writer • director • cinematographer • editor • visual effects artist
v i s i o n
In the world of independent filmmaking, James Arnett is relentless as an auteur, making films on his own terms. In each film, he is driven to say something through narratives filled with impactful and iconic images, created hands-on with cameras, computer graphics and music. Each film is a crusade to entertain and inspire.
His approach is Old School filmmaking but with New School execution to take full advantage of past, present and innovative concepts on the edge. Drop him in the middle of a desert with nothing but the shirt on his back and he will still find a way to succeed. He's done it. His dedicated "Go, go, go, no quit" reputation is well earned, surviving injuries that have never stopped him from completing his promise to complete each film on time and on budget.
James is a second-generation filmmaker, animator and writer who has done nearly every job in animation in New York City, New York and independent production in Los Angeles, California.
His first screenplay got him noticed by Jeri Taylor, Executive Producer of Paramount's Star Trek: TNG. He taught film in Los Angeles for a decade where he wrote the popular "Guide Book For Guerrilla Filmmakers".
In 2001, following the attack on the world trade center, James made the feature length "September Eleventh" memorial series for the Firefighters and Law Enforcement for the New York State Fraternal Order of Police.
Since then, James dedicated himself to making films across the landscape of America. Passion, drive and dedication to the art form of the motion picture is his life-long journey, carrying on the half century legacy.
p r o j e c t s
Below is a list of in-house projects only, from the year 2000 to the present.
|in development and seeking funding|
|New World Order||sci-fi feature film pre-production|
|Valhalla||sci-fi feature film synopsis|
|Stasi-X||thriller feature film synopsis|
|Superstition Highway||action feature film synopsis|
|Apocalypso||zombie feature film synopsis|
|Blocked||feature film trailer online|
|Mary Shelley's The Last Man||feature film trailers online- English - Spanish|
|Just Another Box||short film online|
|Poe's Tell-Tale Heart||short film online|
|Freedom's Defenders||short film online|
|P.O. Ramon Suarez||short film online|
|NYSFOP Memorial||short film online|
|NYPD Memorial||short film online|
|PAPD Memorial||short film online|
|FDNY Memorial||short film online|
|Ray Charles Foundation||animated music video online|
i n v e s t o r s
We are always interested in meeting investors, hoping to find a good match for the purpose of making feature length motion pictures. We'd like to have your name in our Rolodex for upcoming feature projects. Shoot us an email so we can get to know you and so you can get to know the hard working people behind the camera.
We leave nothing to chance. We always finish what we start. And we always accomplish our goals.
We are not the kind of producers with no expertise in filmmaking. To the contrary, we maintain all the departments necessary to complete motion pictures in-house. That means no third-party delays, no excuses and no surprises where we are ever in a bad spot, needing to raise more money that we didn't foresee to complete a feature film. Our budgets work accurately because we've done this before. A lot.
And we've done films for the Smithsonian Institute, NASA, Pepsico, the New York State Fraternal Order Of Police for the September Eleventh project as well as feature films for others and ourselves.
We also have referrals from prior investors and clients we've worked with before, who can attest to our dedication to producing real results.
Producing commercially viable motion pictures with a built-in profit margin is our strategic plan for each project. We meet our goals by knowing beforehand, what film buyers want to buy. How do we know? We do what few others do - we just ask them what they want to buy.
It's a pretty simple formula that doesn't lose, yet few take this critically important step. Buyers want to see every screener of motion pictures as they can, if it's the genre they specialize in serving.
There is no barrier between producers and buyers. If you haven't sold to a particular buyer before, and you're an unknown quantity, they may require that you sell to them through a responsible party who guarantees they will correct any technical flaws to dubbing, standards or duplication. I have had to make that guarantee for other producers who were referred to me by buyers who bought my product before and know I correct then re-ship expediently. That's why they continue to buy from me.
A CONCISE EXPLANATION OF THE INDEPENDENT FILM BUSINESS IN 2012
The following statements are the facts about how making money in the independent motion picture business works:
Motion picture production is no different than any other manufacturing business on the nuts and bolts end. However, it is a business like no other, in that it's a collaborative art, designed to seize the collective imaginations of an audience. Achieving that is the tricky part. That takes the collaboration of qualified writers, directors, actors, and post production expertise. It also takes a promotion budget.
Each motion picture represents a small business start up operation.
Now, many producers generate elaborate business plans, often comparing the results of motion pictures with multi-million dollar advertising and promotion budgets to their own production plans that have no A&P budget, suggesting the same results could be possible by mere luck, as if it's a genuine gamble. But that is never the case.
Ultimately, a product without advertising remains in obscurity and returns nothing on investment. All the business plan achieves is the creation of a false hope that always turns out to be a total loss of investment. The more complicated the business plan, the more doomed to failure it is because success comes down to selling to approximately 75 people world-wide who actually buy motion pictures at the film markets.
That means the only business plan that is effective is as simple as access to the buyers with promotional materials, offering the product they wish to buy, who often wait for you to complete the product if you've set out to fill their need, and closing sales within their spending limits. Knowing the sales potential of each market is essential to building in a profit margin on a motion picture.
A buyer will only ask two questions about a motion picture:
(1) What's the genre?
(2) And, who is starring in it?
The first question will tell them if your genre fits the market they serve. The second question will immediately tell them what their own earning potential may be. Based on the brand name actors in the motion picture, they will [very accurately] conclude its earning potential and what they are prepared to pay for any given motion picture.
If no brand name actors are in the film, then a producer will be limited to a gross world-wide sales total of approximately $50,000 USD, if the genre fits the markets of the buyers in each territory.
If the film has cost less than that to produce, then there may be a profit, depending on how wide that margin happens to be. Put in $100,000 USD worth of visual effects and that return can be doubled because visual effects sell in all territories. That's why we do our visual effects in-house, at true cost. That's a great advantage, a force multiplier of our profit margin.
But when a motion picture stars one or more brand name actors, these are the products that buyers are budgeted to buy. This type of product is far more marketable to them, and for that earning potential, they are willing to pay exponentially more. That makes hiring brand name actors essential to building in the earning potential of a motion picture from the start.
Brand name actors will open the door to domestic cable broadcast sales, which can range from $500,000 USD to three million, depending on the talent line up and the dynamics of the product.
One of the casualties of the technology revolution was the loss of home video retail outlets such as Blockbuster Video. The NetFlix and RedBox business models have buried them. For producers, that once guarded shelf-space has now been opened to far more titles than ever before. That's very good news for independent motion picture producers.
In home video sales, policing residual payments, called out in the sales contract, are difficult at best to enforce. The monies received up-front as "advance fees" are often the only monies the producers ever collect without a lawyer and losing a buyer for your next motion picture. That means the producer's efforts must be focused on walking away from each licensing sale with as much of an advance fee as possible.
Those are all the facts you need to know to understand the business cycle of the motion picture.
FROM JAMES ARNETT
"I'm a second generation filmmaker from New York City. I started in the 1970's as an under-age animation cel painter as soon as I mastered the coloring book, and I was the first kid on my block in Queens to be a production audio mixer/recorder on a film that won a Golden Eagle by the time I was eleven years old. That's where I came from.
Since then, I've worked on independent films in Los Angeles for years, learning to do many different jobs well, where I also learned why most independent films fail. The greed of a few always sank the efforts of many. Films with hundreds of thousands of dollars of capital were produced for less than half of that, with the producers plundering the money and leaving many unpaid. That's been the norm forever. That's why guilds and unions remain a necessity today.
I worked for my father at the same time, who made a living as a filmmaker too. He specialized in fixing movies blown by others and needed to be completed by desperate investors who were often cash poor by that stage. When the jobs were done, they always told us that they wished they knew who we were first. The truth was, they did - but they still went with the big talking producers who took them to the cleaners.
On each film, I would wonder why the writer got paid crumbs, which reflected in the undeveloped material that we shot. I often shook my head at how little thought went into crafting a film that could have been so much more but the producers didn't care and the directors had no grasp of the full capabilities of the cast and crew. There was never any budget to achieve even mere mediocrity, and no foresight to how the shots would ever cut together into anything comprehensible. The vast majority of those indie features never saw the light of day for those reasons, much less get finished in post because the producers absorbed every dollar that wasn't spent on the movie set or location.
Investors routinely got ripped off on motion picture projects and the producers moved on to hunting down the next investment victim.
And it wasn't just me who noticed what a sorry state of affairs our business was. The people I worked with and I started talking about making features on our own, knowing that if the capital stayed with the production and the people who did the actual work were dedicated to completing movies with real commercial potential, we would succeed where others failed. And we were right about that, the dedicated from those days did well in the years that followed.
But when we went to raise capital, being honest about earning potential, the realities of the business did not attract investors, who continued to run off the edge of the cliff like lemmings, getting ripped off by producers who had no real filmmaking expertise beyond raising money and writing bogus business plans as a hook.
Once it became clear that investors in Los Angeles had no regard for inside information that would give them any real chance at making a profit, I moved to Arizona where guerrilla filmmaking was far more feasible.
And Arizona is where I began making far more films than I ever could in Los Angeles where it was too cost prohibitive and restrictive.
That's why a writer and filmmaker who went through two film programs in New York City, and built a career in Los Angeles, and inherited a family owned production company moved it out to the Sonoran Desert - to make marketable films in Arizona.
The only thing holding us back in Arizona is meeting qualified investors who wish to partner on motion picture projects that always get done with passion, without excuse, and achieve the high goals we set out to accomplish.
If you're a qualified investor with what it takes to stay focused on success in independent feature production, I invite you to make contact so we can get to know each other and what we might accomplish together in Arizona.
James Arnett is the owner of the A.I.A. motion picture company, established in 1958 as a family business in New York City.
Today, A.I.A. operates out of the Sonoran desert of Arizona, making feature films, providing content, production and complete post production services.
From concept to completion, A.I.A. maximizes the creative potential of production budgets to take your motion picture project to the next level.
A.I.A. specializes in complex green screen compositing combined with 3D animation, practical backgrounds and motion graphics, as well as large format visual effects. We also offer editing services, cinematography, sound design and music score composition.
We've done award-winning films for the Smithsonian Institution, NASA, Pepsico, Celenese, and Bob Kane over the past half century.
Contact us now to find out what A.I.A. can do to add value to your motion picture project.
|Visual Effects Services|
|Web Design Services|
g u i d e - b o o k
The intent behind this book was to share some very hard fought and won knowledge and experience with struggling filmmakers to shorten the long, hard road to making it as a professional filmmaker.
This was written during a time of radical technological change, when the Old School gave it up to digital technology. You will find a lot of Old School knowledge preserved here that you may not find in the not too distant future. Much of these new tecnologies have their foundations based upon concepts that go back as far as a hundred years.
Not all of us have access to someone with a lifetime vested in this industry like my father Alec or some of the other great men I've been fortunate enough to learn from.
My writing may not always be grammatically correct (I deliberately end sentences in prepositions with such frequency, I'm going to writer's hell for sure!) because this is designed to be a concise guide book of basics - not a work of literature.
I've tried to communicate complex aspects of filmmaking into the simplest form possible with varying degrees of success. The simple design of the page layout is without pop-ups or other time wasting annoyances so you can find what you're looking for as quickly as possible. More than 500,000 readers after first going online in 2000, this remains the only comprehensive filmmaking book to make it to the Web in its entirety.
At any rate, within these pages you will find a collection of several lifetimes of motion picture production savvy distilled into sections I've collected over the years as notes to myself. When someone really knowledgable in this business took their time to give me advice, I listened, took it to heart - and I took notes. This book is my collection of notes.
Click HERE to read the Guide Book.
n i g h t - t r a i n
The desert hides many stories. Some stories you will never hear. Other stories you will only hear whispered. These stories are the ones written by hand in a composition book on vision quests during the monsoons, dust storms and nights in the Sonoran Desert in the American Southwest. And some of these stories are true.
The Big Highway A true story of hurtling down the blacktop from the Utah mountains to the Arizona desert on a big V-Twin, through a massive storm front covering two states.
Route 666 A true story about a roadtrip through the Shiprocks on Route 666 through the badlands of New Mexico.
Room 201 The victims of a con man get some overdue justice from a phantom walking the halls of Tucson's historic Hotel Congress.
Just Another Box Flying a small plane with a restless corpse turns this night flight into a descent into madness.
Thunderbird Finding the Lost Dutchman's Mine in the Superstition Mountains turns into an encounter with a primordial predator.
One Chapter excerpt. A pack of wild dogs surround Andy, trapped in his overturned pick-up truck at the bottom of a gully.
Christmas A true story about a brief visit by the Grim Reaper on Christmas Eve.
A composition book, a good pen, a thermos of coffee and a .45 automatic are a writer's best friends late at night, especially when leaving the Interstate takes you across the line from civilization into the desolation, where people look at all strangers with suspicion. A place where truth is always stranger than fiction, whenever you can get anyone to talk.
Whether it's a roadhouse, bus or train station, diner or motel, there are stories you can only hear if you go into the places less traveled. Buying your ticket or kicking the starter lever to experience life on your own terms is where the journey begins.
n e w s
A brief overview of what's going on at the A.I.A. motion picture company.
BLOCKED premiering at Harkins Theaters
BLOCKED has its theatrical Premiere at the Harkins theater chain in the United States!
Please join us at the Harkins Valley Art Theater in Tempe, Arizona on June 8th, 2012 for the theatrical premiere of BLOCKED! Click here to watch the trailer.
BLOCKED an official selection of the Phoenix Comicon
The Phoenix Comicon of 2012 has made BLOCKED an official selection.
Please join us at the Hyatt Regency on May 24th, 2012 at 10:50PM in the Russell Room for our first festival screening of our highly stylized film noir! Click here to watch the trailer.
filming BEYOND in Roswell, New Mexico
Riding out to Roswell, New Mexico December 2011, in an ice storm on a motorcycle to film Rob Walker's "Beyond", which turned into quite an adventure into single digit degree weather.
The film stars Michael Placentia, Dee Wallace (E.T.) and Grant Cramer (Killer Clowns From Outer Space) and Gabriele Stone. I'm posting the film and doing the visual effects for completion in 2012.
- Little green men with alien toe jam set the tone.
- It stated snowing the moment I rode past the "Welcome To New Mexico" sign and refuelled.
- Even at 55MPH, I still saw half a dozen spin outs on the icy highway.
- The snow drifts across the blacktop blew in waves like an ocean.
- I stopped to snap a shot of a 4X4 winching a car out of the ditch that spun off the roadway.
- My destination: Motell Hell.
- Icicles were hanging everywhere, which I was told NEVER happens in Roswell.
- There was no way I was leaving my motorcycle out in the elements and rode her into my room until Christmas Eve.
- Filming on location with a Red camera package.
- Rodney, Keith and Alan behind the camera.
- The cast and crew of Beyond.
the long road home
When this film has been completed, it's back to Tucson, Arizona for the next project.
The new motorcycle is ready for the long ride from northern Utah to southern Arizona at the beginning of October 2011.
"Overcoming Life's Trauma" wraps and goes into post production.
This three hour long film is quickly nearing completion. It will compliment the audio book and paperback in US and worldwide markets in 2012. Gerren Ard from "Blocked" is in Utah, developing the motion graphics and product branding.
- The post production facility is in Eden, Utah.
- The Great Escape fence jump is now off the bucket list.
- Heading toward a mountain location accessible only by dirt bike.
- Filming inside the caves of Craters Of The Moon, Idaho.
- Feeling out the zero to highway speed acceleration in just second gear, 85 cubic inches of V-twin mounted to a sports frame that's built for speed.
- Riding the train into Salt Lake City to see the sights.
now filming in utah
The latest project begins filming in June through September 2011.
This film is based on Ben S. Howard's book, "Overcoming Life's Trauma" that's a three hour long journey presented by the author.
made it to cannes
James Arnett's latest film, "Blocked" at the Cannes Film Market May 2011.
Starring Tiffany Shepis, Mario Guzman and Jose Rosete, "Blocked" is a 21st century Film Noir that brings back an idealized post-war studio aesthetic to contemporary audiences in sultry Black and White.
Blocked has been completed
Post production in 40 days and 40 nights.
Gerren Ard on computer graphics, Robert Wolf on music, Edgar Ybarra on 2nd Unit and James Arnett on picture and sound completed post production in marathon sessions of 20 hour days, 7 days a week until the film was done at sunrise Easter Sunday.
Gerren Ard assembling computer graphics until dawn.
Robert Wolf's recording studio.
Gerren Ard ready for another all night session.
Robert Wolf finished after weeks of scoring and recording.
Always waking up in yesterday's boots and clothes, only napping between work days.
The spaghetti farm I call an editing bay.
Constantly playing in the background was the "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" album and the "Born To Run" album to stay motivated. (this should not be construed to be an endorsement by brucespringsteen.net)
Blocked has wrapped
Production completed in 16 days & nights of principal photography.
After months of living in sleeping bags during pre-production and principal photography, everyone makes it home for the holidays. The "undisclosed location" during filming was Desert Ridge, Arizona, north of Phoenix, where we were running and gunning fast to make our deadlines.
Blocked goes into production
The screenplay finished in 10 days.
Sitting in Starbucks every day writing the screenplay in a notebook by hand may have only taken ten days but coming up with a concept that would fit the criteria took a bit longer to come up with. The concept wasn't to be found in the nearby Catalina mountains or in the Sonoran desert. The answer was always right there. A homeless man looking over my shoulder while I was typing in my Facebook password sparked a flurry of thoughts that served as the foundational concept for the film. Inspiration can come from moments you least expect. Discount no one, discount nothing. Now we're off to make a movie!
PBS interview and local television news
Archive of prior television news.
From the production of Mary Shelley's "The Last Man".
e x t r a s
Here, you'll find a few items that may be of interest.
|Download James Arnett's free filmmaker utility software for Windows.|
|James Arnett's in-house version of TETRIS for Windows.|
|The proprietary A.I.A. 35mm animation camera (c.1997).|
|James Arnett's PDF manual for on-set safety using movie guns in film production.|
|A hands-on method for understanding how three colors like red, green and blue can make up the entire visual spectrum without going nuts.|
|James Arnett's thesis work on the Chiasma literary form of the Book of Revelation.|
|Oil paintings by Alec, the company founder in 1950's Brazil.|
Established 1958 New York City
© James Arnett, all rights reserved.