vengeance Trail, the best version I am able to release. Can't wait to share their reviews, and find 3 more critics.

To do:

  • Continue plastering the town with posters. I'll be driving 100+ miles today.
  • Figure out a Press Release on a budget.
  • Iron out last minute details for the big event.

Ian Max

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Why Vengeance Trail is So Progressive: The Pain of Converting Analogue Filmmaking to Digital!

(Day 14 Counting Down to Memphis Premiere on April 23!)

Yesterday, I output Vengeance Trail at 24 fps (frames per second) to do a test screening. I played it from Vimeo on my 55" TV and it worked seamlessly. All I had to do was change the Sequence Settings from 25 fps to 24 fps.

YOU DIGITAL NATIVES HAVE IT SO EASY! This is not our origin story! Vengeance Trail was shot on Standard Def interlaced. Do you younguns even know what that means?

Instead of posting a quick update yesterday, I wanted to geek out with a teaching moment about how hard it was back in my day, LOL! Here's yesterday's belated blog...

Ian Max

TLDR: A primer on fields vs. frames. NERD OUT ALERT!

Films are edited at 24 fps and a frame is a frame. Film projectors actually double project each frame twice, to get the strobe into the persistence of vision range of humans. Think about the mechanics of advancing the film without tearing the sprocket holes, holding it locked while a shutter flashes twice, then advancing the frame again accurately. Now think about aligning two of these cameras and projectors for stereo 3D film projection. It's no wonder 3D needed digital capture and projection to work without giving people headaches. The vibrations!

CRT televisions required a raster to draw the frame twice, skipping lines, so a top (Odd) field and a bottom (Even) field. Who knows why they chose 30 fps back in the BW days? Oh, I remember, because NTSC is based on American AC electricity which comes into your house at 60Hz. So, cameras actually record at 60 fields per second and playback at 60 fields per second, but combining two fields into an interlaced frame becomes 30 fps. And don't get me started on changing the frame rate to 29.97 fps in order to squeeze in the color information. It took me years to realize that Drop Frame and Non Drop Frame were just different ways of counting the frames, the frame rate wasn't actually changing.

Nowadays, your digital monitor or television doesn't care if the video playback frame rate is 12, 15, 29.97, 30, 60, 120, 240, etc. It's so easy!

When we shot Vengeance Trail, DP Stephen McCurry chose a PAL prosumer camera, the Canon XL-1S because PAL is based on 50Hz AC electricity and its frame rate is 25 fps, which is pretty close to film's 24 fps and therefore once transferred to DVD would have a more filmic look.

How does 24 fps or 25 fps become 29.97 fps? I'm glad you asked. It's called The 3:2 Pulldown

So you see, in NTSC, frames 3 and 4 would have motion blur. 

Studio movies just repeat every 4th frame. 

Frame advance through a DVD and you'll see the pattern, every 4th frame is played twice, so 24 fps becomes 30 (ish - from now on I'm lumping 29.97 fps into 30 fps)). This method of repeating every 4th frame is a bit jittery. Since SD footage is actually captured at 60i

This time-saving factoid didn't apply to use, because we intended to burn NTSC DVDs! 

"PAL and SECAM television systems run at 25 frames per second. They are close enough to the film frame rate that 3:2 pulldown isn't required. One film frame is transferred to one video frame. The slight speed discrepancy makes a movie slightly shorter when it is transferred to video, but the speed variation is so slight it will not be noticed in viewing.

There is a method to convert 25 frames to 30 using a slightly different 3:2 pulldown to convert every 5 frames into 6 frames. In PAL, frames 4 and 5 (out of 6) would have motion blur. Unfortunately, Stephen converted all the footage before editing, and so locked in all sorts of motion blur. See a previous post about recapturing all the footage.

Don't forget about compression artifacts. If there's movement between two fields, it shows up as blur in a frame. And if you use JPEG compression on a frame with movement between each 60i field, the interlaced stripes become magnified.

Now you see why I sighed in relief when Topaz Labs added the de-interlace function to their Video Enhance A.I. blowup software? I don't know how they create good looking progressive frames, but I'm glad I don't have to ignore a field or blow up motion blur artifacts, and then reinterlace them to create a progressive frame.

You can definitely get into the nerd-weeds on JPEG compression.

And compression leads to generation loss, like when the first photocopiers would add dust to each copy and after a while a copy looked like it had black dandruff specs everywhere. Remember that? LOL. Remember when you recorded TV onto VHS tapes so you could watch a movie later? And if you copied a VHS, the edges would get blurry and colorful. Some weird people in Los Angeles have nostalgia for this

Again, you digital natives have no idea how good you have it. Even coding has become visual and intuitive; no more peeking and poking computer memory with machine code. Lucky! Ah, I've forgotten my roots. I think it's true, that I've forgotten more than my high schoolers have learned.

Out of curiosity, I exported the movie at 24 fps and 25 fps. Same timeline length of 01:23:17. Same exact file size. All I changed was the Sequence frame rate. But when I open both windows in QuickTime and hit play at the same time, there's no noticeable delay or difference over time. Then I frame advanced and 24 frames in the first equals 25 frames in the second. I don't need to find that dropped frame, but the sound track scaled perfectly. Now, to see if it matters to the theater when I deliver the DCP.

See you tomorrow with the post I started writing yesterday.

Ian Max

Live Music to Set the Mood on Tuesday's Theatrical Screening! (Day T-4 Count Down to Worldwide Theatrical Premiere on April 23!) Vengean...