002houston August 10:002houston 7/21/10 2:09 PM Page 22
for art’s sake
WILLIAM PERKINS | OF LLEJU PRODUCTIONS www.lleju.com
Interview by Lance Scott Walker Photography by Cody Bess
AFTER MAKING HIS MILLIONS IN ENERGY TRADING IN THE BAYOU CITY, BILL PERKINS DECIDED TO INVEST IN FILM. TWO YEARS LATER, LLEJU PRODUCTIONS IS IN FULL SWING, WITH A NUMBER OF PROJECTS UNDER THEIR BELT AND SEVERAL ON THE WAY JUST THIS YEAR. WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE YOU THINK YOU COULD MAKE A FILM PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION COMPANY WORK IN HOUSTON? Stupidity? I would say… serendipity? Well, I kind of stumbled into it, piece by piece. There was a guy called Michael Manshel who made a movie for a million dollars called “Better Luck Tomorrow” that’s distributed by MTV Films. I saw it and I was like ‘wow, that looks like fun – I could lose a million dollars; lemme try it.’ So obviously, we got into making movies and you know you want to explore your artistic and creative side and the business side is always kind of tagging along. Like how can I make this better? How can I do this inhouse? And it just kind of grew. So it was an attempt at trying HOW INVOLVED DO YOU GET WITH THE PROJECTS? IS THERE ANY SAY IN WHAT ACTORS ARE USED, something different and just be creative, and then realizing WHAT ENDS UP ON THE SOUNDTRACK? ‘well, why do I have to do this?’ And with the internet, with the When I first started, I was just kind of the jackass with the money, the equity. And everybody’s nice to you on ability to post videos online and communicate with the edit the set, but the more I got involved, the more I learned. I’m not doing this to get rich, I’m doing this to be room and reduce the amount of time it takes I felt like we’d be involved. So now we’re in the stage where if we’re financing, I’m putting together the pieces and I have say and okay in Houston. I’m very involved in a collaborative way. A final say type of way. Some people will call me and they’re like ‘I DID YOU HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT THE PHONETICS OF THE NAME BEING SO CLOSE TO YAHOO? Yeah, but we were so irreverent and capricious about it; we take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously, so we were like ‘we’re a bunch of ya-hoos and we’ll keep it that way.’ We’ll just keep it that way. We’re not Garden Rock or Summit or whatever, a big name. We just thought it would be fun. We’re mostly trying to enjoy what we’re doing and create what I call a sustainable hobby. Flat, negative 5% to plus 5% would be great for us, but I made my money doing something and I’m trying to transfer my money in order to learn a different skill set. So we’re just trying to be sustainable. We’re not trying to hit a home run. ARE YOU ACQUIRING RIGHTS PROJECT-BY-PROJECT OR ARE YOU SORT OF BUILDING UP A LIBRARY OF TITLES FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE? It’s a project-by-project basis, but when I go to these people to inquire about these rights, they want to know what I’m gonna do with their project. There’s a lot of emotional attachment in these things that people create, so I want to make sure that I’m totally transparent with them that I’m going to give it the old college try in getting people to view their work. Now we’re on a project-by-project basis, and when we feel like we’ve got enough action in the distribution market and we’ve got enough relationships with people that we can actually get the products out to people, we’ll start doing more wholesale stuff. But right now it’s project-by-project.
22. august 10 | www.002mag.com
have a project,’ and I’ll say, ‘Listen: I’m not investing in bakeries. I like baking cakes. So don’t confuse my desire to bake cakes with my desire to invest in a bakery.’ And they get it! They’re like ‘okay, you want to make the cupcake, you want to mix the dough…’ I’m not in this necessarily to be profitable, support my life, send my kids to college. I’m doing this for other reasons, but even though I’m doing this for other reasons, don’t confuse that with me wanting to lose just a whole bunch of money. I want to be smart about it. WHAT’S THE MOST SURPRISING HAT YOU’VE HAD TO PUT ON THROUGH THESE LAST TWO YEARS? Babysitter? Babysitter/negotiator. That’s the most surprising thing, is that you’re on the set and you know the director and you know the people. There’re all kinds of personalities and opinions, hierarchies and egos… I had to go from my normal trader role of ‘I don’t give a damn…’ to bringing people together. I was surprised that I’ve had to do it, and surprised that I had it.
THE ZERO IS WHAT YOU HAVE IN PRODUCTION NEXT, THEN? Yeah, we just got the second draft of the script, and we’re looking to start attaching the elements, putting the elements together. Actually the two are kind of neck and neck – that and The Four Kings of Ruin, directed by Chad St. John. DO YOU HAVE PLANS IN THE FUTURE TO BRING ANY PRODUCTION TO HOUSTON? I would love to, except for the cost. I do have plans, and I have been actively, actively looking for a micro budget script, which would be a sub-million dollar movie. When you’re shooting sub-million, the transportation factor outweighs any benefits that any states would offer, even if you’re on a small budget. So I would love to, but the 50 states are extremely competitive with the rebates they give for the crew and filming in their state. But there’s talent here! Houston has more theater seats than New York City, and we’ve got a lot of talent here and we have a lot of local actors, what they call ‘day players,’ that would come in and pick up some buzz. Houston would be a great place for the film industry to flourish. Much the way Austin has a kind of film industry going on there with the festival. It’s just hard for an independent to cut away 30% of their budget. SO SOMEONE NEEDS TO WRITE A SCRIPT SET IN HOUSTON. I just haven’t found one that I like yet, but it would be excellent in Houston. We have the talent here. It would be awesome.
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