THE DESCENDANT is a supernatural horror feature film inspired by my short film of the same name. Like the short accomplished, the feature will give audiences a fresh, frightening twist on the “evil child” genre and should earn a solid profit through domestic and international markets (the short was distributed via Canal + and NBC Universal). The plan is to shoot 26-28 days in May and June 2018, then complete post within 3-4 months -- all for a target budget of 1,035,000 USD.
LIZ, 20, is a college student whose younger brother was killed by their abusive father and has dedicated her life to protecting children like him. She runs a social media website which finds abused children and circumvents the system to get immediate results. One day, Liz gets a tip that a young boy is being held prisoner in the basement of a secluded house and decides to investigate. She becomes convinced that a child is in danger, but the authorities don’t believe her and tell her to drop the case.
Unable to let it go, Liz enlists her four best friends to help her break inside the house and free the child. But when Liz and her friends break the boy out of his heavily secured cell, they discover he was locked up for a reason... behind his innocent appearance lies a demonic creature with extraordinary powers and a taste for human flesh. What began as a rescue mission becomes a nightmarish struggle for survival as the child, imprisoned his entire life, finally comes out to play.
Liz ultimately learns that an unseen evil is influencing the boy and has taught him a twisted view of good and evil. She will not only have to break the evil spirit’s influence, but overcome her own haunted past if she hopes to survive. This is a story about domestic abuse and the physical and mental demons it creates -- demons that our hero will fight like hell to overcome.
Pretty cool, right?
Unlike plodding, “creepy” evil child movies, The Descendant will be a rollercoaster ride of drama, suspense, and terror that demands to be seen in the theater. The film will have more in common with Don’t Breathe, The Descent, Evil Dead 2 and Logan (yes, the X-Men movie) than the oft-mimicked film, The Omen. It will offer a modern intensity that’s never been seen in this sub-genre, while honoring classics like The Exorcist, The Shining, and the Twilight Zone episode, “The Howling Man.” With an amazing crew working for scale rates and a smart production game-plan, the film will achieve incredible production value for its micro-budget. But most importantly...
The film will be good.
I know that sounds cocky and obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because “good horror” vs. “crappy horror” makes a world of difference when it comes to festival attention, distribution, marketing, and long-term profits. “Good horror” cuts through the clutter, “crappy horror” is the clutter. And the sad truth is that most horror is amateur-ish, uninspired dreck. That’s why I’ve turned down numerous found-footage and bargain-bin fright-flicks offered to me over the years -- because maintaining a high level of quality is essential, and because my first feature has to be great. The Descendant has that potential, and I have the experience and resources necessary to deliver.
Good horror movies connect with audiences and make money. It’s simple, but that’s the best business model I can offer:
Make a good horror movie. Make a good profit.
But how do I know you’re not full of it?
You can take comfort in the fact that all of my short films have played at major film festivals, received praise from the film community, attracted buyers, and were successfully distributed to make a profit. Usually shorts don’t make any money, but mine are still making modest gains to this day. And you can take comfort in the fact that my co-writer, Stephen Susco, wrote the 8th top grossing supernatural horror film of all time, The Grudge, which made more money than any film in the Paranormal Activity franchise.
You can watch my DIRECTOR REEL for an overview of my work and see that I can pull off big storytelling on small budgets:
You can also watch a CONCEPT REEL for The Descendant for a clearer idea of the story (Password: jacob):
And though my studio projects haven’t been green-lit, you can take comfort in the fact that my past projects were good enough to sell to numerous A-list studios and producers (Legendary, Universal, Paramount, Starz, Sam Raimi, Michael Bay, Scott Stuber, Roy Lee, Justin Lin, and more). Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from studio development, including how it can be a frustrating, barrier-filled experience for young filmmakers... which is why I’m so excited to make this film outside the studio system. Because good horror movies don’t need to be made in the studio system to achieve success, and I know that my team and I can deliver the goods. That’s why I’m personally investing in this project with other investors -- because it’s not a gamble to me, it’s a calculated, exciting opportunity. One that I hope you’ll be a part of.
Thanks for reading. Please find additional materials below on production and distribution schedule.
PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION GAMEPLAN
The film can be made in 25 days for a budget of 1,035,000 USD. We start production on May 14th, 2018 and finish in mid-June. Our schedule will comprise of about a week of LOCATION WORK (jail, courtroom, apartments, playground, exterior house & neighborhood, etc) and 3 to 3.5 weeks of STUDIO / SOUNDSTAGE WORK at our Hawthorne warehouse, where our amazing Art Department is building the interior of the "Malcolm House" (main floor + basement) where 80% of the film takes place. The stage work is necessary for a variety of reasons: it allows us to film "night scenes" during the the day (which is essential because child actors can't work at night)... it gives us greater control of stunts and special effects (we have LOTS of action that'd be impossible/unsafe to pull off in a real house)... and it allows us to perfectly realize all of the Malcolm House's extraordinary characteristics that don't exist in real life.
After the shoot, there will be an estimated 3-4 months of POST-PRODUCTION, then the film will be sent to major festivals, industry, and distribution contacts. We already have a sales agent and distribution legal team, so we also have the option of skipping the festival route and making distribution & licensing deals by the end of the year.
Target markets will be Theatrical, Digital Streaming, and TV licensing (including TVOD, SVOD, AVOD, and PAY TV). Digital is starving for solid content and a safe way to make a profit, but horror is breaking all kinds of records at the box office (if you do it well!). So as long as the film is good, theatrical should remain an option. For Digital & TV, the goal will be to avoid long-term, exclusive deals (ex. 1 mil for 10 yrs) and aim for short-term deals that allow for greater control and profits over time.
Profit sharing will be done in the traditional template for lower budget films. Below is a general idea of how that usually works. When profits come in, the BUDGET + a 10% PREFERRED RETURN will be paid out to investors (ex. if you put in 100K of the budget, you get 110K before anything else happens). After which, investors continue making money via the INVESTOR POOL (based on % of budget), while profits also begin flowing into the PRODUCER POOL (where above & below-the-line crew are reimbursed for low-paid or free work). Traditionally, it’s a 50/50 split between the Investor Pool & Producer Pool (once the budget + preferred returns are paid out), with most crew member profits capped at their normal rate plus a bonus.
EXAMPLE 1 = 2M GROSS (LOW) EXAMPLE 2 = 10M GROSS (MED)
EXAMPLE 3 = 100M GROSS (HIGH)
These are comparable films in the low-budget horror genre -- including examples of wide, limited, and exclusively Digital/VOD releases. Though VOD numbers are hard to track and largely kept secret, it's understood that Digital/VOD sales now exceed traditional DVD/Bluray sales; and in some cases exceed WWBO totals. As a “quality” reference point, many of these filmmakers had their films play at the same major festivals as my short films.
THE INNKEEPERS (750K BUDGET)
WWBO - 1M DVD/BR SALES (EST) - 2M+ DIGITAL (EST) - 2M+
TOTAL EST GROSS: 5M+
OCULUS (3.5M BUDGET)
WWBO - 44.1M DVD/BR SALES (EST) - 3.9M+ DIGITAL (EST) - 5M+
TOTAL EST GROSS: 53M+
HUSH (1M BUDGET)
Sold to Netflix for estimated 3-7M+.
TOTAL EST GROSS: 3-7M+
THE GALLOWS (100K BUDGET)
WWBO - 42.9M DVD/BR SALES (EST) - 1.3M DIGITAL (EST) - 2M+
TOTAL EST GROSS: 46.2M+
THE WITCH (3.5M BUDGET)
WWBO - 40.45M DVD/BR SALES (EST) - 4.1M+ DIGITAL (EST) - 5M+
TOTAL EST GROSS: 49.55M+
GREEN ROOM (4M BUDGET)
WWBO - 5M DVD/BR SALES (EST) - 1.4M DIGITAL (EST) - 3M+
TOTAL EST GROSS: 9.4M+
GET OUT (4.5M BUDGET)
WWBO - 252.3M DVD/BR SALES (EST) - 5.3M DIGITAL (EST) - 7M+
TOTAL EST GROSS: 264.6M+
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (10K BUDGET) *Note: This film was an anomaly.*
WWBO - 194M DVD/BR SALES (EST) - 21.5M DIGITAL - 15M+
TOTAL EST GROSS: 230.5M+
The below are crew members I’ve worked with in the past who I plan on working with on the feature. Some are already confirmed, while others will need to confirm their involvement once the schedule & budget are finalized.
COMPOSER - Greg Tripi (Confirmed). Greg has composed and produced such scores as Drive, Contagion, The Knick, and the critically acclaimed Unabomber series.
- STUNTS - Mike Gunther & Lee Whitaker (Confirmed). Mike Gunther is one of the top stunt supervisors in the world. He and his team have supervised stunts on everything from Star Trek and Transformers to DR0NE. Lee Whitaker is Mike’s protege, who ran the on-set stunt coordination on DR0NE and would fill the same role The Descendant.
- CINEMATOGRAPHER - Pete Konzcal (Confirmed). Pete has shot the majority of House of Cards Season 3 & 4, commercials for Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice), and acclaimed music videos for The Weeknd and Lorde. Pete owns an Arri Alexa camera, lenses, and has an incredible crew that he will bring to The Descendant.
- CO-WRITER - Stephen Susco (Confirmed). Stephen wrote the 8th top grossing horror film of all time, The Grudge, which made more money than any Paranormal Activity or Scream film. He also wrote The Grudge 2, Red (2008), and Texas Chainsaw 3D, and co-produced the hit film The Possession.
- EDITOR - Dylan Highsmith (Confirmed). Dylan was a lead editor on Fast & Furious 5, 6, and 7, Star Trek Beyond, and Pacific Rim 2. He edited both my short films and we’ve worked together on the Fast & Furious films.
- EDITOR - Brad Mclaughlin (Confirmed). Brad was the lead editor on DR0NE and has worked on everything from Star Wars: Force Awakens (as First Assistant Editor) to successful indies like From Prada To Nada and The Escort (both as lead editor). He’s not only an amazing editor, but an incredible post-supervisor and a talented filmmaker in his own right.
- VISUAL EFFECTS - Oliver Hotz / Origami Digital (Confirmed). Oliver and his company won a Streamy Award for their VFX work on DR0NE. Oliver has supervised multiple projects for Neil Blomkamp (District 9), indie-features like Bunraku, and has done VFX work on a number of other films (The Aviator, etc).
- SPECIAL EFFECTS MAKE UP - Illusion Industries. Illusion has a long history of amazing work including doing the SPFX makeup for The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto, Ouija 2: Origin of Evil, Fright Night, and GI Joe: Retaliation.
Every film has unexpected obstacles that arise along the way -- locations fall through, scheduling conflicts arise, equipment breaks -- but with the right preparation, team, and artistic passion, we can adapt to any problem and overcome any challenge. Our team is committed to making The Descendant as great as we know it can be, and we won’t stop until it is. We’re excited about the journey ahead and would love to have you be a part of it.
If you have any questions or want to know more, please contact us at: