"Since I started this business [in February 1996], there's been very little kayaking," he says. "I've been working about six-and-a-half days a week."
Instead, it's been smooth sailing with clients such as Miramax Films' Dimension Film division, which posted its biggest film opening ever with "Scary Movie."
"Scary" posted box-office sales of $42.5 million during its first weekend, the highest ever for an R-rated movie. As of Sept. 1, the movie had pulled in $149 million.
"We were trying to nail a target that is pretty competitive," says Mr. Schaffner. "We had a lot of national media -- network, cable and syndication. And then on the local level, we put emphasis on the better-performing markets [where] we hit young moviegoers" across media.
For Palisades, this summer is the second year of good scares at the box office. Last summer, Palisades planned the media for the surprise hit "The Blair Witch Project" for Artisan Entertainment.
"They both did about the same box-office number," says Mr. Schaffner. " `Blair Witch' had a life of its own and had a great Internet story. `Scary Movie' had great creative."
But for 53-year-old Mr. Schaffner, the biggest thrills come from working on more modest movies, and changing or turning around media plans on a dime, such as with a Dimension Films release a few years ago. He had to plan and buy $10 million worth of media in six days.
"We stayed here that night, did the media plan, got it approved and got it on the air in six days," he says. "That's when you feel good. . . . Good movies make you look good. But it's better when you can do not the obvious."
Media planning for specialty films depends greatly on critics' reviews, which are heavily quoted in electronic and print advertising to pique moviegoer interest. In recent years, Palisades participated in a number of notable launches under this formula, including "Shakespeare in Love," "The English Patient" and "The Cider House Rules."
TV network sellers recognize Mr. Schaffner's approach. "It's a special talent to handle movies," says Jed Petrick, exec VP-media sales for The WB. "You have to drive a vendor hard to get good prices, but also to get as much flexibility [as possible]. He's great at it."
Mr. Schaffner notes that his $250 million business has been built over the last four years mostly on the strength of his entertainment experience.
Before starting his own business, Mr. Schaffner worked at ICG, Los Angeles, as a media buying and planning executive on a number of film accounts, such as New World Pictures and Embassy Pictures. He also worked on the client side for a number of film studios.
"It took a lot of nerve to go out from ICG without the safety net," says Mr. Petrick. "It isn't easy."
When Mr. Schaffner is at his best, it will never be under easy conditions when clients need instant service. "It makes the work harder and the commission thinner," says Mr. Schaffner. "But it makes movies exciting."